My parents divorced when I was about 2, so I had two spiritual upbringings thereafter. I grew up church hopping various AG/Pentecostal/Charismatic churches with my mom, in the Shaker
/Pentecostal churches(read American Indian Shaker, not the furniture Shaker) off and on with my biological father and grandmother. My father practiced transcendental meditation for awhile. The Shaker church is kind of a non-church church, so it is sort of anything goes. He was a man of faith and spirituality. But he destroyed the left side of his brain as a teen and lost all impulse/emotional control, so he was like my mother in that he skipped from faith to faith. His leaps were seemingly larger at the time. Only later did I realize that the leaps my mother made were much larger. She once told me that I can "honor" her white/christian cultural heritage with my kids by participating in Passover, she isn't Jewish and NEVER has taken part in a single Passover. She gave me a VERY Jewish first name, that his her only connection to Judaism. She is convinced she is a crypto-Jew, but there is no immigration that could account for that. I think we attended a Mormon temple for awhile, a JW temple for awhile and attended innumerable "home groups" and such. She desires a faith/religion in which she is the authority, so whenever she didn't have a personal line to the pastor we changed churches.
My husband and I followed her leaps the first two years of dating because we had to. After that we attended a mega church in Salem, OR (that later made headlines for having an attendee set on fire during a service). The ran a contemporary Christian concert series called "Jesus Northwest." We moved to Seattle the year after we married and tried to find a church fit via asking for doctrinal statements. My husband started reading about Orthodoxy after reading a book by a local Catholic writer. I was unwilling to be anything other then protestant at the time. We found Mars Hill when it was a tiny congregation renting a space in the evenings at a larger church. We became involved in the worships teams (I playes bass/sang and my husband played guitar) and volunteered whenever we could. We taught a class on Francis Schaeffer's "How then shall we live?" The book really glosses over Orthodoxy, so we had the class attend a divine liturgy with us to see what they type of worship was like. When my husband and I attended for the first time we were transfixed, it was so beautiful. At the time MH tried very much to be liturgical like. The services were candlelit and there was always incense. After we had our eldest child we quit being as involved because my husband was working two jobs and we didn't have a car. To continue to be as involved as we had been would have been a disaster for our marriage.
My husband joined the military and was deployed for a over a year. I had little assistance from MH during that time since either people thought we should be HAPPY that he is serving his country, or they labeled us conservative baby killing warmongers. I had an early 2nd trimester loss of twins while he was in basic and an early 1st trimester loss while he was in AIT, that really shook my faith to the core. Since MH held to the "imputation of adam's sin" they were not of much comfort- the babies are burning in hell according to them. When he returned he had pretty severe PTSD. He started to see a counselor who suggested that he try meditation. He was unwilling to do any meditation that would be outside of the Christian faith. He remembered his interest in Orthodoxy, particularly contemplative prayer and started researching it. We were still attending Mars Hill, but they had become a bit of a monster. We were getting monthly reminders to tithe and constant harassment to volunteer time and talent. I was unwilling to leave Mars Hill because we had two children and I didn't want them to grow up hopping from church to church like I did. My husband couldn't attend because of his work schedule.
The contemplative prayer helped him tremendously. Soon my husband was grabbing every Orthodox book he could find, starting with the Philokalia compilations. I started to be interested in Orthodoxy at this point simply because of the peace it brought my husband. We hoped to bring some of this to Mars Hill so that we could have the "best" of both worlds. Our third child was born and some family tension erupted with my older brother. He also attended Mars Hill and we were seeking help from the church because he was telling everyone how we were abusing him (not the issue of tension, just a side effect). During that time we helped a woman at MH that was having domestic violence issues and saw how that was handled (BADLY).
The church had a bb much like this one. On it there were many theological debates. I participated a great deal in them. A certain topic came up that was the last straw. MH is a very sola scriptura kind of church. Everything has to come from the bible and no where else. The debate started as a discussion on the ethics of egg/sperm donation, which turned into a debate about abortion and sanctity of life. Someone asked what specific scriptures address abortion particularly. I quoted Fr. Thomas Hopko and linked to an article by him. I pointed out that we can't rely only on scripture and that church tradition is vital in this area. An elder's wife became very offended that I would say that scripture is not enough. She brought her husband into the debate. He locked the thread, called me a heretic and accused me of promoting abortion because I quoted a passage in the Old testament (can't recall it at the moment) that spoke of "bitter waters" that obviously induced a miscarriage. I was saying that this passage has been used in the past by many pro-choice people to say abortion is OK. I pm-ed that elder and asked to clarify my position rather then keep the public declaration that I was a heretic up. He refused and said I had to submit to his spiritual authority, it didn't matter what I meant, it mattered what he thought of what I said.
After much thought and prayer my husband and I realized that MH was really our last gasp at Protestant Christianity. Neither of us could see attending another protestant church in Seattle (the ones we could agree with doctrinally were daughter churches of MH, and the ones that weren't were really liberal). I told my husband that he needed to take the next Sunday off and that we would attend a liturgy with the three kids and I. I was terrified of changing to Orthodoxy. I knew I would be on my own with our children each Sunday at liturgy. I had seen a liturgy, I didn't know how I could so it with a 3 month old, 2 year old and 6 year old alone. My husband could attend Vespers with us, but Sundays I was on my own.
We attended our first liturgy at St. Paul the first Sunday in October 2007 and our first inquirers class the following Monday. We were welcomed with open arms. Two weeks later we were notified that my husband was mobilizing for Iraq (which later was switched to Afghanistan). Our plans were further complicated when my husband herniated a disc in a car accident at work just a week later. This turned out to be a slight blessing in that it allowed my husband to have Sundays off while he worked alternative work duty during recovery. We informed Fr. James that we were still very much interested in Orthodoxy, but that my husband would be leaving by July for deployment. He spoke to us later and said that he wanted to bring us into the Orthodox church Lazarus Saturday so that we would be Orthodox before the deployment. We offered to wait, but he said that waiting during all the stress of deployment would be very difficult and that being Orthodox would help and that the parish would better be able to help as well.
We are quite happy to be in the Orthodox church. We know it was a real blessing/gift to be brought in so quickly. We were, to quote our priest "a special case." We knew a little about Orthodoxy before we even attended St. Paul, but I don't think one can know much in a lifetime. We have found that Orthodoxy is really a continuation of many beliefs/views we have always had as American Indians (and had to really struggle with in Protestant churches). So we may not have been cradle Orthodox, but i think the seed was always there waiting to germinate.