Read about the “Into Orthodoxy” series here.
By Fr. Lawrence Farley
In my journey home to Orthodoxy, I took the long way around. I was born into suburban respectability in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and therefore attended Protestant Sunday School like all the other respectable kids my age. Since Christian Faith in my home was more nominal than real, when Sunday School became boring (the ultimate indictment), I stopped attending and soon sunk into agnostic adolescent mediocrity. I didn’t give ultimate questions much thought; I was more interested in girls. (Sadly, they were little interested in me.) But around midway through my teenage years I thought that life must consist of something more than a meaningless dance of atoms, and so I went back to my United Church looking for answers. There I encountered a few people my age who introduced me to the Jesus Movement (it was 1970), and in the Jesus Movement I encountered the Lord Jesus. It was a very high-voltage part of the Jesus Movement, replete with speaking in tongues, prophesying, and effervescent evangelism, characterized by a direct experience of the overwhelming love of God and the power of the Spirit.
One thing that was missing, however, from my United Church, was any historical memory. The United Church of my upbringing was created in 1925 and my mom was created in 1921, and I intuited that one’s Church should at least be older than one’s mother. I began looking for a sense of history in my church experience, along with beauty in worship, and an affirmation of the realities I had experienced in the Jesus Movement. The liberal United Church could not supply these, so I started to look elsewhere. Being a Protestant, I of course did not fish outside the Protestant pool. I became an Anglican, and thereafter, an Anglican priest.
I had lousy timing. The Anglican Church of Canada was then energetically engaged in throwing overboard just those things in her theology and liturgy that I joined her to experience. For the longest time I tried to pretend that the Anglican church was not just another species of liberal Protestantism. But reality is a relentless thing, and eventually I had to admit that the Anglican Church I joined was largely like the United Church I left. So, where to go?
Then, providentially, I discovered Orthodoxy. I always considered the Fathers paradigmatic (which is why Roman Catholicism was never “on the table” for me). Too bad the Orthodox didn’t speak English. When I soon discovered that they did speak English, I was hooked. I found in Orthodoxy the convergence of the two things I had come to value above all in the Church: an experience of the Holy Spirit and of patristic continuity. Conversion for me meant coming home and resolving the tensions between the charismatic and the historical. In becoming Orthodox I was not conscious of renouncing any of the things I found precious in my past, but rather fulfilling them, and being able to enjoy them in their proper places. I am grateful to God both for all the places I have been, and for where I now am.
Archpriest Lawrence R. Farley, a former Anglican priest, is currently the pastor of St. Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church (OCA) in Langley, B.C., Canada. He has published a series of NT commentaries and other books with Conciliar Press, as well as a book on Feminism and Tradition with SVS Press. His regular column No Other Foundation appears on oca.org; his daily podcast the Coffee Cup Commentaries is available on Ancient Faith Radio.