Representatives from St. Vladimir’s, St. Tikhon’s, Christ the Savior, and St. Herman seminaries joined Hellenic College/Holy Cross (HCHC) Greek Orthodox School of Theology students for the 2015 Orthodox Inter-Seminary Meeting (OISM) hosted by HCHC in Brookline, MA. This year’s theme was “Building Community,” with talks offered by His Grace The Right Reverend John Abdalah (SVOTS ’84), auxiliary bishop for the Antiochian Archdiocese’s Diocese of Worcester and New England, and Fr. Edward Hughes (SVOTS ’80), the Vicar General of The Western Rite Commission in the Antiochian Archdiocese.
We arrived Friday evening and had an opportunity to get to know one another and compare their typical days and course loads at seminary. On Saturday morning we were given a tour of the Hellenic College/Holy Cross campus, which rests on 30 scenic acres just outside the city of Boston. We were first taken to the Archbishop Iakovos Library, which houses an extensive theological and cultural collection. In the library, we reflected on the legacy of His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos (+2005), former primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, as we viewed sacred artifacts and archives related to his life. We continued the tour through the classrooms and gym, ending up at the chapel.
After brunch we had our first talk by Bishop John. His discussion on community building focused on respecting the unique individuals that comprise a community. He referenced Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann’s idea that each person is a cosmos, and should be approached and treated thus. Bishop John asserted that understanding the uniqueness of individuals isn’t incongruous with community building, but is in fact important to the health of parishes. He reminded us that our task as church leaders isn’t to bring God to any person or situation, but rather to be present, and in so doing reveal the God Who is already there.
After a small break, Fr. Edward led our second talk. He spoke on the upcoming Great and Holy Council of 2016, and what the possible outcomes could be for the Orthodox churches in America. Our evening concluded with Vespers, dinner, and the OISM business meeting. On Sunday we gathered for the celebration of Divine Liturgy, followed by brunch.
All in all, the event offered a meaningful time of fellowship with students from other seminaries, and a timely reminder of the importance of building relationships across jurisdictional lines. The next OISM retreat is scheduled for Fall 2015 at St. Tikhon’s in South Canaan, PA.