Sunday, December 30, 2007

Orthodoxy in North Carolina

Our holiday in the Carolina's is nearly up, we return tomorrow. Friday evening we had Internet access again but did not have a chance to post anything here.
It seems that while I have been away the post asking why are you not Orthodox over at Conversi ad Dominum grew to 43 comments. When I posted my response over at Fr. Fenton's blog I was not thinking that the Sunday after Christmas I'd be attending an Orthodox church, but that is what did occur.

When ever we have visited Kate's family here in N.C. we as often as not go to the Covenant Church in town Trinity Evangelical Covenant Church on our way to Trinity though we always would pass Dormition of the Theotokos, Greek Orthodox Church. Each time we have passed we have said we should go there some Sunday we are in town. And today we did.

I think the last time I worshiped at an Orthodox Church was at Easter while I was still in Seminary. A group of us from the seminary worshiped at the Easter Vigil one Easter at an Orthodox church just down the street from North Park University. We arrived about 5 minutes early and only a few people were there (much like what you find at Reconciler) We were quietly welcomed as we entered. As we sat down and were looking through the bulletin and the books in the pew rack, one of the cantors came up to us greeted us and directed us to use the hymnal/prayer book that had both Greek and English. It appears this book was edited by the choir director of the Dormition of the Theotokos, and it made the service much easier to follow for me. It also helped that the service was in both English and Greek (I believe that for the most part if something was sung or said in Greek it was repeated in English, and some portions of the liturgy were only in English).

I have always found that the Orthodox liturgy lead me into the presence of God with all its beauty and hymns, but that experiences was strengthened as I could follow the service and sing with the choir (even in Greek, the Greek was transliterated phonetically so that English speakers could sing the Greek).

In relation to the conversation over at Fr. Fenton's blog and my comment on that post, the significant thing of worshiping today at the Dormition of the Theotokos was that it was the first time I worshiped in an Orthodox church not as a Protestant. I mean by that I had no running Protestant commentary. No voice saying we should do this or that in our services. No voice objecting to this or that practice, or to the preaching etc. I simply worshiped and let myself be drawn into and rest in the presence of God by the liturgy in its entirety including the architecture. For the first time the Iconostasis was not something that stood in the way but was itself a means to worship. The priest never seemed distant or hidden, only leading us in our worship of God in which I felt connected with all those who were there. I left in a sort of quiet ecstasy.

In light of revisiting the question of "why I am not Orthodox?" it was most significant that the Protestant voices were entirely absent as I worshiped today. I have been certain that if I was to become Orthodox or Roman Catholic that that Protestant voice and attitudes would need to be gone first. I realized today that I also worshiped at a Roman Catholic liturgy recently when Reconciler went on its retreat at a Catholic retreat center in Chicago and worshiped with the sisters at their Saturday Liturgy, I too then had none of the Protestant voices only felt drawn into the presence of God and worshiped. It was also a very moving liturgy for me that day. So, I am not sure what that means to related and similar experiences one in a Roman Catholic liturgy and the the other in an Orthodox liturgy both within the month of December. It seems significant but not sure the nature of the significance.