Life here has been a challenge over the past month or so, to be sure. Audra's work situation and my study time have had to dance repeatedly as we struggle to find something resembling a balance for life as a family in this first semester. In spite of all of that, the willingness of those in the community has repeatedly impressed us; indeed, we're very thankful for it.
Also, we are thankful to those who've chosen to help us out financially rather spontaneously; that has been a great help, and we appreciate it.
Weather here has been rainy and cool; perfect conditions for "the crud," which seems to be working its way through (and out of, thankfully) the community. I went with the St. Vlad's octet (an honor to be asked to sing in said group) to Connecticut and sang the Akathist to the Mother of God for the feastday of her protection. Sacred Heart University had invited us to sing in a week-long celebration of the dedication of their new chapel. Since, however, I was asked to sing second tenor (I'm a baritone), my voice was a bit raw following the service. Couple that with the weather, and you have a very froggy voice come today's liturgy in the seminary chapel. Today, it just so happens, was my turn to read the hours and the post-communion prayers. Just my luck as well, there was only one deacon serving, so Reader David gets to read the epistle, too.
Favors, however, come without warning, be they via PayPal or ways more mysterious. I had chanted the hours about an octave lower than what I normally chant, yet when I opened my mouth to sing the first response to the epistle reading, out, unbidden, came my normal baritone voice. Just for the epistle. Post-communion prayers were similarly tough afterwards. However it happened, thanks be to God.
Orthodox Education Day was yesterday; I served as a "gatekeeper" (welcoming visitors and directing traffic), so I didn't really get the "feel" of the day with all of the worship celebrations and different cultural booths, speakers, etc. I did hear, however, that Metropolitan JONAH's talk with the teens was very well-received, with many insightful questions and comments from the youth. Thanks be to God, as this is probably the area of parish life (youth and young adult) in which I'm most interested, at least right now.
In talking on the phone with someone from my parish back home tonight, I hit on something about my time -- all, what, five weeks? -- here so far at SVS that seemed to express something I'd been feeling but not able to articulate. First the bad news: the pastoral aspect of an M.Div seems to be lacking in comparison to other aspects of the degree; this is obvious enough to someone looking at the curriculum on the SVS website. What's encouraging is that this is mentioned specifically by the administration; it's obvious that the "work in progress" mentality is in place here, and that this is a known area of need at the moment.
While it's not at the level I'd prefer (as if our 'druthers dictate anything), it seems like the approach to pastoral life at present which comes from the faculty is much like the approach to comportment of teachers in the classroom which I received during my time getting an education degree at ORU (one of several departments in that university that provided a very satisfactory academic experience, by the way). Namely, as we had "teachers of teachers" in ORU's Ed Department, we seem to have "pastors of pastors" here. The idea of formation doesn't seem to be (again, this being against my 'druthers) an academic approach of teacher-and-student but rather of father-and-son, complete with the subconscious, in-between-the-lines type of imitation that comes from living in proximity and gleaning from observation. While I may have to check out some counseling syllabi from other graduate programs to see about doing some remedial reading on pastoral counseling or what not (if the program does not change during my time here), the pastoral concern of the faculty here towards us is apparent, even given the opportunities we (and, I'm sure, they) have to complain due to financial difficulties faced by the seminary (which reflect those of the whole country at large).
Keep us in your prayers.