Meet a Seminarian: Philip McClanahan


Philip McClanahan is a third-year M.Div. student from the Antiochian Archdiocese. Philip and his wife, Kristiana, have a daughter, Irene, and a son, Simon.

How has your seminary experience been since the pandemic started?

When COVID really kicked in at the beginning of March [2020], it was obviously challenging for everyone. On campus we were inside so much with a full on lockdown at the beginning; we were home all the time and not able to go out and do things very much. It was challenging to start to hear of people having COVID and of others losing people to COVID. 

As far as academic challenges, in the spring, yes, it was challenging. I had all my classes in person at the beginning of the semester and then it got interrupted, and I found it hard. It was hard meeting online, especially at home when you have children running around and all the distractions! It was hard to find space to do things at home. 

But what I’m really happy about here at St Vladimir’s is that we chose to go the “in-person route” for 2020/2021. I would have done anything to be able to go to class! It’s been very good. I’ve enjoyed it tremendously, especially since it’s my last year. I’m taking pastoral theology where we talk about all the practical stuff—I hope to be a priest and a missionary with my family someday. In homiletics class, working on homilies has been good. It’s a busy and different semester! I’m so glad that we still have our services in the multiple chapel locations even if rather than a full choir there is just one singer and one reader. 

Why is the community life so important to you for what you’re doing and want to do?

It’s so important to make these connections; these are people that hopefully we’ll know for years to come, whether it be in clergy, ministry, or other ministries. Your hope is that you can build relationships with these people for mutual encouragement now and later. You can certainly do some of this online, but nothing beats the face-to-face connection. 

What do you take from the COVID experience?

I hope my generation of seminarians will have some unique strengths to take to parishes…perhaps it would be that we can adapt and do things differently using technology. We will have the ability to be a little more chameleon-like, and work with different groups of people.

I hope we will have a renewed emphasis on the importance of our social life, not just within our families but with our friends and our fellow parishioners, really taking that time to meet and do things with people in person. When it’s safe, I hope that we’ll have a renewed commitment to building relationships for the Kingdom of God.

I’m so glad we’re here and that the year is continuing here at St. Vladimir’s, in person. It was a bold move to go in this direction, and a good one. 

You are involved with the St. Innocent Mission Society here on campus. Have you always been interested in mission work?

Before I was Orthodox I did some mission work in the Middle East. Then I went on a long spiritual quest and entered into Orthodoxy in 2010. When I met my wife one of the things we had in common was an interest in missions. We even contacted OCMC prior to coming to seminary. So it’s been a number of years in the making.

How has St. Vladimir’s made a difference in your feeling of preparedness for the mission field? 

I have really benefited from all the courses. I wanted to get very grounded in liturgics when I came to St. Vladimir’s. One thing needed in Orthodox missions is more Orthodox clergy. I also wanted to be grounded in my knowledge of patristics, and that has been very wonderfully fulfilled here at seminary. There’s been so much here that’s been helpful. 

Practically speaking, being here with all the jurisdictions represented makes it a great place to network and learn about all the Orthodox traditions. This inter-jurisdictional environment is a hallmark of St. Vladimir’s. Sadly in the last decades Orthodox Christianity in North America has gotten more, rather than less, separated into jurisdictions. At St. Vladimir’s, there is that hope for pan-Orthodoxy. We realize we can only truly succeed and do what God has for us if we’re united in the body of Christ and have more of a corporate understanding of the body of the Christ. Certainly we can do so much more with missions if we pool our resources. As we pool our resources globally it’s going to help the missional calling of Christians and the Church.

It does seem like we’ve entered into a phase of real challenges, not just the pandemic, but of splintering in world Orthodoxy and the continually changing dynamics of our society, politically and ethically. When seminarians look ahead we see the huge challenges. It will only be possible if we’re grounded in Christ, knowing that that’s where our strength comes from.