Author Topic: The Long Road to Becoming a Deacon  (Read 249 times)

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Offline Saxon

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The Long Road to Becoming a Deacon
« on: November 20, 2017, 12:58:45 PM »
As some of you know, I've been attending Orthodox services for about a year-and-a-half, after being seriously interested in the faith for over a decade, and was baptized along with my now-wife last December. There have been challenges to my faith during that time, but each time I've emerged stronger and more resolved that I'm on the correct path.

We have a wonderful parish and community, and our congregation feels like an extended family. My wife and I wanted to be more involved with the day-to-day administration of the church, so she joined the sisterhood that prepares all of the food, decorates the church, and generally keeps it running. I joined the church council and have a hand in decision-making, and also regularly serve in the altar. Recently, however, I've been cultivating an interest in joining the clergy - certainly not as a priest, as I already hold a graduate degree and need a career-track position in my field, and can't head off to a seminary for years still and neglect home life. However, I feel that becoming a deacon would be a suitable option for me. Now, my parish priest has been very supportive of this idea, providing me with guidance and supplying me with ample reading materials, as well as directing me to an online course offered by Jordanville to obtain the necessary exposure.

However, as a (fairly) recent convert from a nominally Calvinist and thoroughly Anglo-Saxon family, I am still challenged by daily participation in a new church environment, particularly one within a Russian milieu. Most of the liturgy in our church is in Slavonic, with the epistle and sermon in both English and Russian. One of our three priests is a convert from an Anglo-Canadian Reformed background, so that helps. But I still need direction when helping to serve the liturgy as there's both a language barrier (my Russian is conversational at best, and Slavonic non-existent) and the lack of familiarity with the basic mechanics of the liturgy coming into play. That's without considering the added complexity of special feast days and such, for which I have yet to serve. My priest has strongly emphasized learning by observing our current deacon, but again, he's a Russian immigrant and cradle Orthodox and so far, I've found this to be like trying to learn surgery by observing a surgeon. My priest is also helping another one of our parishioners on the road to the diaconate, but this individual is, again, a Russian immigrant who wants to enter the full priesthood.

The fact that I'm dedicating myself to this and getting nowhere isn't dissuading me at all, and I'm optimistic that's an indication that my interest in becoming a deacon is sincere and correct, but it's extremely frustrating. With this wall of text now said, I'm interested in a couple of things. Do you feel that I'm doing the right thing? Is it perhaps the right thing at the wrong time? And secondary to that, does anyone have any advice or resources that might help?

Thanks

Offline Iconodule

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Re: The Long Road to Becoming a Deacon
« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2017, 01:03:47 PM »
Are you observing the deacon from the nave, or are you in there as an altar server? The latter would seem to be a lot more helpful.

Memorizing Slavonic phrases and prayers, and learning the Cyrillic alphabet, if you haven't already, would probably go a long way in the language area. Listening to recordings of the liturgy would help with this.
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Offline CarolS

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Re: The Long Road to Becoming a Deacon
« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2017, 01:06:27 PM »
Have you looked into the course of study with the Orthodox Pastoral School - a distance learning program?

http://orthodoxtheologicalschool.org/

My advice is to take this path to ordination slowly.  It is not advisable for new converts to immediately seek ordination. I have heard our Bishop advise that the goal should be simply to draw closer to God, and God knows if ordination is in your future, not something that you should aspire to of your own will.
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Offline Saxon

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Re: The Long Road to Becoming a Deacon
« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2017, 01:28:36 PM »
Are you observing the deacon from the nave, or are you in there as an altar server? The latter would seem to be a lot more helpful.

Memorizing Slavonic phrases and prayers, and learning the Cyrillic alphabet, if you haven't already, would probably go a long way in the language area. Listening to recordings of the liturgy would help with this.

As an altar server, but our numbers fluctuate in there. Some weeks there are half a dozen of us which frees me up to shadow the deacon, but others only one or two of us show up and my attention is taken up with altar duties.

I'm doing my best to memorize the prayers and chants, but it's a learning curve to say the least. I can read Cyrillic, but not cursive or the type of text that appears in our liturgical books.

Have you looked into the course of study with the Orthodox Pastoral School - a distance learning program?

http://orthodoxtheologicalschool.org/

My advice is to take this path to ordination slowly.  It is not advisable for new converts to immediately seek ordination. I have heard our Bishop advise that the goal should be simply to draw closer to God, and God knows if ordination is in your future, not something that you should aspire to of your own will.

Yes, thanks for the suggestion. The issue with this one is that's it's quite expensive, and in between paying back student loans and working a low-paying position while looking for a career in my field, it's beyond my means. The online course at Jordanville that my priest suggested is relatively inexpensive and straightforward. 

Offline Bob2

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Re: The Long Road to Becoming a Deacon
« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2017, 03:20:53 PM »


Have you looked into the course of study with the Orthodox Pastoral School - a distance learning program?

http://orthodoxtheologicalschool.org/

My advice is to take this path to ordination slowly.  It is not advisable for new converts to immediately seek ordination. I have heard our Bishop advise that the goal should be simply to draw closer to God, and God knows if ordination is in your future, not something that you should aspire to of your own will.

Yes, thanks for the suggestion. The issue with this one is that's it's quite expensive, and in between paying back student loans and working a low-paying position while looking for a career in my field, it's beyond my means. The online course at Jordanville that my priest suggested is relatively inexpensive and straightforward.

Jordanville's "Certificate in Theological Studies" is $150 per credit, The Pastoral School of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America that Carol linked above is $100 per credit.  It also has a needs based scholarships of up to $900 per semester, the full cost of tuition.

Offline Saxon

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Re: The Long Road to Becoming a Deacon
« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2017, 03:30:22 PM »


Have you looked into the course of study with the Orthodox Pastoral School - a distance learning program?

http://orthodoxtheologicalschool.org/

My advice is to take this path to ordination slowly.  It is not advisable for new converts to immediately seek ordination. I have heard our Bishop advise that the goal should be simply to draw closer to God, and God knows if ordination is in your future, not something that you should aspire to of your own will.

Yes, thanks for the suggestion. The issue with this one is that's it's quite expensive, and in between paying back student loans and working a low-paying position while looking for a career in my field, it's beyond my means. The online course at Jordanville that my priest suggested is relatively inexpensive and straightforward.

Jordanville's "Certificate in Theological Studies" is $150 per credit, The Pastoral School of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America that Carol linked above is $100 per credit.  It also has a needs based scholarships of up to $900 per semester, the full cost of tuition.

The Jordanville program is more cost-effective for me as I already have access to the textbooks through one of the priests at my church.

Offline Dominika

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Re: The Long Road to Becoming a Deacon
« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2017, 03:34:52 PM »

My advice is to take this path to ordination slowly.  It is not advisable for new converts to immediately seek ordination.
This. I remember even some canons saying about certain tiem periods beign a distance between the receiving into the Church and being ordinated (surely, it may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdction, plus we've had some excepetions like st. Augustin, but exceptions confirm the general rules).

I know that a convert wants to be involded into the parish and gnerally Church life as much as it's possible. Tht's a good think. But on the way of this stepping more and mroe into engangment, you'll prepare for the potential clerical role, e.g being a deacon. I know at least a few male converts that consider monkhood or priesthood (especially the second one, as all of them I know are ex-Roman Catholics, so they're glad they can be priests and married at the same time). So, tehre is a typcial symptom.

But if you really feel such vocation and your priest blesses you to do that.. Just live the Church life (including the liturgical obsevartions), try the on-line Orthodox liturgical courses mentioned above, read the liturgical prayres - extend your prayer rule by using them, e.g saying the hours or some pieces of Matins, Vespers, the Compline, also in Church Slavonic since your parish uses it (but always compare it with your native langauge - you can read the prayers one day in English, and another one in Church Slavonic, the next day in English, and so on).

I started to chant/read at the services after ~2 yeras after my chrismation, despite the fact that my father is Orthodox and I'd been attending the Orthodox services and keeping some Orthodox traditions at home long time before. And even then, I didn't start doing everything - I mean, I started with reading the hours, then the Old Testament readings, then canons and then the epistle readings.
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Offline Alpha60

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Re: The Long Road to Becoming a Deacon
« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2017, 04:56:32 PM »

My advice is to take this path to ordination slowly.  It is not advisable for new converts to immediately seek ordination.
This. I remember even some canons saying about certain tiem periods beign a distance between the receiving into the Church and being ordinated (surely, it may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdction, plus we've had some excepetions like st. Augustin, but exceptions confirm the general rules).

I know that a convert wants to be involded into the parish and gnerally Church life as much as it's possible. Tht's a good think. But on the way of this stepping more and mroe into engangment, you'll prepare for the potential clerical role, e.g being a deacon. I know at least a few male converts that consider monkhood or priesthood (especially the second one, as all of them I know are ex-Roman Catholics, so they're glad they can be priests and married at the same time). So, tehre is a typcial symptom.

But if you really feel such vocation and your priest blesses you to do that.. Just live the Church life (including the liturgical obsevartions), try the on-line Orthodox liturgical courses mentioned above, read the liturgical prayres - extend your prayer rule by using them, e.g saying the hours or some pieces of Matins, Vespers, the Compline, also in Church Slavonic since your parish uses it (but always compare it with your native langauge - you can read the prayers one day in English, and another one in Church Slavonic, the next day in English, and so on).

I started to chant/read at the services after ~2 yeras after my chrismation, despite the fact that my father is Orthodox and I'd been attending the Orthodox services and keeping some Orthodox traditions at home long time before. And even then, I didn't start doing everything - I mean, I started with reading the hours, then the Old Testament readings, then canons and then the epistle readings.

+1

Very good advice
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