Personal Tribute to St. Sophia Seminary

I wrote this for the “Tuesday of Giving” development effort at St. Sophia’s.  


V. Rev. Anthony Perkins, rector of St. Mary Protection of the Holy Theotokos Cathedral, Allentown PA.
Vocations Director, Associate Academic Dean, & Adjunct Professor of Spirituality at St. Sophia’s

My Calling
When I was about fourteen, I was studying the Gospel of St. John when I felt my heart “strangely warmed” with the presence of God.  I talked to my mother about it and she took me to see our pastor, Rev. Jay Ray Dunahoo.  We talked and prayed for quite a while together to discern the nature of this calling.  That Sunday during church he announced to everyone that I had been called to ministry.  It took me thirty years (and 9/11), but in 2002, my spiritual father and mentor, V. Rev. Robert Holet, introduced me to our bishop, His Eminence Metropolitan (then Archbishop) Antony, and the UOC-USA Director of Vocations, V. Rev. Stephen Hutnick to talk about how to best fulfill my calling to serve.  I started both the St. Stephen’s Antiochian Distance-Learning Diaconal Formation program and St. Sophia’s Weekend Priestly Formation program the next Fall.  These four men, Rev. Jay Ray Dunahoo, V. Rev. Robert Holet, Metropolitan Antony, and V. Rev. Stephen Hutnick were wonderful witnesses to the beauty of Christian ministry and all encouraged me and challenged me in very special ways.

A Few of My Many Mentors
In addition to those four men, I had many other mentors on my way to the priesthood.  Growing up, my parents, Lynne and Stan Shaw and Ed and Scherry Perkins, raised me to love the Lord and praise Him in Church, especially through singing and regular attendance.  My maternal grandmother, Alice Holly studied the Bible every day and it was from her that I learned to love God’s word and of the need to live simply, humbly, and with a generous spirit.  But I have to add that those were different days.  I grew up in Georgia in the 70’s and 80’s, and God, scripture, and Christian living were part of the very air everyone breathed.  That isn’t to say everyone was perfect (or even Christian), but even our flaws and differences were understood in Biblical terms.

My church attendance waned after high school, and it wasn’t until my wife, Pani Matka Tina Marie – the greatest boon to my ministry and my daily co-struggler – and I decided to re-center and re-invigroate our marriage around Christ (something prompted in part by the birth of our oldest son, Nicholas in 1995) that we made Christian worship and service a major part of our lives.  It was this re-centering that soon led us to Orthodoxy and, after 9/11, to the UOC-USA.

Seminary-12My Time as a Seminarian at St. Sophia’s
I still look back to my years as a seminarian (2002-2005) as some of the best of my life.  It was a crazy time.  I was working long hours providing intelligence support to the war in Afghanistan while helping to grow (and serve God!) at the St. Nicholas mission in Charlottesville and learn to be a better husband and father.  It was really hard to fit in the time do keep up academically, but St. Sophia was like a harbor for me, and all my weekend trips there were spiritual pilgrimages; exhausting but renewing.  Rev. Paisius McGrath was discerning his call at the same time, and we usually made that trip together.  He was another man that helped me tremendously along the way, as did all of my professors.  It was especially great having two wonderful priests with two very different approaches, V. Rev. Stephen Hutnick, and V. Rev. Bazyl Zawierucha, guiding us.  Our Church is blessed with so many talented and devoted priests, and I am happy to count both of these men and mentors and friends.

Interesting(?) facts about me:  

  • I love to read, listen to, and watch fantasy and science fiction, especially books, graphic novels, and movies/shows that have well-developed (or at least interesting) mythologies.  My favorite authors are Roger Zelazny, Michael Heiser, Neil Gaiman, and Lois McMaster Bujold.  I love studying mythologies and reflecting on the ways the Church understands and teaches about cosmology and mythology.  This has led me to read a lot about things like angels, demons, gods, devils, ghosts, aliens, etc.  I would still play RPG’s if I had the time.
  • I’m a typical INFP.  I have a hard time completing tasks, I love people – but need quiet time to recover from them, I am at my best when I immerse myself in regular worship, prayer/meditation, and study, and I don’t have a practical bone in my body (thank God that my wife more than makes up for these flaws).
  • I am active on “social media”, but I don’t enjoy the experience.  I find that Facebook et al bring out the bad (if not worst) in many people.  I believe that if our increasing connectives isn’t tempered by (kenotic) Christian virtues we will create a hell on earth.  On the other hand, if it can be so tempered, it could become a living and transformative icon of Christ.
  • I love trying new (and flavorful!) food.  Right now, my favorite types of food are Korean and Vietnamese.  I’ll try pretty much anything.  So will Fr. Bazyl Z. (except Waffle House, although I am working on that – I mean, who doesn’t love Waffle House!).
  • I love the outdoors and find walking to be one of the best ways to meditate/pray.  One of my dreams is to hike the Appalachian Trail.

Things about seminary that people may be surprised by:

  • Everyone is there because they love worship, but as wonderful as it is, some of us are still a bit grumpy at 7AM.
  • Seminarians snore and do all the other things you found annoying in your college roommates.
  • The coffee at St. Sophia’s is so thick that it’ll hold up a spoon.
  • The food at St. Sophia’s is amazing.  Lots of garlic and dill.  Pani Maria (our chef) is a godsend.
  • Full-time seminarians are kept on a pretty short leash; they’d love it if you adopted them and showed them around your town during the weekends and holidays.

uoc2015-seminary-appeal-1Why I Stay – and Why I support St. Sophia’s
Some people wonder why I continue to stay attached to St. Sophia’s.  It isn’t just because I love teaching.  I have the credentials and vitae to teach almost anywhere.  It is because seminary life is special; there everyone is dedicated to the same goal (the one thing needful!) and all of our efforts are directed towards that end.  Even though I go there quite often now to work and teach, every trip is still a holy pilgrimage for me.  Moreover, when I support St. Sophia’s, whether financially or through my meager efforts, I am contributing to the building up of the Church, the spreading of the Gospel, and the salvation of this fallen world and its broken people.

You can participate in that same thing through your prayers and financial assistance.  We have thirty seminarians from here and abroad (glory to God), but it takes a lot to run the seminary.  We keep tuition low so that more people can attend, but that means that we have to subsidize the seminary from other sources.  Endowments help, but there is need for more.  

Please consider including St. Sophia seminary in your charitable budget and as a benefactor in your will.

How to Donate:

Donations are graciously accepted online: 

Contributions via check:

St. Sophia Seminary
PO Box 240
South Bound Brook, NJ 08880 

After Donating 

Please spread the word of your investment in the future of our Church and encourage your friends and family to do so! Share the attached graphic, the link to contribute, and be sure include these hashtags in your posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: #GivingTuesday #ISupportedStSophia