Interviews from Antiochian.org
Recently, Antiochian.org spoke with Department of Sacred Music Chair Chris Holwey about how this essential department provides support, training, and encouragement to parish musicians throughout the Antiochian Archdiocese.
1. Chris, summarize for us the ministry of the Department of Sacred Music in the Antiochian Archdiocese, and your role within the Department.
First of all, let me say thank you for offering me this opportunity to speak about the Sacred Music Department, which I believe is one of the most important departments of the Archdiocese. Officially, the department was established back in 1968 when Metropolitan Philip appointed Fr. James Meena as its first chairman. Unofficially, though, the Archdiocese began publishing music well before that, closer to the beginning of the last century. If anyone wishes to read about our history, Dr. Michael Farrow, our Vice-Chairman, has compiled it all in a wonderful article which is located in the Information and Resources section of our website. But to be more specific about the ministry of our department, I cannot say any more than is already said in the Mission Statement of our department: "The mission of the Department of Sacred Music is to provide leadership to the parishes of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, drawing from the talents of the faithful in order to serve as a resource for the publication of music, to organize workshops and seminars, to build strong ties of communication throughout the Archdiocese, to support the work of missions, and to be a positive influence in the creation of new works of liturgical music for the glory of God and the Holy Orthodox Faith."
Fr. John Oliver, the priest of St. Elizabeth Orthodox Christian Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, has released Giver of Life through Paraclete Press. The book tackles a topic not easily grasped, that of the Church's teaching on the Person of the Holy Spirit. An experienced communicator, Fr. John has authored the Conciliar Press story Touching Heaven and has been an Ancient Faith Radio podcaster since 2007. However, he says that writing Giver of Life proved to be a different experience altogether, and in an interview with the editors of antiochian.org, he explains why.
1. The Holy Spirit seems at times to be the most neglected Person within the Holy Trinity. Tell us what motivated you to write about Him in this book.
Actually, the idea for Giver of Life was not mine. Paraclete Press, the publisher, contacted me about writing a book for a series they were doing on the role of Holy Spirit in various traditions. They asked if I’d consider writing the Orthodox perspective. Since it’s such an enormous and lofty topic, with which I have very little personal experience, I didn’t agree to it at first.
But Paraclete said some things that led me to accept the project - they were looking for something introductory; they were fine with lots of direct references to the Church fathers; and they hoped for a book that was specifically devotional in nature. So, Giver of Life is not an academic book, and it’s certainly nowhere close to being any definitive text on the Holy Spirit in the Orthodox tradition. Rather, it’s a reflection on what the Orthodox believe about the Holy Spirit and how He changes our lives.
Conciliar Press has released Antiochian priest Fr. Andrew Damick's book, Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy. Birthed by the popular Ancient Faith Radio podcast with the same name, the book provides an overview of "the gamut of ancient heresies, modern Christian denominations, fringe groups, and major world religions, highlighting the main points of each faith." Fr. Andrew pastors the community of St. Paul Orthodox Church in Emmaus, Pennsylvania.
Recently we asked Fr. Andrew to reflect on his chosen topic, and to explain why he believed it was necessary to write about the differences between Orthodoxy and other faiths.
1. Fr. Andrew, what was your motivation for tackling this topic?
The impetus for putting together the original lectures which eventually led to this book was a direct question from a parishioner: How are the Orthodox different from other Christians? In doing the writing and in thinking about the topic, it became apparent to me that many of us, both inside and outside the Orthodox Church, often do not understand why doctrine matters. We often do not see why what we believe and what we do have a real, discernible effect not only on our lives here on earth, but also in the age to come.
Just over two years ago, twenty Orthodox leaders from various jurisdictions gathered at the invitation of Antiochian philanthropists Charles and Marilee Ajalat, and the Orthodox Vision Foundation. That meeting laid the foundation for the subsequent launch of FOCUS North America (Food, Occupation, Clothing, Understanding and Shelter), a coast to coast network of Orthodox Christian outreach ministries.
Since its inception, FOCUS has steadily added partner ministries ranging from homeless shelters to medical and counseling centers. On April 3, FOCUS Orange County was awarded the Community of Faith Award, an honor endorsed by the California State Assembly. By the end of 2011, the organization hopes to increase its number of directors, partner ministries, and student volunteers in the Youth Equipped to Serve (YES) program.
Executive Director Fr. Justin Mathewes studied business as an undergraduate and subsequently earned a masters degree and was ordained at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. Chrismated in an Antiochian parish, Fr. Justin currently serves at a Serbian parish near FOCUS headquarters. With the Lenten season as a backdrop, we asked Fr. Justin to reflect on his first two years at the helm.
1. Since 2009 you've working to make FOCUS a reality and not just a list of organizational goals. What is the most important thing you've learned?
The most important thing I am learning through our ministry together is that the only person we can attempt to change is ourselves. In these last two years I have kept the basic Orthodox Christian spiritual principle before me of St. Seraphim of Sarov: “Acquire the Spirit of peace and thousand around you shall be saved.”
The editors at antiochian.org recently interviewed Antiochian Women President Cindy Nimey about the active archdiocesan organization and the critical role they play in carrying out the Church's gospel mission. His Eminence Metropolitan Philip has designated every March as Antiochian Women's Month, saying of the charitable group, "Through their hard work, dedication and commitment, they have continued to find many ways to strengthen their ministry." Or as President Nimey expresses it, "Alone we can only do so much, but as a group much work can be done."
1. Cindy, what does your role entail?
As the current president of the NAB (North American Board) Antiochian Women, finishing my second two year term, my role entails many tasks over the course of the year. The president presides over the two annual meetings held each year. Our mid winter meeting is usually held the first weekend of February at the Antiochian Village, our summer meeting is held mid July during the Archdiocese Convention and on the off year at the Antiochian Village. Our meetings are held coinciding with the St. John the Divine and Teen SOYO meetings.
During the year there are numerous tasks to perform, such as writing letters to the married seminarians at Christmas time-this includes a monetary gift of $500 which is gifted from a special account which was set up from funds raised through one of our many Antiochian Women projects.
"We have all heard our own children, or stories of other children, singing parts of the Divine Liturgy when they were either playing at home or singing in the car when they thought no one else was listening," explains Liz McMillan, Choir Director at St. Elias in Atlanta. Liz has capitalized on that natural love for music through her work with two Archdiocese Departments, Christian Education and Sacred Music; for years, she's taught seminars and written about how to introduce church music to children. Sacred Music recently published her groundbreaking resource guide as a PDF on their webpage. Titled "Introducing Orthodox Liturgical Music to Children", the two versions of the manual (Pre-school to 6 year olds and 7-12 year olds) cover concepts such as how to explain to kids why we sing the music we do, and how to structure music class time.
Antiochian.org interviewed Liz McMillan to find out why she dedicates so many of her volunteer hours to working with children and church music.
1. Tell us a little about your background, and how you came to be so involved in church music.
I started singing with the adult choir of my parish when I was 8 or 9 years old. I grew up singing in Sunday School and was a music major in college. I would say I fell into the music job in my own parish, eventually working with the children there. When His Grace Bishop Antoun visited our parish he was amazed at how our children sang.
Recently, antiochian.org interviewed Anne Van Fossen, classical educator and co-founder of the Classical Learning Resource Center, about their Orthodox online school offering classes in Greek and Latin, Philosophy and Critical Thinking.
1. A quote on your website reads, "In order to be thirsty enough, hungry enough to seek God diligently and uncompromisingly, we must form our souls carefully and continuously." Create for us a thumbnail sketch of the Classical Learning Resource Center--what is your "raison d'etre" and how are you structured?
The earlier part of the quote you mentioned points out that great literature, art, and music can awaken within us a hunger and thirst for the good things of God. They can awaken us to beauty, truth, and a desire in our souls for our true home with God. We live in a world that works to distract us from that home and attempts to delude us into believing that suffering and carnal pleasure is all we have to hope for. Great literature, art, and music awaken this hunger and thirst for that which is good, true, and beautiful.
As to our structure, the Classical Learning Resource Center exists to promote good education that puts students in contact with this great literature. We are not a school and do not attempt to cover every subject area. Our goal is for the CLRC to come alongside of educators to assist them whether they are homeschooling parents, public or private school teachers, or anyone seeking to provide or procure a good education.
We offer live, interactive, real-time, online classes for all ages from young children to adults. Students need access to the internet, inquisitive minds, and a schedule that allows some time for additional work between weekly classes.
Archpriest Gregory Hallam, Dean of the Antiochian Orthodox Deanery of the United Kingdom and Ireland, and blogger at Antioch Abouna, recently launched a podcast on Ancient Faith Radio. Titled A Voice From the Isles, the podcast features Fr. Gregory's sermons and lectures, delivered to Orthodox Christians and inquirers in the United Kingdom. Recently, antiochian.org caught up with him in cyberspace, where he graciously answered our questions.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself, Father. How does a Christian clergyman in the United Kingdom end up as a priest and Dean in the Antiochian Archdiocese?
I wasn't raised in the Anglican Church but I served it for 12 years as a priest after coming to faith in my early 20s. My journey to Orthodoxy is a long story so I will just give you a reasonably detailed but short summary.
My first encounter with the Orthodox Church was at Anglican seminary 30 years ago when I attended a liturgy in English at a parish in the Greek Archdiocese in Southampton. This was in the context of an ecumenical visit from our college to the church there. I was blown away by the worship much in the same way that the emissaries of Kiev reacted after experiencing the Liturgy at the Great Church in Constantinople. I then began a theological exploration of Orthodoxy while still at Anglican seminary and found that it rang true in every aspect of Christian life.
1. Most of us are familiar with the name "St. Athanasius Academy," but we're less familiar with who you are. Can you refresh our memories by telling us a bit about your ministry--how it was started, the role Fr. Jack Sparks played for years, and what your focus is today?
People ask me about who I am. Yet please know, even after I tell you something about myself, I am only trying to be a worthy mouthpiece for that which Fr. Jack Sparks and Fr. Richard taught me, along with the spiritual insight gain from working with them on the OSB-Septuagint Old Testament Project, published in 2008. These men were profound influences in my life and their love for Christ Jesus and His teachings, remains with me and saved my life in times of great illness. My name is Paul Goetz and began working with St. Athanasius Academy after first meeting Fr. Jack Sparks and Fr. Jon Braun in Los Gatos, CA in 1992. I later met Fr. Richard Ballew in 1993, and this sealed within me the need and commitment to change priorities. I left my chosen profession of 15 years and began working with Fr. Jack while the Academy was yet in Ben Lomond.
"Icons: Windows to Heaven"
Getting To Know the Iconographers
Cheryl Ann Pituch and Niko Chocheli will be presenting workshops at Antiochian Village for the event, “Icons: Windows to Heaven,” November 4–7, 2010. Vasiliki Oldziey, Christian Education Coordinator for the Diocese of Wichita and the Midwest, interviewed them this summer. The Department of Christian Education sponsors the annual Orthodox Institute, and the theme of this year’s event is iconography. The Institute will include several courses on iconography and provide participants an opportunity to learn how to write icons (“Utilizing Crafts”). Teacher-training courses and the Church School Director Seminar are also scheduled for the Institute. Amateur or professional iconographers are encouraged to bring an icon for our “Festival of Orthodoxy” display. If you love icons, don’t miss this opportunity! For more information or a brochure, please e-mail the department at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our website.
Cheryl Ann Pituch
Cheryl Ann has been married for thirty-eight years to Eugene Pituch and is the mother of four children and the grandmother of two. She currently resides in Davidsville, Pennsylvania, a small town in the Laurel Mountains, 92 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Her icons are featured in the current Icon Calendar from Conciliar Press.
1. Icons were not part of your early life. Tell us how icons have changed your life.
I grew up in the Presbyterian Church and was taught that any statues or “pictures” were never to be kissed or prayed before in any way. I struggled to understand icons, in order to embrace the faith. I have been an Orthodox Christian for 32 years and have been painting for about 26 years. Now, I can’t imagine life without icons. The most dramatic change in my life with icons is prayer. Icons open constant opportunities to pray. They have changed my life just by being visible and witnessing (in their silence) their love for God, and stirring my heart to do more.