Sunday, August 21, 2011

visit #34 - camping with a bishop?

photo above by Flickr user eTombotron, used under the creative commons license.

On my 34th visit....(I have to stop calling these visits, any ideas on what to call them?), I noticed that the Icons were still being painted on the walls and they are looking fantastic, even if the scaffolding is a bit distracting. I love that on the very top of the ceiling in the front is an Icon of Jesus enthroned, surrounded by angels.

As I walked into the church and took my seat, I realized that I forgot to pick up a service book. I debated going back and getting one but instead I thought I would just pay attention really well so I can get a gist of what is going on. (Let us Attend!...good advice during the liturgy.) I was struck again on how everyone worshiped in their individual ways and, yet, it was truly corporate experience. Some crossed themselves constantly, some lifted their hands, some just stood there and I decided I needed to stop observing so much and just worship they way I felt led. So I crossed my self and raised my hands at appropriate times. (raising hands? hey, I was a pentacostal for ten years so it came naturally) I do love that each member of the body of Christ is individual, worshiping in a way that fits themselves and yet, all united as one. I have been to "cult like" places and everyone was lock-step. No room at all for an individual. Not so, in the Body of Christ!

Fr. Gary, in his homily, commented on how Bishop Michael spent some time with the congregation that past weekend. The whole parish camped out on the church grounds (Hierarchs in tents? interesting!) He said it was great to have the Bishop with us because the Bishop is supposed to be with his people. I did, at that time, think about my own pastor at my protestant church, Pastor Del, and how he would apply this to himself - that a pastor needs to be with his people, which he does. So a Bishop is not simply an administrator but, rather, a shepherd, who knows his sheep.

At the end of the Vespers service, Prestberta Mary came up to me as I stood waiting to venerate the Icons before I left the building and said, she was sorry that I could not be with them all at the camp out. She said it was very relaxing and hoped I could make plans to attend next year.
As it turned out, I spent the week end with my wife at a dog event, called "Your dog is worth it, too." An event that you can take your dogs to and raise money to fight cancer at the same time.

Once again, I am caught between two congregations. This is something I must consider. Even if I were to fully convert to Orthodoxy now, I have my wife to consider. Time is something don't have a lot of, like most people I know, so it gets difficult to fully imerse myself in Orthodoxy, other than in my private prayers. And I have been learning, that my private prayers, no matter how Orthodox in nature, are not enough.

Lord, have mercy!


  1. Have very much enjoyed reading about your [34]encounters with Orthodoxy.

    Prayers for you and your family. Trust God to work that out.

    YBiC, Bill

  2. Thank you, Bill! Your kind words and prayers mean alot to me.

  3. It's interesting that you mention lifting up your hands in prayer. I have not seen that in any of my visits, and in fact was under the impression it was not an "Orthodox thing". I wonder if it's a local custom in your area or church.

    A church camp-out... that brings back fond memories. When I was a boy, our family church (Mennonite) would have an annual camp-out in a farmer's field, with several days of games, campfires, swimming (in a pond), and worship (with usually a special speaker/teacher). Often baptisms were done at this time, either in the pond, or at the campfire (with pouring from pitchers).

    In time, the practice died out -- people got older, or busier, or less interested in the event. Too bad, though.

  4. I've seen Orthodox priests raise their hands in prayer a lot more than the congregation, although many times I've seen many people raise their hands during the "Our Father".

  5. Some former EOC-to-Orthodox converts do a thing with raising their hands. It's a part of their EOC patrimony.

  6. bill M,
    Lifting of the hands, I don't think, really is an Orthodox thing...but a little bit of it makes sense, in that, the Orthodox are very physical when it comes to worship. Lifting hands may freak some people out, but prostrations really send people running! (at least, I was totally uncomfortable with it at first sight).

    I have only really seen it done at the point in vespers where they recite a psalm that mentions "raising your hands" as incense or something like that.

    And they have only really lifted their hands, more like extending it outward and not above the head. I think that would be too showy.

    My protestant church takes the youth camping every year. It is a highlight for them and the pastor goes and it is usually a very spiritual time.

  7. Maria,
    I have seen catholic church's hold hands and raise them during the "Our Father".... I never really liked the "holding hands" part....

  8. Agabus,

    Yes, I love those former Evangelicals! (Since I am currently a member of an Evangelical church right now).

    As I studied Orthodoxy, I was surprised on how much Scripture is a part of their lives/worship. Evangelicals may accuse the Orthodox of not putting the Bible first, but the truth is, I have never seen so much Scripture in my life as I have in Orthodoxy.

    That's why Evangelicals can feel at home there.

  9. Raising hands is very Orthodox, might depend on the individual parish though (actually it's pre-Orthodox, as one of the traditional Jewish postures of prayer is standing up and hands lifted up). One of the oldest icons of the Theotokos is the Orans (Prayer) which shows her in this posture as well. Check out Youtube (just search for "Ethiopian Orthodox") and you'll see lots of raised hands in prayer (not to mention that really cool rhythmic swaying back and forth)

  10. Shane,
    The Orans! Yes, that's what it's called. I had forgotten the word but you reminded me. Thanks.

    What I like about the Orans is the hands do not go above the head, like the pentacostals, and, thus, you do not draw attention to yourself.

    I did check out some of those videos, as you suggested...very interesting.

    Do Ethiopian Orthodox use drums in worship (like in one of the videos I saw) or do they sing
    A-Capella like the Eastern Orthodox?

  11. Yes, the Orthodox hand position is open and quietly receptive, reflecting the heart and prayer of Kyrie Eleison.

    As far as I know although never been to an Ethiopian service in person so can't say for sure, but I have attended Coptic Divine Liturgy where yes, they do use percussion instruments throughout the entire service. It was also interested to see many of the Coptic laity lift their hands in prayer for much of the service, different than the Russian/Greek tradition more familiar with. It gets back to what you wrote about individual expression but corporate experience - so much beauty expressed in different ways but all a similar united spirit.

  12. Shane,
    wow...I sure am learning a lot these days!
    I guess with Orthodoxy, because it is so rich in tradition and has been around two thousand years, then I will always be learning!