Meet a Seminarian: Fr. Giorgi Tskitishvili

Author: 
SVOTS

Father Giorgi Tskitishvili is a 34-year-old priest of the Orthodox Church of Georgia and a Master of Theology (Th.M.) degree candidate at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary (SVOTS). Before becoming a priest, Fr. Giorgi was a successful pharmaceutical salesman who often traveled between Georgia and Turkey. When he became a priest in 2014, he was assigned to Guria in western Georgia near the Black Sea. There he built a church dedicated to the Transfiguration. His family includes his wife, Nino, and his children, Anastasia, 8, and John, 7. In this interview Fr. Giorgi talks about life in post-Soviet Georgia and what led him to study theology at SVOTS.

Q: Tell us about your parish in Georgia.

FG: I am from western Georgia, from an area called Guria near the Black Sea. We built a church there physically with our own hands and dedicated it to the Transfiguration. During the Soviet regime, many churches in Georgia were destroyed and there is a great movement to rebuild churches. There are fifty to sixty people in the parish. I was a priest there for four years.

 Q: Why did you decide to become a priest?

FG: I wanted to serve Christ by serving other people. I was serving as a sacristan and as a reader in the Church for eight years beforehand, and during this process then I just decided that I wanted to change my life. But it was a slow process to decide that I wanted to be a priest.

Q: What made you decide to come to SVOTS for your education?

FG: In 2014, when I became a priest and serving mainly the teenagers, I thought that the way we were bringing the Word of God to them is not the right way. There was some gap between the way we were preaching and evangelizing and what their expectations were. So I tried researching the problem I was facing. I discovered two interesting figures: Alexander Schmemann and Thomas Hopko. Some of Schmemann’s books are translated into Georgian. I discovered Hopko through his podcasts. They were united by one thing: St. Vladimir’s Seminary. So I wanted to experience the tradition they were building here for years. 

Q: Did SVOTS meet your expectations?

Fr. Giorgi Tskitishvili wears his beautiful Georgian-style cassockFr. Giorgi Tskitishvili wears his beautiful Georgian-style cassock

FG: I came here in 2018 and it totally matched my expectations. The most important part is the parish life, the community life based in the chapel. The communion is centralized; we live as one unity in Christ’s body and blood. It was what was lacking in my community back home. And the professors were amazing.

The Master of Arts here is a kind of introductory to graduate studies. We deal with patristics, Old Testament, New Testament, Liturgics, and many others. It gives us the fundamentals to pursue further education. The Master of Arts and the Master in Theology, in the way that they are offered at St. Vladimir’s, are a great bridge for doctoral studies. 

The Master in Theology gives us an opportunity to get deeper inside, to narrow the focus and get deeper in particular subjects. My hope is to pursue a Ph.D., and hopefully it will give me a better focus in terms of what I want to do in a Ph.D. 

Q: What do you plan to do with your degrees?

FG: I want to go back to Georgia and help with the translations of the fathers into Georgian. The translations are old and hard to read and are not close to the original. So many of the texts during the Soviet era were destroyed. I also want to give lectures at universities. For sure I want to experience parish life as a parish priest. This is the most important thing for me. I also want to establish a community school which can provide the basic theological education. 

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