|Jim and Jim in the Narthex after Vespers.|
So we talked and I heard his story. It was the same as mine and, in some ways, not. It was different, in that Jim and I have different personalities and sometimes approach life, well, differently. So his experience and his journey is going to not look like mine completely. But his story is the same in that, he talked about a dissatisfaction with protestant Christianity. After years of being a Christian, it was like he asked, "Is this all we get?" So Jim started doing some research into Celtic spirituality and met up with pre-Roman Catholic monastics. That'll change the way you look at Christianity! And as what normally happens when you study history, you end up Orthodox!
A couple of weeks ago he asked me to review the Orthodox Study Bible which I listed as a book I am reading. (I am a member of Goodreads.com, as is Jim~ That's Facebook for readers). I told him my story, how after years of podcasts and reading, I started attending Vespers. But, Jim being Jim, didn't waste any time! He is here full steam ahead and jumped right in. He didn't even wait for me to go with him. He attended Bright Monday Vespers on his own!
It was a joy to sit/stand next to Jim as we worshiped. I certainly don't want to tell you all about his reaction when you can read it all for yourself in his blog. (http://7daystillnow.blogspot.com/) but I will tell you that having known Jim for, well, decades and having sometimes sat next to him in protestant worship, I have never seen such an attentiveness in him as I did when we were at Vespers.I guess when you are standing in the Presence of God, you take on the seriousness and alertness that that Presence necessitates.
One thing really stood out in my mind during Vespers. At the end, Fr. Gary gave a really short homily. Forgive me, I don't even remember now what he said but I do remember it being "right on". During the homily, my friend Jim was nodding his head yes in agreement. Coming from an Evangelical background, I could tell that Jim wanted to shout, "Amen, brother" or "Preach it" (Hey, what can I tell you; that's how Evangelicals stay tuned into the sermon). Everything Fr. Gary was saying just seemed to make sense. And all he was doing was commenting on the Gospel reading that would be read Sunday morning.
You have to understand something. For the most part, all Protestants have is "the sermon" It usually runs anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour depending on the particular church you are in. I suspect that in Jim's "mega church" it was closer to an hour and, no doubt, the preacher was well prepared and probably a very engaging preacher. (You can't have a mega- church if you don't have a Pastor who speaks well). But Fr. Gary just gave a short, simple homily and it was all that Jim could do from shouting "Amen." In the context of Orthodoxy, in the context of "Right-worship", Fr Gary was saying things in a simple yet relevant way that agreed with the teaching of the Apostles and Church Fathers. No wonder Jim wanted to shout "Amen!
I had sensed this reaction in Jim and he confirmed it while we spoke to Fr. Gary in the parking lot later. Speaking of parking lots, Jim and I continued our conversation and he spoke of Fr. Gillquist's book "Becoming Orthodox." He had just re-read it in fact and Jim said a certain word just leaped off the page at him. This word is something that is standard in Orthodoxy but is always a surprise to us Evangelicals when we encounter it. Why? Because the word sums up Orthodoxy so well. Now I am not going to spoil what he said when he said it so much better. Take a quick read ~ http://7daystillnow.blogspot.com/2012/04/whats-in-word-on-two-wheels-part-2.html
After Vespers, I introduced Jim to Reader Innocent (that would be Jack Hayford) and we chatted awhile. Tami came by to say hello but she said she couldn't stay because she had to take the "two Russian Sisters" home.
"Two Russian Sisters? Sounds like a country band," Jim quipped.
Tami found that really funny and stated doing "air country guitar"
I chuckled, They are going to like having Jim around here!