This year’s Continuing Education Program, held at Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary June 20-22, 2017, considered the theme “With the Saints Give Rest, O Christ, to the Soul of Thy Servant.”
Various aspects of the theme were related in a series of presentations. Recorded excerpts from Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann’s course on “The Liturgy of Death” provided the theological foundation for the program. At that time, Father Alexander shared that he could find no research on the services related to the Liturgy of Death. Now, a generation or two away from Father Alexander’s time, clergy 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 the program, prerecorded presentations reflecting the ongoing work of her parish and a demonstration of the preparation for burial. Then, via Skype, participants had the opportunity to interact with her directly in following up on her presentations. In the afternoon, Archpriest Michael Senyo offered a presentation on the preparation of clergy for burial.
On Thursday, the participants were addressed by a local funeral director, Joseph Scotchlas, who was quite engaging in reflecting not only on the funeral director’s work, but in clarifying how the Orthodox Christian community can engage with local funeral homes even in the process of preparing the newly departed for burial. He also shared information on preplanning and clarified various aspects of the law with regard to the burial process.
Archpriest Steven Voytovich, STOTS Dean, offered the final presentation, during which he wove together a tapestry covering patristic and other resources in reflecting on the ministry of those who suffer. He offered a review of the early Church’s efforts to redirect Christian burial away from pagan practices, spoke on advanced care planning, and provided a brief reflection on the funeral services in light of the Father Alexander’s research.
During the gathering, Archpriest Ian Pac Urar, Director of the Orthodox Church in America’s Department of Continuing Education offered an interactive presentation focusing on preparation for and entering into retirement.