Orthodox Inter-Seminary Movement holds first-ever meeting in Alaska
KODIAK, AK [OCA Communications/OISM/Deacon Steven Vernak] — Members of the Orthodox Inter-Seminary Movement [OISM] met at Saint Herman Orthodox Theological Seminary here October 14-18, 2006.
This event marked the first time in the history of OISM that a meeting was held at Saint Herman’s, our nation's most northwestern Orthodox seminary. In addition to the entire student body of Saint Herman’s Seminary, eleven students from Saint Tikhon's Seminary, South Canaan, PA; Saint Vladimir's Seminary, Crestwood, NY; Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, MA; and Holy Trinity Seminary, Jordanville, NY, participated in the gathering.
Participants from the “lower-48” began their pilgrimage by touring sites in downtown Anchorage, including the Cupola Café and Russian Orthodox Museum, which are operated by the Diocese of Alaska. Later that evening they attended Vigil for the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God at Saint Innocent Cathedral.
On Saturday they attended the consecration of the Protection of the Mother of God Chapel, followed by the Divine Liturgy celebrated by His Grace, Bishop Nikolai of Sitka, Anchorage, and Alaska. This was a double blessing for the participants, not only because many had previously celebrated the services on the new calendar, but also because the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God is the patronal feast of OISM.
Following a festive luncheon in honor of the ladies society of Saint Innocent Cathedral community, participants boarded their flight to Kodiak. They arrived at Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Kodiak just in time for Vigil. After welcoming the seminarians, the Very Rev. Chad Hatfield, dean of Saint Herman's Seminary, reminisced how there were many who doubted that an OISM meeting would ever be convened in Kodiak, but by the intercessions of Saint Herman of Alaska and the grace of God, this event was made a reality.
After the Sunday Divine Liturgy, the students enjoyed fellowship with members of the cathedral community and spent some time introducing themselves. Later, Father Chad and several SHS students led a tour of All Saints of Alaska Chapel and the seminary campus. The seminary chapel is a replica of the first Orthodox Church building in North America, formerly located on the site of Holy Resurrection Cathedral. It was constructed in 1994 to commemorate the bicentennial of Orthodox Christianity in North America.
Following the tour of the campus, participants were treated to panoramic views of the entire area from atop Pillar Mountain, and then spent the remainder of the afternoon hiking Fort Abercrombie Park. The park is a former military installation which still contains much evidence of its past, such as large gun stations, fox holes, and a bunker, as well as several interpretive posters explaining the history of the park and other natural features.
Upon returning to campus, the students gathered at All Saints Chapel to celebrate Great Vespers in commemoration of Saint Yakov, which was followed by a potluck meal at the seminary dining hall. After the meal participants were entertained by Y’upik dancing and more fellowship with the entire SHS community.
On Monday, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated for the Feast of Saint Yakov, after which a group of 31 made preparations for their trip to Spruce Island via a fishing boat operated by one of the native Orthodox faithful. They departed from the Port of Kodiak to the village of Ouzinkie, where they docked for a quick visit to the Nativity of Christ Church, and a trip to the village general store to load up on supplies.
Upon reaching Monks Lagoon participants were loaded onto a small boat and transported to the shores of Spruce Island for lunch and an afternoon of hiking its sacred grounds. As those who had already landed awaited the rest of the pilgrims, one could sense a change in their countenance as they came into contact with the land that Saint Herman sanctified by his God-pleasing life over 200 years ago. Th e afternoon on Spruce Island was crowned with the celebration of the Akathistos Hymn in honor of Saint Herman, celebrated at Saints Sergius and Herman of Valaam Chapel. The return trip to Kodiak was marked with a sober spirit, and a deepening of relationships between the students and faculty who made this remarkable pilgrimage together.
Tuesday was the last day of the encounter. The SHS students returned to their normal schedule of Matins and classes, and visitors were invited to join their brothers and sisters by sitting in on classes. They also visited other points of interest in town and made one last trip to Holy Resurrection Cathedral to venerate the relics of Saint Herman. Almost the entire seminary community gathered in the parking lot to see their guests off, as they made their way to the Kodiak Airport.
In Anchorage another event awaited the pilgrims -- dinner with Bishop Nikolai and other members of the diocesan community. Bishop Nikolai spent quality time with the group discussing the life in the Diocese of Alaska, his exciting travels, as well as his time as a student at Christ the Saviour Seminary, Johnstown, PA and his own involvement with OISM. He also gave everyone a gift bag and his blessing as they made their way back to the Anchorage Airport for travel to the East Coast.
The hospitality with which we were greeted from the very moment of our arrival in Alaska until the time we left was an example for all of us of how we should treat our fellow Orthodox Christians, as well as the society of which we are a part. Real unity can only take place where there is a real relationship, and a real relationship takes time, sacrifice, and love. I can say without reservation that time, sacrifice, and love were poured out abundantly by the Diocese of Alaska and Saint Herman’s Seminary. We are especially thankful to all our benefactors; to our respective seminary administrators, who permitted us to participate in this event; to Father Chad and the community of SHS for their hospitality, event coordination, and friendship; and to Bishop Nikolai for his blessing to travel in the Diocese and for his hospitality.
May we always be mindful that it is God who provides the increase as the influence of OISM amongst our seminaries continues to grow, and may He grant real relationships and unity to all Orthodox Christians in America.
Information taken from OCA.org