On Cheesefare Saturday (12/25 February), a group of HTOS seminarians visited Saint Herman of Alaska Western Rite Orthodox mission in Bovina, New York. Located at Cloud-Bearing Mountain Christian Retreat Center, Saint Herman mission is led by Father James Krueger, a former Anglican priest who was received into the Orthodox Church and serves in ROCOR's Western Rite Communities.
Led by Dean of Students Hieromonk Theodore, a group of six seminarians drove from Jordanville and headed deep into the beautiful Catskill Mountains for what was, for most in the group, their first experience of Western Rite Orthodoxy (notably, first-year seminarian Hierodeacon Ignatius was baptised and raised in a Gallican (French) Rite Orthodox community that descends from the missionary work of Saint John of Shanghai). After an initial greeting by Father James and his community, the group participated in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy of Saint Gregory the Great, Pope of Rome, the most common Western liturgy, also known as the Roman Rite.
Being a Saturday, the Divine Liturgy was served in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary in accordance with Western liturgical tradition, which celebrates the Mother of God every Saturday. The Liturgy was chanted in traditional Gregorian chant, using a variety of ancient Western hymns (some dating to the third century) and specially-adapted Eastern hymns, led by Matushka Maureen. Despite their lack of experience in Western liturgics, the simple melodies were very easy for the seminarians to pick up and join in with.
After Divine Liturgy, the visitors joined Father James and his community for a simple Cheesefare lunch and were able to ask numerous questions about Western Rite Orthodoxy, the various liturgical distinctions between Eastern and Western traditions, the mission of Western Rite in ROCOR, Father James' experiences in the Episcopal Church, the purpose and work of the Retreat Center, and issues regarding how to reach local communities and share the Orthodox faith. Of note is that one of the catechumens at Saint Herman mission is a former Protestant pastor making his way home to the Orthodox Church.
The seminarians departed very edified and impressed, having learned much about the small but growing Western Rite Communities of ROCOR and hoping to make this a regular occurrence. Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary is very grateful to Father James and Saint Herman Mission for their gracious hospitality and prayerful fellowship.
Cloud-Bearing Mountain Christian Retreat Center has a full list of programs throughout the year, which are available to view at their website.