Monday, August 6, 2012

Russian Orthodox Church Seminary

Saint Herman’s Seminary

This last Tuesday the sun came out and I decided to go get pictures of the Russian Orthodox Churches here in the Kodiak community. Little did I know I would get the full tour and meet a Reverend-in-training that knew what Art Therapy was!!!

In Kodiak there are two very beautiful Russian Orthodox Churches. One is chocolate brown (above) and the other is white with tuquoise tops (see next posting). Each church is so unique that they are often highlighted in Kodiak brochures and tourest information.

In the late 1700's and early 1800's Russian Orthodox Christian priests came over to Alaska. One in particular settled in Kodiak, Alaska. His name is Saint Herman. He was made a saint after performing many great miracles, including stopping a tsunami from hurting Kodiak and keeping storms away from the island. He also is well-known for being a very humble man and standing up for the rights of the native people, the Alutiiq, when they were getting used and abused by Governor Barnov.

When the sun came out on Tuesday I figured it was a perfect time to go get the pictures of these two churches. I began by taking outside pictures of the white church, but did not attempt to go in. I was unaware of what the culture was of this church and was unsure how welcome a strange visitor/tourist would be.

When I moved on to the next church, I found out that it was Saint Herman's Seminary.

Outside, as I was taking pictures, an older gentleman was painting some of the brown trim on the apartments that surrounded the church. "Would you like to see inside," he asked me out of the blue. "Yes! Of course," I responded. "Let me go get the keys. I'll be right back."

Sure enough, within a few minutes, he came back and let me inside the church. When I went in I was astonished. Inside was a beautiful sanctuary filled with lots of light that highlighted the iconography that was reminiscent of the Byzantine era art ( As an Art Therapist I remember taking several art history classes and being enthralled by what I was learning. Each image has special meaning and holds important meaning for its creator and the viewer.

There were images of Jesus, Mother Mary, Saint Herman, and many more. 

It turned out that the gentleman who had let me in was Nicholas Montego (sp?). He said that he had been a Psychologist in Anchorage, but when he retired he decided to come to the seminary school to become a Reverand.

When I had told Nicholas that I was an Art Therapist, his eyes got big and he said excitedly, "Oh! You guys are wonderful!" Apparently, he had worked at an In-patient facility in Anchorage and the only people that could make a difference with many of the children there were the art therapists. "They would just open up to you guys! I'm so impressed with the work that you do! How great that you are hear in Kodiak. You will be such a blessing with those you work with!"

He made my day. I was smiling from ear to ear. It's a rarity to find someone who knows what an Art Therapist is, let alone what we do and the difference it makes. I was overjoyed to meet him.

Nicholas shared several stories, talked about each icon and what they meant to the church and to him. He shared about his favorite icon who had been an old woman that would give her food away constantly, even to the dogs, when she had none left over for herself. She simply trusted that God would provide and she continued to encourage people to love one another and be good to each other. These thoughts seemed to fit Nicholas and his personality well.

Nicholas invited Tom and I to come to services at the white church down the road. That is where the formal services were held. He also invited me to go down and walk in to the white church, suggesting that I come find him if it was not open for some reason.

The whole experience was so uplifting and so beautiful that I not only ended up going to the other church to get a tour, but I met a pilgrim from Portland, Oregon, and struck up another wonderful conversation.

What a gloriously beautiful day it was...both inside and out!

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