23 June 2024

The Institute for Orthodox
Christian Studies is
celebrating its 25th
anniversary in Cambridge

Christ the Teacher, the new icon by Aidan Hart marking the 25th anniversary of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge

Patrick Comerford

For many years I attended the summer courses of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge. Over those years, I stayed regularly in Sidney Sussex College between 2008 and 2016, attended lectures and seminars, and each year joined the IOCS day at the Orthodox Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Tolleshunt Knights, about 75 km south-east of Cambridge.

In addition, I also took part in a number of day events and seminars organised by the institute in Cambridge, including a memorable day at Westcott House in 2014 honouring Metropolitan John Zizioulas, who died last year (2023). The other speakers that day included Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), who died in 2022, and Archbishop Rowan Williams.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, and the celebrations marking this special silver jubilee begin this week with a special Donors and Friends Service and Reception in Westminster Abbey.

As part of these celebrations, the world-renowned iconographer and artist Aidan Hart has completed an icon of ‘Christ the Teacher’ that will be shown in Westminster Abbey. Aidan Hart is also an IOCS Research Associate and he has based the buildings behind Christ in the icon on the buildings in Cambridge related to the institute.

On the viewer’s right-hand side (Christ’s left) is the tower of the Cambridge University Library, as a symbol of the scholarship that lies at the heart of the institute and of its historic connection with the Divinity Faculty of the university. On the viewer’s left-hand side (Christ’s right) is a section of the old Wesley House, now part of Jesus College, where the institute started in 1999.

The icon has other personalised elements to reflect the institute’s unique ethos and location. Christ is holding the Gospel book is open at the verse: ‘That they all may be one; as you, Father are in me and I in you, that they may also be one in us; that the world may believe that you have sent me’ (John 17: 21). This verse reflects the institute’s vocation towards the unity and communion of the Church, both on the pan-Orthodox level as well as on the ecumenical one.

Aidan Hart’s new icon was blessed two weeks ago (9 June 2024) during the Holy Liturgy officiated by the IOCS Principal, Father DragoČ™ Herescu.

The Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies was founded in Cambridge in 1999 and is a member of the Cambridge Theological Federation. The institute was registered as a company on 9 June 1999, so this month marks the 25th anniversary of the IOCS officially starting its educational witness in Cambridge and adding the Orthodox tradition to the other Christian voices in the Cambridge Theological Federation.

Later this summer, an ‘Orthodox Day’ dedicated to promoting the Institute is being held in Southwark Cathedral on Saturday 3 August. This is being planned as a day to experience the Christian Orthodox tradition and as an ecumenical encounter with the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies.

The IOCS is also organising a day dedicated to alumni and a fundraising concert. The date later in the year has still be announced.

I initially received the Oulton Prize for Patristics that enabled me to study at the IOCS in 2008, as I developed and taught an elective module on Patristics at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. I spent a week almost every year until 2016 year on these courses, then held in Sidney Sussex College, and I look forward to returning for one of the events later this year.

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