In the last fifteen years, I have taken part in numerous theological and scholarly events in many countries in the world, and the Kiev Summer Theological Institute (KSTI) is the one that mostly impressed me by its profound scholarly level and at the same time its extremely welcoming and beneficial environment.
 
The level of lecturing and learning was very high: not only prominent theologians and scholars were there to teach and share their experience but also the students were devoted to learning and to sharing their own experience with the lecturers and between each other. One proof of this was the fact that often the time for lecturing was the same as the time for questions and opinions: the students (and also the scholars themselves) wanted to draw from the lecturers’ papers and themes as much as possible, and their questions and opinions made the scholars broaden their topics and give much more input than they would have expected themselves.
 
I was amazed to find that an “Academy of Sciences for Minors” (ASM) exists in Ukraine, where children learn and acquire knowledge and experience in the same way as adults do. Some 15 children took part in the activities of ASM during the KSTI’s sessions and we all were astonished to see what good results they achieved by the end of the Summer Institute where they showed the outcome of their work (and one of them was an animation film made by the children themselves). It was a marvelous experience for lecturers and students to listen to the angelic songs of the children’s choir (as they were practicing in their room) while we were having classes in the big hall. On our last day of KSTI we also enjoyed unforgettable presentations of Ukrainian folk art, music, dances and songs: everyone was so impressed by the astounding voices and dance skills of the folk teams that made this last evening a true celebration of friendship and multicultural experience.

The entire organization and implementation of the KSTI’s sessions were extremely welcoming: everyone – staff, helpers, kitchen workers, etc. – was so helpful and friendly, and this contributed very much to the successful and efficient run of the courses. Everyone wanted to help the others with everything they could. Accommodation was comfortable and most importantly – very friendly, as we lived in rooms for 2, 3 and more people. This enabled us to continue sharing experiences even in our beds, not only in the classrooms. And every day we would go to sleep after midnight.
 
No doubt that KSTI was beneficial for everyone. It was not only the lectures and the welcoming environment but also the excellent food and the two lakes nearby that made our time in Lishnia an unforgettable moment in life.
 
In addition to all the marvelous things we experienced there, spiritual nurture was one of the main points in our everyday activities: we enjoyed the liturgy, the morning and evening services, the prayers we often said, the singing of the wonderful children’s choir, and the warmest pastoral care of Fr Philaret who made each day of KSTI a celebration in the Lord. Our prayers before and after meals were often said in different languages by Orthodox and Catholic priests.
 
And the last, but not least, was the interchristian sharing of experiences: KSTI was a true ecumenical gathering where Orthodox, Protestant, Catholic and Anglican Christians shared their faith and their professional skills and where each of us enriched their own understanding and practice of faith and tradition.
 
I am so thankful to the KSTI’s organizers for inviting me to this extraordinary Christian event where I rediscovered new aspects of theological education, brotherly Christian sharing and wonderful environment and amazing people. I think that for a long time I will be sharing with many of my friends and colleagues the experience I gained in Lishnia. And I wish that more such theological and spiritual events take place in Eastern Europe (and in Europe and in the world in general).


 
Valentin Kozhuharov
 
13 August 2012, Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

 

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