reflections on my visit to an orthodox church

Coincidence?

I was sitting in my coffee hangout today, reading from Kallistos Ware’s The Orthodox Way (ch. 6, entitled “God as Prayer”), when a group of people walked in, one of whom happened to be the secretary at the middle school where I taught two years ago. Well, there was a girl (20 something) in the group who saw the book that I was reading and exclaimed, “I just finished that book!” We began to talk and I discovered that she has recently converted to Orthodoxy (grew up Baptist) and had read Ware as part of her catechetical instruction. We talked about it for a few minutes. (She mentioned that her priest was a Church of Christ convert.) I’m still a bit in shock that this followed so closely on the heels of my recent visit to an Orthodox church AND that I had such an encounter in Newnan. I wasn’t expecting to be confronted by Orthodoxy again so soon…

***

A lady at South Newnan converted a few years back from Orthodoxy; she had promised me that we would visit her former church in Atlanta. We finally got the opportunity Sunday before last to visit St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church in Decatur. St. Elias is an Antiochian Orthodox Church. It is housed in a beautiful structure that, aesthetically, turns one’s mind and heart to heaven. The congregation has been around for 60-70 years and is comprised chiefly of the descendants of Lebanese immigrants. The vast majority of the liturgy was done in English with a small number of chants in Arabic. The liturgy was about 1hr 40mins in duration and was infinitely more complex than the liturgy of the BCP or other sources that I have encountered.

Initial impressions: I wish the service had been more participatory. We, as a congregation, recited the Lord’s Prayer and the Nicene Creed during approx. 1hr and 40mins. I was given a neat little brochure authored by Frederica Mathewes-Green entitled, “12 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Visiting an Orthodox Church.” She indicated that the level of congregational participation in the liturgy (songs, prayers, etc.) varies from church to church. Also, it depends upon your level of exposure to the liturgy. So maybe I was just at a less-participatory church.

But, I digress. I told the girl that I talked with today that I was deeply impressed by the richness of the Orthodox tradition and its unabashed embrace of the 2000 year history of the Church. She agreed, mentioning that previously she barely knew anything about church history pre-Martin Luther.

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5 responses to “reflections on my visit to an orthodox church

  1. There are many things about Orthodoxy that are attractive. My own knowledge of that section of the church has grown in the last 3-4 years astronomically and I the richer for it.

    They have some interesting divisions among themselves that remind me that no group is without the stain of sectarianism. If you get a chance do a little reading on The Old Calendar Orthodox Church. Fascinating stuff.

    Read that after my book, 🙂 (that is a joke!)

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  2. Hi Bobby,

    I’ve been flirting with Orthodoxy since college and recently the flame has been re-ignited. One of the most daunting tasks that we face with our upcoming move is the task of finding a church in Nashville. Reading The Orthodox Way had me halfway daydreaming about visiting Orthodox churches in Nashville…

    Anyway, I read Kingdom Come a couple of weeks back and very much enjoyed it. I particularly benefited from your discussions of prayer and the Holy Spirit. Here’s to more of this sort of historiography among Churches of Christ!

    CRC

  3. Thank you for reading the book (Kingdom Come). I am also delighted to hear you were moved by the discussion on prayer and the Spirit. I think Harding (especially) was on target in these areas. We DO have a rich kingdom vein in the CofC . . . now we just need to tap back into it to help us find our way.

    I hope this is not too bold. But if you found the book helpful then recommend it to other people. I do not say that to make any money because I have not made a penny on the book (well I (same for John Mark) did get 10 free copies). Rather I think the story is worth knowing.

    Thanks and Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  4. Absolutely. I’ve already loaned it out one time to a preacher-friend of mine and I already have another loanee in mind.

    C.

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