Seminary Launches Continuing Education for Clergy
22 April 2013 • Faculty News
"St. Vladimir's Seminary has stepped up to the challenge recently set by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) to provide our clergy with continuing education," said Dr. Paul Meyendorff, The Father Alexander Schmemann Professor of Liturgical Theology at the seminary.
"We are working vigorously to help clergy reach the goal established by the newly formed Department of Continuing Education of the OCA, requiring 20 hours of education and training each year for priests," he explained.
Dr. Meyendorff was referring to the mandate set by the OCA bishops at their January 2013 meeting, which requires clergy to receive further education in professional and ethical issues. The person heading the OCA's new department is The Very Rev. Ian G. Pac-Urar, while Dr. Meyendorff is Director of Continuing Education at St. Vladimir's.
"We're delighted to see St. Vladimir's step forward with the first institutional response to the Holy Synod's call," said Fr. Ian. "As a matter of course, clergy participating in the offerings from St. Vladimir's will receive full credit for the Continuing Clergy Development (CCD) program. We encourage all clergy to take advantage of this great opportunity."
Similarly, The Very Rev. Eric S. Tosi, secretary of the OCA, noted: "We are so pleased that this program is moving forward. The issue of continuing education has been discussed for many years in the Holy Synod and was brought to fruition with the mandate of the Strategic Plan of the 16th All-American Council held in Seattle in 2011.
"Father Ian Pac–Urar and the Strategic Planning Committee of the Metropolitan Council were dedicated to making this become a reality so that the OCA clergy can continue to improve their pastoral skills," he added. "St Vladimir's Seminary has taken the lead in offering such a program in a formal manner and it is hoped that many will take advantage of the expertise and resources in the program."
Salem, South Carolina
Inaugurating the seminary's efforts, Dr. Meyendorff noted, was a recent seminar given by The Rev. Dr. Sergius Halvorsen, assistant professor of Homiletics and Rhetoric at St. Vladimir's. From March 31 to April 2, Fr. Sergius led a continuing education seminar on "Liturgical Preaching" for eight priests from the Carolinas Deanery of the Diocese of the South, OCA. The seminar began with a webinar in the middle of March, during which Fr. Sergius presented some fundamental concepts for preaching and gave the participants assignments to prepare in advance of the in-person session. Then, gathered at a home on the shores of beautiful Lake Keowee in Salem SC, the participants worked together in sessions that began on Sunday night and concluded on Tuesday morning.
During these sessions Fr. Sergius presented basic guidelines for effective preaching and then each participant made two oral presentations: a short meaningful story about their life and a "work in progress" version of their sermon for the following Sunday. Following each presentation the other participants shared thoughts with the speaker, both about how their presentation was effective, and also about how the presentation could have been more effective.
Reflecting on the seminar, Fr. Sergius said, "The depth and honesty of the feedback from the participants was quite remarkable. Everyone left the seminar with a few really solid ideas to help them in their preaching ministry."
Regarding the entire experience, Fr. Sergius said, "I am extremely grateful to Fr. Thomas Moore, dean of the Carolinas Deanery, Fr. Marcus Burch, chancellor of the Diocese of the South, and Archbishop Nikon, locum tenens for the Diocese of the South, for the opportunity to spend time working with the clergy. Pastors are physicians of souls, and like doctors who treat the flesh, they benefit greatly from continuing education to help hone, refine, and strengthen pastoral skills. Furthermore, participants benefit greatly from strengthening ties with brother clergy who support and encourage each other in their ministry. This continuing education session was quite successful on both these levels." (Listen to Fr. Sergius' recent interview discussing preaching and evangelism, on Ancient Faith Radio.)
Fort Worth, TX
From April 7–9, Fr. Sergius Halvorsen was a guest of St. Barbara's Orthodox Church in Fort Worth TX. On Sunday morning he preached at the Divine Liturgy, and during coffee hour he delivered a talk on vocations and spoke about the work of St. Vladimir's Seminary in cultivating and nurturing ordained and lay vocations to serve Christ and His Holy Church. That evening, he delivered the sermon at a Pan–Orthodox Vespers service held at St. John the Baptist Church in Euless, TX. Fourteen priests from the Dallas-Fort Worth area con-celebrated in the beautiful new temple, and approximately two hundred and fifty area faithful were in attendance.
On Monday morning Fr. Sergius led a retreat for clergy of the Southcentral (Dallas) Deanery of the OCA. His topic, "Orthodox Ecclesiology from the Perspective of Preaching," addressed aspects of the "applied ecclesiology" found in the Baptismal Homilies of St. John Chrysostom. Father Marcus Burch and about fifteen priests and deacons were present at the retreat. On Monday evening, Fr. Sergius delivered a lecture in honor of Archbishop Dmitri, "The Vulnerability of the Incarnation: God Made Man," which reflected on the mystery of the Word of God humbling Himself and becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2:8) Father Basil Zebrun, pastor of St. Barbara's Orthodox Church in Fort Worth and host of the event, is planning on making this an annual lecture series, with the hopes of eventually publishing some of these talks in a collection of articles in honor of Archbishop Dmitri.
Speaking of future goals for continuing education for clergy, Dr. Meyendorff said, "Our aim is to develop continuing education workshops on topics such as homiletics, end of life issues, dealing with mental health issues, confession, parish management, and so forth.
"Programs will be held both on the seminary's campus and at locations throughout the country," he continued. "We will be working with dioceses, deaneries, clergy associations, and alumni groups to develop and host one- or two-day sessions."