The Orthodox Church in Norway is a tiny community in a predominantly secular and Lutheran country. Most of our parishes are mission churches and there are only a very few established churches. By coming to the United States and St. Vladimir’s Seminary, I hoped that my family and I would get a broader experience of the Orthodox Church, in a culture similar to our own.
There is of course a lot one can learn through reading books and attending classes, but the proper forging of an Orthodox identity and worldview requires being in relationship with others, and living in community, together with immersion in the services of the Church. One of the most important ways of learning to know our faith better has simply been just through living together with our Orthodox brothers and sisters in the St. Vladimir’s community.
After seminary we plan to go back home to Norway and serve the Church there. We came to the faith through a small mission and we are most likely going to return back home to one as well. We were therefore very fortunate this summer to expand our exposure to mission work in two very different and dynamic parishes with the Orthodox Church in America (OCA); one in the Diocese of the South, in Beaufort, South Carolina, and the other one in the Diocese of the West, in San Diego, California. Both missions were started less than four years ago and are already thriving and expanding.
Beaufort, South Carolina, is a lovely town. We easily grew accustomed to the pace and way of life in the South. The community of St. James Orthodox Church was very welcoming to as and treated us as family members from our first day there. We were warmly invited to dinners and social events, and a very generous family opened up their home so we’d have a place to live our entire month there.
I also was able to spend a lot of time with Fr. James Bozeman (SVOTS ’12), rector of the parish, helping him out with parish affairs. Summertime is quiet and we had less pressing pastoral work than is normally the case, but that gave us all the more time to talk about mission life, and do more manual and administrative work. Thankfully we also got some welcome time to relax (St. Vladimir’s Seminary is very busy!), see the surroundings, and go to the beach.
Through the long talks Fr. James and I had together, discussing the life of a mission, priestly formation, and other issues related to ministry and life in the Church, we found that we shared some of the same experiences and background. We were also able to visit a few other churches and priests, and all this broadened my sense of ministry in the Church, offering me a unique perspective on the ways a mission can be grown.
In San Diego we spent three weeks with alumnus Fr. Andrew Cuneo (SVOTS ’10) and the community of St. Katherine of Alexandria Orthodox Mission. Father Andrew kept us busy. In addition to doing regular parish business, such as serving, preaching, visiting parishioners and so forth, he also wanted us to take us around to visit clergy, parishes, and monasteries in the area. One of the many highlights of our time in California was visiting the Holy Virgin Cathedral, Joy of all Who Sorrow in San Francisco, where the relics of St. John Maximovich are kept and venerated.
Both internships complemented each other in a great way. We saw the inside of a mission to a greater extent in Beaufort than in San Diego, but experienced a wider range of church life in California. I also utilized many of the skills that we’ve learned so far in seminary, as I was serving as well as preaching. Many services and feasts were celebrated, baptisms were held, reflections given and catechism classes taught, plus some administrative work.
We were very grateful for this opportunity to serve in the Diocese of the South and the Diocese of the West this summer, and want to extend our gratitude to all those who enabled us to go.
Deacon Theodor (Tor) Svane, ordained in May of 2014, is the Student Council President and a third year seminarian from Bergen, Norway. The Svanes are under the The Patriarchal Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe, with Archbishop Job (Getcha). Before coming to seminary he worked as a civil engineer in a major consultant firm in Norway. His wife Hanne is a cultural anthropologist and taught intercultural communications at a college. Simon (4) is the center of the family, gives them great joy, and keeps them busy. This reflection was written for the “Seminarians Speak” section of the St. Vladimir’s Seminary website.