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Hosted by St. Herman's Orthodox Theological Seminary

The Orthodox Inter-Seminary Movement (OISM) met at St. Herman Orthodox Theological Seminary in Kodiak, Alaska from Saturday October 14 - Tuesday October 18. This event marked the first time in the history of OISM that a meeting was held at St. Herman's, our nations most northwestern Orthodox seminary. In addition to the entire student body of Saint Herman's Seminary, eleven students from Saint Tikhon Seminary, South Canaan, PA; Saint Vladimir 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 on Friday 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 services for the feast of the Protection of the Mother of God at St. Innocent Cathedral. On Saturday they attended the consecration of the Pokrov Chapel, followed by Hierarchical Divine Liturgy celebrated by His Grace Bishop NIKOLAI. 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 (Pokrov) is the patron feast of OISM.

Following a festive luncheon in honor of the ladies society St. Innocent Cathedral community, participants boarded their flight to Kodiak. They arrived at Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Kodiak just in time for Vigil, and were welcomed by the dean of St. Herman Seminary, Fr. Chad Hatfield. Fr. Chad reminisced how there were many who doubted that an OISM meeting would ever be convened at St. Herman Seminary, but by the intercessions of St. Herman of Alaska, and the grace of God, this event was made a reality.

After Divine Liturgy on Sunday students enjoyed fellowship with the community at Holy Resurrection and spent some time introducing themselves. Next Fr. Chad and several SHS students led visitors on a tour of All Saints of Alaska Chapel and the rest of 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, and was constructed in 1994 as part of the Bi-Centennial celebration of the Orthodox Church in 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 students gathered at All Saints Chapel to celebrate Great Vespers in commemoration of St. 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 Divine Liturgy was celebrated for St. Yakov, then 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. The afternoon on Spruce Island was crowned with an Akathist Service to St. Herman, celebrated at SS. 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. SHS returned to its normal schedule of morning 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 St. 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 His Grace, Bishop NIKOLAI and other members of the diocesan community. His Grace spent quality time with the group talking about life in the Diocese Alaska, his exciting travels, as well as his time as a student at Christ the Saviour Seminary in Johnstown, PA, as well as 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.

Author's Note: The hospitality with which we were greeted from our very first moment on arriving in Alaska, until the time we left, was an example for all of us of how we should treat our fellow Orthodox, 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 St. 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 Fr. Chad Hatfield and the community of SHS for their hospitality, event coordination, and friendship; and to His Grace 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.

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