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In January 2017, two Holy Trinity Seminary Professors, Deacon Andrei Psarev and Dr. Elena Nelson, were in Moscow, giving presentations and engaging in professional development.
On January 23 and 24 of this year, Deacon Andrei Psarev, Assistant Professor of Russian Church History and Canon Law at Holy Trinity Seminary, took part in the work of a plenum of the Inter-Council Presence (ICP) that met in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow to discuss documents on monasticism and marriage. ICP is a conciliar organ of the Russian Orthodox Church that was founded in 2009 in order to draft position documents about all aspects of Church traditions and praxis. No other Orthodox Churches have similar think tanks. A document on the participation of the faithful in the sacrament of the Eucharist is a vivid example of the quality of work produced by ICP. The Inter-Council Presence meets bi-annually in plenary session to finalize documents drafted by various ICP committees.
On January 24, at the annual conference of St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University for the Humanities (PSTGU) in Moscow, Deacon Andrei explained ROCOR criteria for canonization of saints, as applied from 1964 to 2007. Dmitry Anashkin, a long-time colleague at Holy Trinity Seminary who is now a research fellow in PSTGU, also presented at the conference, elucidating liturgical peculiarities of the ROCOR. It was also special to present at this event because the conference took place in the same building (the former conference building of Moscow diocese) where All-Russia council met for its session in 1917-18.
Deacon Andrei presented the same paper “The Order of Glorifying Saints in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (1920-2007)“ on January 26 at International Educational Christmas Readings (Rozhdestvenskiia Chtenia), an event that entails a variety of micro-conferences and is hosted annually at Christ the Savior Cathedral. For Deacon Andrei, it was astonishing to learn at this conference that there are active grassroots organizations in Yekaterinburg, Penza, and elsewhere, gathering evidence regarding the victims of repression during the Soviet period. Just as in Yekaterinburg, “an atheist capital of Russia”, the movement Inextinguishable Lamp has drawn support from all strata of the community.
Dr. Elena Nelson, Assistant Professor of Slavic Languages at Holy Trinity Seminary, also presented a paper, “The Tradition of Church Slavonic Pedagogy in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia,” at the International Educational Christmas Readings forum, as part of a conference called “The Rise and Fall of the Church Slavonic Tradition in the History of Russian Literacy.” Dr. Nelson is one of the very few, formally trained experts in the field in the US. She researched past seminary instructors, and interviewed those who worked with them, in order to present a narrative description of the materials, methods, and challenges involved in teaching Church Slavonic in the unique circumstances of our diaspora church, in a country where Russian is not the primary language of communication or education. Dr. Nelson notes that Archbishop Alypy (Gamanovich), who taught Church Slavonic in Holy Trinity Seminary in the 1960s-1970s, is universally respected among Church Slavonic scholars and teachers in Russia. His Grammar of the Church Slavonic Language is treated as the gold standard for Church Slavonic, and dozens of books published in Russia since the fall of the USSR have been based on material in his book. While in Russia, Dr. Nelson also researched topics in Russian and Church Slavonic, gave invited talks in various churches in St. Petersburg, and participated in a Church Slavonic workshop at Alexander Nevsky Lavra. Dr. Nelson is grateful to the Fund for Assistance to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia for financial support for the conference participation.
On January 27, Deacon Andrei was invited for an interview on Radio Vera (100.9 FM) in Moscow, which broadcasts 24 hours a day with the blessing of the Russian Orthodox Church. During the hour-long wide-ranging conversation Deacon Andrei spoke about various stereotypes of America, the tenth anniversary of reconciliation within the Russian Church, about Holy Trinity Seminary and his work with the Inter-Council Presence.
On Saturday and Sunday, January 28 and 29, Deacon Andrei co-celebrated with Archpriest Nikolai Balashov in the church named for the Re-sanctification of the Resurrection Church in Jerusalem in Brusov Lane. On Sunday Deacon Andrei gave a talk in which he addressed the question, “What is Church law?” Fr. Nikolai Balashov, rector of the parish and Substitute to Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the Chair of the Department of External Relations of Moscow Patriarchate, enriched the discussion drawing on his own multi-year research and vast experience of that subject.
This blessed week in Moscow supports the conviction of Fr. Archimandrite Luke, Rector of Holy Trinity Seminary, expressed in his recent interview, that it is vital so that we maintain bonds with Russia, since there “[v]ery sincere people are living an Orthodox lifestyle, living a monastic lifestyle, trying to … I think it’s good to have, as much as we can, contact with these people, and we can learn from them.”