Sunday, April 3, 2011

24 - not Jack Bauer, but Visits!

Monday 24
photo by Tiffany Park, used under the creative commons license. check out here work at:

Yes, I can claim two dozen visits to an Orthodox Church. In a sense, they still feel like visits because Saturday nights around twice a month is not enough to become part of a community. I mean, really a part! Although I have made friends there and people see me as a fixture at Vesper's, I know from experience that to become connected not just to a few friends but to a whole community requires time spent working, laughing, crying and living together. To be sure, I already have this belonging in my Nazarene Church...but I have been a part of them for more than 15 years! And I am known by them and they understand my flaws, my bizarre sense of humor and, ah, quirks.

But all things in good time....

Yesterday, Vespers was at 5pm instead of the usual 7pm because the faithful there spent the day on a retreat which, according to reports, involved three clergy performing in skits...I wonder if that will end up on YouTube? I arrived early after a very un-Lenten stop at McDonald's to enjoy a burger and WiFi.

I can't remember if it was at the beginning of the service or a part of Vespers but there was an adorned Cross in the center of the room and, before the Icon was switched to St. John Climacus (of the Ladder), Prostrations were done to the Cross. Observing this, I can't help but feel that Orthodoxy and children are a great mix! There was this one woman in line who had a 6 year old daughter. She had a candle in her hand and was doing prostrations with a big smile on her face! Afterwards she rushed (reverently) to the front to light her candle.

Kids like to be doing things. I know this because I still run a youth group at my church (ages 7-12) and they are happiest when they are up running around playing games or doing something physical; they are saddest when they are sitting around listening to an adult preach to them. Well, Orthodoxy is very physical in it's worship so prostrations, bowing, lighting candles besides being more interesting to a kid, also involves the child in worship.

Speaking of kids, there was another Mother and child standing next to me. Being young, she had to leave the service a few times which is fine because the mother did the right thing by being in the back of the church where she would be less distracting. One thing that sticks out in my mind is during the "Our Father" prayer, I could hear the little girl's voice loud and clear. It was obvious to me that the Mother had done the right thing in teaching her child early basic Christianity.

This in a sense makes me sad that I did such a poor job in conveying faith to my children. If we would have stayed Lutheran, I, hopefully would have taught them the Creed, the Lord's prayer and other foundational Christian teachings. But, during the children's growing up years, we were (and still are) Nazarenes. They don't do stuff like that! They never pray the Lord's prayer, we have recited the Apostle's creed (never the Nicene) maybe once in the last five years and they have no formal catechism classes. Such structures would have been helpful in raising my children. Evangelicals tend leave us to our own devices and, left to that, I did nothing, save take them to church a lot.

Makes me wish I had discovered Orthodoxy a lot earlier...


  1. Great observations about the kids. When we joined the Orthodox Church, I had 3 little ones who were super-active and were used to the Protestant sunday school during service. I was very worried about how they would do at a Liturgy. One time my 3-yr-old shouted during the Liturgy that it was too boring. At time went by, we just kept bringing them to church. Our 1st Holy Week was a struggle - the baby cried at every service, and the boys laughed and teased each other during the long Gospel readings. In his love and humility, the priest did not reprimand them, but gave them robes, candles and made them serve at the altar so they'd have something to do. Years later, they still serve and love the Church.

  2. Jim, I know it's easy to wish you knew then what you know now, but it's never too late! The Good Lord brought you to Orthodoxy in his time and will help you along the way if you let him. I pray for you often and LOVE reading your blogs. My 8 year old goes through a lot of confusion being between 2 churches. Her biological father recently married a baptist... a hardcore southern baptist! He was never religious, so he always just let me take her along my trek to Orthodoxy and didn't complain much... well, except when he tried to say it was a cult, but he shut up pretty quick once he did some research on it. Now that he is married, his wife takes her to the baptist church where they like to remind her how much more "fun" their Sunday school is. They also like to try and convince her she is worshiping idols by venerating and won't let her cross herself, bring her icon of Christ to their house, or drink Holy water. My heart aches for her to be put in such a situation at such a young age. I pray hard for her and for my own patience watching her go through this. But sometimes I am reminded that it is more difficult to face these issues as an adult! Also, she always comes back to the realization of the truth in Orthodoxy. Hence, her step mother is helping her earn her crown! She is becoming a martyr at eight years old. I am so proud of her, even when my heart is aching. She strengthens my faith every day!
    Whew! went on a tangent. I am glad you notice the children. Jesus does say to come to Him like a child, right? :)

  3. Maria, Thank God for that being wise, patient and caring, he showed the love of important it is how we treat one another!

  4. Lavena,
    I will pray for your daughter that she doesn't get too confused. Can't you talk to your ex and say that it isn't the stepmom's place to denegrate her religion?

    I am glad you like reading my blogs....I'll keep them coming :)

  5. Jim,

    I enjoy reading your story, and I have to say this post hits a topic near and dear to my heart. My wife insisted we look outside our (WELS Lutheran) congregation based in large part on the way our children were receiving the Faith. Our oldest was about 1 and a half or 2 years old when we moved away from our relatively high liturgical LCMS parish, and at the time she had a relatively strong piety for such a young girl. She made the sign of the cross and knew the Lord's prayer, etc. We watched as our younger two children grew up without this piety, and it was hard to watch. They didn't know the Faith. They didn't know how to act in Church. We were encouraged to take them to the nursery, etc. It was hard.

    Fast forward to Orthodoxy, and even our youngest lights candles, kisses the icons and crosses, and does the sign of the cross, metanias and prostrations at the appointed times. They know their morning and evening prayers, and they all have a high appreciation for the Church and her piety. This will anchor them as they grow older.

    Here is a blog post I wrote on this subject back in December, right after we decided to be Chrismated. If you are interested, please check it out:

    I look forward to reading your next post.

  6. David,
    Excellent post you referenced...shoot on over, I left a comment!

    Love your blog; I added to my list on the right so that I can easlily access it and become aware of new posts...hope others check it out too!

  7. Yes, Jim. I have talked with my ex many times about the situation. He believes that as step parent, she has full rights of a parent in her upbringing and will support his wife in this decision. He has even said "I'm baptist now, you are Orthodox. She is half me, so she is half baptist"...! I tell him religion is not a nationality, but how we celebrate and worship our God. He says we worship the same God, so he doesn't see what's wrong with it. He has always been difficult to work with, one of the MANY reasons he is an ex. But, I've learned that the more I try to talk to him, the worse it gets. I have not talked to him since Nativity about the subject, and they've only gone to church there 3 times since! Plus, my daughter ahs been speaking up for herself and asking not to go. She was always afraid to hurt their feelings if she told them how she felt. I explained to her that we are adults and she shouldn't worry about that. It is our place to make sure she is comfortable and taken care of, not the other way around. I told her as grown ups will be okay if she says something we don't like, but she has to be able to tell us both her feelings and be honest. She says her stepmom cries when she says things that hurt her feelings and she doesn't like to make her cry. I can appreciate her heart, but I told her that her stepmom is grown woman and can deal with it. She finally started speaking up, so she hasn't been as torn recently. Of course it's only been a few months since Nativity, but anything is better than nothing. So, I guess patience is a virtue? I think I'm going to hop over and read David's blog. Maybe I need to set up something on here, so I don't always to post as anonymous :)

  8. Your daughter is in a tight spot; I will add her to my prayers.
    Yes, get a Google account you won't be anonymous anymore :)