The Very Reverend Dr. John Behr, Dean of St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and Distinguished Lecturer in Patristics at Fordham University, has been appointed to serve on the board of directors of the Decani Monastery Relief Fund, a non-profit organization committed to rebuilding Kosovo. 153 Serbian Orthodox Churches and Monasteries have been destroyed in Kosovo/Metohija since 1998 and only three have been repaired.
In addition to the rebuilding of a seminary, monasteries and churches in the region, the organization supports six soup kitchens and one bakery. It also assists in providing daily lunches to four schools as well as shoes and clothing for youth. Additionally, the fund provides scholarships to the University of Northern Kosovo as well as scholarship assistance for Serbian youth attending Boise State University, and American Orthodox Seminaries.
Donations also provide humanitarian aid to refugee centers, provide for the special needs of the elderly, pay electric bills, provide firewood, finance necessary medical and surgical procedures, and help to purchase farm equipment and livestock.
"I am deeply honored to be on the Board of Directors of the Decani Monastery Relief Fund. The Fund is at work in many diverse ways in Kosovo and Metohija, supporting the needy with food, clothing, and shelter, attending to the educational needs of the children and the spiritual life of the faithful," Fr. John said.
Fr. John hails from England, though his family background is Russian and German - clerical on both sides. After completing his first degree in Philosophy in London in 1987, Fr. John spent a year studying in Greece. He finished with a Master of Philosophy in Eastern Christian Studies at Oxford University, under Bishop Kallistos Ware, who subsequently supervised his doctoral work, which was examined by Fr. Andrew Louth and Rowan Williams, now Archbishop of Canterbury. While working on his doctorate, he was invited to be a Visiting Lecturer at St Vladimir’s Seminary in 1993, where he has been a permanent faculty member since 1995, tenured in 2000, and ordained in 2001. Before becoming the Dean in 2007, he served as the editor of St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly and still edits the Popular Patristics Series for SVS Press.
"It truly is honorable of Father John to be a part of our fund. His great talents will indeed be a favorable contribution. The board of directors looks forward to working with him and his beloved seminary," said Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes, President of the Decani Monastery Relief Fund.
Fr. John's arrival on the board of directors comes at an opportune time. In October, the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija announced that Ss. Cyril & Methodius Serbian Orthodox Theological Seminary in Prizren, destroyed during the war, was being reconstructed and will be reopened.
"There has long been a very close relationship between St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary and the Serbian Orthodox Church; I look forward to seeing this flourish and to doing what we can to support the efforts of the Decani Monastery Relief Fund," Fr. John said.
In celebration of the announcement of the seminary's re-opening, Father Nektarios and the Decani Monastery Relief Fund’s Executive Director, J. Basil Dannebohm will visit the region in February 2012 where the two will be lecturing to the newly enrolled seminarians. On behalf of the fund, Serfes and Dannebohm hope to raise $25,000 before the upcoming trip that will provide humanitarian aid during the frigid winter months.
"We have a lot of work ahead of us in 2012, but the fund has truly enjoyed God's blessings this year," said J. Basil Dannebohm, Executive Director of the Decani Monastery Relief Fund. "Our seminary is being reopened, we are able to provide educational assistance to students, food and livestock and, most importantly, love: something money can't buy."
Dannebohm continued, "I am honored that Father John accepted the nomination to serve on our board. He brings a tremendous amount of education, experience and expertise to the team."
Donations to the Decani Monastery Relief Fund can be made by mail to: 2618 West Bannock Street, Boise, ID 83702 or online.