UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Congratulations Fr. Taras and Fr. Harry!
On May 16, 2010, Protopresbyter Taras Chubenko and Rev. Fr. Harry Linsinbigler graduated from St. Petersburg Theological Seminary, St. Petersburg Florida, with their Doctor of Ministry Degrees. Our two priests, together with the other twenty-two graduates, were graced to have as the commencement speaker our own Archbishop Antony. His Eminence delivered a memorable address appealing to the graduates to take heed and to learn the lessons that have been given in the lives of the saints, giving several Scriptural examples, including Patriarch Jacob and the Suffering Job of the Old Testament. His Eminence spoke of the Orthodox Christian spiritual concept of “Theosis” – striving to draw ever closer into unity with the Divine – to the audience of seminary professors, students and visitors who were largely unfamiliar with the concept and exhorted the graduates utilize Psalm 50 – “Have mercy on me, O Lord…” – as do Orthodox Christians – in their daily worship and prayer, so as to place themselves in proper relationship of humility before God. He called upon them to be careful how they live their lives, “because they may be the only Bible that someone else may ever read”.
This was the twenty-fifth or Silver Commencement of St. Petersburg Theological Seminary, which was founded twenty-seven years ago and is an interdenominational academic institution. It is one of only a few Christian seminaries worldwide that has scholars of the Hebrew/Judaic roots of Christianity as professors. The Chancellor of the Seminary, Dr. George Pierce, is an Anglican priest, who has much affection for Orthodoxy having studied under Orthodox scholars. He approved, along with the entire board of the seminary, the participation by Frs. Harry and Taras in the seminary curriculum with full fidelity to the Orthodox Christian Faith. The seminary also has a program for traditional students of the Anglican Communion. It has three campuses in Florida – St. Petersburg, Tampa and Clearwater – with academic departments including: Theology, Scripture, Ecclesiastical History, Judaic Studies, Pastoral Studies, Religious Education, Pastoral Counseling and Missions/Evangelism/Youth Ministry. Frs. Linsinbigler and Chubenko were accepted into the seminary program with the blessing of our Hierarchs, Father Harry enrolling in the curriculum of Dogma and Canon Law and Fr. Taras in the curriculum of Church Administration in the department of Pastoral Studies.
Fr. Harry’s dissertation studied the ecclesiology and the dignity of the local Orthodox Church and the importance of all levels of its ministry – from the national all the way through the local parish – being of equal importance to the successful completion of the Church’s mission of the salvation of souls. He discusses his topic from dogmatic and canonical viewpoints. Fr. Harry received his D. Min degree “with distinction” (cum laude), one of only three in the entire graduating class.
Fr. Taras concentrated his D. Min. dissertation on renewal within our Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the particular challenges surrounding it. He distributed a lengthy questionnaire to the clergy of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church with many questions about the life of their parishes and the Church as a whole. He summarizes the information gleaned from those questionnaires and offers well considered suggestions about how the UOC of USA can reverse its decline in membership and reinvigorate the life of the whole Church.
Throughout the entire graduation ceremony it was clearly evident that the entire academic staff and the student body had, in their association with our graduates during their studies, come to a deeper knowledge, understanding and respect of and for the Holy Orthodox Faith. In many non-Orthodox communities, there is an extreme lack of awareness of the history of the Church and the roots of their own faith communities in our ancient Christian Tradition – along with the roots so carefully considered in this particular seminary in the Hebrew/Judaic Tradition. There was an expressed desire to see more Orthodox Christians – and those of other Christian Traditions – as students of the seminary in years to come.
The graduation was a glorious event with the presence of His Eminence Archbishop Antony and His Grace Bishop Daniel. Others in attendance included the families of our graduates, Fr. and Pani Ivanoff from St. Michael Parish, Pinellas Park, FL and many parishioners from Protection of the Mother of God (Pokrova) Parish, Dover, FL, where Fr. Harry serves as Pastor. Our entire UOC of the USA extends sincere congratulations to Frs. Chubenko and Linsinbigler on their successful accomplishments, which reflect in a very positive manner upon our whole Church.