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
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