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Chelsea
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« on: February 20, 2010, 02:35:48 PM »

Hello,
I have been reading your forum for awhile, but I have never posted before.  You seem like kind and well-informed people, so I would like some help on a topic if you don't mind.

I have been a practicing Protestant for many years now.  I have attended a number of churches.  I usually attend them for a period of time, become uncomfortable with them and move on.  A number of things have occurred in my life lately that have caused me to question some of my beliefs and the preachings of the churches I have attended.

I believe I am uncomfortable with the presumed (and preached) relationship to God.  I never like services where people have to get up and state "how God is working in your life", which I interpret to mean what God has done for me lately.  I have heard people pray for and praise God for a series of material things which I just don't think matter.  (Of course, they also pray for health and healing which matter very much.)  I am very uncomfortable admitting this, but I believe that I (and these churches) have the relationship wrong.  That we are placing ourselves at the center of the relationship, in the place where God belongs.  That He serves us, rather than us serving Him.  Among other problems, this leaves me with me with no words to pray.

I am trying to find a way to correct this.  I can't follow the pope, so that leads me here.  I have done a bit of research on the Orthodox church, but to be honest, your religion seems very complex and a little intimidating.  I would like some guidance in a few questions.  How do you see yourselves in relation to God?  How do you pray?  What do you think about asking God for things?  (I would rather not include immaterial things in my prayers.)

Finally, can you recommend some good reading material for a very uninformed potential convert? 

Thank you.
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« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2010, 03:39:56 PM »

Cheslea,

Welcome to the Forum!  I understand how you feel, as I was a Protestant as well.
Your feelings of uncomfortableness ( Huh) were shared by me.

I am glad to hear you are pursuing Orthodoxy.  Reading is a good.  Here are a couple of
book recommendations.   The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware the modern "classic."  It is
chock full of information, especially about history.   There are many personal reflections which
may be more interesting for you.  Not knowing your background well, let me suggest (anyway)
"Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells" by Matthew Galletin.  It's a lighter read and
easier to get to. 

Now for your questions . . .

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« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2010, 03:50:00 PM »

  I have done a bit of research on the Orthodox church, but to be honest, your religion seems very complex and a little intimidating.

That's because we are Westerners; it doesn't fit well in the instant world we live in -- but, as with many perserverence is rewarded.

Quote
  I would like some guidance in a few questions.  How do you see yourselves in relation to God?


We are in the healing process.  It's great to be in the church that leads us to salvation (the one established by Jesus himself), but submitting to God is process. 


Quote
  How do you pray?  What do you think about asking God for things?  (I would rather not include immaterial things in my prayers.)


We pray in lots of ways.  We are more into standardized corporate prayers than Protestants and even Catholics, but we pray individually as well.  We even has a prayer to pray "unceasingly" as Paul said.   We ask for things, but above that is that God's will be done.  Our desire's are not always God's desires.

I hope you will visit an Orthodox church and check it out.  The Orthodox Church is more into community than many Protestant churches.  You can't do Orthodoxy alone.   Another thing you can do is talk to a priest about your journey.  We aren't into the convert-now mentality, so you can take in it in small chunks. 
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« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2010, 11:03:40 PM »

Orthodox Christianity is very "see - do ". The Services themselves are meant to guide you.

So the best thing  is to show up, hang back, do what the folks around you are doing (with the exception of taking communion). Then go to coffee hour, eat , talk.. Go again next  week... repeat until done.     
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« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2010, 11:23:43 PM »

I also would recommend Matthew Gallatin's book.

As for being uncomfortable and feeling intimidated, please remember that if you are seeking Christ you need only come to him as a little child. Christians and Priests with a true Orthodox spirit will never disparage you for asking questions or mistakenly doing things the wrong way the first few times you visit an Orthodox Church. Just observe what others are doing, and follow them if you feel so led. It may be good to arrive a few minutes early and ask some questions about protocol.

To be sure, many things will seem strange at first. But as you gaze upon the Icons and meditate upon the Liturgy, you will see Christ preeminent in all things. Realize that the Orthodox Church is the true Christian's true home on this earth. So if you love Our Lord, I know that you will experience Him through Orthodoxy.

Sadly, not all Orthodox Churches have Priests and parishoners who are open and welcoming. But I think that is rare. If you do come across an unwelcoming Church, please don't give up on Orthodoxy. I'm sure many of us here can help you find a place where you will be fully welcomed and well catechized.

Peace to you in your journey!

Selam
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« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2010, 11:25:33 PM »

Hi and welcome! Smiley  Here is an OCnet thread with many book suggestions for you.

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,23820.0.html
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« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2010, 01:37:55 AM »

Welcome to the forum!
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« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2010, 08:47:49 AM »

Hello,
I have been reading your forum for awhile, but I have never posted before.  You seem like kind and well-informed people, so I would like some help on a topic if you don't mind.

I have been a practicing Protestant for many years now.  I have attended a number of churches.  I usually attend them for a period of time, become uncomfortable with them and move on.  A number of things have occurred in my life lately that have caused me to question some of my beliefs and the preachings of the churches I have attended.

I believe I am uncomfortable with the presumed (and preached) relationship to God.  I never like services where people have to get up and state "how God is working in your life", which I interpret to mean what God has done for me lately.  I have heard people pray for and praise God for a series of material things which I just don't think matter.  (Of course, they also pray for health and healing which matter very much.)  I am very uncomfortable admitting this, but I believe that I (and these churches) have the relationship wrong.  That we are placing ourselves at the center of the relationship, in the place where God belongs.  That He serves us, rather than us serving Him.  Among other problems, this leaves me with me with no words to pray.

Hi Chelsea,

I can relate to your feelings about the churches you have been going to. For many years my only exposure to Christianity was Catholicism and Evangelical Protestantism. Obviously there are many other forms of Christianity, but my exposure was limited. I was raised as a Roman Catholic, but as a young teenager I fell away from that. As an angsty kid I found many flaws in the Roman Catholic Church (some of which I stand by; others I have come to reconcile) and I didn’t want to be a part of it. On various occasions I went with friends to Pentecostal and Baptist services, and these disturbed me deeply. The theology was very juvenile, the worship was ‘hip’ (rock bands, kids dancing, people speaking in tongues, waving hands in the air, etc), and everyone creeped me out. I couldn’t relate to them at all. Their eyes would glaze over as they said, ‘have you found Jesus yet?’ with a smile that seemed so artificial. I have no doubt about the sincerity of their faith nor the purity of their hearts, but it was really not for me, at all.

In 2009 my Greek neighbours invited me to their midnight Easter service. When we arrived there were hundreds of Greeks everywhere – in the street, in the church yard, in the parking lot, packed in the church, etc. We waited for a long time for the service to begin. When we arrived the chanters had begun their hymns, and I felt that there was something profoundly ancient and spiritual about the music. It was captivating and awe inspiring unlike anything I had heard in a religious service before. The church blew me away as well – the interior was beautiful, more so than any other church I had ever seen. There were beautiful paintings of Jesus, Mary, the archangels, John the Baptist, and various saints and biblical scenes (such as the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, the Last Supper, the Nativity, etc) all around the walls. Finally the priest appeared, clad in beautiful vestments, waving an incense censor around and wafting frankincense smoke into the air. The service was incredible – the intensity of the chanting and the proclamation of the resurrection was uplifting like nothing I’d ever experienced before. It felt ancient, and reverent. I kept thinking, this is how people should worship. This is how it should be done. Not rock bands and happy-clappy hands-in-the-air stuff. Worship should be reverent and profound.

Orthodox Christianity is largely experiential. In the Divine Liturgy, all five senses are stimulated. You listen to the intense and beautiful chanting of the choir, you smell the incense, you touch and kiss the icons, taste the Eucharist, and look upon the beautiful icons which adorn the walls, the beautiful robes of the priest, and the other beautiful things which adorn the interior of an Orthodox church. It creates a very powerful atmosphere of worship, reverence and glory. Everything in an Orthodox Church is to passionately and reverently glorify God. It isn’t a form of worship which is centred around us – we don’t go there to give testimonies about the things God has done for us and share stories. We go there to worship and glorify Him and to beg for his mercy on us sinners, and to strengthen our communion with Him through the sacraments. Even an ordinary Sunday service is incredibly uplifting and moving.

Quote
I am trying to find a way to correct this.  I can't follow the pope, so that leads me here.  I have done a bit of research on the Orthodox church, but to be honest, your religion seems very complex and a little intimidating.

Yes, Orthodoxy is complex and intimidating. It is a very ancient tradition which has been preserved since Apostolic times. It isn’t simply a list of doctrines, nor is it a method of worship, or an organizational structure, but all of these things and so much more. Orthodoxy is a way of life. It is a full religious tradition with a rich heritage of scriptures, theological writings, philosophy, history, saints, architecture, a, ecclesiastical calendar, many complex ancient rituals, musical styles, artistic styles, and core theological beliefs which unite us in faith. Orthodoxy involves the veneration of all things Holy - not only the Trinity, but everything which points to the Trinity is respected for its role in leading us to Christ. The complexity of Orthodoxy quickly becomes natural and the intimidation doesn’t last long, and soon you feel yourself immersed in a rich tradition which satisfies every aspect of your spiritual life.

Quote
How do you see yourselves in relation to God?

In relation to God, I see myself as a sinner on a journey. I want to be like Jesus Christ – I really, really wish I could be as good as him. Unfortunately, I fail every day. I’m rude to my family, I’m insensitive to others, I drink too much and become aggressive and obnoxious, I break girls’ hearts, I fight with people, I give in to lust and have casual sex, I use drugs, I look at pornographic material, I lie, I’m judgemental, I’m cynical and unhelpful, etc. The list goes on. Nonetheless, despite how starkly it contradicts my character and lifestyle, I am deeply moved by the person of Jesus Christ, and the way he loved everyone unconditionally, and forgave and tolerated all, and courageously lived by the greatest moral principles known to us. Dostoevsky, a famous Russian author, once commented that despite how reluctant they may be to admit it, even atheists realise that there has never been a greater example of morality, love and kindness shown by a human being than in the example set by Jesus Christ. Intellectually and emotionally, this strikes a chord deep within me, and despite all my failures I am filled with longing to follow Christ’s example. Furthermore, I love God, and am filled with a deep desire to know him better, to follow his will and what he wants for me, even hough I fail so regularly.

Orthodoxy, I believe, helps me in my spiritual life of becoming a better person, getting to know God better, and achieving a greater level of spirituality. The more I become involved in Orthodoxy – that is, the more I pray, the more I go to church, the more I receive the sacraments, the more I read about Orthodox philosophy and theology, the more I participate in the fasts and Great Lent (which we are in now) – the closer I feel to God and the more inspired I become to increase my efforts to know God and to emulate Christ. The Liturgy uplifts me and always leaves me feeling more sanctified than before. The stories of the saints inspire me. The theological writings of the Church Fathers, such as St John Chrysostom, St Isaac of Syria, St Gregory of Palamas, St Gregory of Nazianzus, etc, help me to grow in spirit and in prayer. I can genuinely feel the positive affect that Orthodoxy has on my spiritual life, and I feel more at ease than I have for many years and I feel like I am (very) slowly becoming a better person.

If your question was regarding the Orthodox Church as a whole, rather than a question about our personal relationships with God, then I’ll try to present the Orthodox viewpoint as best as I can. Orthodox Christians believe that the Church is the Body of Christ, and the life of the Holy Spirit on earth. We view ourselves as being in a divinely gifted institution. The Church isn’t just the organisation of believers who gather to worship – it is the framework in which Christ and the Holy Spirit act on earth. Us Orthodox Christians commune with God sacramentally and participate in the life and actions of the Holy Spirit through our participation in the Church, which nourishes our spiritual lives. The richness, complexity and vastness of the Orthodox faith ensure that there is always something new to learn, something new to be inspired by, something else to bring us closer to God. We are all on spiritual journeys towards attaining union with God (in Orthodoxy we call this journey theosis), and participation in the richness of the Church assists us on that journey in so many ways.

Quote
How do you pray?

We pray in many ways. As a community assembled in a church, we pray through the various group worship services, such as Matins (morning prayers), Vespers (evening prayers), the Divine Liturgy (in which we partake in the sacrament of Eucharist, as well as praying to God to have mercy on us sinners), the Akathist (a long hymn service dedicated to the Trinity, a saint, the Mother of God, a holy event, etc) and others. Often these group worship services are conducted like a continual song – the priest chants something, and the choir and the people respond in chant/song. As I described before, the combination of music, images, taste, feel, and scent all combine to create an incredible uplifting atmosphere and a powerful spiritual experience.

Here are two examples of the kind of prayers we offer in the Divine Liturgy. The first is the Great Doxology, in which we praise and glorify the Trinity.

Quote
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace and good will among men.
We praise you, we bless you, we worship you, we glorify you,
we give thanks to you for your great glory.
O Lord, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty;
O Lord, the Only-Begotten Son, Jesus Christ; and O Holy Spirit.
O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
Who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us;
You who take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer;
You who sit at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.
For you alone are holy,
You alone are the Lord, O Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Every day will I bless you and I will praise you name forever and to ages of ages.
Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin.
Blessed art you, O Lord, the God of our fathers,
and praised and glorified is your name throughout all ages. Amen.
Let your mercy, O Lord, be upon us as we have placed our trust in you.
Blessed art you, O Lord, teach me your statutes.
Blessed art you, O Lord, teach me your statutes.
Blessed art you, O Lord, teach me your statutes.
Lord, you have been our refuge in generation and generation.
I said: O Lord, have mercy on me, heal my soul, for I have sinned against you.
O Lord, unto you have I fled for refuge, teach me to do your will, for your art my God;
For in you is the fountain of life, in your light shall we see light.
O continue your mercy unto them that know you.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.

In the Great Litany, we pray for peace and welfare of ourselves and the whole world, beseeching the Lord to have mercy upon us. Something I like to point out is how in Orthodox churches we pray for the government, regardless of whether we personally support them or not – not necessarily that God will preserve their authority, but that God will guide them and help them make the right choices for the country.

Quote
Deacon:In peace let us pray to the Lord.

People: Lord, have mercy.

Deacon: For the peace from on high and the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord.

People: Lord, have mercy.

Deacon: For peace of the whole world, for the stability of the holy churches of God, and for the unity of all, let us pray to the Lord.

People: Lord, have mercy.

Deacon: For this holy house and for those who enter it with faith, reverence, and fear of God, let us pray to the Lord.

People: Lord, have mercy.

Deacon: For our Archbishop (Name), our Bishop (Name), the honorable priests, the deaconate in the service of Christ, and all the clergy and people, let us pray to the Lord.

People: Lord, have mercy.

Deacon: For our country, for our monarch Queen Elizabeth, for our prime minister, and all those in civil authority, let us pray to the Lord.

People: Lord, have mercy.

Deacon: For this parish and city, for every city and country, and for the faithful who dwell therein, let us pray to the Lord.

People: Lord, have mercy.

Deacon: For favorable weather, an abundance of the fruits of the earth, and temperate seasons, let us pray to the Lord.

People: Lord, have mercy.

Deacon: For those who travel by land, sea, and by air, for the sick and the suffering, for those in captivity and for their salvation, let us pray to the Lord.

People: Lord, have mercy.

Deacon: For our deliverance from all affliction, wrath, danger, and distress, let us pray to the Lord.

People: Lord, have mercy.

Priest: Help us, save us, have mercy upon us, and protect us, O God, by Your grace.

People: Lord, have mercy.

Deacon: Remembering our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever virgin Mary, with all the saints, let us commit ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God.

People: To You, O Lord.


Individually, many Orthodox Christians try to pray daily at home. Praying in front of icons of Christ, the Saints, and the Virgin Mary is very common practice, but not mandatory. Some kneel, some stand, some prostrate (bow). Many read certain prayers from a prayer book along with psalms. In our private prayers we pray to the Holy Trinity, but we also ask the saints and the Mother of God to pray for us, just as we would ask a friend to pray for us. When I pray I stand before my icons with a candle lit in front of them and begin by saying the Jesus Prayer a number of times and performing prostrations. Then I read some psalms and perhaps a prayer from the vespers service, or St Symeon’s prayer. I then spend some time in a free-flowing dialogue in which I don’t follow any script or pre-written formula.

Orthodoxy also has a very rich tradition of meditative prayer known as hesychasm, which is Greek for ‘stillness’ or ‘quiet’. Hesychasm has its roots in the apostolic era, but was largely developed in the Byzantine period. It is a form of prayer which is based on Christ’s instruction to ‘go into your closet to pray,’ and involves cutting off the senses and retiring the mind inward, into the heart, to achieve experiential knowledge of God. Most hesychasts are monks who have committed their lives to this sort of prayer so that they can personally experience God through great hard work and discipline. However, many ordinary Orthodox lay people implement elements of this type of prayer, such as meditative repetition of the Jesus Prayer: ‘My Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, the sinner.’ Unfortunately I am not a good person to explain hesychasm as it is a very complex prayer tradition, and I am only new to Orthodoxy and have only started to scratch the surface of this very deep tradition.

Quote
What do you think about asking God for things?  (I would rather not include immaterial things in my prayers.)

I ask God for things such as guidance, strength in my faith, knowledge of him, the courage and ability to emulate Christ and the strength to be a better person. I also ask God for things such as the health and safety of my sister, who is very mentally ill, and the happiness of my friends and family. I ask God to protect those experiencing discrimination and persecution, and to protect the needy and the suffering. I do not ask God for a car, or a job promotion, or a parking space, or for the stock market to improve and the value of my shares to go up. Nor do I know of any Orthodox who does ask for such things.

Quote
Finally, can you recommend some good reading material for a very uninformed potential convert?

'The Orthodox Church' by Timothy Ware is an excellent introductory text to Orthodoxy.


I apologize for the exhaustive length of this reply, but hopefully it has been helpful.
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« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2010, 03:09:50 PM »

I would also recommend "The Orthodox Way," also by Kallistos Ware, in addition to (or perhaps even before) "The Orthodox Church."
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« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2010, 10:31:11 AM »

I really don't mean to disagree but an alternative pov came to my mind while reading this thread. Orthodoxy is not really complex and intimidating. Now one can go deeper and deeper, certainly, and there is always more - you could spend several lifetimes and never even scratch the surface.
But it is at the same time, at least in my experience, simple and experiential - and oddly enough, even practical.
I watch the children in my parish, even the tiny ones, venerating icons and being totally absorbed in the service,(if even for a little while), and I know that they, on some level, get it, in ways that I am too "grown-up" to know.
A friend of mine described it as being like Thanksgiving dinner - you use your grandmother's lace tablecloth and your mother's best china, but it's not really fussy or formal and everybody sits around the table for hours, telling the family stories.
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« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2010, 11:53:16 AM »

Hi Chelsea, and welcome to the forum!

I agree very strongly with you in that here, in the enlightened, civilized West we see a lot of this "God serves me" attitude.

As for complexity of the Orthodox faith and its ability to intimidate, - I agree with others who say, just begin to participate, and this feeling will go away. Although writings of Orthodox Fathers might be, indeed, difficult for us, modern people who are used to instant intellectual gratification of a "boom, it clicks!" kind, - it's not the body of their writings that draws most people to Orthodoxy. Rather, it is this unique sensation of the heaven being opened during the Divine Liturgy, and the changes inside you that occur when you live your life the Orthodox way.

May the Lord be with you.

George

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« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2010, 12:47:31 PM »

Welcome!

Just a small suggestion: we just read the Gospel of John (John 1:43-51) this Sunday:

"At that time, Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.”  Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, “We have found Him of Whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”...

I recommend you start looking for an Orthodox parish right away.  Go and see.  You will need a community to help you.  Orthodoxy is a tradition, but one handed down from person to person.  Ask God to show you the right person or persons to help you understand the books and receive the proper mindset to understand the Tradition.  The Tradition, without the help of the Holy Spirit, does not always 'make sense' to the fallen mind.  The help comes through others who bear the Spirit, until with their help, the Spirit comes to dwell within you.  Then you will also experience revelations so that you, in turn, can help others.

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« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2010, 12:17:40 AM »

I know how you feel.  I have a relative who does't even attend church, doesn't own a bible, ye she expects God to "improve her life".  we must praise him.  he created us, not the other way around, and should be treated as such.

I reccomend you read Dancing Alone (don't remember author, just google it, it'll come up) 

another good book is called "coming home", about a group of protestants coming to Orthodoxy.

finally, "The way of a pilgrim" is a great russian spiritual that sure has taught me ALOT!

welcome to the forum!
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« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2010, 12:35:02 AM »

I know how you feel.  I have a relative who does't even attend church, doesn't own a bible, ye she expects God to "improve her life".  we must praise him.  he created us, not the other way around, and should be treated as such.

I reccomend you read Dancing Alone (don't remember author, just google it, it'll come up) 

another good book is called "coming home", about a group of protestants coming to Orthodoxy.

finally, "The way of a pilgrim" is a great russian spiritual that sure has taught me ALOT!

welcome to the forum!

I would definitely recommend The Way of A Pilgrim. But I would stay away from Frank Schaeffer (Dancing Alone). He seems to be a very bitter man and not a good representative of Orthodoxy, IMHO.

Selam
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« Reply #14 on: February 25, 2010, 09:28:16 PM »

Hi Chelsea, welcome.  Our family was recently baptized into the Orthodox church (January) after a year of inquiring and being catechumens.  My husband and I had been Protestant for 23 and 40 years respectively -- and like you switched churches numerous times always looking for something but we didn't know what. The final straw as it were for my husband was singing a song in church telling God to "overflow Your river into my life."  Huh? We started looking into Orthodoxy and know we've "come home" as so many say.  We're living and worshiping the way God designed it for us.  

I also recommend the Gallatin book (our family read it out loud on a road trip one day). Another one is Thomas Howard's book Evangelical is Not Enough.  This book isn't often mentioned on "must read" lists regarding Orthodoxy, probably because Howard chose to become Roman Catholic after writing this book, but it really does a good job of showing why we need liturgical worship and how the evangelical church falls short in this.  (BTW, like you, we knew we couldn't get behind the papacy so knew to research Orthodoxy and not the RC church). 

May your journey be fruitful! 
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« Reply #15 on: February 28, 2010, 08:48:38 PM »

I would also recommend "The Orthodox Way," also by Kallistos Ware, in addition to (or perhaps even before) "The Orthodox Church."

+1  I would recommend "The Orthodox Way" before "The Orthodox Church" as well.  The Orthodox Way is actually what led me to Orthodoxy.  If I had started with The Orthodox Church I think I would have gotten lost in the history and given up.  Both are awesome books though and serve excellent, although different purposes.

Chelsea,
It would seem that my personal church history is similar to yours.  I will offer a bit of advice should you decide to visit an Orthodox church.  Commit to go multiple times and to different services.  When I finally made the decision to check it all out in person I decided that i would attend services for at least 2 months before I even thought about what I thought of it all.  The goal was just to experience and investigate as much of the church as I could whether or not I felt like I liked it.  I'm glad I did that.  The first service I went to I was so overwhelmed and frankly, uncomfortable, but that had everything to do with me and ultimately nothing to do with the church.  So I went to another service and to another and to another.  I had (and still have) a lot of layers of protestant prejudices to get through.  It is a process.  A rich and beautiful process.
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« Reply #16 on: March 01, 2010, 03:40:19 AM »

I would definitely recommend "Thirsting For God In A Land of Shallow Wells" first. It's a rather gentle introduction to Orthodoxy, free from the post-conversion bitterness that is sadly prevalent among these convert writers.

I'd also recommend, provided you have a somewhat thick skin, Clark Carlton's "The Way". That book really was the nail in the coffin, so to speak, for my Protestantism. But be warned, he is a little more heavy-handed than Gallatin.
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« Reply #17 on: March 01, 2010, 01:11:49 PM »

Beloved in the Lord,Chelsea

Welcome to the Convert Issues Forum! The purpose of the Convert issues forum is to provide a a place on the OC.Net where inquirers, catechumen, and newly converted may ask their questions about the Orthodox Faith in a safe and supportive forum without retribution or recrimination.  We seek to providedirect and simple answers with sources if possible are most helpful.The convert forum is not a place for combative debate or arguement but we hope will be a warm and safe place to get your questions answered.

Once again, Welcome to the Convert Issues Forum! 

In Christ,
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« Reply #18 on: March 01, 2010, 02:25:12 PM »

I would definitely recommend "Thirsting For God In A Land of Shallow Wells" first. It's a rather gentle introduction to Orthodoxy, free from the post-conversion bitterness that is sadly prevalent among these convert writers.

I'd also recommend, provided you have a somewhat thick skin, Clark Carlton's "The Way". That book really was the nail in the coffin, so to speak, for my Protestantism. But be warned, he is a little more heavy-handed than Gallatin.

Also, don't forget Orthodox Radio online. You can hear lectures by these guys and many more. I heard Mathew Galitan speak in person a few weeks ago. He is a very clear in his explanations. Sometimes it helps to listen to someone speak as well as to read.


The two best online radio web pages are :

www.ancientfaithradio.com

and

www.ourlifeinchrist.com

Ancient Faith Radio has all the great Orthodox writers and speakers. Our Life in Christ is presented by two converts and hits all of the hot topic issues for Protestants. They have a very conversational tone and the presentations are entertaining and informative.
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« Reply #19 on: March 02, 2010, 12:22:30 PM »

Thank you all for your posts.  I appreciate your taking the time to answer my questions.  I will order the books you've suggested.  The Orthodox radio sounds very interesting.  I'll give it a try.

A little more about my religious background:  I was baptized as an infant in some protestant church, not sure which one.  I attended church as a child, then my family moved and we stopped going to church as a family.  Beginning when I was 8, I walked up the street and attended the local Sunday school by myself.  (Taught by a wonderful and very kind Christian woman.)  As an adult, I attended church with some friends.  It was very loud and very active.  The services included the congregation speaking in tongues.  I attended classes there and the pastor was very concerned when I couldn't speak in tongues myself.  I moved on and and attended a variety of protestant churches.  Now I'm back to my original post about being uncomfortable with the way our relationship to God is portrayed in these churches. 

I never intellectually believed that this was the right way to worship God, and I really didn't like people asking for stuff and thanking God for giving them all these things.  (Material things, as well as spouses and just everyday activities.)  But I heard it often enough. 

I've had some fairly difficult things happen in my life and after one particular series of events, I was furious with God.  I can't tell you how ashamed of myself I am for this.  This is the worst thing I've ever done.  I know I can't blame Him for these things, but after years of hearing people thank God for giving them computers and cars and blessing them with wonderful spouses and good fortune and on and on, I just broke.  So here I am looking for a better way to worship, and a better way to understand our proper relationship to God.

When I said your services look intimidating, that's because they're very structured and very different from what I've experienced.  It seems to me like this is a more appropriate way to worship than what I've seen.  But I would like to do a little reading on this before I go to church.  I don't want to show up and look like a fool.  I noticed that there aren't many Orthodox churches around, but we do have a few in my area.  I'm sure I'll post again later asking about the differences between them because they have different names.  Greek, Russian, some are named for saints.

Feanor - thank you for your story, the prayers and your explanation of services.  Your story sounds very much like the path I'm on.

Thank you again.


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« Reply #20 on: March 02, 2010, 03:19:03 PM »

I noticed that there aren't many Orthodox churches around, but we do have a few in my area.  I'm sure I'll post again later asking about the differences between them because they have different names.  Greek, Russian, some are named for saints.

Every Church is named after the one of the Persons of Holy Trinity (although I haven't heard about a Church dedicated to God the Father), Theotokos, Saints, feasts of icons of Theotokos. Each of the Saint, feast, icon of Theotokos has special place in the liturgical calendar and on that day there is a Parish feast.

There are about 13 different Orthodox jurisdictions in America which are from different ethnic backgrounds, can have different history and are governed separately. On the other hand they all share faith and are parts of the same Church. If you see a Church that has 'Russian' in her name the parishioners can be really Russians and services can be in Church=Slavonic, but it is also likely that a Priest is Greek, parishioners are Serbs, Arabs and converts and services are served in English. Come and see.
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« Reply #21 on: March 02, 2010, 03:40:48 PM »

I noticed that there aren't many Orthodox churches around, but we do have a few in my area.  I'm sure I'll post again later asking about the differences between them because they have different names.  Greek, Russian, some are named for saints.

Every Church is named after the one of the Persons of Holy Trinity (although I haven't heard about a Church dedicated to God the Father), Theotokos, Saints, feasts of icons of Theotokos. Each of the Saint, feast, icon of Theotokos has special place in the liturgical calendar and on that day there is a Parish feast.

There are about 13 different Orthodox jurisdictions in America which are from different ethnic backgrounds, can have different history and are governed separately. On the other hand they all share faith and are parts of the same Church. If you see a Church that has 'Russian' in her name the parishioners can be really Russians and services can be in Church=Slavonic, but it is also likely that a Priest is Greek, parishioners are Serbs, Arabs and converts and services are served in English. Come and see.

Mike,

I would just like to say that I am consistently impressed with your knowledge of Orthodoxy in America. Your accuracy and breadth of knowledge for the Church here in the US is really quite astonishing, considering you're nowhere near our borders. Wink

Good job, and thanks! Smiley
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« Reply #22 on: March 02, 2010, 04:36:12 PM »

 Cool
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« Reply #23 on: March 02, 2010, 04:43:41 PM »

Besides seconding the opinion on Mike, who manages to take the pulse of the whole Orthodox world from Poland, I'd say welcome Chelsea and ask "Where are you?"

If you need to find a parish:
http://orthodoxyinamerica.org/
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« Reply #24 on: March 02, 2010, 04:49:32 PM »

If you see a Church that has 'Russian' in her name the parishioners can be really Russians and services can be in Church=Slavonic, but it is also likely that a Priest is Greek, parishioners are Serbs, Arabs and converts and services are served in English. Come and see.

That's an excellent point. I am a living witness of this. My wife and I are Ukrainians. Our parish is, formally speaking, Greek (belongs to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in the USA), but there are non-Greeks among the parishioners (including people of Slavic origin and also some people of Anglo-Saxon origin who are married to Greeks). The language of all services is English, with just a few Greek hymns and liturgical exclamations occasionally inserted into the service. The priest is not Greek (Irish!), but, having graduated from the Greek Orthodox seminary, he speaks very good fluent Greek, - while some younger parishioners, who ARE ethnic Greeks, do NOT! Smiley

My wife and I never felt like "foreigners" at our parish. I hope and pray that you will find a parish close to you that will welcome you. Most importantly, no matter what are some local peculiar features of the parish, the faith is still the same, Orthodox, whether the parish is Greek, Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Antiochian, OCA or other.

One note of caution though: make sure that the parish you visit is really Orthodox (that is, in communion with other Orthodox jurisdictions). There are some parishes that like to call themselves something like "Orthodox Catholic," or "Byzantine Catholic Orthodox," etc., but they are not in communion with the Orthodox Church because they are, essentially, Eastern Rite Catholics rather than Orthodox. Maybe ask the priest, when you visit, who is his bishop, and do some research on this bishop and his jurisdiction.
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« Reply #25 on: March 03, 2010, 12:33:13 AM »

Welcome Chelsea.   Indeed, uncovering the "Holy clutter" in our attic may seem complicated, because there is so much.   When the treasure is buried deep, yet every shovel-full reveals treasure, though, the process is rewarding as is goes along.  Welcome aboard! 
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