Doctoral Colloquium 2017
This year`s Osijek Doctoral Colloquium (ODC) was all about studying in the light of conversations on various aspects of mission in our lives. Gathered for five weeks, our students and mentors had time to study, share, motivate, discuss, elaborate, research and investigate the ways PhD studies are related to the mission of God in Europe today, and growing as a learning community seeking to strengthen churches to be the new community that will be the light of the world and the salt ofthe earth.
The ODC was launched in January 2016, when Dr. Peter Penner shared a request from the Eurasian Accrediting Association (EAAA), that comprises 56 theological schools in the Former Soviet Union, to create an opportunity for intensive, independent study for PhD students, away from everyday worries, under the leadership of qualified mentors in the research library of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Osijek.
ODC in the summer of 2017 was no longer a pilot project, but a successful continuation of a promising start in 2016. From July 1st to August 4th, 2017, a group of 17 students and 6 mentors from 14 different countries and 7 Christian traditions were part of an academic and personal learning journey in which they strengthened their academic knowledge and grew in the fellowship with each other and with God.
The ODC 2017 program was divided in two major parts: community building and spiritual growth; and academic study and research with classes and research presentations. Each participant was expected to spend 6-8 hours per day in the library, studying their selected research topic, in addition to personal academic advising conversations with a mentor and daily devotional and peer tutoring group meetings each morning. Participants were also expected to lead at least one devotional worship in the morning, and prepare a presentation of their PhD research project and progress. A 30-minute personal testimony and outline of their ministry at home was shared during lunchtime, as an encouragement to daily pray for each other, engaging with each other’s stories.
On July 10th 2017, we attended a church service in the Evangelical Pentecostal Church of Vinkovci, followed by a visit to the Church of Christ in the city of Vukovar where we heard the testimony of Rev. Lazar Kovacevic related to the Homeland War. We also visited the monument of the Homeland War Ovčara, and the Serbian Orthodox Church in the same city.
Two weeks later we attended a church service of the Baptist Church in Osijek and were hosted for a coffee time afterwards. At the last Sunday, we participated in the liturgy of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Osijek.
Some personal shares:
“I am very grateful to the Lord and thankful to all that made ODC 2017 possible. I had an opportunity to work in a good library; I spent quality time with mentors; I enjoyed the meals and morning devotions. It was great to build fellowships with other participants and to hear their stories. Very encouraging and inspiring!”
“The program has different parts, and yet they are all connected. Myself, I started with friendships, because to me the most important is to get to know the people with whom I am going to meet and discuss every day. … I really enjoyed all the time spent at ETS. Coming from different Church traditions, we had lots to discuss during our presentations but also during coffee breaks, at the table and so on. Even when we went from hotel to the school, we did not stop discussing our difference and similarities, being constantly curious about each other.”
“ODC 2017 was academically challenging: through discussion we received good feedback and suggestions to the researches me did. It was also spiritually encouraging. A wonderful place in which one can work hard, focus and make progress in the research.”
This is what the participants valued highly:
- Personal testimonies: “From Iran, Soviet Mennonites, Vukovar which helped me understand God`s glory and His care of us.”
- Church service: “Being part of the service in the local Pentecostal church for the first time in my life… Now I know how religion is complex and important phenomenon for every human being.”
- Time with the ODC mentors: “When I met the mentors who were paying attention to my research and my troubles.”
- Time in prayer: “The moment when one Ukrainian was praying for his Russian fellow. That was so special and powerful….”
- Discussions: “Stimulating academic discussions between colleagues and with the mentors that were so open”
- Community building: “I really loved time we spend together, talking, crying and laughing…”
The outcomes of the Program were:
(1) Learning is relevant. Learning is a mission: Osijek as place, ETS as a seminary, the staff people assisting to facilitate ODC, all of it created an informal setting and safe space that was valued highly by the participants and offered what they needed the most: academic environment, mentor assistance, good library and helpful staff so that they can could work hard, with minimum disturbances during their stay;
(2) Positive attitude and motivation: the connections between participants and mentors, including the staff, laid the foundation for development of an open and mutually supportive ODC learning community that will continue to last after the program ends. Listening to the needs, being sensitive to problems, praying and rejoicing together through activities that were both spiritual and cultural is considered important and nurtured as such;
(3) Mission-based community: as slowly the number of ODC participants through the years increases, we are on our way of creating the mission-based community where ODC/OSIMS will serve as a bridge-builder between articipants from different Christian traditions and from several Central and Eastern European nations.
Thanks for pictures of Alexei Markevich.