Seminary faculty help train diaconal candidates on campus

Diaconal Practicum participants and instructors with Met. Tikhon

The Orthodox Church in America (OCA)’s Diaconal Liturgical Practicum returned to the campus of St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (SVOTS) this June.

The OCA organizes the Practicum each year to help in the formation of deacons and their ministry in the life of the Church. The fifteenth annual Diaconal Liturgical practicum, held 21–24, 2022, was the first hosted at SVOTS since 2018. Around 25 candidates, altar servers, subdeacons, and deacons took part from nearly every diocese of the OCA and from other jurisdictions.

Fr Kirill teaching

Subdeacon Greg Polk, one of this year’s participants, said the program exceeded his initial expectations.

“The Practicum is incredibly necessary and of tremendous benefit,” said Sdn. Greg. “Before this week, I assumed the Practicum was more or less training for how to serve the services but now I see it is training on how to be a deacon and all that goes with this awesome and high calling.

“The memories of this week and the friendships I established will be a source of fond reflection for the rest of my life. I am so thankful for what transpired and look forward to the next opportunity to gather with my band of brothers so we can continue to sharpen our skills and discover more of how we can be servants to God and our fellow man.”

Dr Harrison Russin teaching

Each full day of the practicum began with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and concluded with Vespers. SVOTS Alumnus Archpriest Kirill Sokolov (’07), director of Diaconal and Late Vocations for the OCA, led liturgical practice sessions and reflections on the diaconate, especially the manner in which liturgical service at the Eucharist and the diakonia of charitable works are inextricably linked. Dr. Harrison Russin, SVOTS assistant professor of liturgical music, offered sessions on liturgical chanting, singing, and the manner in which deacons use their voices in divine services. He also directed the singers during Vespers and the Divine Liturgies. Diaconal Practicum participants also heard talks and engaged in discussions with His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon; Archpriest Chad Hatfield, president of SVOTS; Priest Bogdan Bucur, associate professor of patristics; and Archpriest Alexander Rentel, OCA chancellor and SVOTS assistant professor of canon law.

“This year’s participants represented a level of maturity and seriousness in their studies,” noted Fr. Kirill. “I am grateful to God that our parishes and dioceses are raising up candidates for the ministry of deacon. It was encouraging to work with these men and to hear of their devotion to their families, their love of regular church life, and their desire to humbly serve.”

Met Tikhon at Divine Liturgy

His Beatitude presided over Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Nativity of the Forerunner of Christ on Friday, June 24, which formally closed the four-day Practicum.

The Diaconal Vocations Program (DVP) of the Orthodox Church in America is a program of theological study providing academic preparation for men who may be called to ordination to the Holy Diaconate but unable to attend a seminary. It is also designed to address specific academic and pastoral preparation of non-Orthodox clergy—who may have already earned a theological degree such as an M.Div.—who are seeking entry into the Orthodox Church and may eventually be called to holy orders. The goal of the DVP is to use a process of clergy-guided and mentored reading and studying to teach candidates a fundamental foundation of Orthodox theology and prepare them for the practical liturgical service of the Holy Diaconate.