Interview with the Seminary Rector, Archimandrite Luke, About New Seminary Programs
As it has been recently announced [http://hts.edu/certificateinpastoralstudies.html], on May 22, 2014 a new, on-campus Certificate in Pastoral Studies program has been approved by the New York State Board of Regents and the New York State Commissioner of Education. For this reason, we decided to interview the Rector of Holy Trinity Seminary and the Abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery Archimandrite Luke, asking him a few questions concerning this and other programs of the Seminary, and the plans for the future.
Q. Father Luke, we hear there have been some changes to the curriculum for Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary. Can you please explain the new in-house certificate program? Will this be offered in English? Is this an accredited program where one could transfer the credits to another institution?
A. The Certificate in Pastoral Studies is a two-year program designed for Orthodox Christians who desire to serve the Church, but for one or another reason cannot afford to spend four or five years working toward our Bachelor of Theology degree. In contrast to another certificate program that we offer, Certificate in Theological Studies, which is an independent study curriculum, the new Certificate provides an opportunity for students to immerse themselves into the life of our Seminary and Monastery to the fullest extent. They will take a selection of the same classes which the B.Th. students are taking, will be expected to attend divine services and to perform obediences. Because the two-year program does not involve language study, the program will be offered in English. The program is fully accredited, and the credits are transferrable.
Q. Will the Bachelor of Theology, an undergraduate program, remain the only program that HTOS will be offering? Are there any plans to create a graduate program?
A. I can assure you that Bachelor of Theology program remains the core degree program at our Seminary. But indeed, for some time now, we have been making steps toward instituting our own graduate program which would offer a Master of Divinity degree. A committee has been created which is working hard on developing the curriculum, preparing necessary documents, and most important of all, undertaking a self-study of our own institutional resources and capabilities. There is still a significant amount of work ahead of us, but we are excited to work towards this goal. We think it is really important that we offer a possibility for Orthodox students of theology to study on a graduate level in a traditional ecclesiastical and monastic environment.
Q. Will it be different for those students who already have a B.Th. from Holy Trinity Seminary?
A. Indeed, the graduate program will be developed in conjunction with the existing B.Th. curriculum. As I said before, the plans for the graduate degree program are still being developed and refined – but, certainly, a student who applies to the Masters program and has a B.Th. will reduce the time he will spend in the graduate program. For a person who has no theological or religious studies education whatsoever, the Masters program will take longer – probably up to 2-3 years.
Q. Currently the B.Th program is a 5-year program. For many young people who feel the call to serve the Church, a five-year program presents a challenge. How would you respond to such concerns? Are there plans to transition to a four year program?
A. At this time, we are working on a transition to a four-year program. This may take a few years, since the current students have started in a five-year program, and we have to find ways to make a smooth transition, without disrupting their studies. In order to come to a four-year curriculum, beginning this year, we will start moving certain classes one year earlier in the program, but this will require the students of two consecutive years to take the same class together. We ask our student and faculty to be patient and supportive while these changes are taking effect, because we believe them to be for the benefit and growth of our Seminary.
Q. Will all of the classes taught at Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary be taught in English? Is the Russian language still taught in your B.Th. program?
A. The intensive study of Russian and Church Slavonic (and New Testament Greek) remains an integral part of the Bachelor of Theology program. It is our mission to serve the Russian-speaking and non–Russian speaking Orthodox Christians in North America and other parts of the world as needed, and we need to prepare our students adequately. Previously, most of the instruction in the final years of the seminary was conducted in Russian, but this is no longer the case. The use of Russian for advising, questions, and papers is acceptable, but the majority of theology classes are taught in English, since we see the inherent value in teaching our students to articulate the message of traditional Orthodoxy in the English language.
Q. Is it a requirement to know English before entering the programs?
A. As you can see from the admission requirements posted on our website [http://hts.edu/admissions.html], we now require the incoming foreign students to pass a TOEFL test before enrolling in our program. Since the majority of classes will be taught in English, we have to make sure that the incoming foreign students are at the level of English proficiency when they at least are able to understand the lectures. We are not trying to create obstacles for Orthodox Christians from other countries who desire to study at HTOS, but we are concerned that, lacking appropriate language skills, they will be severely impeded from successfully progressing toward their degree.
Q. Will the services still be conducted in Church Slavonic?
A. Church Slavonic remains the main liturgical language of Holy Trinity Monastery. We are part of the Russian Church and are a spiritual center of the Church Abroad. However, we are always open to using other languages in our worship (English, Spanish, Greek, Portuguese), when circumstances call for this. For the past few years a weekly English Liturgy has been served in one of the five available churches on the monastery grounds. There is unquestionably a need for an expanded use of English in our divine services, for the benefit of new students, monastics, and guests, and the monastery has found ways to meet this challenge.
Interview conducted by Nicholas Williams.