The Orthodox School of Theology at Trinity College: Rigorous Orthodox Studies in a Full-Service University Setting
For nearly ten years, the Orthodox School of Theology at Trinity College in Toronto (OSTT) has been one of the best kept secrets in the North American Church. The school was founded within the Faculty of Divinity at Trinity College–one of Canada’s oldest and best respected educational institutions–thanks largely to the efforts of Prof Richard Schneider (also affiliated with St Vladimir’s Seminary) and Dean David Neelands. Since its inception, the school has offered a slate of courses leading to a certificate in Orthodox studies, as well as to a Master’s of Theological Studies (MTS) degree in Orthodox and Eastern Christian studies (awarded by Trinity College). In 2015, at the invitation of the Dean and with the blessing of Archbishop Irenee of Ottawa (OCA), the OSTT added a full slate of courses in pastoral care, and thus began offering a Masters of Divinity (MDiv) degree (also awarded by Trinity College). At present, this is the only Orthodox MDiv in Canada that is fully accredited by the American Theological Society (ATS).
Scope and purpose of degrees
The certificate program and the MTS degree are designed for students of any background who are interested in pursuing graduate-level studies in Orthodox Christianity. The MTS enrolls traditional students (who have recently obtained their bachelor’s) as well as non-traditional students (who may have been away from academics for some time). The MTS is designed to give students exposure to the full range of essential topics in modern Orthodox studies, including Orthodox perspectives on the study of scripture, Church history, theology, spirituality, liturgics and iconology. The MTS may (if desired) include a thesis component for training in further academic research. Graduates of the MTS program are prepared to serve as thinkers in the Church, whether formally or informally, including by way of further graduate studies (such as an MA or PhD in theology or related disciplines). The MTS can be completed in 2-3 years of full time study, or may be taken part-time.
The MDiv degree builds from the same courses as the MTS and adds training in pastoral care and ministry along with field placement to provide preparation for ministry. In addition to preparing qualified men chosen by their bishops for ordination to priestly ministry, the MDiv also provides appropriate preparation of both men and women for other forms of church service including teaching and counselling, and (like the MTS) for graduate study in theology and related disciplines. The MDiv can be completed in three years of full-time study, or may be pursued part-time.
Courses in both the MTS and MDiv are designed and administered by the Orthodox faculty, and are awarded by Trinity College. All courses are reviewed by Trinity College and the Toronto School of Theology to ensure that they meet the highest academic standards and receive ATS accreditation. This makes the OSTT an excellent choice for students who may be considering further academic work as it ensures recognition of the quality of our degrees by universities and colleges of any affiliation world-wide.
Many of the OSTT’s courses are now also available online to students anywhere in the world. These can be taken or audited individually, or taken for credit toward the MTS or MDiv. See the OSTT website (www.trinityorthodox.ca) for more details about online education and for full course listings (on-campus and online).
Much of the unique mission of the OSTT is related to its setting within the Toronto School of Theology and the University of Toronto. The complete integration of the OSTT into one of the world’s top universities offers our students the opportunity to engage with the modern world in all its complexity from the strong foundation of a rigorous immersion in the Orthodox Tradition.
In this vein, the OSTT organizes and hosts a range of events and public lectures each year. In the past ten years, among many others, these have included symposia on “Healing Chalcedon”, “Bishops and Councils”, “The Significance of Constantine”, and “Orthodox Political Theology,” all featuring top scholars and thinkers from various traditions, drawn from institutions like Fordham University, the Volos Academy in Greece, and, of course, the University of Toronto.
OSTT students also have full access to course offerings across the Toronto School of Theology, as well as the University of Toronto campus and library system–the largest library system in Canada and one of the top academic libraries in North America. The gorgeous campus of Trinity College–modelled after Oxford University–is located on the main campus of the University of Toronto in the heart of the city, adjacent to world-renowned museums and cultural institutions, giving students an idyllic setting for reading, reflection, and conversation in one of the world’s most vibrant cultural and intellectual centres.
OSTT students receive the same generous financial support at Trinity College as all other students, including the opportunity for perspective ordinands to receive a full domestic tuition bursary. See the website and contact the OSTT for more information on available financial support.
As a university institution with academic governance and responsibilities, the OSTT is not an ecclesiastical project under the omphorion of any one bishop. Instead, the school operates with the blessings of multiple bishops in Canada, and students remain under the omphorion of their own diocese. This allows for a truly pan-Orthodox environment; the OSTT has welcomed students from nearly every jurisdiction in North America. In turn, OSTT instructors are drawn from a variety of jurisdictions, including Greek, Antiochian, Serbian, and the OCA.
This structure allows for field-placements in pastoral training, as well as training in liturgical music, to happen in local parishes in and around Toronto (where all Orthodox jurisdictions are represented). Students are thus given opportunities to encounter the unique character and needs of the jurisdiction that they intend to serve, while also engaging the full diversity of the Orthodox Tradition in the classroom.
Community and Spiritual Life
As Canada’s largest city, Toronto offers a vast range of Orthodox parishes from all jurisdictions where OSTT students can make their spiritual home. The OSTT has also formed partnerships with local Orthodox service organizations such as St John the Compassionate Mission (outreach to the homeless) and Hellenic Homes for the Aged (care of the elderly) to offer meaningful and challenging pastoral placements and service opportunities.
On campus, a regular cycle of Orthodox services is celebrated in the beautiful and historic chapel of Trinity College. Sunday services (mattins and liturgy) are served in English in conjunction with Holy Myrrh-bearers Orthodox Mission (www.myrrhbearers.ca). In addition, vespers is celebrated several times per week (before evening classes). The Orthodox Christian Fellowship maintains a vibrant chapter at the University of Toronto that welcomes OSTT students.
While North America has been blessed for many decades with a diverse range of excellent Orthodox seminaries, mostly in the United States, the OSTT is excited to add another key option in Orthodox education. Students interested in a university setting and a high degree of academic rigour will want to consider the OSTT. Students interested in future academic work beyond an MTS or MDiv may also find the ideal home. Finally, students anywhere in the world who want to acquire training in the formal study of Orthodox theology will want to examine our growing list of accredited online course offerings.
International students are most welcome at the OSTT. Upon acceptance to the program, immigrating to Canada as a student is generally a simple process (especially from the United States), and Canadian law normally allows a student’s spouse to seek employment in Canada immediately upon arrival. Low-cost or free comprehensive health insurance is available, and a student’s children are welcome to enrol in school. Please visit (www.cic.gc.ca/english/study/) for more. [Note: all courses and assessments at the OSTT are conducted in English.]
For more information, to learn about the teaching faculty, or to contact the OSTT, please visit: www.trinityorthodox.ca.