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Author Topic: Military Man Drawn to Orthodoxy...  (Read 2688 times) Average Rating: 0
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alyosha
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« on: November 23, 2007, 12:46:16 PM »

I need alot of help here...

I always had a passing interest in Christianity and more specifically the Orthodox Church since I was I a teenager and since the early part of this year I've increasingly felt myself becoming powerfully drawn towards Christian Othodoxy.  I started experiencing these strong feelings after coming into contact with the works of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Kallistos Ware.  What stopped me from contacting my local Orthodox Church was partly the fact that I was moving away from that area but moreso I didn't want to rush into anything.  I wanted to make sure that this was a lasting passion for the faith instead of just the passing joy one typically experiences after coming in contact with something new.

After moving to a new area these feeling continued and have intensified in the past few weeks to the point where I barely even know what to do with myself.  Still, I'm going into the military (Army Infantry, well, Special Forces I hope) early next year and finishing college this December and it occured to me that perhaps this is all the excitement of moving far away and effectively begining a new life somewhere else - maybe this isn't all due to my encounter with Orthodoxy.  But then again is my apprehension a sign of an ignorance of my own thoughts, my own passions in life?  Or is this all evidence of how far I have strayed and how desperately I need spiritual direction?  I've had these feelings for almost a year now, doesn't that mean something?  Oh what a mystery this life is!

My real problem is that I want to approach my local Orthodox Church to see what the folks there think of my situation but what would they likely say to someone who is due to leave town forever in 3 months?  What is there for me to do?  I'm going to be active duty for the next 5 years of my life and probably wont be in one particular place in the world for any longer than 8 months at one time during that span.  I'm so frustrated that this all had to happen now, when my life is about to be turned upsidedown and changed forever.  But I'm so happy knowing that I might be closer to finding truth and love in this life.

Please, what should I do?
« Last Edit: November 23, 2007, 12:47:06 PM by alyosha » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2007, 01:49:54 PM »

Do approach your local church as soon as possible, listen to your feelings and thoughts and do so before you go away. You will need to get things clear before you embark on your military life. I have seen the complications this profession can bring on many levels, so you have to have strong reference points to get back to, in times of hardship and adversity. If people, things and places around you change, you must anchor yourself to what you know never changes and is always with you. A physical church may not always be close by, geographically speaking, but you can be a member of the Church, wherever you may find yourself during your service if you decide to take the step to join. The priest of your local church will be able to assess your particular circumstances and needs. If you decide to join the Orthodox Church, he  will help you figure out when, where and how.

Welcome!
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« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2007, 02:00:40 PM »

Dear Alyosha,

I agree with what Sophie said above. Absolutely, do contact your local church and do talk with this church's priest in detail. I am sure he will help you.

I know one young American (a 21-y.o., my former student - and, as I hope and pray, also my FUTURE again-student) who is in the US Army at the moment, on active duty in the Middle East (Kuwait and Iraq). She grew up Wesleyan Methodist (her parents are with a fringe, very right-wing ultraconservative Wesleyanist group in Michigan), but converted to Holy Orthodoxy and was baptized as Barbara in 2005. We exchange e-mails every now and then. AFAIK, she keeps in touch with her ROCOR parish and keeps living as a practicing Orthodox young woman.

With my all best wishes to you,

George
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Holy Father Patrick, thank you for your help!


« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2007, 02:42:16 PM »

But then again is my apprehension a sign of an ignorance of my own thoughts, my own passions in life?  Or is this all evidence of how far I have strayed and how desperately I need spiritual direction?  I've had these feelings for almost a year now, doesn't that mean something?  Oh what a mystery this life is!

Alyosha, we all need help...it's not just you! Without knowing you, we cannot give any definite answers for you yet regarding your excitement and apprehension. Probably there is a combination of all the things you've pointed out, and maybe a few more things.

For you, I think you need to speak to a priest in person, to work on these things.

My real problem is that I want to approach my local Orthodox Church to see what the folks there think of my situation but what would they likely say to someone who is due to leave town forever in 3 months?  What is there for me to do? 

What will they likely say to you? Probably 'hello'!  Wink

Just go ahead and speak to the priest. Believe me...he's probably come across folk like you before! But it's a start for you to begin answering this call that you know is there.

And what if you're leaving in 3 months? So what! Prove to me that Jesus Christ isn't going to arrive again in one month's time. The important thing is to live every day as if you will be meeting Christ that hour. You owe it to yourself and you owe it to Him to contact this local parish.


I'm going to be active duty for the next 5 years of my life and probably wont be in one particular place in the world for any longer than 8 months at one time during that span.  I'm so frustrated that this all had to happen now, when my life is about to be turned upsidedown and changed forever.  But I'm so happy knowing that I might be closer to finding truth and love in this life.

Please, what should I do?

Alyosha, this may surprise you, but...there are Orthodox chaplains in the military. In fact, the military, police, and fire departments love to have Orthodox chaplains because we can cut across many denominational lines. We will not offer a Mystery to a non-Orthodox person, but oftentimes we're listed as people acceptable to visit if one cannot find clergy of their 'own' church.

If you want to, please PM me and I will forward to you the contact number of a priest I know very well who is also a Chaplain in the US Army Reserve. Or, you and I can talk about your questions also.

The important thing for you is...you've come to the right place and the right people. We will do all we can to help you!

+Fr Chris
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« Reply #4 on: November 23, 2007, 02:47:15 PM »

As a retired Army service member I can advise you that  being Orthodox in the military can be both a blessing and a challenge. I converted through a local parish and not thru a military Orthodox chaplain's direction and found that to be the best way for me. That being said, there are many opportunities for you to continue your path in Orthodoxy in the military.  The Diocese or jurisdiction you will become a member of usually has a military committee that will provide you come support when  stationed away from an Orthodox Church (prayer books, supportive letters, sometimes even directions to the closest orthodox service). Likewise the Military Chaplain Corps is required to assist you in making contact with the Orthodox Church and pastoral care no matter where you are in the world. That may come by going to special Orthodox spiritual retreats offered around the world several times a year. These retreats offer the young orthodox military member a chance for confession, spiritual advice, and the sacraments as well as fellowship with other Orthodox Christians.

In many areas of the world, you may find that the closest Orthodox priest is a priest serving a traditionally Orthodox Contingency of soldiers (Greek Soldiers, Serbian Soldiers, Bulgarian Soldiers have come up in recent conversations with US Soldiers serving in the current "police Actions" in Iraq, Afganistan, and Eastern European areas.) These other countries often have full orthodox services available all be it in their own language, you would be surprised as to how many of the European soldiers speak some English.

Right now you key job would be to contact the local Orthodox Church, talk with the priest and seek to become a catacumen, if that is your wish. Once you are in the military you will be in training (BCT and Advanced) where I have always found access to Orthodoxy possible either in the community or on post. Get your  basic orientation and first year in locally and in the training camps (yes you will have Sundays open to go to Church).  Worry about the deepening  and living as an orthodox in the military as you go.  You might be surprised as to the number of active Orthodox Christians in the military serving as an Orthodox witness in the military.

Thomas
« Last Edit: November 23, 2007, 02:55:06 PM by Thomas » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: November 23, 2007, 02:56:03 PM »

Coming from a Protestant background, I was always used to the reactions you described, "Oh, you're moving? Okay, have a good life." This is not so with the Orthodox Church. I have found that when I am on vacation, I can look up a local Orthodox parish and they are likely not only to accept me as their own but also to know of, or perhaps know personally, my priest. It's a global Church, but it feels like a small community. No matter what parish I happen to be at that week, I feel like it's my home parish.

I would be very surprised if the parish near you does not welcome you simply because you will be moving. After all, most of us have family in other states, and we still think of them. It's the same with many parishes.

And what Fr. Chris and Thomas have said is very true--there are many Orthodox chaplains. There's one at Ft. Wood in Missouri, near where I live. I don't know where you'll be stationed, but the chances of the base's having an Orthodox priest are quite good. You won't be abandoned.
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« Reply #6 on: November 23, 2007, 10:57:20 PM »

Alyosha,
Welcome to the forum! I completely agree with comments above. As many people here, I belonged to several parishes due to my relocations. In my travels, I was accepted very well in Orthodox parishes in various states and countries. Some priests and parishioners knew that my plane takes off in a couple of days (or a couple of hours) and still dedicated their personal time in order to tell me, for example, the history of their parish. And I greatly appreciate that.
Also, you have done the great decision. You already discovered Orthodoxy.
May God bless your service and all your life!
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« Reply #7 on: November 24, 2007, 05:53:22 PM »

Thank you everyone for giving me a little push in what is hopefully the right direction. 

I think I'm going to go ahead and contact my local Orthodox Church.  It's a Greek Orthodox Church in Portland, Maine (Holy Trinity).  I'm a little anxious about going to see the priest; anxious because I'm a little shy as it is, but anxious as well because I'm not of Greek ancestry.  I hope this doesn't prevent my interest from getting taken seriously.  Some of the threads on these boards suggest that some Churches are less than welcoming to "outsiders" - I don't know what I would do if the same were to happen to me since there aren't exactly many options here in Maine, I mean, this particular Church is an hour a way and all.  Still, I recognize that such apprehension on the part of "craddle-born's" might just be thrown up to make sure that the interest of outsiders is genuine.  I think what I'm going to do is just walk-in one day unannounced.  Perhaps this will convey the sense of urgency I hope to get across.

Besides all of this I'm not really sure what I should be asking when I finally do go in to see the priest.  What are all of your experiences?  I know that there is so much for me to learn in my ignorance but I feel like the only thing I could do is describe to him what a deep sense of spiritual angst I'm feeling at this moment.  Of how terrified I am at not understanding my place in this life and yet how passionately I love life with every shred of my body and soul. 

How should I approach this?
« Last Edit: November 24, 2007, 06:09:16 PM by alyosha » Logged
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Holy Father Patrick, thank you for your help!


« Reply #8 on: November 24, 2007, 06:09:27 PM »

While that is one of the parishes I have never been to, we have a poster in this board (Simayan) who knows this parish quite well!

Please let us know what happens, and may the Lord guide your steps!
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« Reply #9 on: November 25, 2007, 06:20:58 PM »

I think I'm going to go ahead and contact my local Orthodox Church.  It's a Greek Orthodox Church in Portland, Maine (Holy Trinity).  I'm a little anxious about going to see the priest; anxious because I'm a little shy as it is, but anxious as well because I'm not of Greek ancestry.

Oh, don't be nervous! Father Constantine is a very laid back (and Americanized) person and will most certainly help you with anything you need. I would recommend contacting him, and he will probably have you baptized/chrismated more quickly than those who won't be shipped off for duty. In regards to what to ask him, I would recommend anything that you are unsure of. I had many 2-3 hour talks with him before I was baptized, so don't feel awkward about asking him too many questions.

I'm a member of this parish myself, as Fr. Chris said. I'm 17 now, plan on attending the Naval Academy, and converted when I was 15 from an Irish Catholic background, so in many ways I'm in a similar situation as yourself. However, I am positive you'll meet some wonderful people in what brief time you have there. Even if your time is limited in Portland, you will still belong to the greater Orthodox Church worldwide. Perhaps, even, you will return to Maine once the military career is done. Only God knows, but if you are serious about Orthodoxy, I would seriously consider attending a Liturgy one of these Sundays (they start at 10am).

If you would feel more comfortable talking to someone aside from Fr. Constantine first, I'm there every Sunday (except today; wisdom teeth extraction). I'm pretty hard to miss; look for the tall non-Greek kid standing at the front of the church chanting for the first ten minutes at the lectern.  Cheesy

Feel free to PM me if you want to discuss any of this in a more private setting.

-Will
« Last Edit: November 25, 2007, 06:26:54 PM by Simayan » Logged

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« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2007, 10:02:11 AM »

Thank you everyone - particularly Fr. Chris and Symeon - for the advice and encouragment you have given me here.  I think I am going to approach the Priest at this Church to see what he has to say about me and my search.

I'll be around so I'll be able to let you all know how it works out for me.

Take care
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« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2007, 10:17:29 AM »

I'm going to be active duty for the next 5 years of my life

May St. Barbara protect you.

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« Reply #12 on: November 27, 2007, 10:29:16 AM »

May St. Barbara protect you.



Personally, I've always preferred this depiction of her as the Patroness of Field Artillery.

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« Reply #13 on: November 27, 2007, 02:13:18 PM »

Just a quick note.  As a Protestant, I never learned about St. Barbara, but I did learn about her during Basic Training at the Field Artillery Training Center at Fort Still, Oklahoma.  And, it was in Baghdad, during my first deployment to Iraq that I started studying the Early Church.  Interesting how the military can help a person grow in the faith.

God bless!
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« Reply #14 on: November 27, 2007, 02:27:00 PM »

Just a quick note.  As a Protestant, I never learned about St. Barbara, but I did learn about her during Basic Training at the Field Artillery Training Center at Fort Still, Oklahoma.  And, it was in Baghdad, during my first deployment to Iraq that I started studying the Early Church.  Interesting how the military can help a person grow in the faith.

God bless!

You went to Ft. Sill for BCT, too?  Which battery?
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« Reply #15 on: November 27, 2007, 09:23:51 PM »

Thank you everyone for giving me a little push in what is hopefully the right direction. 

I think I'm going to go ahead and contact my local Orthodox Church.  It's a Greek Orthodox Church in Portland, Maine (Holy Trinity).  I'm a little anxious about going to see the priest; anxious because I'm a little shy as it is, but anxious as well because I'm not of Greek ancestry.  I hope this doesn't prevent my interest from getting taken seriously.  Some of the threads on these boards suggest that some Churches are less than welcoming to "outsiders" - I don't know what I would do if the same were to happen to me since there aren't exactly many options here in Maine, I mean, this particular Church is an hour a way and all.  Still, I recognize that such apprehension on the part of "craddle-born's" might just be thrown up to make sure that the interest of outsiders is genuine.  I think what I'm going to do is just walk-in one day unannounced.  Perhaps this will convey the sense of urgency I hope to get across.

Besides all of this I'm not really sure what I should be asking when I finally do go in to see the priest.  What are all of your experiences?  I know that there is so much for me to learn in my ignorance but I feel like the only thing I could do is describe to him what a deep sense of spiritual angst I'm feeling at this moment.  Of how terrified I am at not understanding my place in this life and yet how passionately I love life with every shred of my body and soul. 

How should I approach this?

Well, for one thing, I've been suprised by a number of Greek priests (pleasantly so, that is).  So you never know.

If you walk in unannounced (and that's OK, I'm shy myself.  Yes, I know that shocks some here), make sure you have a Divine Liturgy Book, it case the English is minimal, so you can follow along. It might give you an opportunity to scope out the place.  Tell us how it goes.
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« Reply #16 on: November 28, 2007, 04:10:52 PM »

Ah, don't worry about the English at Holy Trinity. It's about 75%, and the only Greek is simple responses like "Kyrie Eleison" or some special hymn pertaining to a feast. Divine Liturgy books are provided in the pews, so don't feel obligated to bring one.

But by all means, let us know how the meeting went.
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« Reply #17 on: November 29, 2007, 04:41:04 AM »

You went to Ft. Sill for BCT, too?  Which battery?
A Battery 1-40 FA.  Great times.  13F: Fire Support Specialist.

Back to the OP, the only Orthodox Church I have yet been to (in Savannah, GA) is St. Paul's Greek Orthodox Church.  Despite the Greek name, there are people from many different backgrounds.  The priest is Romanian, I believe.  Everyone was very welcoming and friendly.  I can't wait to go back as soon as my deployment is over.  I walked in not having a clue about Orthodox worship, but the people there were very helpful and didn't give me any weird looks.
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