2–5 January 2013 • Off-Campus • Virginia Nieuwsma
Assistant Professor of Homiletics and Rhetoric The Rev. Dr. J. Sergius Halvorsen, third-year seminarians Fr. James Parnell and Harrison Russin, and Orthodox Church in America (OCA) Director of Youth, Young Adult, and Campus Ministries Andrew Boyd (SVOTS '12), recently participated in the National Festival of Young Preachers in Atlanta, Georgia. Sponsored annually by the Academy of Preachers , the festival gathered over 100 young Christians between the ages of 16 and 28 for three days of preaching, fellowship, and education, centered on this year's theme, "The Gospel and the City." Ms. Anna Vander Wall of Trinidad, CO, winner of the youth department's recent "YouTube Challenge,"  also participated.
The Academy of Preachers is an organization crossing denominational lines, whose mission is to identify, network, inspire, and support young people who sense a vocation for preaching the gospel. The Seminary is a National Partner with the Academy; Chancellor/CEO The Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield and Fr. Lucas Rice (SVOTS '11) attended the first Festival in 2010. The sermon that Fr. Lucas delivered at the festival was included in a published volume of collected sermons, and the title of his sermon also served as the title for the volume: A Beautiful Thing: Sermons from the Inaugural Festival of Young Preachers (Chalice Press, 2010).
Throughout the course of the weekend in Atlanta, each young preacher delivered a 16-minute sermon on the theme, reinforced by a selected passage from scripture. They also attended preaching workshops offered by seminary professors and worked on their sermons in small peer group sessions. Father Sergius served as the mentor for all of the Orthodox participants. He also led a workshop at the festival called "Sacramental Preaching," in which he used the Nativity icon as an example of the powerful images one can create in a listener's mind through the spoken word.
"This was a remarkable gathering!" he reflected. "In my work as a teacher of homiletics, I find that it is extremely valuable to be exposed to a wide variety of preaching styles. Certainly, not all of the styles we heard would be appropriate in an Orthodox context, but an experience like the Festival helped to broaden my understanding of rhetoric and the spoken word.
"On a more personal level," he continued, "it was very inspiring to spend time with young people who are passionate about preaching and deeply committed to their Christian faith. I look forward to the day when we can host an Orthodox Festival of Young Preachers."
Added the newly ordained  SVOTS student participant, Fr. James Parnell, "while those who participated had very different preaching styles and came out of very different Christian traditions, we were united in a desire to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ."