Into Orthodoxy: Lessons Learned

photo copy 2During Great Lent, I ran a series of posts from guest bloggers asking to explain why they became Orthodox. The why is important. Most of us are very good at telling the story of how we converted, but I asked contributors to reflect upon the reasons behind that story. I have spent the past three weeks reflecting on the posts in the series. What I learned was different than what I expected.

I expected to see some trends. I thought some authors might have converted out of nostalgia; for them Orthodoxy is a refuge from modernity. I thought others might have converted because they sought liturgical authenticity, an experience of worship deeper and more profound than the grownup children’s church many evangelical congregations have become.

Wow! Now that I can see my hunches in print, they look really self-serving! One group just seeks the past, the other seeks to encounter Christ in worship. (Guess where I thought I fell.) But there is nothing inauthentic about finding in Orthodoxy a church with “historical memory,” as Fr. Lawrence Farley put it. Encountering deep roots is no less authentic than encountering Christ in a multifaceted liturgical experience. I guess moments like this is why we have the Jesus Prayer. Dear reader, I was arrogant. Please forgive me, a sinner!

Of course, there were as many reasons why people converted to Orthodoxy as there people who converted to Orthodoxy. Holly Algood connected the love of Christ to her love of her husband. Kevin Allen found himself inexplicably gripped by the portrait of a saint he did not know. “Mark Timson” didn’t want to be gay anymore. I became Orthodox, you could say, because God made it snow.

These differences only increase my appreciation for the Orthodox Church. I always like how how Metr. Kallistos (Ware) said that Orthodoxy resists an abundance of dogmas. We are a “bit tent,” which means we can accommodate a lot of internal diversity. I always think of this diversity in intellectual, academically theological terms. But “diversity” means people too. This series helped remind me that the arms of the church stretch themselves as wide as possible, to embrace as many as possible.

That is why I do not want this series to end. I received more submissions than I had time to post. I would like to keep receiving submissions and begin scheduling new posts at regular intervals. Since this is an “open call,” I need to outline a few basic guidelines:

  • Authors must be baptized Orthodox Christians
  • They must be active members of their church
  • No anonymous or pseudonymous submissions
  • Contributions must be approximately 500 words
  • Authors must submit a short, 1-3 sentence bio

If you would like to contribute to this series, please send me an email with the subject “Into Orthodoxy.”

Of course, not everyone who is born into the Orthodox Church or converts to the Orthodox Church stays in the Orthodox Church. I might like to run another series called “Out of Orthodoxy,” but that will have to come much, much later.

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