Sunday, February 26, 2012

Vespers,again!...and stories about Battleships!

click below to listen to an audio message from me first, if you like!
Vespers, again! (mp3)
or click here if the above doesn't work...

2006-08-05 02.58.18 Battleship North Carolina
photo by Flickr user fdbyant3, used under the creative commons license.
check out more photos at:

As I said in my audio message above, I missed Church two weeks in a row. Once, because I went to my Protestant Church with my family and the next reason because I worked some overtime.

Fr Ken was leading Vespers last night. I really enjoyed his short homily. He spoke on how Great Lent is upon us and is a time of changing course. He then told a funny story of a battleship captain saw a light in the distance and sent a message ordering it to move. The message came back, "No, even though you are a captain and I am a Seamen First Class, you have to move". The captain was furious and yelled, "I am a Battleship, You move!" The reply came back, "I am a light house, you move." So, Great Lent is upon us. How will I take advantage of all this time?

Fr Gary sent out the Parish calendar for the month and, man, there are services all over the place! Not counting Sundays, there are 16 opportunities for me to attend Church. I have no excuses, it would seem. :)

I spoke briefly to Jack Hayford, the Reader I met two weeks ago and inquired about his daughter serving in the Army in Afghanistan. Fr. Gary had sent an email requesting prayers for her. She is doing well and I have added her to my prayer list. Her name is Dawn.

I hope you all have a blessed Lent. I intend to read Isaiah, as recommended by Fr. Hopko.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The All Important Coffee Hour!

Coffee (wallpaper)
photo by flickr user, used under the creative commons license. check out more photos at:

Last week, because of the Business Meeting, I did not stay for the Coffee Hour. Fr. Gary and the Church Council made the call to delay the Coffee Hour until half way through the meeting so that their Quorum wouldn't leave. So, last week, I left right after the Liturgy. But this week, I stayed and made some new friends. But more on the Coffee Hour later...

I found it easier to enter into Worship, my second time at the Divine Liturgy. I had said that the Divine Liturgy was just like Vespers with Communion but I think I was wrong on that account. There seemed to be a different dynamic going on that I hadn't realized. As a result, last week I was a bit more "shell shocked" than I had thought meaning that everything seemed a bit foreign to me and, thus, I was less able not to be distracted by its newness. This week, however, I was able to "enter in." And, by the way, when I complained about the Cherubic Hymn "droning on" last week, I found that if you actually concentrate on Worshiping God, the "drone" becomes a Hymn of Praise. At least, that is what happened this week! :)

One of my new friends is someone I have seen for a year at Vespers but never talked to. His name is Matthew. We were actually in the Narthex when he introduced himself and, at the time, the hours were being prayed in the Nave. It seemed strange to be having a conversation while prayers were being offered. (I guess Orthodox like to multitask) but we weren't the only ones having a conversation. What was funny was he stopped the conversation completely when the Lord's Prayer was being recited. (we all joined in) and then went right back to the conversation. This happened twice, since as I said last week, they pray two different "hours" before the Divine Liturgy. Our conversation also stopped when Fr Gary came back to the Narthex to incense the Icons. It was certainly a different perspective than what I am used to.

Later on, Matthew joined me at the table for Coffee Hour.

The first thing I noticed when I came into the parish hall was a sign made out of bread that said, "Go Pats". Since it was Superbowl Sunday that seemed appropriate although maybe the Giants fans would disagree with me! Presbytera Mary said, "Why don't you take a picture of this for your blog?" So here it is:

Tami shepherded me to a table where her husband John and Matthew (with his little boy James) were sitting. Tami, ever the gracious hostess, introduced me to the new reader, named Jack, who was from Wisconsin and took the name Innocent (Do readers get a new name when they are tonsured or is that his baptismal name?). It turns out he has only been at this parish for three weeks. We got to talking and I met my first evangelical convert at the parish. (All the other converts were from the Roman Catholics). When I asked Jack more about his background he asked, have you ever heard of Jack Hayford? You bet I have! He is a famous Four Square Gospel Pastor and one or two of my friends actually went to his church on the west coast back in the day.

"Well," Jack continued, "I am his son."

Wow, I am meeting all sorts of people in Orthodoxy!

I was fascinated talking to Jack, listening to his story and learning (but I think I already knew this but forgot) that his father wrote the famous Worship Chorus "Majesty". What I didn't know is Jack Hayford wrote it while he was in England and he had witnessed the Pomp and Circumstance of the Queen for a special anniversary so he decided to write something for the King of Kings. It is a great song. Here it is!

I asked Jack how his father reacted to his conversion to Orthodoxy and he said his father was always very ecumenical so he was cool with it.

I really enjoyed the coffee hour. I have been worshiping with these people for over a year but it was nice to actually sit down and get to know them. I hope to do that more and more.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

First Divine Liturgy at my Parish!

Okay, so even though I knew my wife wouldn't like it, I decided to go to Divine Liturgy last Sunday. She had asked if I was going to Vespers on Saturday night, as was my routine. I said, "no" but I was going to the Orthodox Church on Sunday. She was upset about us not worshiping together. I told her that I wasn't growing in our protestant church. We had had this discussion before when I first started exploring Orthodoxy and she didn't like it then and she doesn't like it you can see why it took so long to go to the Divine Liturgy.

I arrived at 9am for the "Adult Education" which would be known as Sunday School by protestants. I walked into the Nave and saw reader John fixing the candles. His jaw dropped when he saw me. His expression said, "Hey, you only come on Saturday Nights! What are you doing here now?" John warmly greeted me with a hug and later Fr Gary came out of the Sanctuary and greeted me.

"You decided to take the plunge," He said, as he gave me the triune kiss on the cheek.

I smiled and said, "Yes."

The Adult Education class was a study on Metropolitan Kallistos Ware's book, "The Inner Kingdom." A good book I must read.

Ten minutes before 10am, when the Liturgy was supposed to start, Reader John started leading us in prayers. We said the "Our Father" twice. Can someone explain what that is all about? I imagine, we did "Matins" and some other service. I don't know.

I was surprised when the bells started ringing. I thought that only happened on Pascha but it seems every Sunday is a celebration of the Resurrection. :)

Although I was happy to be there, my overall "feeling" was a bit of a let down. On the drive home I started to think about why that would be? Well, I guess in my mind, I knew it was a big milestone to go to the Divine Liturgy, that when it came, it was almost as if it were only just Vespers with Communion. And that's okay - I mean, the feeling part, that is. It is almost as if God is asking me, "So, are you going to seek out "feelings" or are you going to Worship?"

I must admit, though, I did get a feeling of awe as Father Gary processed around the church with the gifts, praying for Metropolitan Jonah and Bishop Michael. As I look at the chalice and the plate with the bread, I thought, "This is about to become the Body and Blood of Jesus!"

This is actually not my first Divine Liturgy. And I am not talking about my Pascha Vigil at this Parish, either. When I was in the Air Force, back in the 1980's, I was a Chapel Manager and I became friendly with the Orthodox Chaplain. I knew nothing about Orthodoxy then and only saw them as some weird branch of the Roman Catholic Church. I remember liking the Liturgy but not really understanding much of it. I especially liked the Cherubic Hymn -
Let us who mystically represent the Cherubim and sing the thrice-holy hymn to the life giving trinity, lay aside all earthly cares, that we may receive the King of all invisibly escorted by angelic hosts. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Well, I loved it then, but, sadly, at last Sunday's Liturgy, that hymn seemed to drag on. Sorry to be so blunt but I guess I just remember it differently.

Again, that's okay. I am in this for the long haul. Just like it took me a while to get used to the Eastern Orthodox version of the Roman Catholic "Gloria" and the way the East does the doxology, I can get used to this new version, at least new to me.

Now, I still plan to go to Worship with my wife on Sundays but I believe that this Sunday, I will again attend the Divine Liturgy. Please pray for me. One of my struggles is that on a lot of Sundays, I actually work overtime at my job. With this economy, I can use the extra money. I know as I progress to become a Catechumen, that Sunday's will have to belong to God. Pray for alternate sources of income. But, I am not going to worry about that now. Indeed, it is a big step that I actually went to Divine Liturgy. We will take it one day at a time!

I actually did NOT stay for Coffee hour because immediately after the Liturgy, they had their annual business meeting and if they had coffee hour, no one would stay for the meeting and they wouldn't be able to get a quorum. Sounds like the Orthodox have the same problem as the Evangelicals! :)

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment below. Also, if someone could answer the question about the prayers before the Divine Liturgy, I would appreciate it.