Monday, September 18, 2006

less than ideal

I might have mentioned before the geography of my situation. Right now, we live within walking distance of one Orthodox parish (OCA), which is currently building a new facility that will still make it the closest parish to us, but will pretty much require driving to get there. The next closest Orthodox parish that I know of is a Ukrainian cathedral. I've been there once for a Christmas service--wasn't terribly impressed, but maybe I should give it another try for something normal. For big holidays, I guess they do one combined service where normally they would have one in English and one in Ukrainian. That's about a 20 min. drive, but one advantage is that it's not too far from the Evangelical church we attend. Expanding to 25-30 min., there are two other options in basically opposite directions--one a small ROCOR mission parish, the other an Antiochian parish, where I attend most of the time.

My wife has agreed to teach preschool once a month at our Evangelical church, which means that week she attends both services (works with kids during one, attends worship with adults during the other). Since our son would be in the class she's teaching (which always complicates things), and in any case he and I would have to hang around for an extra service, I offered to take him to the OCA parish those weeks. The service is longer, and he likes to play on the nearby playground afterward, so schedule-wise it works out pretty well. Yesterday was our first time trying the arrangement. I'd visited there a few times before--once when I first got interested in Orthodoxy, again during Lent 2005, then all three of us went right after Katrina hit last year--we'd planned on visiting the Antiochian parish, but with fuel shortages that weekend, we decided to stay close to home. There might be one or two other visits I'm not remembering. In any case, it had been quite a while since my last visit there, and in the meantime I've begun to feel like the Antiochian parish is really my home.

Given our transportation constraints (only one car), it's the only serious option we have for Sunday a.m. services, but it still feels less than ideal. One reason that I haven't gone there more regularly to begin with is because they only have services on Sunday mornings. I tend to be a big proponent of keeping things local, especially when it comes to church. Part of what attracts me to Orthodoxy is the ideal of one city-one church, where the local parish is the parish you go to. It may rarely work out that way in America, given the multiplicity of jurisdictions and insufficient coverage of territory, but at least the ideal is there. (With Protestantism, particularly in America, it's not even a justifiable goal.) But given my circumstances, local is not enough. Right now, I need a parish that has services other than Sunday a.m. I also haven't got much of a response from either priest when I've expressed interest in talking about Orthodoxy. Maybe they'll have more services once they're in the new building, but for now it can't be the only parish in my life. On the other hand, it's the only parish close enough to do Sunday a.m. with any kind of regularity.

So I'm pretty much stuck having to attend at least two different parishes. The overall frequency with which I can attend Orthodox services is bad enough without splitting it. I don't have much expectation of building serious relationships at the OCA parish by attending once a month. Yesterday, I had the usual feeling of sorrowful joy--joy that I could take part in the service if only to a limited degree, sorrow that I could not participate fully. But it felt lonelier than usual, since I really didn't feel like I had much of a connection with anyone there. I was glad to have Ian with me, so at least we could keep each other company. I don't think I've ever felt closer to him than I did in that service. It's hard to explain--maybe just the contrast. I suppose expectations might play a role here, because I don't remember feeling so lonely when I've visited cathedrals where I knew no one but didn't expect to attend with any regularity anyway.

So now I'm thinking that maybe if things move seriously in the direction of attending separate churches, it's probably inevitable that we'll have to get another car. I hate to do it, because it would add financial strain on top of everything else, but it may be the only realistic option.

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