by Seminarian Kerry (Kirill) Williams
My name is Kerry Williams and I am 32 years old. On the day of the Ss. Peter and Paul Feast (Old Calendar), I was Baptized and Chrismated into the Orthodox Church on Spruce Island in Alaska…
Because this took place at the home of St. Herman, it brought with it a perspective of what it means to be alive before the face of God. My past experience with spirituality notwithstanding, my time on Spruce Island will be with me always.
Growing up in Texas, my mother gave me only the spiritual guidance in which she was grounded. Although not part of a church, she always read to me from children’s Bible story books and taught me to pray. I never forgot her lessons or the stories, but seldom remembered to implement their meanings and comforts. It was not until later that I realized their value in my life.
When I was sixteen, it was a very good year. Twelve months attending a local church inspired me to quit public school and persuade my mom to let me attend a private Christian school, and I graduated in 1993 with great friends, a comfortable place in youth ministry, and a desire to serve God.
Out of the said desire and a lack of knowing what to do, I followed my friends’ academic pursuits and attended Christ For the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas. For two year, I studied the Bible, sang songs to God and wondered who was really on top of things in Christendom. It’s fair to say that this is also the time when I wondered who was really right in their respective take on God, the Bible, and especially on how to do church.
Primarily, because they accepted my CFNI credits, I took my studies to Dallas Baptist University, as well as my persistent questions on what exactly I was learning. While at DBU, two major events transpired: an introduction to philosophy and my first trip to Russia.
Still wanting to serve God yet having no clue as to what that would look like, I started taking classes from a philosophy professor.
The classes were small, the content intense, and the teacher made everything interesting, all with a Christian perspective that was neither too Protestant nor enough Orthodox. During August, 1997, I went to Russia and worked in a summer camp for orphans. The experience forever changed me, and I came back to college with the need to understand what true Christianity is. Aside from a church visit in Suzdal, my first introduction was a textbook for a class on Christian worldview, For the Life of the World, by Fr. Alexander Schmemann.
While going through CFNI and the university, I was interning at various youth ministries. There was a core group of us: young students, all involved with summer camps in Russia, and constantly searching for something deeper in God and church. I was particularly finding it difficult to be settled doing youth ministry with no vision beyond. Russia was always on my heart and I wanted desperately to go back and live among the orphans. Finally, I got my chance and moved to Kostroma in December, 2000.
For all of 2001 I lived among the saints of Holy Rus’, the ancient monasteries and churches, and Orthodox believers. I came back to America with no interest in Orthodoxy. Therefore, my understanding of the Church was limited and stale. My disinterest, however, was not limited to Orthodoxy, but to any church of any confession. I, along with my transplanted friends from Texas, searched Colorado Springs for a place to worship God.
Going hither and thither proved unfruitful, and with great reluctance I visited Ss. Constantine and Helen Orthodox Church. It was the beginning of Great Lent and I kept going back. Eventually, I told the priest, Fr. Anthony, that I was out of excuses and did not know what to do with myself. The next Sunday I became a catechumen and three months later I was on the church work trip to Kodiak Island in Alaska.
I was able to go to Spruce Island and help restore Ss. Sergius and Herman chapel. While there, I drank from a supernatural spring, met and worked alongside the monks Fr. Andrew and Fr. Martyrios, and learned of the beloved St. Herman. On July 12 (Old Calendar in Alaska)
I was Baptized and Chrismated into the Orthodox Church in Monk’s Lagoon, the waters of the Pacific Ocean, receiving the Eucharist on Ss. Peter & Paul’s Feast Day.
The desire to serve God never left me. Rather, it became more clear, as are most things since converting. Working in youth ministries and with Russian orphans, living in Russia, looking for churches – all of this led to something that God made clear at Ss. Constantine and Helen Church.
Understanding who the Greek Fathers are, what icons tell me, how the Church formed and by whom, what the Bible is, reading account of Fr. Arseny and Elder Paisios – this is what my soul craves today.
I want to learn more; I want God to make them clear. The Wednesday night classes at Ss. Constantine and Helen Church with Fr. Anthony, my first spiritual father in two decades of being a Christian, made me want to go to seminary more and more, to learn the truth of being alive and Christian.
[As of this writing], I am in my second year at St. Tikhon’s Seminary. I would love to tell everyone that it has been a breeze academically and spiritually a cinch. Truth be told, I’ve never had to study so hard before, not for getting the grade, but studying in order to understand. What is more, any spiritual growth I have experienced has not come wrapped up in a pretty box with my name on it. The process of learning what it means to be humble and fleeing the passions has been the most difficult endeavor of my life. In the context of seminary, the thoughts of truly serving the Church are so much more real, more serious. This is good, for I have realized the importance of understanding and spiritual wisdom over good grades and snappy answers.
I am the seminarian Kirill, named after St. Kirill, Evangelizer to the Slavs, Equal to the Apostles, and emulating this great saint at St. Tikhon’s Seminary is the most challenging time of my life. Without the support of my home parish family at Ss. Constantine and Helen, I could not endure, spiritually and financially.
By the grace of God, may I continue to soldier onward…