Saint Herman Orthodox Theological Seminary Board of Trustees
Convenes Remotely to Address Current Issues and Impact of COVID19 Pandemic
Among the topics discussed were the continued Challenge-Based Education model, the Reader’s-Excellence Challenge, the Freedom Challenge and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Due to the current situation in Alaska during the ongoing pandemic, the Board decided that classes will continue remotely for the Fall 2020 semester. The well-being, health, and safety of our students and families, their villages, and the community of Kodiak are a primary concern; as such, no students will be returning to the campus this next semester. During this time the seminary will expand its educational opportunities by offering remote class auditing and enrollment to the general public. Information will be posted on the seminary and diocese websites as it becomes available.
After 23 years of serving the seminary—the last 12 years as the Dean—at his request His Eminence and the Board of Trustees have accepted Archpriest John Dunlop’s resignation as Dean of Saint Herman Seminary. In recognition of his many years of service, the Board has expressed its appreciation by conferring upon him the honor of Dean Emeritus. In addition, after 23 years of serving the seminary in various capacities, Matushka Dr. Bea Dunlop is leaving the seminary to teach in the public school system. The Board also expressed its appreciation for her many years of service to the seminary.
His Eminence expressed his gratitude to the Board of Trustees for their continued dedication and support of the seminary. Over the past year His Eminence worked closely with the Transition Team led by Victor Downing to develop the Challenge-Based Education model now approved by the Board. In completing their work this Team has created “a seminary like none other” for the development of clergy and lay leaders for the Diocese of Alaska. His Eminence expresses his appreciation for the Team’s diligence and dedication to His Eminence’s vision.
“Moving forward I am hopeful that these efforts will prove to be a great benefit to the parishes and peoples of Alaska. With God’s help and following our patron’s Saint’s instruction: From this day forward we will love God above all and fulfill His Holy Will.”
A formal announcement of the search for a new Dean of Saint Herman Orthodox Theological Seminary will be forthcoming.
On the evening of March 17, 2020, His Eminence Archbishop DAVID directed the following guidelines for clergy and parishes throughout Alaska. These measures are effective immediately. Updates will be posted as circumstances change.
Holy Synod Statement & Instruction
His Eminence Archbishop DAVID - Clergy & Parish Instruction
When our Lord hung on the cross and the earthly end came to Him, Saint Mathew’s Gospel records that “Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. . .Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” [Matt. 27:45,51-53]
The crucifixion was so disturbing that creation itself became disturbed by it. The reaction to our Lord’s death upon the cross affected everything; not just people, or animals, but all of the created world. This is one way we see the truth of this event, that everything that surrounds us participates in the observance of the tragedy of the day. We in Alaska have a special relationship to the environment around us. From earthquakes to volcanic eruptions, from violent winds to extreme temperatures, we know very well what the earth is capable of doing given the proper conditions. So it is not strange to us to see the behavior of the world itself at the death of the Savior of the world to be itself in turmoil over this event.
But, as we learn, this is not the end of things. As we sing on Pascha night, “Let heavens rejoice in a worthy manner, the earth be glad, and the whole world, visible and the invisible, keep the Feast. For Christ our eternal joy has risen!” Just as the creation “wept” at His death, so now it rejoices “in a worthy manner” at His resurrection. In the Akathist Hymn, “Glory to God For All Things” we sing, “Blessed art thou, mother earth, in thy fleeting loveliness, which wakens our yearning for happiness that will last forever, in the land where, amid beauty that grows not old, the cry rings out: Alleluia!” It is full of many wondrous phrases like this, observing how much the earth and all creation is a blessing for us to behold.
This is now our time to “listen” to the earth. For many years, we have all had one way to observe the Holy Pascha. We received the light of Pascha from the priest’s candle and it became our own light; and passing it from one to another did not diminish it at all. We all came to the church with our baskets and we walked in procession and sang the Hymn of the Resurrection. We stood before the doors of the church and heard the good news and began the celebration before those closed doors, “Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered, let those who hate Him flee from before His face.” We felt triumphant, we felt victorious, we felt extremely joyful! God cannot be defeated, and neither can we! We were united in a mystical bond of love, life, victory and joy.
Now, we find ourselves united to Christ at this time in a new way. The tomb is empty and so are our churches. How ironic is this? We are now the symbol of the tomb itself, each of our absences magnifying the emptiness. But how better to understand an empty tomb, than for us to be in that empty place as well? Now, we are closer to that creation image than we are to the wood and glass of our church. We are nearer to the risen Christ in His created world than we are to the Icon of the resurrection in our Parish.
Today we celebrate the Resurrection in an entirely new manner never done before. Our Paschal celebration will be accented not by choirs or processions or blessed food or drink, but by the very nature that now lifts up its own praises in honor of the Feast of Feasts. Later in the Paschal Canon we sing, “Now all things are filled with light: heaven and earth, and the nethermost regions. So let all creation celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, whereby it is established.” Now it is all creation that we can enjoy in a new way, we can see in a new light as we enter into the joy of the Feast in this new relationship with what is around us.
I know we all long to be able to return to the familiar in the way we pray and worship and sing and practice our Faith. God will return that day to us, that is for certain, but not before we spend our time in the desert this Pascha. In the Forth Ode of the Canon, we mention the Prophet Habakkuk, who “stands with us in Holy Vigil”. He seems like a strange mention over the other prophets who wrote so clearly about the coming of Christ for our Salvation, yet there he is and praised every year in the canon. Perhaps this year, like no other year in our celebration of the Canon is his message more clear. He lived in a time when the Israelites were persecuted and he asks God why He lets this happen? In his prophecy God answers him and he concludes his prophecy with these words:
“Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.” [Hab. 3:17-18]
You see, Habakkuk saw that whether or not their were the usual things in this world to enjoy or not, it should not matter. What should matter is that God has granted to us a Savoir and to have salvation through Him. Habakkuk points to Christ as our salvation. Very little matters beyond that. Having received eternal life from our Lord through His sacrifice on the cross, we can rejoice that today this has occurred for us and our Pascha is the Feast of Feasts we share with each other and with all creation.
Let us observe this Holy Pascha in this way and accept in humble jubilation our present state. Nothing can overcome Holy Pascha, because it has survived persecution, it has survived communism, atheism, and secularism. And it can survive a virus as well. Let our observance of the Feast of Feasts be marked not by complaints but by the observable joy of living in a creation that was made to celebrate Pascha. This is a Pascha like no other, let it be more joyous for each of us than any other happiness we have observed in our life.
On behalf of the Chancery staff and all of the Faithful of Alaska, my Family and myself, I wish you the most joyous Pascha you can have and may you be blessed with the joy of the Feast throughout the coming year.
225 Anniversary of the Alaska Mission
On the Occasion of the 225th Anniversary of the Arrival of the Valaam Missionaries to Kodiak, Alaska
Most Rev. + David, Archbishop of Sitka and Alaska
On December 21, 1793, Archimandrite Ioasaph, along with three priest0monks, a Hierodeacon, and a lay monk, and a few support personnel left St Petersburg, Russia to journey over 7,300 miles to the Russian American settlement of Kodiak, Alaska. It remains the longest missionary journey by any group in recorded history. The treacherous journey took 293 days, traversing Russia and Siberia by land, and then a hazardous sea journey by ship to Kodiak. They arrived on September 24, 1794 to begin their work with the native peoples of Alaska, or as the Russians referred to them, “The Americans”.
They began immediately working with the local peoples and defending them against the harsh treatment they were receiving at the hands of the Promyshleniki, the Russian fur traders. They soon found the Alutiiq people flocking to the Orthodox Faith. Not only because of their defense of the native and their treatment, but because they did not present Orthodoxy as the abolition of their native religion, but as the fulfillment of it. The heroic work of these handful of men brought about the spreading of Orthodoxy on this continent. Everywhere they went to bring the Gospel, the Good News, to people who had not heard it before, they found a willing people seeking the True Faith.
When we think about their labors, we should immediately think of the era in which they worked. How difficult was it to get around at that time? What forms of transportation were available to them? Their own feet, perhaps a cart or even a horse and a wagon? Nothing more than that existed and so there was no other means available or even realized. What about their communication? None of our modern conveniences existed either. No phones, radios, teletype or wireless devices to use at all. All they had was a face to face meeting or a written letter, and relying on ships and couriers to get those letters to the proper recipient.
What literature did they have to hand out to help in teaching these new catechumens? They were dealing with a people who had no real written language. No books existed to explain the faith. There were no pocket Bibles to hand out in their own language, simply their own words to the eager ears of the indigenous peoples.
We might look at this and say, “Why bother?” Too much effort for too few people. Would our time be better spent with a people easier to work with in a milder climate closer to home? Fortunately for us, these were not the concerns of the Valaam missionaries. Their only concern was fulfilling the Great Commission of our Lord in Matthew 28, to make disciples of all nations and baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Nothing else was of any significance. All that mattered was what they knew, there were a good number of people living in Alaska that did not know the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Their zeal to “do the work of an evangelist”, as St Paul says in II Timothy 4, was what drove them, it was what they all lived for; and they were willing to give their life to that end if that was what was needed.
So they went to Alaska, that long and treacherous journey being completed by them all. Under the careful leadership of Archimandrite Joasaph they met every challenge and did so with joy in their hearts. It mattered not the color of their skin, the language of their tongue, the shape of their dress, they were all people created in the Image of God and needed to have that Illumination that only Christ can give.
It should be noted, that of the original missionaries, only Father Herman, the lay-monk remained entirely in Kodiak. In 1795, Fr Macarius was sent to the Aleutian Islands and eventually returned to Kamchatka. Fr Juvenaly, after converting the Kenai and Athabaskans of Cook Inlet, traveled through Lake Iliamna and on to the mouth of the Kuskokwim river where he was martyred in his boat along with his companion whose name we do not have. Archimandrite Joasaph returned to Russia in 1799, aboard the Phoenix, he and the entire retinue perished upon their return to Alaska before they reached Kodiak, articles from the boat floating on shore from the Aleutians to Kodiak Island itself. Fr Athanasius stayed almost entirely in Kodiak and went nowhere else.
By 1821, there was only the humble monk who now lived on Spruce Island, Father Herman. Always an example of true Christian piety and love, he cared for all who came to him, he built an orphanage and school to care for the children who were orphaned by an epidemic. He grew a garden and taught the basics of a Christian life both by word and example. His life, miracles and death are all remembered by the inhabitants of the area and his memory was kept alive in veneration by the native peoples until he was finally Canonized by the Orthodox Church in America in 1970, the first saint of a newly-autocephalous Orthodox Church, as their first official act.
So, let us ask again, “What can I do?” Looking at this history of the first missionaries, we can do much to further the life of Orthodoxy in our land by following the example of Father Herman. These brave and courageous Valaam Missionaries show us the way. How many more devices to we have to use today than they did? How much easier is it to communicate with others compared to them? How much easier is it to travel today than back then? Our resources are very plentiful and yet there is much more that needs done today than before.
This Anniversary is a way of marking the great work of the Valaam Missionaries, but it is also a way of showing us the path forward. In their time, the men of Valaam came forward and made a long journey to reach a people in darkness. How many of our neighbors today are sitting in darkness? How many of them do not know the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? How many have forgotten it? Beloved, you and I are the New Valaam, put here by God to fulfill the Great Commission in our time, with our talents. We are called, as Saint Paul says, to do the work of an Evangelist, using the talents that God has given us for the benefit of those around us. Evangelism is never a completed work, it is always a moving force of transformation in each generation. It is now our time, it is our call to be the ones who perpetuate that great missionary work yet again. In our time, for our people. May All the Saints of Alaska pray for us and help us to fulfill God’s will both today in the time to come. Amen.
2018 All American Council Diocesan Video