July 8 2016 • On-campus

Over the past decade, the Diaconal Liturgical Practicum has grown from small project designed to quickly train a few sorely needed deacons for the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) to an established annual effort that instructs altar servers, subdeacons, and deacons from several Orthodox Christian church jurisdictions. Begun at the initiative of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the OCA and held yearly on the campus of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, the Practicum is part of the OCA’s Diaconal Vocations Program, directed by Archdeacon Kirill Sokolov.

This year’s Practicum, held June 26–June 29, 2016, began with an opening Molieben and a talk by the Very Reverend Chad Hatfield, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Seminary, on the topic “Eucharistic Living & The Diaconate.” Father Chad’s engaging presentation and open question-and-answer session set a serious and evangelistic tone for the work of the following days.

Each full day began with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and concluded with Vespers. Archdeacon Kirill led liturgical practice sessions. Archdeacon Joseph Matusiak and Deacon Gregory Hatrak of the Seminary added their expertise to the participants’ experience. The Very Reverend J. Sergius Halvorsen, assistant professor of Homiletics and Rhetoric at the Seminary, taught sessions on liturgical chanting and the way deacons use their voices in divine services.

His Grace, the Right Reverend Paul (Gassios), bishop of Chicago and the Midwest (OCA), prayed and visited with participants throughout the Practicum. His Grace led a moving session with the participants on the diaconate and the expectations of the hierarchy for clergy. His Grace also presided at the concluding Divine Liturgy—this year in celebration of Ss. Peter and Paul—in the Seminary’s Three Hierarchs Chapel.

At the end of the liturgy, which is the highlight of each year’s Practicum, Archdeacon Kirill reflected upon the Practicum’s history and future. “The hierarchs of our Church, when they lay hands on a man and ask him to serve in one of their parishes and in one of their communities, expect a certain level of resiliency, a certain level of precision, and a certain level of faithfulness to the received tradition of our Church,” he remarked. “We’ve been really pleased to receive feedback from the hierarchs that their servers, subdeacons, and, especially, deacons, are coming into parish ministry a little more prepared, knowledgeable, and aware of where they can find resources if they need to learn more, as a result of attending these Practica.”

Archdeacon Kirill noted that within one decade, the Practicum has given him “the honor to work and pray with nearly 200 men from across the U.S. and Canada, the majority of whom hailed from parishes within the OCA but who also came from parishes within the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, the Moscow Patriarchate, the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese, and Ukrainian Orthodox dioceses.”

Commenting further on the burgeoning of diaconal ministry in North America, he said, “As our parishes encounter deacons as a more regular feature of church life—as something that’s not unusual, but as something that is consistent within the worship experience of the local church—we find that parishes that have deacons ‘grow’ more deacons.

“Parishes with two or more deacons begin to use them in a myriad of ways that we couldn’t have anticipated ten years ago,” he explained. “It’s very exciting to develop opportunities for deacons to see themselves as an order, a brotherhood, and to adjust our Practicum to accommodate the experience of the Church.”

View a video of instructors and participants speaking about their Practicum experience.
View a photo gallery of the Practicum, by Alexandru Popovici.