Interview with Ihor Brodin, 2015 graduate of UETS’ Bachelor’s in Theology and Christian Ministry program and military chaplain in the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
― Could you, please, say couple words about yourself?
― I’m originally from Zhytomyr and I began studying at UETS in 2004. I was a full-time resident student for three years. Then I had a break until 2014 when I resumed my studies. I completed all my assignments, wrote papers, and eventually got my bachelor’s degree in Theology and Christian Ministry in 2015. At the time I was a volunteer military chaplain in the warzone. Today, I am officially employed as a chaplain by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
― How did you happen to become a military chaplain?
― Since the very beginning of military action in the East of Ukraine I had wanted to be a military chaplain in the army. At that time, unfortunately, I could not join as there was no position of chaplain in the Ukrainian army.
So, having learned online of an association of ministers from different denominations who regularly went to the warzone, I decided to join them. At that time the association was known as the interdenominational battalion of military chaplains.
Later, just two years ago, Ukraine’s military introduced a fully-fledged chaplaincy for its armed forces, breaking with the long Soviet legacy of keeping religion out of the army. Before chaplains served only on an unofficial basis as there was no legislation regulating the status of frontline ministers.
Today, chaplains are full-fledged serviceman, entitled to be deployed to the war zone with his unit, get paid for his service during deployment, and work in a team together with other servicemen. I am convinced that military chaplaincy will develop further in Ukraine, with UETS playing an important role in training ministers in theology for the army.
― As for your degree… Religious higher education institutions in Ukraine are not yet accredited with respective governmental bodies (UETS is accredited with the European Council for Theological Education). However, the Ministry of Education of Ukraine issued a decree allowing state recognition of degrees of higher religious education. What does that mean for you?
― I have been waiting for such changes in the legislation for a long time. When they were made, I was afraid of being late as I completed my studies in 2015. (Diplomas received before 2014 were only recognized). Fortunately, the amendment adopted later included 2015 graduates. So, I gathered documents and submitted them to the Ministry of Education. What helped me a lot was information I received about such a possibility at UETS’ alumni gathering. Three or four months later I received a notice that my state-accredited degree was approved.
When military chaplaincy was officially introduced and I was invited to occupy a position of chaplain in a military unit, my state-accredited degree of higher religious education turned out to be one of the documents I was asked to produce. Praise the Lord, I had already had it at that time.
― What role has the seminary played in your becoming a military chaplain?
― The contribution of the seminary is really great. Among other things I am grateful for the theological education, the training for chaplains I attended in 2015 and information about government degree recognition. I believe that my connection to UETS will develop further as the seminary always offers something new to meet the needs of the Church and society.
I am thankful to Ivan Rusyn, UETS president, and members of the board that they are relevant, research current needs, that they pray and innovate new programs. I also regularly pray for the faculty, staff, and students, that God would provide them with what they need open new opportunities.