For the fifteenth year, the Orthodox Church in America has organized a Diaconal Liturgical Practicum to help in the formation of deacons and their ministry in the life of the Church. Held this year at Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, the practicum gathered candidates, altar servers, subdeacons, and deacons from nearly every diocese of the Orthodox Church in America and from other jurisdictions. Initiated at the urging of the Holy Synod of Bishops in 2006, the Practicum is a cornerstone of the training of deacons in the Diaconal Vocations Program and other diocesan programs leading to diaconal ordination in the Church.
This year, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon led the participants in reflection, conversation, and especially the Divine Liturgy on the feast of Nativity of the Forerunner of Christ, June 24, 2022, which formally closed the four day event.
This year’s Practicum began on Tuesday evening, June 21, with an opening presentation by Archpriest Chad Hatfield, President of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary. He spoke on the important topic of “Eucharistic Living and the Diaconate.” His engaging talk and question-and-answer session set a serious and evangelistic tone for the remainder of the program with inspiring quotes from former deans of the Seminary Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann and Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko.
Each full day began with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and concluded with Vespers. Archpriest Kirill Sokolov, Director of Diaconal and Late Vocations, 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, Assistant Professor of Liturgical Music, offered sessions on liturgical chanting, singing, and the manner in which deacons use their voices in celebrating the divine services. He also directed the singers during the divine services.
On Wednesday evening, Father Bogdan Bucur, Associate Professor of Patristics, gave an insightful talk reflecting on the scriptures with the theme “Clothed With the Garment of Salvation”: Clothing metaphors for the truths of faith.”
On the penultimate day of the Practicum, Archpriest Alexander Rentel, Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America addressed the participants on the life of a clergyman especially in reference to the Lord’s promises to the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus. Following Father Alexander’s talk, His Beatitude spoke with the participants and the conversation continued informally into the evening at a reception.
At the Divine Liturgy, Father Chad gave the homily on the meaning of the Holy Forerunner’s manner of life and purpose in relation to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. At the conclusion Divine Liturgy, served in the full hierarchical order, Archpriest Kirill Sokolov thanked His Beatitude and spoke about the office of the Metropolitan as an icon of unity in the life of the Church and noted how proper it was to experience that unity on the feast day with all of the participants from across this land. His Beatitude addressed a primatial word to the participants and offered them his blessing in the continuance of their studies. Father Kirill expressed the appreciation of the Practicum participants to the seminary faculty and staff for warm hospitality. A warm fellowship continued over breakfast with questions from the participants and comments by His Beatitude, Father Chad, and Father Kirill.
“This year’s participants represented a level of maturity and seriousness in their studies,” noted Father Kirill. “I am grateful to God that our parishes and dioceses are raising up candidates for the ministry of deacon,” he remarked. “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.”
The Diaconal Vocations Program (DVP) 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. The DVP is operated under the auspices of the Board of Theological Education of the Holy Synod of Bishops, and is chaired by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon. Archpriest Kirill Sokolov currently serves as Director of Diaconal and Late Vocations. He can be reached at email@example.com and more information on the DVP can be found on the web site of the Orthodox Church in America at oca.org/dvp.
Saint Vladimir’s Seminary trains priests, lay leaders, and scholars to be active apologists of the Orthodox Christian Faith—focusing on academic rigor and spiritual formation within a residential Orthodox community. More information can be found at www.svots.edu.