27 February 2013 • On–Campus
On Wednesday evening, St. Vladimir's Seminary hosted the February meeting of the Interseminary Dialogue (ISD) of New York City  in the Metropolitan Philip Auditorium. The ISD, an informal organization composed of eight different Jewish and Christian seminaries in the New York area, sponsored the event featuring Hierodeacon Herman (Majkrzak), SVOTS lecturer in Liturgical Music and Chapel Choir Director speaking on the topic "Conversion in the Orthodox Christian Experience."
After Seminarian and Student Council ISD Liaison Dn. Adam Horstman offered a brief welcome, Fr. Herman introduced his talk by explaining that Orthodox Christians will soon be entering a Lenten period which, according to the Orthodox liturgical calendar and lectionary, not only ushers in a season of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting, but also begins the period in which catechumens are prepared for baptism and entry into the Church. After Pascha, he continued, the Church feeds the newly baptized to help them grow in their fledgling faith. One of the Sunday Gospels read in this post–Paschal period of training is the story of the Samaritan woman, or St. Photini as she is known in the Eastern Orthodox tradition.
Father Herman then read the story from the Gospel of John to the gathered ISD students, and offered his thoughts about what the passage teaches about the Orthodox Christian conversion experience. "If we take an honest look at ourselves," he noted, "we notice that we deal with a ceaseless stream of thoughts all day, every day. Our thoughts are full of desires—we want, we need, we must have. Like this woman, we keep coming back to the well, over and over again; like this woman, if we wish to have the living water, we must put something down in order to receive the best that God has for us. Only when we let go of the most cherished aspects of our lives, will we be filled with God. And thus, our conversion can begin."
In his conclusion, Fr. Herman observed that as Orthodox Christians, once we are converted, we desire to bring others into the Faith as well. "The Samaritan woman could not keep this to herself—the fact that Christ came in the flesh that we might know Him as the Way, the Truth, the Life."
After Fr. Herman concluded his remarks, smaller groups discussed three questions based on his talk:
"Do I believe that my faith is True, with a capital T—true for me but also, true for you?"
"Am I willing to share my faith with others who do not share my faith in a respectful manner, with a goal of helping them believe that it is true, too?"
"Given the choice to either deny my faith or die, which would I choose?"
In the group discussions, the guests from other seminaries asked penetrating questions about how Orthodox view the proselytization of other Christians and non–Christians. Several wondered how those from other non–Christian religious backgrounds can begin to sort out the differences between Christian denominations. At one table, discussion turned to the meaning of the Trinity, and to the points of intersection and divergence between Judaism and Christian teaching.
At the conclusion of the evening, third–year Yeshivat Chovevei Torah student Andrew Scheer reflected: "My three years in Interseminary Dialogue have provided for me an invaluable resource in terms of acquiring a familiarity with my fellow future clergy and their theological positions. The network of colleagues I've cultivated through ISD continue to serve my rabbinate well! I encourage all religious leaders to take advantage of opportunities for being in fellowship with not only our co–religionists but people of all religious stripes."