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Antiochian Deacons Participate in Historic Alaska Mission Trip

Dn. Lucas Rice (left) and Dn. Ignatius WarrenDn. Lucas Rice (left) and Dn. Ignatius WarrenIn a cooperative effort between St. Vladimir's Seminary (SVS) in Yonkers, NY and St. Herman Seminary (SHS) in Kodiak, AK, two Antiochian seminarians joined Chancellor Fr. Chad Hatfield in March 2010 for a groundbreaking missions trip to Alaska. The two seminarians, Dn. Lucas Rice and Dn. Ignatius Warren, traveled up to St. Herman to present weeklong, intensive courses in missiology, homiletics, and pastoral counseling.

Both Fr. Chad, former dean at St. Herman, and Archpriest John Dunlop, its current dean and an SVS alumnus (MDiv '94), have been instrumental in nourishing the relationship between the two seminaries, both of which are under the auspices of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).

Fr. John issued the winter invitation to St. Vladimir's, stating, "This visit re-establishes a historical connection and builds bonds of friendship and our commitment to common work in educating pastors."

The two Antiochian student deacons who accompanied Fr. Chad to Kodiak this year enthusiastically testified to the significance of the Alaskan venue for missionary endeavors. Additionally, they witnessed both the wonder and the joy of teaching at the northern seminary.

"This was the trip of a lifetime," said Dn Lucas. "Kodiak was a sensory experience: the mountains, the orcas, the wind. Perhaps even more memorable was the faith of the people of Kodiak and the students at St. Herman. It was profound blessing to serve in front of St. Herman's relics at Holy Resurrection Cathedral, and rivaled only by the fellowship and hospitality of those who are doing holy work in the birthplace of American Orthodoxy."

Dn. Lucas is a former Baptist pastor and an inaugural member of The Academy of Preachers, a program largely underwritten by the Lilly Endowment and designed to identify, network, inspire, and support young people with a call to Christian preaching. In January 2010, Dn Lucas participated in The Festival of Young Preachers winter event, and preached a sermon titled "A Beautiful Thing," which explored and explicated the anointing of Jesus at Bethany by the sinful woman (Matt 26:9-11).

Drawing on his bountiful experience in preaching, at St. Herman Dn. Lucas outlined a homiletics course that included covering the lectionary text, and developing a sermon around a main point with supporting points, with effective delivery.

Similarly, Dn Ignatius related, "I was really struck by two things: the beauty of the island, and the warmth and friendliness of the people. Everywhere we went, we were welcomed. There is a real sense of love within the seminary, at Holy Resurrection Cathedral, and in the Kodiak community."

Dn. Ignatius, who works as a hospital chaplain intern during his Middler year at St. Vladimir's, and who is a former elementary and middle school teacher, taught the pastoral counseling course at St. Herman during his visit.

"I especially concentrated on the skill of active listening as a way of dealing with loss and pain, and particularly connected that skill with social problems that beset native communities in Alaska: specifically, alcoholism and domestic violence."

Dn Lucas' home parish is St. Michael the Archangel Church in Louisville, KY, and Dn Ignatius' home parish is St. George Cathedral in Wichita, KS. They regarded their homiletics and pastoral courses as two sides of the same coin, springing from the same core and directed toward the same goal: the priest knowing his congregation.

"We listen, and then use our listening skills to communicate and create a dialogue," said Dn. Lucas. "Pastoral counseling and homiletics are not divorced skills."

"In each setting, pastoral and liturgical, we are delivering the gospel of Christ," added Dn. Ignatius.

Summarized Fr. Chad, "Our enriching trip was just one more incremental piece in building the connection between St. Herman's and St. Vladimir's, and in developing a program around our common emphasis on missiology. The Faculty Council of St. Vladimir's had given our dean, Fr. John Behr, and our academic dean, Dr. John Barnet, a mandate to create such a program, and to offer an MA in Missiology. To that end, there will be a course offered on the campus of St. Herman Seminary in the near future, which is in my mind, the perfect venue for mission-minded students: the campus provides opportunities for field work, and the site has historic significance as the first place on American territory that Orthodox Christian missionaries landed."