From October 23rd - 25th, 2015, 30 students from five Orthodox seminaries joined the seminarians at St. Tikhon's for the bi-annual gathering of the Orthodox Inter-Seminary Movement (OISM)! Participating schools included: St. Vladimir's Seminary, Crestwood, NY, Holy Cross/Hellenic College, Brookline MA, Holy Trinity Seminary - Jordanville, NY, Christ the Savior Seminary - Johnstown, PA, and St. Herman's Seminary - Kodiak, AK.
Founded in the 1960's and revived in 2003, OISM seeks to foster fellowship and cooperation among Orthodox seminary and theology students. The event this weekend seemed to do exactly that, as students were encouraged by learning about and from each other through praying together, sharing meals, discussing pertinent issues, and experiencing the life at St. Tikhon's Seminary and Monastery.
This fall's gathering focused on the theme of Expanding the Mission of the Orthodox Church. The weekend began Friday evening with an opening Molieben for the OISM Gathering, celebrated by Archpriest Steven Voytovich, dean, with icons present in the seminary chapel from many of the participating schools. This was followed by a talk from Archimandrite Sergius, the Abbot of St. Tikhon's Monastery, on the spiritual life that necessarily forms the core of Church growth on any level. Saturday's events began with Divine Liturgy for St. Demetrius Saturday. Two discussion sessions followed, in which students shared ideas, insights, and questions with each other regarding parish growth, mission, and evangelism. One session was facilitated by Dr. David Ford from St. Tikhon’s Seminary, and the second by Archpriest John Reeves from State College in PA. Discussions and sharing continued informally over meals and around a bonfire later that evening. Many remained for Saturday Vigil and Sunday Divine Liturgy celebrated in the Monastery Church.
It was encouraging to have such a large gathering, with representation from so many schools, and to see new friendships made and relationships grow over the course of the two days. Students came from a wide variety of backgrounds and even countries – Australia, India, Russia, Serbian, Uganda, Canada and the U.S. – and found that they have common concerns and desires for the health and growth of Christ's Church. This common ground gives hope for continued dialogue, collaboration, and spiritual fellowship.
Megan Haak, OISM Secretary, and co-facilitator of the weekend's events, shared her thoughts as the weekend concluded: "I was greatly encouraged by the size of the group that came – this being the largest attendance for an OISM gathering in the past couple of years – and by the conversations that happened over the course of the weekend. There was a feeling of warmth, respect, and eagerness for sharing and collaborating with each other that was wonderful to experience in a pan-Orthodox gathering like this."
At the Sunday brunch for participants, Fr. Steven thanked Megan and Timothy Winegar, current OISM President, both from St. Tikhon’s Seminary, for their many hours of work and preparation for this gathering, along with many others helping them. Seminarians assisting in taking the many photos now available for this event included: Andrew Nelko, Andrew Bohush, and John Kennerk.