Dwelling in Unity: Students from Seven Seminaries Gather for OISM

February 25–27, 2011 • Campus Event: OISM Gathering

How does one accomplish Orthodox Christian unity among jurisdictions? "One heart at a time," claims Monk Kilian (Sprecher), a St. Vladimir's seminarian who concluded his one-year term as President of the Orthodox Inter-Seminary Movement (OISM) at the annual Spring meeting of the group, which gathered on our campus over the course of Meatfare weekend. OISM is a society that encourages Orthodox Christian students from multiple seminaries to interact with each other and to learn about each other's liturgical and cultural traditions.Students from seven seminaries gathered on our campus for OISM (Photo: G. Hatrak)Students from seven seminaries gathered on our campus for OISM (Photo: G. Hatrak)Monk Kilian (center) with Alaskan seminarians Michael Trefon, Jr. and Ephrim Smith.Monk Kilian (center) with Alaskan seminarians Michael Trefon, Jr. and Ephrim Smith.

In addition to St. Vladimir's students who took part in OISM's Spring activities, twenty-five men and women from six other Orthodox seminaries were present, representing: Holy Trinity Seminary, Jordanville, New York; Holy Cross School of Theology, Brookline, Massachusetts; St. Tikhon's Seminary, South Canaan, Pennsylvania; St. Sophia Seminary, South Bound Brook, New Jersey; Christ the Saviour Seminary, Johnstown, Pennyslvania; and St. Herman Seminary in Kodiak, Alaska. Seminarians who gathered represented five jurisdictions: the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA); the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the United States of America (Ecumenical Patriarch); and the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Archdiocese of the U.S.A. (Ecumenical Patriarch).

Father Kilian was especially pleased that two students from Alaska could attend. "Our brothers from St. Herman's," he explained, "whose flights were sponsored by the OCA and a donation of air miles, spent an entire week with us at St. Vladimir's. They sat in on classes, visited with students, and took trips to St. Tikhon's Monastery and Seminary, as well as pariFr. Alex Rentel leads a lively OISM discussion.Fr. Alex Rentel leads a lively OISM discussion.shes in Connecticut. They also were able to see some of the sights of Manhattan."

Father Kilian also noted that all the seminarians were able to celebrate their unity in Christ by participating in a Memorial Divine Liturgy, which preceded the traditional guest lecture, this time given by The Rev. Dr. Alexander Rentel, Assistant Professor of Canon Law and John and Paraskeva Skvir Lecturer in Practical Theology at St. Vladimir's. Father Alexander spoke on the topic "Towards a Renewed Mystagogy," which sparked a lively question-and-answer session among the gratified participants.

At the OISM meeting proper, students discussed issues of their respective schools, as well as what the transition from being under the umbrella of the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishop in America (SCOBA) to the Episcopal Assembly structures might mean for OISM, on a pan-Orthodox level. Following these discussions, new board members were elected for 2011–2012. "Congratulations areNewly elected OISM officers (from left), Alexis Baldwin, Brent Holliday, and David Mahand.Newly elected OISM officers (from left), Alexis Baldwin, Brent Holliday, and David Mahand. due to our new President, Brent Holliday [Holy Cross Seminary], our Vice-President Alexis Baldwin [St. Tikhon's Seminary], and to our secretary David Mahand [Holy Trinity Seminary]," said Fr. Kilian.

As a final note upon leaving his office, Fr. Kilian reflected, "I'm thankful for the opportunity that organizing events for OISM gave me, in learning about and reaching out to seminarians across jurisdictional and geographical lines. So much of the work towards Orthodox unity, in my humble opinion, must take place on the level of each person's heart, and the face-to-face contact of brothers and sisters in Christ that OISM provides is one step in the direction of manifesting that unity.

"I'm also thankful," he continued, "that this year we welcomed the involvement of a new seminary in our organization, St. Sophia's Ukrainian Orthodox Seminary. We also were gratified in Fall 2010 by the first hosting in many years of an OISM meeting by Christ the Saviour Seminary in Johnston, Pennsylvania. At this, our Spring meeting, I was especially pleased to have the great gift of two brothers from St. Herman's able to make the transcontinental journey to fellowship with us.

"My closing impression at the end of the Spring 2011 meeting—the end of my presidential term—comes from the words of the Psalmist: 'Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!' (Ps 133:1). My hope is that this delight and unity will continue into the next year of OISM, and throughout all our years, as we move out into ministry and strive to make that unity manifest in all that we do," he concluded.

View a photo gallery of the OISM weekend, taken by Dn. Gregory Hatrak.