SVOTS students are sharing their faith and seminary experience with students from several theological schools—both Orthodox Christians and also adherers of other faiths. This fall, our students renewed their participation in the Orthodox Inter-Seminary Movement (OISM) and the Inter-Seminary Dialogue (ISD), two organizations that enrich and sharpen their theological perspective and witness.
OISM—initially organized in the 1960s to foster closer relationships between students of canonical Orthodox seminaries in the United States and Canada—was revived in 2003. The New York metro area ISD began in the 1950s and includes students from about eight Christian and Jewish seminaries.
Monk Kilian (Sprecher), third-year student at St. Vladimir’s, has adapted the Pauline phrase, “There is neither Jew nor Greek…” (Gal 3:28) to his new role as President of OISM. “There is neither ‘Slav nor Greek,’ ” he reflects. “This is what we seminarians learn as we interact with each other and learn about each other’s liturgical and cultural traditions.”
Having participated in the group for the past three, years, Fr. Kilian was elected president at the Spring 2010 meeting of the society. “Being president means that I will interface with student representatives from all member seminaries: Holy Cross School of Theology in Boston; Holy Trinity in Jordanville, New York; St. Tikhon’s in South Canaan, Pennsylvania; St. Herman’s in Kodiak, Alaska; Christ the Saviour in Johnston, Pennsylvania; St. Sophia Seminary in South Bound Brook, St. Andrew College in Winnipeg, Canada; and our own St. Vladimir’s.
“I also will oversee and arrange things for our meeting each semester. Each member school of OISM takes a turn hosting the other seminaries, providing an opportunity for fellowship and for learning about each other’s traditions and histories.”
In Fall 2010, Christ the Saviour Seminary hosted the OISM gathering, September 24–26. In addition to students from the host school and St. Vladimir’s, seminarians from Holy Cross, Holy Trinity, St. Sophia, and St. Tikhon's seminaries gathered to reflect on the theme, "Living Out Our Theology." Metropolitan Nicholas, primate of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Archdiocese of the U.S.A., who could not be present at the meeting, sent a message of welcome to the seminarians, which was read by Fr. Nicholas Ferencz.
St. Vladimir’s Seminary will host the next OISM meeting on February 25–27, 2011, and Fr. Kilian is looking forward to holding it on our campus. “ ‘OISM’ is for everyone,” he said. “I am encouraging married students and female students to attend our meetings.”
Second-year seminarians, Basil (Kevin) Fritts and Sarah Johnson planned the first ISD session of the fall semester, hosted on our campus October 21. Seminarian Basil launched the evening with a Power Point presentation, posing questions meant to spark a discussion about the relationship between faith and science, within the students’ respective faith traditions. The topic was part of the more general theme for this year, “Religious Traditions Encounter Modernity.”
“What is ISD?,” rhetorically asks Seminarian Basil. “It is an opportunity for St. Vladimir's seminarians to learn how other Christians and various bodies of Jews live their faith. Students at seminaries all over New York City come together to discuss topics of interest for the purpose of learning and sharing our unique perspectives with each other.
“Who should come?,” he continues. “Everyone is welcome, obviously! Learning about the perspectives and practices of other faiths is particularly helpful for military chaplains, hospital chaplains, and parish priests in mixed faith communities—and where in America doesn’t that exist? So, ISD is for all of us, really.”