10–13 June 2012 • On-campus event
Nearly thirty deacons and Diaconal Vocations Program students immersed themselves in worship, theological learning, spiritual reflection, and liturgical practice during the Sixth Annual Diaconal Liturgical Practicum, held on the campus of St. Vladimir’s from June 10–13, 2012. Archdeacon Kirill Sokolov,  director of Diaconal and Late Vocations for the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), coordinated the Practicum. (Read an interview with Archdn. Kirill about the extensive growth of the Diaconal Vocations Program, here .)
Participants gathered throughout the day on Sunday, June 10th on the beautiful and serene seminary campus, which provided an ideal setting for fellow students from almost every diocese of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) to meet each other. After participants were welcomed with a supper, the Three Hierarchs Chapel bell tolled to call all to the “Prayer Service for the Beginning of Instruction.” Archpriest Alexander Rentel, assistant professor of Canon Law and Byzantine Studies at the seminary, led the service, as participants sang the responses and hymns.
Archdeacon Kirill facilitated an opening reflection about the ways adults learn, during which he invited students to consider the ways children naturally absorb and imagine liturgy; he suggested to participants that if they were to “convert and become like children” (Matt 18:2–4), they would particularly benefit from the liturgical practice that would ensue. Following introductions, Archdeacon Kirill and Priest Sergius Halvorsen, assistant professor of Homiletics and Rhetoric at St. Vladimir's, began instruction in patterns of liturgical movement and prepared participants for the next morning’s Divine Liturgy.
Each day of Practicum began early, with students gathering in the chapel for hands-on preparation for the Liturgy. They assisted as appropriate in the entrance prayers and preparation rites and served at Divine Liturgy as deacons, singers, readers, and servers.
On Monday, June 11th, and Tuesday, June 12th, the Divine Liturgies initiated long days of experiential learning. Archpriest Alexander Rentel provided the theological context for liturgy.
Father Sergius Halvorsen led extensive sessions on preaching and speaking about the Orthodox Christian faith; as well, he provided voice instruction and coaching that helped participants to better chant and read in church. Archdeacon Kirill guided the deacons and diaconal candidates through the precision of serving the divine services, with emphasis on the patterns of the deacon’s service within a theological and historical framework that increases understanding and proper serving—especially in unfamiliar liturgical situations. Daily Vespers commenced each evening’s work, and opportunities for fellowship and reflection punctuated the packed but effective days.
In addition to Fr. Sergius’s and Archdeacon Kirill’s workshops, several special presentations enhanced the practicum experience for participants:
- Priest Martin Kraus, rector of Holy Trinity Church, East Meadow, NY, shared an example of charitable diakonia: he discussed his parish’s ministry to the hungry in mid-town Manhattan, and he explained how similar parish efforts could be set in motion.
- Dr. Albert Rossi introduced resources to help those addicted to Internet pornography.
- Archpriest John Jillions, chancellor of the OCA, discussed issues facing the clergy, including the challenging issues of sexual abuse and misconduct. The Chancellor also spoke about the joys of serving in his new role and the growth he sees in Church life. (Read Fr. John’s reflections about the Practicum, here. )
- Protodeacon Joseph Matusiak, protodeacon to the Metropolitan, introduced participants to the skill of vesting hierarchs. Dn. Gregory Hatrak, the seminary’s Marketing Manager for SVS Press & Bookstore, provided valuable guidance to participants in the altar.
- Hierodeacon Herman, who serves as Chapel Music Director at St. Vladimir’s, led the choir, composed of practicum participants.
Archpriest John Behr, dean of the seminary, through the liturgical poetry of Melito of Sardis, taught about knowing the crucified and risen Christ in the “breaking of bread”—thereby uplifting the hearts of practicum participants.
The gathering was particularly blessed by the active presence of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, primate of the OCA, who participated in two days of liturgical services and spoke extensively with participants. On the final day of the practicum, seminary and practicum faculty, clergy, and participants concelebrated the Primatial Divine Liturgy with His Beatitude. At the liturgy, Metropolitan Jonah presented the homily, and he also prayed for the participants’ safe travel back to their homes and parishes. During his homily, His Beatitude addressed the proper attitude towards diaconal service in the Church, emphasizing the preeminence of Christ’s diaconate; he especially exhorted students to “peruse the scriptures daily”—as noted in the service of tonsuring for a reader—and “to enter into the flow” of each Divine Liturgy of the Church. Lastly, he urged participants to extend their diaconal ministry outside of liturgy, by feeding the poor, helping the destitute and lonely, and by acting as Christ in many other settings.
The Diaconal Vocations Program is a program of theological formation created by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the OCA to prepare men for service in the Holy Diaconate. The church-wide program—a blend of mentored learning in a local setting, online instruction, and diocesan programs of diaconal formation—utilizes practicums to prepare men for the central and visible liturgical aspect of the diaconal ministry. St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary has served as a frequent host for these practicums. Archdeacon Kirill serves as Director of Diaconal and Late Vocations on behalf of the Holy Synod’s Board of Theological Education, chaired by His Eminence, Archbishop Tikhon of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania. For more information, visit http://oca.org/about/boards-offices-commissions/dvp .
See a fuller gallery of photos, by Dn. Gregory Hatrak and Deborah Belonick, here.