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[STOTS Communications, South Canaan] This year’s continuing education program was focused on the theme: “With the Saints Give Rest, O Christ, to the Soul of Thy Servant”. The program ran from Tuesday-Thursday, June 20-22.
Presentations were offered from various vantage points related to this theme. Fr. Ian Pac Urar, Director of the OCA’s Department of Continuing Education, presented an interactive focus on ending one’s pastorate, including preparation for and entering into retirement. Exercises with participants were helpful to highlight some of the points Fr. Ian offered.
Excerpts from Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann’s course (tape recorded) on The Liturgy of Death, provided a theological foundation for the program. At that time, Fr. Alexander shared that he could find no research having been done on the services related to the Liturgy of Death that he then proceeded to outline. Clergy now a generation or two away from Fr. Alexander’s time heard his review of the services, and his effort to untangle seeming contradictions in the instructions within the services as rendered in the Hapgood Service book.
Wednesday’s portion of the program focused on preparation for burial. Dr. Irene Kacandes, who was preparing for a trip to Europe and was still open to participating in this program, pre-recorded both a presentation reflecting the ongoing work of her parish, and again a demonstration of preparing someone for burial. Then, via Skype, the group had the opportunity to interact with her directly in following up from those presentations. In the afternoon, Archpriest Michael Senyo presented on preparing clergy for burial, in having served in this capacity on numerous occasions.
On Thursday the participants had the opportunity to hear from Joseph Scotchlas, a local Funeral Director, after he also sat through most of the previous sessions. Joseph was quite engaging and reflective not only on the work of the funeral director, but clarifying how our Orthodox community can still be engaged with local funeral homes even in the process of preparing the newly departed for burial. He also shared some information on pre-planning, and clarified the law related to dimension of the burial process.
Archpriest Steven Voytovich offered the final presentation that sought to weave a tapestry covering patristic and other resources in reflecting on the ministry of those who suffer, a review of the early church’s effort to redirect Christian burial from pagan practices that were in place including cremation, advance care planning, divorce as a type of death less recognized in the life of the church, and a brief reflection on the services related to the funeral in light of the Fr. Alexander’s research.
Participants of the program related that this year’s program was more focused and practical, and that for the registration fee of $100 was a bargain to complete most of the required annual continuing education. Thank you to all our presenters, and to Zena for the wonderful meals (within the realm of the fast!) that were also very well received. We are also grateful for Silouan and Gloria Burns for assisting in many ways during the course of these days as Silouan prepares to enter seminary here this fall! Finally, we are grateful for the opportunity for participants to participate in daily services at the monastery church during the course of the program.