Presbyterian > Catholicism > Coptic Orthodoxy
An extremely unlikely road, but here I am...still couldn't tell you precisely how, but I do know why: The deeper I looked into older expressions of Christianity that I could find around me (Benedictine monasticism, Byzantine Catholicism), the more it reminded me of my brief experiences with the OCA. I was never interested in becoming a member or anything (just visited occasionally for vespers, festivals, etc.), but it did seem a lot more serious and committed than the N.O. masses I had to attend, with their guitars and jazz drumming and all that.
I still didn't feel as though the Slavic/Greek Orthodoxy I had visited was for me, though. It was beautiful, sure, but I didn't feel it internally, you know? And I had (increasingly) told myself that I wouldn't leave Catholicism for pretty things, only for substantial things (since I felt that there was a depth missing to every form of Catholicism I had encountered, even as some were quite beautiful and reverent). So without anywhere else to go, I just sort of hung out for a while in this weird nexus between old Roman (Mozarabic chant, Templar chant...anything I could find that wasn't Catholicism as I had known it) and Byzantine practices, never really feeling comfortable with it. Honestly I figured I'd probably end up going to the OCA even though I didn't really want to, just because there wasn't anything else in my area. Maybe I'd grow to love it and connect with it in time.
And then I stumbled upon a subtitled sermon of HH Pope Shenouda III, in a search for more Christian materials in Arabic (I was taking Arabic classes at the University of Oregon at the time, and they wanted us to learn about the family of Muhammad and junk like that; I learned Byzantine hymns by Fairuz instead, but didn't know what else was out there). It blew me away. This
was (is!) the faith that I wanted but didn't have. After looking for more and more material by HH (and finding some very poorly translated pamphlets), I somehow heard about the Desert Fathers. I knew some Eastern saints already (Russians and a few Syrians like St. Ephrem), but had only previously studied them from a RC perspective via my old FoC, who was a Dominican who had gone through seminary with a Chaldean (Assyrian Catholic) priest in San Diego. But reading the Desert Fathers was something else. I expected to be alienated by their "foreignness" and asceticism (RCs don't fast, you see), but instead found exactly the opposite: Their words spoke to me in a very real, immediate and relevant way, and my copy of Benedicta Ward's translation of their sayings is probably the one non-Biblical book I read the most, aside from the Agpeya. It's incredible.
After that I realized I had to find a Coptic church FAST (I know the Desert Fathers were not only Egyptians, but obviously Christian monasticism spread from Egypt outward, so I figured I should go where they are), but there wasn't one anywhere around me. So I think it was a bit of divine providence that within a year I had moved to Albuquerque, NM, which is not only a desert environment (you must be very careful what you wish for, I suppose) but is home to a small Coptic community of about 40 people, including not only Egyptians but also Ethiopians, and recently Sudanese and even one other white person. They worship in a private home, which gives it a real communal feeling. People have begun to absentmindedly address me in Egyptian Arabic now, and I've only been attending for about 4 months...though they always seem to remember to switch to English to harangue me about getting baptized.
I guess that's how you know you're home, right? When grandma is asking you when you're going to get serious and take the plunge? It sure feels oddly familiar to me.