posted February 13, 2009

Events Explore Eastern Orthodox Christian Tradition

The faith and practice of the Eastern Orthodox Church will be the focus of a series of presentations at Hope College on Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 23-24.

The event is titled "Encountering Eastern Orthodoxy: An Introduction to the Faith and Life of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church," and will examine the Orthodox Christian faith as a way of life.  It is hosted by the college's Orthodox Christian Fellowship student organization in partnership with the Religious Life Committee at Hope, and co-sponsored by the departments of philosophy and religion, the general education program, and the offices of student development and campus ministries.

"Orthodox Christianity is a very important tradition but little known to many Catholic and Protestant Christians," said Dr. Steven Bouma-Prediger, who is a professor of religion and chairperson of the college's department of religion as well as a member of the Religious Life Committee.  "This series of events promises to make better known the theological and liturgical riches of our Orthodox brothers and sisters."

The two-day program will consist of three lectures and one panel discussion intermingled with worship services in the Orthodox Christian tradition.

Although "Encountering Eastern Orthodoxy" has been planned for the campus community, the public is invited and welcome.  Admission is free to all events, although a free-will offering to benefit Orthodox Christian Fellowship at HopeCollege will be taken after the lecture on Monday evening.

The opening lecture, "The Vision of Eastern Orthodox Christianity," will be presented by the Very Reverend Fr. Thomas Hopko on Monday, Feb. 23, at 4 p.m. in the Phelps Hall Otte Room.

Hopko is dean emeritus of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, N.Y.; has served as a priest in the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) for 44 years; and has taught courses in dogmatic theology, practical theology, homiletics and spirituality at St. Vladimir's Seminary since 1968, serving as dean from 1992 to 2002. He lectures widely, is the author of many articles and essays, and has written several books (which have been translated into many languages) including "The Lenten Spring," "Speaking the Truth in Love," "The Winter Pascha," "Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction," and "All the Fullness of God." He and his wife, Anne Schmemman, live in Ellwood City, Pa., and have five married children and 15 grandchildren.

The opening lecture will be immediately followed by a Vespers service in the Phelps Hall Otte Room on Monday, Feb. 23, at 5:30 p.m.  The liturgical day begins at sunset with Vespers, a penitential anticipatory service which includes one of the oldest hymns of the Church, "O Gladsome Light."

Hopko will deliver the event's second lecture, "The Practice of Eastern Orthodox Christianity," on Monday, Feb. 23, at 7:30 p.m. in the Maas Center auditorium.

The second lecture will be immediately followed by a Small Compline service in the Maas Center auditorium on Monday, Feb. 23, at 9:30 p.m.  A shorter prayer service comprised of the reading of three psalms, the Doxology, the Nicene Creed and other prayers, the Small Compline is read just before the faithful depart to sleep.

On Tuesday, Feb. 24, the program will resume with a Matins/Orthros service in the Cook Hall lounge at 8 a.m.  The Orthros or Matins service is sung early in the morning and is comprised of the Royal Troparia, the reading of six psalms, the chanting of hymns which celebrate the theophany and the resurrection of Christ, the Gospel reading, Psalm 50 (51), The Magnificat, and various texts appointed for that day.

The third lecture, "Monasticism: A Live Orthodox Christian Option," will be presented on Tuesday, Feb. 24, at 11.a.m. in the Cook Hall lounge by Mother Macrina of Holy Dormition Orthodox Monastery in Rives Junction.  Mother Macrina has been an Orthodox nun for nearly 12 years, having entered the monastic life after a successful real estate career in Minneapolis, Minn.

A panel discussion focused on "Living the Orthodox Faith Today in America" will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 24, at 1:30 p.m. in the Cook Hall lounge.

The panelists will include Fr. Thomas Hopko, dean emeritus of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, N.Y.; Mother Abbess Gabriella, who is the Abbess of Holy Dormition Orthodox Monastery in Rives Junction; Fr. Stephen Van Bronkhorst, who is spiritual advisor to Orthodox Christian Fellowship at Hope College and attached clergy at Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Mission in Dorr, and Khourieh Sue Van Bronkhorst, who is a Spanish teacher in the Grand Rapids School system, who are husband-and-wife former missionaries to Chiapas, Mexico, and Ecuador; Themis Fotieo, who is a parishioner of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Grand Rapids and lay educator whose church vocation is to introduce seekers to the Orthodox Christian faith;  Fr. Joshua Frigerio, who is Pastor of Holy Ascension Orthodox Church (OCA) in Albion; and Joanne Gabl, a Hope junior from Saline who is president of Orthodox Christian Fellowship at Hope. The panel will be moderated by Christina T. Stavros, M.Div., a 2001 Hope graduate who is the advisor for OCF at Hope College and works in the Office of Student Affairs and Services of the Michigan State University College of Medicine in Grand Rapids, and Dr. Jack Mulder, assistant professor of philosophy at Hope and chair of the Religious Life Committee.

Orthodox Christian books, icons and other devotional items will be available for purchase at all of the events. The items will be supplied by Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church, both located in Grand Rapids.

Cook Hall is located at 115 E. 10th St., between College and Columbia avenues.  The MaasCenter is located at 264 Columbia Ave., on Columbia Avenue at 11th Street.  Phelps Hall is located at 154 E. 10th St., on 10th Street at Columbia Avenue.