Closing the Cultural Gap: Chancellor and Students Visit St. Herman Seminary in Kodiak

New York and Alaska are worlds apart, but an ongoing exchange between St. Vladimir's Seminary in Yonkers and St. Herman Seminary in Kodiak has helped shrink their cultural and geographical divides—at least in the sphere of Orthodox Education. Most recently, our chancellor, Archpriest Chad Hatfield, accompanied by two SVOTS seminarians, spent four days at our Alaskan "sister seminary," lecturing and sharing ideas on missiology and the relationship between religion and culture.

“This most recent exchange between our two seminaries is building on a firm foundation of several decades," observed Fr. Chad. "The street is two-ways, and it benefits both our seminaries and our seminarians, giving each group a broader picture of Orthodoxy.”

Father Chad, who served as the dean of St. Herman's from 2002 to 2007, focused on the topics “Missiology Basics" and "Where Do Protestants Come From?" during his part of the exchange program. Seminarian Dn. James Bozeman spoke about his faith journey from Evangelical Protestantism to Orthodoxy, while his brother, Seminarian Ephraim (Lee) Bozeman, gave illuminating sessions on "Culture and Orthodoxy," a subject escpecially apropos to missionary endeavors in Alaska because of the multi-cultural population.

Seminarian Dn. James experienced the "two-way street" between the schools first hand during his premier Alaskan experience. "The 'official' intention of our trip was to offer two days of teaching sessions, covering culture and theology, missiology, and the distinctions between the doctrines and theology of Protestants and Orthodox Christians," he said. "My impression of this was that we were going to go to Alaska to offer something to the students.

"What I found was that we had much to offer each other," he continued. "I was very impressed with the humble sincerity of the students. They quickly welcomed us and gave us much of their time, showing us around Kodiak and the surrounding area. There is a straight-forward simplicity in their approach to their church worship and to their education that I found refreshing and inspiring. Celebrating services with them in the presence of St. Herman's relics was an incredible joy and a real honor."

His brother Ephraim expressed similar sentiments, saying, "It is difficult to describe the beauty of Kodiak and the deep impression this trip has made on me. As a student at St. Vladimir's Seminary, I am used to people coming to experience our community, but this opportunity allowed us to become ambassadors in some respects to our fellow seminarians in Alaska. We were received with tremendous hospitality and a genuine affection that was wonderful to see. The authentic faith of the seminary community was inspiring for me and I hope to be able to carry that with me as I continue my education at St. Vladimir's."

Speaking further of this connection between the two seminaries, Archpriest John Dunlop, dean of St. Herman's, stated, "The historical link between the two schools is paving the way to closer cooperation, particularly in the fields of missions and evangelism. We trust that God will give more opportunities for our seminaries to cooperate in our common vision to serve the Church."

Read about other recent exchanges that strengthen the bond between our two seminaries, including a visit by Alaskan students to St. Vladimir's for the March 2011 Orthodox Inter-Seminary Movement (OISM) meeting, and Fr. Chad's trip to the Kuskokwim River region in January 2011 for a clergy wives retreat—be sure to watch the video of him "mushing" up the tundra!

View a gallery of photos from Fr. Chad's and the Bozeman brothers' recent journey.