Sunday, October 30, 2011

It was a dark and stormy night....

...but I decided to go to vespers anyway! (okay, sorry about the melodramatic post title)

Everything seemed to be working against me! I had spent the whole day trying to fix my computer because the sound wasn't working so my friend James from church showed up and fixed it. (Apparently if you have cords stuck in the wrong sockets, the sound won't work...who knew?) So James left and I tried to fix my Audacity program so that it could record one of the several podcasts I produce and....THE SOUND WENT OUT AGAIN!. Well, my wife, always the better Christian, said, pray for help. We did and I tried again but to no avail. In such cases, it's always better to step away so I went to my room to take a nap. Well, my son Justin fixed it in two minutes. (Apparently, if plugs aren't all the way plugged in the sound won't work... who knew?)

Usually, when things like that happen, I get in such a bad mood that I don't want to go to any church, Protestant or Orthodox. But, thank God, I jettisoned the feelings and decided to go anyway.

Plus, it really was a dark and stormy night and my son Matthew was at work. My wife didn't want to travel on a night like this and that meant I would pick Matthew up after Vespers which meant he would have to wait over an hour for me. So there was the whole guilt thing keeping me away from Vespers. But thank God, I jettisoned the false guilt and decided to go anyway.

And when I arrived- and this would make my 40th time at an Orthodox Service - it was great to be in Worship. The Choir director wasn't there so the small group of about 5 singers which included Fr Ken was led by a lady whose name I ashamed to say, I have forgotten. She is a very nice lady and the few discussions we have had reveal she is very welcoming and genuine. I think I will not really get to know these people until I start attending every week and on Sundays. The coffee hour after Divine Liturgy will be a great place to build friendships.

I seem to have been a bit obsessed with clothing at times. That is, I notice what people wear. (Isn't that completely shallow of me?). On my first visits, it seemed to me that everyone dressed up nicely but today I noticed that some were in jeans, not many had ties and one of the choir singers was wearing sweat pants and a white tee shirt that said, "Guard" on it. I am guessing this girl is a lifeguard somewhere and came right from work. The important thing is to remember, for me anyway, that such things really don't matter. It is the heart of Worship that matters. I have to remember that I am there to glorify the Triune God.

I love that, even when the crowd is small, the Worship is still paramount. In evangelical circles, when church crowds are small, the leader sometimes references that and says, "Even though we are small in number, let's really worship the Lord.", as if the small crowd needed to be revved up. In Orthodoxy, we just Worship because that is what we are here to do.

Fr Gary gave a good homily about the weather, saying we pray for seasonable weather all the time and, no matter what the weather is, God is with us. Short and to the point, that is what I like about Fr. Gary's sermons.

I left rather quickly after Vespers because my son was waiting to be picked up.

I am looking forward to my next visit.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Birthday Happiness at Vespers!

A week ago last Saturday was October 8th, which marked my birthday, Deacon Ken's ordination to the Priesthood and my 39th time at an Orthodox Church.

I had plans of spending the day with my family and my dogs (well, my dogs are part of my family so I guess I am being redundant) and then asking who would like to come with me to Vespers on my birthday. I figured my family would be more inclined to accompany me to Church as a favor to me on my birthday. Well, it turns out most of my kids had to work and, after spending the day with my wife, my son Matthew and my dogs at a park- which was great fun for me and a wonderful way to spend my birthday, by the way - I asked if my wife would like to go to church with me. She said, "Do you really want me to?" This she asked with a tone that said, "I really don't want to go."
I told her, honestly, that I didn't want her to go if she didn't want to. I truly believe in the "Come and See" approach and don't want anyone to be guilted into going to church.

I had half expected such a response so I wasn't really as hurt as I thought I might have been. We then talked a little bit about how she had been at two Greek Orthodox Weddings and they were just too strange for her and she really had no interest in going. Again, "Come and see" is the way to go. She came and saw and didn't like what she saw, I guess.

As I was getting dressed, Karen told me that if she had better clothes available that she would have gone with me. I believed her. (Nice clothes were in the laundry room, getting ready to be washed). But I don't want her going if she has no desire. Coercion is no way to introduce people to Orthodoxy. After all, I was scared to death the first time I went to Vespers and I wanted to go! Imagine forcing someone to go who had no interest.

When I arrived at Vespers, it was really a blessing to Worship. I arrived a bit late and sat (or stood, rather) right behind the newly ordained Fr. Ken. At the end of Worship we all went to venerate the Icons and Fr Ken, being clergy, was right after Fr. Gary in the line. By the time I got in the line, I noticed that Fr. Ken had stood to the side so as to greet people who wanted to congratulate him on his Ordination. I saw how they were grasping his hand and kissing it as is the custom to honor the hands that are used in bringing the Body and Blood to the Faithful. Fr. Ken gave his blessing and a hug to each. I had said to Fr. Ken in the past when I learned that he was to be ordained that, "Well, I ain't gonna kiss your hand." I said this jokingly but he responded, in honesty, that he didn't want me to do anything that made me uncomfortable. Well, as I was in line I fully intended give him that honor but, as I grasped his hands he gave me the triune kiss on cheek (Besides being Trinitarian, it seems very European) and he gave me his blessing. Well, I was so pleased to receive his blessing and I was so quick to congratulate him, that I forgot to kiss his hand! Man, a fine convert I am going to turn out to be!

Fr. Ken

As I was leaving, Tammy grabbed me and gave me a quick greeting, wishing me many years as she wished me a happy birthday. I rushed out of there so I could go home and have cake and Ice cream with my family.

All in all, it was a great day and I look forward to going back again.

Friday, October 7, 2011

38th time in an Orthodox Church ~ celebrating St. Innocent of Alaska

The booklet cover of the Anakhist we used Wednesday.

I drove into the Church Parking lot this past Wednesday night and parked where I always park - On the far end of the lot, away from all the others. I am not sure why I do this. I always joke to myself that if someone would ask why I park there, I would tell them, "Oh, that? Well, it's the Protestant Interloper Parking Section." I am not sure others would find that funny but, hey, you got laugh when you hear the word Interloper. Although, in truth I am no interloper, more like a fly on the wall- a fly who participates to some degree.

I almost didn't come tonight. You see, on Wednesday my protestant church has Bible studies (really more like discussions based on last Sunday's sermon) and also activities for the kids and the youth group for teens/young adults. Well, my wife usually doesn't go but she promised to help with the kids thing - some sore of craft - so she drove my two kids to church with her. My oldest son begged me to come to the sermon discussion instead (trying to use catholic quilt really - and he isn't even catholic!) but I wanted to Worship so off I went to the Orthodox church for the 38th time.

It was the Akathist Hymn to St. Innocent and, man, it was great. It started out with the Trisigion and then progressed to a couple of Psalms. Then Fr. Gary chanted his life in verse while we, and the choir responded. It was fantastic! I can see that Orthodoxy is very concerned in getting content to the faithful. I learned so much about St. Innocent just by paying attention. Although Fr. Gary or Deacon Ken, didn't say, "Let us Attend," I certainly did. Not only did I learn about Innocents life and humility (and closeness to God), I was able to ask for his intercession on my behalf. Not a bad way to spend the evening.

Afterwards when we all gathered in a circle to chat, Reader John expressed how different it is to chant and sing about St. Innocent instead of just reading about him in your living room. Deacon Ken chimed in with Jesus' words, "Where two or three are gathered...." And that is true, the Holy Spirit could be felt because we gathered in Jesus' Name.

I left knowing I had been in a good place.

Oh, I am hoping that some or all of my family may attend Vespers this Saturday night. More about that later but please keep that in prayer.

St. Innocent, pray for us!