Since I broke off writing here, a lot has happened in my life that has to do with the subject matter of this blog. The most significant thing as far as practical theology goes is my being hired this past spring by St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary to teach in their D.Min. (Doctor of Ministry) program. I taught one course this late spring and through the summer, including a week-long intensive on campus in Crestwood. The title of the course was “Liturgical Life and Pastoral Ministry,” which basically had to do with a rereading of the work of Fr. Alexander Schmemann and his critics, with an eye to the significance of his thought for the liturgical life of local parishes. The course members came from a wide range of Orthodox jurisdictions in North America, and all were a joy to work with. I’ve been told that I will be doing more teaching in the future, including courses in the St. Vladimir’s M.A. and M.Div. programs, beginning in fall 2016. In the meantime, you can find me on the SVS faculty page, listed as a Sessional Assistant Professor of Liturgical Theology.

All this has happened against the backdrop of my accepting the fact that I will never be allowed to teach theology here in Finland. Sure, I know . . . “never say never,” and all that. Still, my experience the past several years (most recently this past spring, which was the proverbial last nail in the coffin) has shown me that these days, whether in university or church, someone who teaches in English, and who was educated outside the Finnish university system, has no genuine chance of being hired for a permanent position — or indeed, of being asked to do anything beyond the very occasional talk (thank you for such opportunities, Filantropia and Fr. Heikki!).

Not directly related to my own situation, but still what seems to me a disturbing development here, at the kirkkopäivät this August I heard that some in the church now look down on St. Vladimir’s as an inferior institution of theological education. If this is true, it only redounds to the shame of the church here. It only reveals how blinkered the church here has become. Or perhaps it reflects the extent to which the xenophobia and populism on the rise here have poisoned the local Orthodox church as well.

So where does this leave me? To be honest, these past few years have been something of a master class in confronting the demons of bitterness, anger, and despair. Can I say that, like St. Anthony emerging from his tomb, I have returned to the world radiant with spiritual health and wholeness? No. But at least I see now that death does not have the last word. The temptation to give in to bitterness, anger, and despair is powerful. Still, I can say from experience that life and hope break through the death that oppresses us. This is an experience out of which it is possible to live, to turn the page, to move forward.

Readers of this blog will know how much I love to teach. I couldn’t give that up even if I tried (and I have tried). That love is a constitutive part of who I am. It would appear that the kind of teaching to which I am called will be exercised outside of the “normal” contexts in which it takes place in this world. What those contexts are is still an open question. Writing is one form of teaching (I’m working on a book proposal right now with another SVS faculty member), there doubtless are others as well (such as this blog). I have the courses at St. Vladimir’s, as well as the occasional course here outside the area of theology strictly defined (for example, the course on Art and Spirituality I’m currently teaching at the Taideyliopisto in Helsinki).

So I ask you, dear readers: in this situation in which the unconventional seems to be the context for my teaching now, what other kinds of settings might there be for my teaching?

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