A School of Interconfessional dialogue – an informal meeting point for the future Church servants

2021-07-02 09:00

The School was organized by the Institute of Ecumenical Studies UCU in the partnership with the UGCC Commission on Interfaith and Interreligious Relations, Kyiv Orthodox Theological Academy (OCU) and the Eastern European Institute of Theology.

In terms of denominational representation, we had Orthodox, Greek-Catholic, Pentecostal, Baptist and Lutheran students. Regarding the geographical location – there were students from Kyiv, Sumy region, Volyn, Pryazovya and Bukovyna.

The lectures were held before lunch, among the lecturers there were Fr. Cyril Hovorun, Myroslav Marynovych, Fr. Iwan Dacko, Fr. Petro Balog, Fr. Andrii Dudchenko, Fr. Rostyslav Vorobii, Fr. George Kovalenko, Dr. Roman Solovii, Taras Kurylets and others. The denominational palette of the lecturers was also of great variety.

The general issues, discussed during the School, were the theological foundations of the Interconfessional dialogue, achievements of the past and the current ecumenical initiatives, the practical ecumenism.

Studying at the School consisted not only of listening to the lectures, but also we had time for the discussions, watching a film, visiting the church premises and institutions and organizations of various denominations, visiting museums. Historically and geographically Lviv stays on the crossroad of nations, cultures, and religions, which provides us an opportunity to learn this multifaceted heritage.

According to one of the School co-organizers, IES employee Taras Kurylets, “The school achieved its goal, because according to the feedback of the students who took part in it, in addition to the opportunity to pass the academic program, it was first of all the place of informal encounter, acquaintance, establishment of the friendly relations between representatives of different Ukrainian denominations, and helped to debunk various stereotypes and prejudices between them. Many participants talked about expanding their worldview, about a different, more open and fraternal perception of other denominations”.

When talking about his impressions of passing the School, a student of Kyiv Orthodox Theological Academy, Roman Hryshchuk pointed out: “I have obtained extremely interesting, necessary and unforgettable experience. I realized that 90% of our perceptions are based on false stereotypes. As it turned out, they can be detected and got rid of during friendly communication with the representatives of other denominations, which we subconsciously consider hostile to us and “obviously wrong”… We had numerous discoveries. We understood that we have much more in common than different. We all seek God in our traditions and denominations and strive for salvation”.

Yurii Rykov, a student of the Seminary of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church (the city of Saints-Petersburg), when sharing his impressions from the School, noted: “The participation in the School of Dialogue helped to realize one simple, but rather important thing – for the development of fraternal Christian relations between different denominations, we should get to know each other on the simplest level by lively and relaxed communication. Our knowledge about other denominations is often burdened with the stereotypes and prejudices, that have been accumulated for many centuries. Lively communication, meetings, joint events of social or spiritual (a prayer for the Christian unity) nature, bring us closer and encourage us to show Christian love and mutual understanding”.

The student of the Kyiv Orthodox Theology Academy, Bohdan Hlushchyk said “I am sure that communication and contacts between the School participants will not end upon the School termination. I believe that this Summer School will become a basis for further ecumenical dialogue among us, the participants and the Churches, we belong to, and, besides, it will engage those, who have not accepted the invitation”.

Taking into consideration such positive feedbacks from the School participants, the Institute of Ecumenical Studies will work on the development of similar projects.