Tuesday, April 25, 2006

a bit more detail

Let me get a bit more straightforward about my situation. I have been considering Eastern Orthodoxy for something like two years now. (Maybe someday I'll post something about what got me looking at Orthodoxy in the first place.) I've thought from time to time about blogging my experience and thoughts, but I figured I didn't need one more thing to consume my time. Still, as much time as I already spend thinking about this stuff, it seems like I may as well write some of it down. Maybe it will be useful to someone; if not, it might at least help me solidify some of my thoughts.

I started out by reading a lot--anything and everything I could find online, books that were recommended. Fortunately, I knew someone who had converted to Orthodoxy and could point me in the right direction. He also encouraged me to visit services, which I did--tentatively at first, but more zealously as time went on. Oh, I also got a prayer book pretty early on and started using it as regularly as possible. For my first visit to a service, I picked the parish that happened to be closest. I ordered a copy of the Divine Liturgy and a CD recording, so I could practice a bit before attending. The service was interesting, but it was by no means the experience of St. Vladimir's envoy. I didn't go back for quite a while. Several months later, I found another opportunity to visit. It was the Sunday of the Cross, in the middle of Lent. I had tried Orthodox fasting before, and at that time I'd missed the beginning of Western Lent and decided that I would follow Orthodox Lent instead. I venerated the cross at the end with everyone else--probably the first time I venerated anything. A few weeks later, my Orthodox acquaintance invited me to join him on a visit to another parish. We went to the Lamentations service on Holy Friday. It was an awesome experience, and perhaps more importantly, he introduced me to Fr. Gregory, who was responsive to my e-mailed questions and open to meeting with me from time to time.

That was a year ago. Since then, I've meet with Fr. Gregory several times--always before a service, so I could stay afterward. He's given me more suggested reading, which I've always followed. I've visited several other parishes in the area and had some good talks with another priest, Fr. George. I fast and pray with icons regularly. I attend services when I'm able. My beliefs are Orthodox in every way. I long for greater unity between the various Orthodox jurisdictions in America. I like Byzantine music better than Slavic, but I favor Russian Orthodoxy in most other respects, including the use of the Eastern calendar. I could call myself Orthodox in every way, except that I do not participate regularly in an Orthodox parish, and I have not experienced the sacraments.

You see, my wife of ten years, who in my opinion would be one of the world's great Orthodox Christians if she'd been born into it, is a committed Evangelical. We both grew up in the Baptist tradition, were actively involved in the youth program, went to Bible college before getting married, and have served as lay leaders in various churches, including the one we have attended for the past nine years. I even went on to an Evangelical seminary and earned a Th.M., although by the time I finished, I'd decided against going into full-time ministry. My dissatisfaction with Evangelicalism came as a surprise to her, and my attraction to Orthodoxy even more so. We've been at something of an impasse for some time now. I don't want to force her to change, but neither of us wants to go to separate churches. The priests I've talked to are reluctant to convert me without her, but I've moved so far from an Evangelical mindset that I feel completely out of place in our church. At this point, there's not much to do but pray and live what I can.

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