Last Saturday, July 9, 2011, I had to take my wife and newborn daughter to my mother-in-law’s house in Wake Forest, North Carolina, which is about ten or fifteen minutes away from where we live in North Raleigh. I decided that since I would be in Wake Forest, and since I did not have anywhere to be that afternoon (which is quite rare for me), that it would be fun to stop by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary so that I could check out their library.
The campus is absolutely beautiful, with its old buildings, many trees, and large swaths of grass. The housing around the seminary is also pretty, and it all evoked a small college town atmosphere. The seminary’s campus was the home of Wake Forest University, until it moved to Winston-Salem in the 1950s. It reminded me of a cross between my college years at North Carolina State University, and my seminary days at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in Yonkers, New York, which was tiny in comparison to Southeastern.
I had visited the library almost six years ago, but had not been back since. That was before I was ordained a priest, so I didn’t stick out the way I do now. As I entered the seminary campus, I started to wonder if I would get any looks or have anyone engage me in a debate, owing to my Orthodox priest’s cassock. I have to admit, part of me felt like I had crossed the border into foreign territory! But I was able to make my way to the library undisturbed.
I made it to the library, but it being the summer and a Saturday, there were not that many people there. I decided to spend my time in the periodicals section, since I can get almost any book I would want through interlibrary loan, but periodicals are not so easy to obtain. The seminary has an extensive collection of periodicals, and I was pleased to be able to browse through them. They even carry several periodicals relating to Orthodox Christianity; Orthodox Life and Orthodox Word appealed more to me than the Greek Orthodox Theological Review or St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, I must admit. They have periodicals from various theological persuasions, and include a range from “conservative” to “liberal.” I was happy to be there among all that knowledge.
Walking around the campus and in the library, it made me keenly aware of how little Orthodox Christianity is known or appreciated in these parts. I hope to return to the seminary soon, both to see more of the campus, hopefully when classes are in session, and especially the library, to read some more of the periodicals and do research. Perhaps I will have the opportunity to engage with someone while I’m there. I also have considered visiting some of the nearby coffee houses or other hangouts to see whom I might find. I really enjoy having discussions with people about Orthodoxy and how it compares and contrasts with Western forms of Christianity, as long as the conversation is polite and respectful (see my article, An Instance of Baptist Harassment, for an example of when things did not go so well).
If you’re finding my blog post and you are a student at Southeastern Seminary, feel free to contact me and maybe we can get together and chat some time soon!