"Think cosmically and act personally," urged Dr Elizabeth Theokritoff, in her keynote speech to students, faculty, and staff of St Vladimir's Seminary, which launched a campus-wide initiative for environmental sustainability, conceived and planned by Very Rev. Chad Hatfield, chancellor of the school.
The initiative, begun Friday, September 28, 2007 will encompass a broad range of practices—from cost-saving energy measures to cooperative recycling efforts with city and county agencies—that will become part of the seminary's fabric into the future. Fr Chad also announced that St Vladimir's would become a corporate member of "The Orthodox Fellowship of the Transfiguration," an environmental agency under the umbrella of the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops (SCOBA).
In her talk, Dr Theokritoff played off the more popular slogan for environmental concerns, "Think globally and act locally," and instead viewed ecological crises from a theological perspective, incorporating vignettes and sayings from the church fathers that demonstrated their own attitudes and practices toward creation. Her address, entitled "I Believe in the Creator of Heaven and Earth," particularly focused on Orthodox theology as possessing the core beliefs required to transform the environmental movement from merely an exercise in corporate citizenship to one in which the goals are the glorification of the Creator and the ability to perceive the image of God in all things.
Touching upon the Orthodox practice of asceticism, she further noted, "We cannot just practice the '3 R's' of the popular ecological movement—'Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.' Rather, as Orthodox Christians, we practice a fourth, to 'Reign in' our appetites," since all seemingly private choices have global consequences. "We have a different agenda [than the popular environmental movement], even though we cooperate with each other. Christians bring revelation to the secular cause," she stated. "And, in the end, nothing is 'secular' any longer, because of the Incarnation of our Lord as 'cosmic dust' and because of his Crucifixion under the open sky."
Dr Theokritoff, who completed her doctorate in liturgical theology under the supervision of Bishop Kallistos (Ware), currently is writing a theology of creation for the Foundations series from St Vladimir's Seminary Press.
Also present at the launch, at the invitation of Fr Chad, was Kenneth Greehan, Manager of the Department of Public Works for the City of Yonkers, who informed the seminary community of the city's waste management efforts, and who fielded questions regarding recycling opportunities.
The daylong program ended with the distribution of ecological-related materials to the campus community, and with workshops on various environmental topics.