This article is about the experience of a new and unique type of educational institution which was born as a collective effort, during the late Soviet era, among Soviet intelligentsia, given their interest in religion and the Orthodox Church. The team did not try to recreate either the structure or the forms currently employed for seminary or university education. The author demonstrates the use of relevant early church catechetical systems, which open out into the necessity for further system-driven educational development which nevertheless presumes both the rejection of scholasticism and the assumption that there is no insurmountable rift between the attainment of knowledge in an intellectual sense and experienced knowledge in terms of spiritual, ecclesial practice. The principles of the new educational system, which occurs in three stages, are forged within the context of the search for commonality and unity in community, without which spiritual schools are doomed to formalization and degeneration. Maximal resources are dedicated to the active engagement of students with the educational process itself; the form and content of their independent work is proscribed, and then described, in specific, written detail. The necessity and opportunity to orient students directly toward the achievement of serious Christian theological thought are underscored, given the fact that the educational process is not primary, but an addition to the existential aspect of students’ lives. We consider this new type of spiritual education within the context of our understanding of the Christian tradition as a unity of theology, culture and education within the context of the church. We at the Moscow higher school of Orthodox Theology have come to the conclusion that spontaneous revelation of principles, methods and patterns on the basis of reintegrated patristic-style catechesis is an answer to the contemporary crisis in higher education, in many ways similar to what we see in the appearance of various forms of “open university” education.
Keywords: catechesis, church community, brotherhood, Christian education, stage-by-stage process, spiritual literature, Orthodox Christian tradition, educational programmes.