Nov 1, 2015
2 Thess. 2:15
“Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” (NKJV)
“So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.” (NIV)
“So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.” (NASB)
I have read several different accounts of Protestant conversions to Christian Orthodox, including those in this book: Coming Home: Why Protestant Clergy are Becoming Orthodox, edited by Peter Guillquist
What I have not seen in those accounts is the actual process of conversion, i.e. once the decision is made to become Orthodox, then what happens?
So let me fill that gap, step by step as I go along here. Mind you that the process may vary from parish to parish depending on its size, etc. So far I met with the Priest of the church I’m attending in July, who recommended some reading to me. This book in particular was helpful: Welcome to the Orthodox Church by Frederica Matthews-Green; I had already read these four books by Clark Carlton: The Faith, The Way, The Truth and The Life. He emphasized that I needed to attend services to experience the Orthodox faith in addition to reading about it. Typically converts attend a full liturgical calendar (which starts in the fall) before they are baptized. The class for Catechumens started in the fall as well. He encouraged me to attend as many services as I could. So I’ve attended six Catechism classes so far and 1-2 services a week. Roughly half of the people attending Catechism are already Orthodox. I have liked the lectures so far very much. I have learned a great deal about how the church building is laid out and why. It is very deep. Everything comes back to Christ. I won’t attempt to discuss it all here, there are much better sources for that out there. We learned about how the structure of the church building itself reflects the Christian’s journey of purification (repentance), illumination (understanding of the Gospel), theosis (spiritual growth). The paintings on the walls contain the Gospel message, represent worship in Heaven. The paintings of the saints tell the story of the unbroken faith of Christ continuing on into the present. The liturgy and its foundation is in the Scriptures. Nearly the whole liturgy is direct quotations from the Bible, aside from the prayers and some hymns.
I’m attending two Orthodox churches actually: the original one that has a beautiful sanctuary with paintings over almost all the walls (it’s still a work in progress). The other is a mission (or church plant in Protestant terminology) of the first one that meets upstairs above a storefront. I like the priests of both churches very much. I attend Liturgy at the Mission because it is smaller and therefore I can hear the Liturgy better. I like the Priest’s preaching there a lot. The Priest at the original church teaches the catechism class that I’ve been attending. I like his teaching too — it’s profound. I go to Wednesday night Vespers followed by Catechism class. Every other week I attend Saturday evening Great Vespers in the original church and every other Sunday I attend Liturgy at the mission in the morning. My husband is still a Protestant and not interested in becoming Orthodox, so on alternate Sundays I attend church with him. Protestant worship feels more like attending an edifying concert than worship now that I’ve become accustomed to Orthodox worship. Even though it doesn’t feel the same to me as it used to, I don’t mind going.
I’ve started “fasting” on Wednesdays and Fridays — which means eating like it’s Lent (no meat, no dairy, no vertebrate fish, no olive oil, no wine). I’ve started trying to pray at least once a day out of an Orthodox prayer book. I found a great app for that — there’s an app for everything under the sun apparently — that lets me fill in the names of people I’m praying for in the middle of the intercession portion of the prayers. I find it helpful that my iPad makes the letters nice and big so I can put the iPad on a table and stand and read the prayers aloud. I’ve been doing my morning Bible reading with an Orthodox Study Bible (daily Bible reading was already a habit, but the Orthodox also encourage it). I continue reading books and have started working my way through the Orthodox Church in America section on the Orthodox Faith (here: http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith). My Orthodox friend had given me a pocket sized prayer book, but the print is too tiny! 😀
I was pretty sure I wanted to convert to Orthodox between my readings and also having felt the Holy Spirit fall on me at the mission that one Sunday (July 12, 2015), but taking that next step, asking to be officially made a Catechumen was a challenge. I had seen it done about a month ago with another woman and heard the prayer that would be said over me, had no issues at all with the content of that — so that was not my hesitance. No, it was because that would be a commitment that would be difficult to back out of. I finally got it together and emailed the two Priests letting them know I wanted to officially become a Catechumen and a date was set for the following Sunday (October 25, 2015) for me to arrive a bit early to Liturgy at the Mission.
So after saying in front of the folks at the mission “I so desire” in response to the Priest’s formal question about becoming a Catechumen and him laying his hand on my head and praying over me a somewhat lengthy prayer, also formal, I am now a Catechumen of the Orthodox Church in America. (And yes, I did feel the Holy Spirit when he prayed, in case my charismatic friends are wondering if the Holy Spirit blesses us through formalized prayers…. 😉 )
And now apparently I will be meeting with the Mission’s Priest for an hour once a month to be given readings and discuss where I’m at.
So after being a Christian for 44 years and earning my B.A. in Bible, someone is finally going to actually disciple me (to use a Protestant term).
I’m looking forward to this last bit, but also feel a bit intimidated. I’m sure it will be fine.
Meanwhile my husband retains his sense of humor about his wife “going medieval” on him. I’m so glad he’s such a great guy and my best friend. 🙂