To come to seminary is special

Charles Youngblood

This reflection is written from the perspective of a first-year seminarian. I am writing to those who are considering coming to seminary, those who are here, and those who have come and gone. Without being too presumptuous or ambitious, I would like to give some impressions and reflections on the first few weeks at St. Vladimir’s Seminary.

I heard it said best recently: “to come to seminary is special” (I took this to mean unique. I will use this word often in this reflection.). Some people come to seminary after years of planning, others come from directly from their undergraduate studies, while others come quite suddenly, and many leave their careers to matriculate here. I can identify with many of these categories. With that said, I think everyone who comes to seminary is answering (as best they can discern) Christ’s call for service in His Holy Church, and St. Vladimir’s fosters and environment of fertile ground for the seeds of service to take root and bear fruit.  

I am a married seminarian with one child. My family began exploring the possibility of coming to seminary about two years ago when I began theological studies through the Antiochian House of Studies. This experience truly deepened my thirst for knowledge and led to my application to become a seminarian through the Antiochian Archdiocese.  At the time of my application to Saint Vladimir’s I was employed as a police detective in Waco Texas and my family owned some acreage with livestock. Once we were notified that we had been accepted to attend classes for the Fall semester we “kicked into high gear” and put our home on the market. We sold cows, tractors, farm equipment, and even my old pickup truck. Glory to God, the house and land sold! We sold much of our furniture and loaded what remained into a moving truck and set our course in a northeasterly direction. We arrived at St. Vladimir’s the second week of August (before classes) and began to settle in.

We were met at the seminary not by strangers—instead we were welcomed home. We were received by the seminary community with open arms as if we were family members returning home. This was not just a feeling or something that was gleaned after reflection. Our new seminary family showed up in numbers (this is especially impressive since many students/families were still out of town) and helped us unload our moving truck. Everyone seemed so happy to meet us and to help us feel at home. The seminarians, faculty, and staff that initially welcomed us were our first impression and true icons of Christ at our new home. Many of the questions you have when moving are practical ones. Finding out where to get groceries, who has the best produce, school system information, and other local information are at the forefront of your concern. The community was more than happy to impart every bit of information they could to make our transition as smooth as possible.    

I started writing this reflection after moving in. I am now beginning my fifth week of classes. Several thoughts have occurred to me that I would like to leave with the reader. First, I am astounded at how quickly the time passes. We are now past the quarter mark in this semester! Secondly, I thought how desperately I need to cherish every moment of this experience. Living in a true “Orthodox community” is a unique blessing. I do not know if my family and I will ever have an opportunity like this again. Living amongst like-minded Orthodox Christians allows for a way of life that is not found in our society today outside of a monastery. Lastly, I thought, while we are all living together, worshiping together, and attending classes together, how different this experience must be for each individual seminarian and family. Simply put, people are different. In community life, I think it is important to enjoy the differences that each community member brings into the fold. It should also be said that differences can be the cause of anxiety and stress. Humbly, I would say that if we keep Christ as the focal point of all we do, we may begin to see others as Christ sees them and not as we would see them for our own personal gain. In doing so, we see a person for how they glorify Christ in His Kingdom! Living at St. Vladimir’s is giving me the unique opportunity to see others living out their faith. My prayer is that this helps me more and more to see others as Christ does.

Please pray for the clergy, faculty, staff, seminarians, and their families at St. Vladimir’s that we may serve Christ in His Holy Church and go forth from this place to “Engage the World in Orthodox Christianity.”  

Charles Youngblood is beginning his first year in SVOTS’ Master of Divinity (M.Div.) program, and is a seminarian of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America. Before receiving the blessing to attend seminary, he was employed as a police detective with the police department in Waco, Texas. Charles has also served in the United States Navy (both active and reserve) for the past sixteen years. He was commissioned as a Navy Chaplain Candidate Program Officer shortly before arriving at SVOTS.