According to the minutes of the Holy Trinity Sobor in Winnipeg, at a parish meeting on July 5, 1927, Bishop Arseny proposed the establishment of a theological school at the Sobor. The school, unfortunately, was short-lived.
Over 74 years later (on August 4, 2001), an informal discussion at a reception for Fr. Stacey Richter (a recently ordained Priest) raised the issue of the need for a theological school in Canada. Out of that discussion came a proposal to the Archdiocesan Council of Canada at its meeting in Winnipeg on October 27, 2001, for the establishment of a theological institute at the Holy Trinity Sobor.
On October 3, 2002, His Grace Bishop Seraphim sent a letter to the acting director of the institute, Spencer Estabrooks, stating:
"With this letter, I give officially the blessing for the establishment
of the Saint Arseny Orthodox Christian Theological Institute in
Winnipeg, Manitoba. Its purpose would be to increase the level of
Education in English for the local and nearby faithful; to prepare
readers and singers; to prepare subdeacons; and to prepare deacons
for service in the Church. The Institute will be under the Omophor of
the Bishop of Canada, and will report both to him and to the local Dean."
Acting on this blessing, an administration was created for the Institute as follows: Director – Spencer Estabrooks; Registrar – Father Mirone Klysh; Chaplain – Father Anatoly Melnyk; Treasurer – Protodeacon Raphael Cole; Dean – Father Stephen Kennaugh. Others, including laity, would be added as needed, especially to help with matters such as fund-raising.
At the same time, the academic staff for the first year was established for the Institute with the following members: Spencer Estabrooks, Father Anatoly Melnyk, and Father Mirone Klysh. Following a mailing of information about the Institute to the Clergy of the Archdiocese, the Institute administration received several offers of teaching support from a number of Clergy. This response was most encouraging in that it fulfilled the plans of the Institute that other Clergy and qualified laity would become involved in teaching courses, tutoring, and other tasks on behalf of the Institute in their own geographical areas and under the guidance of the Institute. The Institute expected to have a method worked out by the 2004-2005 academic year to deliver its program in various locations across Canada.
In the spring of 2003, two pilot courses were offered by the Institute for a period of 10 weeks: (1) the first half of the Reader’s Program and (2) The Shape of the Early Church: 100 – 325 A.D.
By the fall of 2003 the Institute was ready to fulfill its mandate. Courses began on September 8, 2003. Students could study part-time or full-time, for the Diaconate or for a Certificate in Theology. They could also take individual non-degree courses according to their interest. In addition to the second half of the Reader’s Program, the following 5 (of 19) one-term courses were offered:
- Church History: The First Eight Centuries
- Liturgics/Liturgical Theology: An Introduction
- Holy Scripture: A Comprehensive Introduction
- The Church Fathers: 2nd to 5th Centuries
- Orthodox Ethics/Spirituality
*A series of special lectures, workshops, panels, tours, retreats, etc. of interest to the general public were planned as part of the Institute’s activities.