SVOTS – 25/10/17
In September, a new poll from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal reported that 7-in-10 Americans viewed race relations in the United States as “poor.” The poll—taken in the wake of a white nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August—revealed that 28% of the public, including 24% of white and 40% of black Americans, stated that race relations are “very bad,” with another 42 percent of all respondents calling them “fairly bad.”
But I’m encouraged to know that here at St. Vladimir’s a new student interest group has sprung up that is addressing the problem: the St. Moses the Black Society, which endeavors to foster meaningful conversation on race in the Orthodox Church today and to introduce the Orthodox Christian faith to black communities in America. The society now takes its place alongside four other student-led interest groups, all under the umbrella of our Student Council.
The president of the newly organized society is Anthony Davis, a seminarian in the Orthodox Church in America, Diocese of the South, and the faculty advisor is Professor Peter C. Bouteneff. Comprising the society are 10 students, among them three African-American seminarians and three African seminarians.
Seminarian Davis told me about some upcoming plans for the budding society.
“First of all,” he said, “I led our initial meeting focused around the scriptural verse, Matthew 28:18–20, in which Jesus directs his disciples to go forth to all other nations, baptizing them and teaching them. I reminded society members that we are supposed to reach out not only to people who look like ourselves; we’re supposed to reach out to everyone.
“Second, we’re going to build our ministry on prayer, especially prayer to some of the African saints,” he noted. “We hope to schedule Akathist services to ask intercession of holy fathers and mothers like St. Moses the Black and St. Mary of Egypt.
“Third,” he explained, “we hope to minister in facilities like Emmaus House of Harlem, rubbing shoulders with people from black communities, and introducing them to the Orthodox faith.”
The society takes its inspiration from the Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black, a national pan-Orthodox organization that desires to make the Orthodox faith available to the African American community and to help the broader Church in realizing this goal. In fact, several members of our new student-led St. Moses Society participated in the Brotherhood’s 24th Annual Conference held October 6–8, 2017, in Princeton, NJ. Our own Board of Trustee member, Carla Ann Newbern Thomas, M.D., spearheaded and organized that national conference, and our seminary president, Fr. Chad Hatfield, led our campus contingent. (Read related story, which includes photo of St. Vladimir’s attendees.)
The theme chosen by the Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black for their recent conference, “Growing Closer to Christ, Growing Closer Together,” struck me. It reminded me that only in Christ can true unity occur, overcoming any racial, social, ethnic, political, or gender-based divisions (Gal 3:28–29).
Our seminarians realize this also. As they live in community and pray together in Three Hierarchs Chapel, they practice the ascetical labor of drawing closer to Christ personally, in order to experience oneness in the Spirit corporately. In Christ, our students—vastly differentiated individuals—show their capacity to reflect harmony, instead of the division.
Be sure to watch the video clips I’m sharing with you today of just 2 members of our St. Moses the Black Society: one by African seminarian Dn. Simon Menya (above my message); and another by African-American seminarian Anthony Davis (below my message). Though worlds apart in birthplace, upbringing, socio-economic status, and spiritual journeys, they demonstrate how our students come together as true brothers and sisters in Christ—through common prayer and the reception of the Eucharist in Three Hierarchs Chapel.
And, please remember: In the ensuing weeks, on each Tuesday, I’ll continue to share special stories about our seminary with you, leading up to the climax of our #GivingTuesday campaign on November 28th. On that day, for 24 hours, we’ll be taking online donations to support integral elements of our seminary operations, including the upkeep of Three Hierarchs Chapel. When we contact you on #GivingTuesday, please remember the exciting work of the student-led St. Moses the Black Society, and the crucial role chapel worship plays in the life of all our seminarians!
P.S. Your donations on #GivingTuesday, November 28 will not only support our Seminary, but also will support our 2017 #GivingTuesday partner, Pro Vita Association for the Born and Unborn, a nonprofit organization that helps hurting families in Romania. (View a video about the details of our #Giving Tuesday campaign, with our Alumnus Bogdan Neacsiu narrating a portion!)
P.P.S. Would you like to give your #GivingTuesday gift early? You may do so here!