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After a year

  The experience of serving the Church and the poor with the Lived Theology School radically transformed my understanding of our Orthodox faith. A year of prayer and labor with a community like St. John the Compassionate Mission is not an opportunity that one, especially a young layperson, is presented with every day, and the profound growth in theological understanding, conviction in faith, and confidence in everyday life that such a rigorous and challenging way of life provides is one-of-a-kind.
              So much of the growth that happens as a part of the LTS experience comes from living, eating, praying, and sharing time and space with a group of people brought together out of vastly different places in their lives. Learning to relate, accommodate, and understand in a new environment – particularly one in a new country, in my case! – works abrasive sandpaper to polish out the impurities and blemishes that we build up by living in isolation from one another. Part of taking up Christ’s invitation back into communion is learning to live in community. The relationships I built coming in every day to work and pray with the same faces will stay with me for the rest of my life, and through them I was able to see a clearer picture of the face of Christ. All of the opportunities I was presented with over the course of my LTS year were so different, from the daily maintenance of the chapel to organizing a Christmas feast to planning lessons for youth , but each and every dovetailed perfectly into an experience of the Church that we often miss out on in Sunday-to-Sunday parish life.
               The rhythm of life in the Mission lays an inimitable foundation for the academic study which. From the very beginning, we were given opportunities to learn from academics in the head of their fields and workers in the Church with decades of rich experience in service of the poor and disenfranchised. Once a week, or more, we were provided with intensive sessions on topics such Church history, Scripture, pastoral concepts, and intersections with fields such as psychotherapy. We were provided with seminars from leading Orthodox scholars and personal question and answer sessions with important figures in the Mission’s history, all of which served as an avenue for a quality of theological education hard to find outside of major universities, but quite distinct in its focus on practical service. The Lived Theology School broadened my horizons and my grounding in my faith unlike any other experience I have had, and I believe it to be a gift to the Orthodox youth of North America.