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“It's Worth It”: Reflection on “Ed Day”
There is still nothing in my life experience quite like “Ed Day.” I suppose it could be like a parish festival, but the parish I grew up in didn’t have one. It seems to me, that it is more than that. Orthodox Education Day points to something beyond itself, beyond just being a fundraiser and a PR event. Ed Day is more, and for us as Orthodox Christians in America, should be a cherished part of our past, and a continuous vehicle for our calling in the present and future.
I’m not terribly good with math, but I believe I’ve attended eighteen consecutive Ed Days, which is pretty remarkable for someone who is only twenty-three. My home parish helps to sponsor the Greek Food booth, and inevitably I was dragged along with the family to help make "gyros." As I grew older, I looked forward to Ed Day, and saw it as a chance to visit the Seminary, meet and greet friends, work for the Church, and participate in the Eucharistic Liturgy. In college, I would always drag members of my OCF group to attend, to expose them to the seminary community and the join in fellowship with the greater Church.
The history of this event should be remarkable for us. Ed Day represent the steps of a fledgling local Church attempting to reach out to the culture that surrounded it. When my grandmother and mother would attend, there were simply no other events available in English for Orthodox Christians. Ed Day truly lived up to its title back then, since there were no other options, not much else was available for educating English-speaking people about our faith. Now we have books, articles, websites, podcasts, blogs, and a tidal wave of other materials and content, all pointed at educating our people and non-Orthodox alike. In a certain way, these resources owe their heritage to Ed Day, the symbolic mother of our Church’s attempt to reach out, preach, and teach in English.
Education day has changed, of course, as all things do. This year in particular it has changed rather radically. Most glaring to us “veterans,” the large, public Divine Liturgy was moved to an earlier time and located in the chapel rather than on the front lawn. I struggled with this decision. In one way, I felt it was a great idea, particularly because it was a lot of work to move all of the chapel appointments down to the lawn and back. On the other hand, it felt like a betrayal of Father Schmemann’s vision of the Eucharist being the central point of the day. I was skeptical. What surprised me was that the chapel was full for the 7:30 a.m. Divine Liturgy. It was also important to see the seminary community coming together in worship and thanksgiving before going off and performing our duties for the day. On a very practical level, it was wonderful to have liturgy without the smell of grilled meats wafting through the altar. This would often happen in the old configuration with liturgy out on the lawn, and would create an odd "Mary-Martha" tension.
This year’s Ed Day seemed to emphasize the ethnic nature of Orthodoxy. “Many Cultures, One Faith,” the theme for the day, seemed just like another call to the community to come eat ethnic food and look at our pretty paintings and dancing but to regard us only as an ethnic ghetto. At first, I was skeptical about this. Certainly Ed Day is supposed to be more? Of course, it was. There were a large amount of immigrants this year, Georgians and Russians specifically, that came for Ed Day. Suddenly I saw the vision of Ed Day again, as people who have never been exposed to St. Vladimir’s, who have never read the theology that came from here, that never heard our music, were flocking to the bookstore. An entire group of people were being exposed to the Seminary for the first time. People were being educated about their Orthodox faith not in their “Orthodox” homeland, but in America, and, in English.
For someone who grew up in America in the Orthodox Church, in the Slavic “sphere of influence,” the Akathist celebrated at Ed Day was really the highlight. It's remarkable to me, a person whose family history was intertwined with the divisions in Slavic-American Orthodoxy, to witness the real unity present at that service. To have the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) celebrate with a Bishop from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), and priests from the OCA, ROCOR, and the Moscow Patriarchate, was truly a memorable experience. And it was all done in English, no less. It really is beautiful when "brothers dwell in unity."
Even around the seminary campus we debate whether Ed Day is “worth it” or not. I’m not really sure what that means. I suppose people want to know whether their work “pays off” in terms of financial gains for the seminary. This year, it did. Even though I have a business degree, I can’t understand this way of thinking. The money doesn’t really matter. All the work, all the stress, all the inconvenience is “worth it” if just one person comes to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, has his or her life changed, or reconciles with a brother or sister.—Second-year Seminarian, Andrew Boyd