Sunday, September 25, 2011

37th time to the Orthodox Church ~ Simply Worship.

photo of a girl praying in church by Peter Grima, used under the creative commons license.

This will be the third week in a row that I attended Vespers. In the past, there was usually a two or even three week interval between visits (or, more accurately, attendance, since I am way past just visiting). Now, this has been very helpful, not having such a long gap in between Saturday nights as it pertains to Worship. Usually, when I feel I have been away for some time, it takes some getting used to, "getting back into the swing of things." But, by going every week, I am better able to "enter in" Worship. Now, I know that sounds like the philosophy of a Charismatic, but, there it is.

So it was easier this week, with feelings of less distraction, just to enter into Worship. I was better able to pay attention to the words as they were chanted and say,"Amen" within my heart. Also, last nights homily by Father Gary was about how Wisdom and Righteousness go hand in hand. This worked out well since the readings chanted last night were from Proverbs and the Wisdom of Solomon. Fr Gary tied that into the life of St Sergious of Radonezh who exemplified both Wisdom and Righteousness and whose feast was celebrated that day.

I like Father Gary's Homily's. Now I don't know if they are different on Sunday's but his Saturday night Vesper homilies are short and to the point. This is in great contrast to my protestant experience where the sermon is the center of Worship. Everything builds to that point. Hymns are sung, Scripture is read, all to support the message of the Sermon. Now while that can be a good thing and help people on their spiritual journey, I much prefer the Orthodox emphasis on Sacraments and the time tested lectionary which is older than Protestant churches have even been around.

So I will, hopefully, continue going to Vespers every week.

The next step is to drop out of my protestant church and start going Sunday Mornings.

St. Sergious, pray for me to that end!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

three dozen visits, Priest's wives reading my blog, circles of people, Missions and the 1812 Overture!

Circle Of Friends
A circle of friends, much like what formed after Vespers last night. photo by Chris Lim, used under the creative commons license. check out more photos at:

Last night was my 36th visit to the Orthodox Church and I am happy to say that I noticed that while I have been going to Church a lot, I very rarely go two weeks in a row. But I did this time. I have come to realize that not having these somewhat long gaps of time in between visits will help me in my journey closer to Christ and Orthodoxy. It makes sense. If I were going to college and only attended class every third week, I would turn out to be a poor student. How much more important not to just audit Divine Services. And yesterday it would have been easy to skip Vespers because I was with my wife at a triplet's birthday party. My wife helps a local family watch triplets and they just turned one. I ended up leaving before the cake was served (but my wife knew that going in) and it was tempting to stay so as to not be rude but I knew I had to go. As I get closer to Orthodoxy, I am going to have to manage family time carefully so my wife and kids don't get shafted. A relationship with them is a priority from God but so is Church. I must remember that.

Vespers was great, although it seemed a bit sparsely attended. Deacon Ken was not there, although his son Will was serving. I really enjoyed Worship, especially the veneration of the Cross. There is something about a full prostration that feels right. I know that others might think we are Muslims by our prostrations but Western Christianity doesn't know what it's missing by not involving their whole bodies in Worship. I also very much loved the Prokeimenon, The Lord is King! Below is the Prokeimenon, although not in English. Cool Stuff!

Prokeimenon - The Lord is King

After Vespers, Father Gary's wife, Mary greeted me and, with a smile, said, "So, you write about me in my blog?" She must have been referring to Visit #32 where I mention how she told me, in jest, that I was sitting in the wrong seat. Read about it here:

Mary went on to explain how she knew I could take a joke, since I have been attending for so long that I would not be driven away but such a playful act. She figured that you have to have fun in life. (and I agree). She went on to explain how the Lord had a sense of humor, too because she had been raised a daughter of a Priest, lived in rectory's all here life and wanted no part of it. Well, she meets Fr Gary, then marries him while he is still a Roman Catholic and he announces one day that he wants to be an Orthodox Priest. Well, looks like the joke is on Mary~ but I think she can take a joke, even a Divine one!

This discussion took place in the Nave and it was there I observed what often happens after Worship. Circles of discussion form. There were two circles actually, one for the "young people" and one for us older folks. What's great about that is everyone is included and can listen or talk as desired. I myself don't feel comfortable enough to just join a circle because, believe it or not, I can be very shy, so I high tailed it out of the Church. As I walked on the path I noticed people emptying the back of a car, carrying tables and chairs, I asked if I could help and, after opening the door for them, I went to retrieve a table. I am most comfortable in a group of people when I am involved in some sort of work. For me, it makes conversation easier than when I am just standing around. I guess I feel useful, too.

I asked Tammy, who was in the parish hall, what the tables were for. She told me that we were setting up for coffee hour and the tables and chairs had been at some community event. There, they sold raffle tickets, handed out Orthodox literature, and Fr Gary was on hand to greet people and answer any questions about Orthodoxy. Sounds like evangelism to me, don't it? And to think that one of my complaints about the Orthodox Church- a complaint I shared with Fr. Gary at our IHOP breakfast- is their lack of Evangelism. I am glad to hear of this outreach. I know that Orthodoxy is something that needs to be far more known in America. May God grant us the means and the will to share it!

One last thing, I noticed at the ends of Vespers we sang a short hymn that reminded me of the choral selection sung before the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky. Is that possible? I guess I will do some research later but even the tune reminded me of what I heard in the Overture and I even picked out words talking about Victory of enemies which I remember from the piece. If anyone knows, please comment below or send me an email.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Breakfast in the morning ~ 35th visit in the evening!

click on the link to here an audio message before you read the blog post......

A Colorado omelette - That's what Father Gary ordered.

Me? I went with my favorite Swiss Cheese Omelette. Now, I have no idea what a Colorado Omellette is but I do know that food was not the primary reason for our get together. We were there to discuss spiritual matters - specifically, what obstacles there were for me to become Orthodox.

IHOP - yummmmm
photo by Robert Rowe, used under the creative commons license. Check out more of his work at:

I arrived early and waited outside the IHOP. I remember that I almost missed the exit on the parkwary and the words of Lavenna, a reader and commenterof of my blog, came to mind. "Remember, the closer you get, the more the demons will try to interfere. So beware of obstacles and keep pushing forward! Now had I missed the exit, I would have found the place alright but I think it would have put me out of sorts.Nice try, demons! Finally, Father Gary showed up and I noticed he was just sitting in the car but it turns out he was just finishing up a phone call. As he came out of the car, I noticed he had his collar on (looking like a Roman Catholic priest) and, of course, wearing black. He immediately embraced me and said, "Glory to Jesus Christ." I did not give the proper liturgical response (what is it, by the way?) and I commented on how he was "in uniform." He chuckled.

After we ordered, we got right down to it. I said I wanted to be Orthodox, believed it was the "right Church" but I would alienate my family, who showed no interest whatsoever. They were happy protestants. The funny thing is, I kinda knew what he was going to say. First of all, he wasn't going to tell me what to do. He said, it is possible for me to stay where I am since I am already in a "faith community" or it is possible that I become a catechumen. It all depends. It would be different if my family were not believers at all, then the choice would be clear. I must look after my salvation.

I went on to talk about my journey, on how I mistook a "call to the ministry" for a genuine desire to get closer to Christ. So I perused it within the "Church of the Nazarene" and longer ago within the Lutheran Church. Both times, my wife did not like the idea, only because she saw my life and how, it did not live up to what a minister ought to be. Both times, doors were shut, I think by the Mercy of God. So it is possible that my wife sees this "Orthodox thing" as just one more thing I am going through.

Father Gary encouraged me to talk with my wife about this and see where she stands. It just comes down to that. I know my wife. She will say, "Do what you want to do, you always do anyway." (Yes, I have acted unilaterally in the past) But I don't want it to be like that. I want her to understand that this is really, I believe, the path I need to take.

Father Gary and I also talked whether or not Bishop Michael would recognize my Roman Catholic Baptism. (I also was baptized in the Assembly of God -a believer's baptism). He believed my RC baptism would suffice. We also talked about the catechumen process. I told him I would be okay with years, if necessary as it was in the early church and, that, believe it or not, I was in no rush, as long as I knew I was on path to becoming Orthodox. He said, probably not that long. It depended upon my current knowledge. Fr Gary said, a long processes will not necessarily help me because, there is a sense that we are never really ready for Orthodoxy. There is always room for improvement. There will always be a struggle and, that is a good thing. Fr Gary says we would meet one on one, maybe go over a a tape series from the 1980's and that would be a good discussion starter. So while I am willing to go through instruction for years, it'll probably be considerably less than that.

We also discussed evangelism, we talked about his conversion, we talked about the Eagle project he is working on with his son right after this breakfast and Fr Gary offered to meet with my wife (along with his wife, too to make it less awkward) but I don't see a formal "meeting" happening. Perhaps I can invite Fr. Gary and his wife, along with Deacon Ken and his wife over to the house for some coffee and cake or something. (Although to get two clergy to get their calendar's synced might be difficult.)

It was a very good discussion and I am impressed with Fr Gary's pastoral care. He clearly is a shepherd to his flock. I also had been thinking "will we say grace before meals?" Well, as soon as our omlettes arrived, he said, "Let's give thanks" and he crossed himself (and I did too) and he offered a short prayer, almost protestant sounding, asking to bless the hands that prepared it, ect. I am glad we didn't chant a prayer. That might have been awkward. :)

We parted and I thanked him saying, "God willing, I will see you tonight at Vespers."

Speaking of Vespers, my 35th visit that evening was very good. The Icon project seems to be over and all the scaffolding is down. In fact, here is what the front looks like.

Nice, eh?

After Vespers, I did talk to Deacon Ken for a bit and he wanted to know how the meeting went. We spoke briefly about it and we also talked about his upcoming ordination. He is really getting excited about it. I told him I hoped I could be there for it. Ken said that would be great.

So, it was quite a day. I will keep you all informed and, please, keep me in your prayers.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Meeting with Fr Gary this Saturday!

Fr Gary at Pascha

So this Saturday I scheduled a breakfast with Fr Gary. IHOP, of course.

It's kind of a big deal.

You see, I have been going to this parish for over a year (34 times to be exact ) but conversations I have had with anyone have been very brief. When I think about it, the only people I really talk to at the church is Deacon Ken (soon to be Fr Ken), Tammy and, just "hi" and "good-bye" to Fr. Gary. Most of my discussions at the church have been with Ken. He has taken a special interest in talking to me. This, I know, is motivated by his love for Christ and his church. By taking time to talk to a seeker, he is fulfilling the commandment of Jesus to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.

But this will be the first time I spend a chunk of time with a priest. I know Fr Gary through his homilies and a little bit through our very short conversations so it will be very good to speak to him one-on-one.

Okay, protocol question ~ How do you greet a priest in a public forum? I see him giving the triple kiss after vespers but I never really see anyone kiss his hands. I suspect, Orthodox being who they are, will have no special rules that apply outside the church walls.

So, what will we talk about? I imagine, I will seek guidance on my next step and how to proceed without alienating my wife and kids. I am at the point where, to grow in Christ, I need more.
Should be an interesting meeting.

Of course, I will let you know how it goes.

Pray for me, a sinner.