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REFLECTION: On the Job Training

by Father Theodor Svane

The day I was ordained, I was given a cross by my bishop.

I was, by the grace of God, a priest. I looked like one, but I did not necessarily feel like one. Seminary had prepared me well for ordination, and I would not have been able to respond to the calling without that foundation. But at the same time seminary is not a parish, and it could only teach me so much.

Coming from the Orthodox Church in Norway — a tiny community in a predominantly secular country — I had hoped that during my time at St. Vladimir’s, my family and I would gain a broader experience of an Orthodox Church that exists within a culture similar to our own. I have not been disappointed.

During my days as a seminarian, and now, following my graduation, I was very blessed to be warmly welcomed as an assistant into three very different and dynamic parishes of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA):  St. James Orthodox Church, in Beaufort, South Carolina, St. Katherine of Alexandria Orthodox Mission, in San Diego, California, and Saint Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church in Santa Rosa, California, where I am currently serving as an assistant priest. These parishes are thriving and expanding under their respective pastors, who also happen to be St. Vladimir’s alumni: Father James Bozeman, Father Andrew Cuneo, and Father Lawrence Margitich.

In these parishes, I served, preached, visited parishioners, and performed administrative tasks—as well as manual labor! With my family, I toured neighboring Orthodox parishes, gaining new perspectives about how to grow a mission parish and how to handle a long-established parish.

My experiences have been greatly rewarding. But through it all, I have come to realize that one can never be completely prepared for the priesthood. There will always be sense in which it is foreign and unnatural, because life in Christ is foreign, alien, unnatural, to the world we live in—and to my fallen nature.

Yet Christ calls me to take up my cross and follow Him. To unite with Him. Daily.

And so, daily, I literally take the cross given to me at my ordination, hang it around my neck, and remind myself that my life belongs to Him. And as I struggle to live as a priest in Him who is the High Priest, I remember His promise that He will always be faithful to everyone who takes up their cross and follows Him.
 
Father Theodor Svane (Master of Divinity, ’15) was Student Council President during his time as a seminarian, and is a priest in the The Patriarchal Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe.

Originally published in Tell Me a Story, the Annual Report FY2015 of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, and used with permission.

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