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Author Topic: Investigating Orthodox christianity - where to start?  (Read 1358 times) Average Rating: 0
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Deborah
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« on: March 11, 2012, 01:06:46 AM »

Hello,

My name is Deborah and I've recently joined the forum.  I'm interested in finding out more about Orthodoxy, with a view to converting in the future if what it claims (being the one true holy, catholic, apostolic church founded by Jesus) is true. 

From browsing forum posts, I've gathered that the best way to learn about Orthodoxy is to hear it expounded  in the liturgy and talk to a priest.  However, present circumstances make it very difficult to get to an Orthodox church.  My job involves working every weekend, at a time which clashes with the services of most churches (I rarely make it to a service at my existing church because of this).  The closest Orthodox church is an Indian Orthodox Church 1 1/2 hours' drive away, and the next nearest is nearly 3 hours' drive - distances I cannot afford to travel at this time.

What is the best way to proceed, in lieu of not being able to get to an Orthodox church?  I've got a copy of  "Way of the Pilgrim" from the library.  Is there any other reading material, writings of early church fathers, that you would recommend?  Thanks.

Deborah
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« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2012, 02:53:36 AM »

The "Way of the Pilgrim" is not really a good introduction to the Orthodox Church. That's not a negative about the book, that just not even close to what it was written for.

"The Orthodox Church" by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware (usually published under his pre-monastic name of Timothy Ware) is generally considered a good introductory text for individuals from a Western background. His follow-up "The Orthodox Way" is also good for going a bit deeper into the actual theology and doctrine.

After that, what books or early fathers I'd recommend depend partially on your background--what might be most helpful is going to vary depending on what you already know and what areas you are most interested in/concerned about. For example, if you are coming from an evangelical/fundamentalist background, the letters of St. Ignatius are an important early witness to the Church's Apostolic structure, but if you are coming from a more high church background there might not be anything in them you don't already know, and if you are coming from a totally non-Christian background they may be covering issues that aren't even in your top 20 concerns (not that St. Ignatius' letters aren't good reading for anybody, they are just *more* useful to some than others).

If you are a big reader, 'The Brothers Karamazov' by Fyodor Dostoyevsky is actually one of best introductions to Orthodoxy ever written--but again, not everybody is up for plus-size Russian novels.
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« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2012, 03:05:31 AM »

This series of books, http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith , which are commonly referred to as the Rainbow Series, by Fr. Thomas Hopko, are a quite good introduction.  Then I would echo the idea to pick up a copy of The Orthodox Way and The Orthodox Church.

Is there any particular issue or subject you feel you might like more information on?
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« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2012, 03:12:02 AM »

The closest Orthodox church is an Indian Orthodox Church 1 1/2 hours' drive away, and the next nearest is nearly 3 hours' drive - distances I cannot afford to travel at this time.
Did you try this site for a closer one?

http://orthodoxyinamerica.org/lr_v10/locator.php

you have to uncheck all the boxes on the side, then re-check them all, to make sure that it works when you search.
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« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2012, 03:58:22 AM »

She's in New Zealand. I wonder if Fr. Ambrose can help her?
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« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2012, 04:14:30 AM »

I am in a similar situation the nearest church which is orthodox for me is an hour and half or so by train and walking to it. Ultimately the best thing you can do is just attempt to make the trip, not every sunday but when you can.

As for where you could start. I would reccomend the epistles of St Ignatius, they will shock you if you don't know anything about early Christianity.
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« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2012, 10:55:12 AM »

This series of books, http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith , which are commonly referred to as the Rainbow Series, by Fr. Thomas Hopko, are a quite good introduction.  Then I would echo the idea to pick up a copy of The Orthodox Way and The Orthodox Church.

Is there any particular issue or subject you feel you might like more information on?

She's from NZ.  I don't think the overly biased "rainbow sereies" would fit her culture since she's not so concerned with how the OCA is the church of america.
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« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2012, 12:29:58 PM »

i would suggest the book 'salvation in the orthodox concept' by pope (=patriarch) shenouda of thecoptic orthodox church. it is an oriental orthodox book, but fits also with the eastern orthodox theology (they are very close).
a summary of this can be found here:
http://www.suscopts.org/stgeorgetampa/salvation_in_the_orthodox_1.html

if u can afford it, u can get this on order from most Christian bookshops. just give them the ISBN number and ask them to get if for u. it is written by eastern orthodox scholars, but is being widely used now in the oriental orthodox churches as well, as it is so good, and explains things very well.
in fact, if u r only able to read one orthodox publication in yr life, this should be it.
u have the Holy Bible (new king james new testament and new translation from the greek septuagint of the old testament), plus excellent Bible reading notes (not too much for a beginner and just enough for a scholar to be able to start from before reading more widely).
plus there are several articles scattered throughout the text dealing with sin, baptism etc. and articles at the beginning and end to explain things about the orthodox church and a Bible reading guide for every day.
if that's not enough, there are pretty pictures too! (pictures of icons)
http://orthodoxstudybible.com/

also this great website is a good place to learn:
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum
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just ignore those who think that only they and a small handful of others are going to heaven (they exist in all churches) and those who think u can be orthodox Christian, buddist and muslim all at the same time (the other extreme).
God bless u
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« Reply #8 on: March 11, 2012, 12:57:57 PM »

I would add the Didache and either the Didascalia Apostolorum or Apostolic Constitutions to the list. That's what I started with.

Welcome to the forum.
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« Reply #9 on: March 11, 2012, 01:46:47 PM »

I would add the Didache and either the Didascalia Apostolorum or Apostolic Constitutions to the list. That's what I started with.

Welcome to the forum.

That's a good way to start off- the Apostolic Constitutions were my starting point (though I wouldn't recommend following where I went from there- it was a very circuitous route full of danger and pitfalls) and the Didache is where I ended up. Instead, let's see, non-denom currently attending a Presbyterian Church.... the homilies of St John Chrysostom, Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History and I'll second Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware)'s The Orthodox Church.
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« Reply #10 on: March 11, 2012, 02:53:45 PM »

What do you all think of Orthodoxsermons.org ?

My first real exposure other than reading. Many of the sermons have actually been very significant in my own personal growth, as well as insightful to my understanding Orthodoxy. 
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« Reply #11 on: March 11, 2012, 03:26:42 PM »

Welcome to the forum, Deborah!

FWIW, Way of the Pilgrim was my first Orthodox book and my introduction to the Church. I suggest that you prayerfully continue to read it. Another book that served as a helpful introductory book for me was The Mountain of Silence, by Kyriacos C. Markides. It's more of a travelogue and narrative, but helpful in understanding the ethos and spirituality of the Church. If you're looking for a dogmatic understanding of the faith, I recommend either The Orthodox Way, by Bishop Kallistos Ware, or Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, by Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky. The Orthodox Church, which has been suggested already, is a good and easy-to-read primer on the Church's history.

Best of luck, and may God guide you!
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« Reply #12 on: March 11, 2012, 07:08:04 PM »

Hello,

My name is Deborah and I've recently joined the forum.  I'm interested in finding out more about Orthodoxy, with a view to converting in the future if what it claims (being the one true holy, catholic, apostolic church founded by Jesus) is true. 

From browsing forum posts, I've gathered that the best way to learn about Orthodoxy is to hear it expounded  in the liturgy and talk to a priest.  However, present circumstances make it very difficult to get to an Orthodox church.  My job involves working every weekend, at a time which clashes with the services of most churches (I rarely make it to a service at my existing church because of this).  The closest Orthodox church is an Indian Orthodox Church 1 1/2 hours' drive away, and the next nearest is nearly 3 hours' drive - distances I cannot afford to travel at this time.

What is the best way to proceed, in lieu of not being able to get to an Orthodox church?  I've got a copy of  "Way of the Pilgrim" from the library.  Is there any other reading material, writings of early church fathers, that you would recommend?  Thanks.

Deborah
There is an easy to read Penguin "Early Christian Writings" which is good for what you are looking for.
http://books.google.com/books?id=hh5U4Bfl3owC&printsec=frontcover&dq=early+christian+writings+penguin+classics&hl=en&sa=X&ei=sh5dT7HbB4Lf0QGk1sW5Dw&ved=0CDQQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=early%20christian%20writings%20penguin%20classics&f=false

The Orthodox Way and Orthodox Dogmatic Theology are two very different books.  The Orthodox Way is much easier for a newcomer.
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« Reply #13 on: March 11, 2012, 07:08:04 PM »

This series of books, http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith , which are commonly referred to as the Rainbow Series, by Fr. Thomas Hopko, are a quite good introduction.  Then I would echo the idea to pick up a copy of The Orthodox Way and The Orthodox Church.

Is there any particular issue or subject you feel you might like more information on?

She's from NZ.  I don't think the overly biased "rainbow sereies" would fit her culture since she's not so concerned with how the OCA is the church of america.

It is really "overly biased."  The liturgical traditions he mentions are certainly attuned to the OCA, but are you going to tell me that the spiritual life volume is "overly biased," as though it is only the OCA that is concerned with having a spiritual life?  Or how about the volume on doctrine?  Do doctrines change between jurisdictions, in Orthodoxy?  Perhaps the volume on the Bible?  The only volume that could possibly be considered "overly biased" is that on worship, and I think it is still worth a read.
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« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2012, 06:33:03 AM »

Hi witega, JamesRottnek, NicholasMyra, Αριστοκλής , Nicene, username!, mabsoota, Maximum Bob, FormerReformer, alanscott, stavros_388, ialmisry, nice to meet you all and thanks for the welcome and reading recommendations. Smiley

The Way of a Pilgrim and a couple of books about people's personal journeys to Orthodoxy are all my local library has on Orthodoxy. I'll look at buying or interloaning Met. Kallistos Ware's books next.  The "Rainbow Series" looks really good too.  The American slant doesn't worry me, but I'll probably go for the Ware books over those as they'll be easier to obtain.  The 'Early Christian Writings' book looks like a good first introduction to the Early Church Fathers, as it contains the Didache and Epistles of St Ignatius.  The Orthodox Study Bible is also on my wish list.

Witega - Background: My parents were not Christian, and God/religion was rarely discussed in our household.  I started attending a Salvation Army in my 'tweens' and became a Christian a few months later.  At university, I attended a pentecostal church for a few months, then switched to a Presbyterian church.  I've stuck to churches of that denom ever since, though prefer to call myself a Christian rather than a '(insert name of Protestant denomination here)'.  The churches I've attended have been more 'family' orientated with contemporary (but not OTT rock concert) worship music, not traditional or liturgical with hymns.  Communion was a memorial or remembrance only.  Baptism of believers was by full immersion in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The Salvation Army didn't even observe those two sacraments, although members were allowed to receive them elsewhere. 

Early church history before the English Reformation was rarely mentioned in those churches, and then only in passing.  I know next to nothing about the Early Church Fathers, who most of them were, what they taught,etc.  I guess I'm wanting some sort of "Early Church Fathers" primer, that gives a good overview of what was taught, believed and practiced in the during the early years of Christianity following on from the NT books. Something not slanted towards a particular viewpoint (e.g. tailored to support RC doctrine).  I want to  come at this as openmindedly as possible - from browsing threads here, I suspect my mind is going to be blown wide open and what I know as 'Christianity' to be thoroughly challenged.

JamesRottnek - I don't have specific questions at this stage, though further down the track I'll probably be asking questions about some aspects that aren't really addressed in Protestantism (e.g. veneration of Mary, saints, icons and relics).  I'd like to do some preliminary reading and get some background knowledge before springboarding into questions.

mabsoota - where can I obtain the book 'Salvation in the Orthodox Concept?  Thanks for the website recommendation Wink - yes I'm finding it very useful.

Thanks again, and I'm looking forward to continuing on this journey. Smiley

Deborah
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« Reply #15 on: March 13, 2012, 02:17:14 PM »

Hi Deborah,

Given your background, I'll definitely repeat my recommendation of the Met. Kallistos' 'The Orthodox Church.' It contains a good, accessible summary of Church History written specifically for those of us starting without a strong knowledge of the first millennium. It's obviously written from an Orthodox perspective, but Met. Kallistos generally sticks to broadly accepted points and acknowledges where significant controversies exist. It will give you a good framework from which to go deeper/further. The same applies to his work on doctrine "The Orthodox Way".

I'd also agree with jumping in to either 'Early Christian Writings'  or the similar "The Apostolic Fathers" (here. These are the earliest post-Apostolic writings that still survive and, again, will help provide a foundation/framework from which to work forward.

The last book I'd recommend at this point would be St. Athanasius 'On the Incarnation'. It's a little later than the works in the previous paragraph, but it's a very early witness, and one of the best, to the core teachings of the Church--and it serves as an excellent example of how the Fathers went about exploring and settling doctrinal issues when they arose.
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« Reply #16 on: March 13, 2012, 02:21:23 PM »

This series of books, http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith , which are commonly referred to as the Rainbow Series, by Fr. Thomas Hopko, are a quite good introduction.  Then I would echo the idea to pick up a copy of The Orthodox Way and The Orthodox Church.

Is there any particular issue or subject you feel you might like more information on?

She's from NZ.  I don't think the overly biased "rainbow sereies" would fit her culture since she's not so concerned with how the OCA is the church of america.

bosh, the rainbow series is an excellent introduction to the Orthodox Faith for anyone of english speaking background.
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« Reply #17 on: March 13, 2012, 02:22:42 PM »

Deborah- These two books might be useful to you. They are anthologies of writings by the earlier Church Fathers.

Early Christian Fathers

Christology of the Later Fathers ("Later" here means after the Council of Nicaea)
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« Reply #18 on: March 13, 2012, 04:07:42 PM »

hi deborah,
i found this:
http://www.copticstore.com/product_info.php?products_id=701
i hope it's useful.

there is a coptic website in new zealand here:
http://stmark.co.nz/
i need to point out the the creed on the home page is the same 'orthodox creed' believed by every orthodox Christian (eastern or oriental) and it was decided on the councils of nicaea and constantinople. it is often called the 'nicene creed'.
some people may say their church is better than the others, which is normal for people who love their church very much, but they are very similar.

by the way, the council of nicaea was in 326AD (or around that time).
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« Reply #19 on: March 16, 2012, 05:49:37 AM »

Witega, Iconodule, Mabsoota - thanks for the further reading suggestions, I've added them to my list (which is getting quite long now!).

Mabsoota - thanks for posting the Coptic church link and info about the Nicene Creed.  That church is three hours away from me, but I'm going to check it out the next time I travel to that location.

Back to reading...

Deborah
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« Reply #20 on: March 18, 2012, 04:34:04 PM »

Welcome, Deborah!  As you can see by my low post count, I am not only more of a lurker and learner than I am a poster, but am also a recent convert to Holy Orthodoxy.  I have most all of the aforementioned books in my library and can say that they were/are very beneficial for my learning and understanding.  For easy, quick reference I was also thankful to have An Introduction To Orthodoxy.  I had so very many questions, and this book was given to me by my priest at our first meeting for coffee.  This book gave me the shorter answers to satisfy my initial curiosity, thus giving me the focus I needed as I read the more detailed sections of the other books. I don't have the author's name, as I have passed it on to my son, who is also an inquirer.  

I wish to also encourage you with the daunting reality of having to travel such a great distance in order to make it to your nearest church.  I, too, have this hurdle to cross and for awhile it impeded my progress.  However, once I "bit the bullet," I never looked back.  It has turned out to be quite a blessing in that I have plenty of time while I drive to "leave the world behind" and prepare my heart for coming "home" to church by listening to liturgical hymns and podcasts from Ancient Faith Radio.  While this certainly wasn't my intention, nor do I write this to glorify myself in ANY way; however, the journey I make in order to participate in the liturgy and services and be a part of our church community has turned out to be an inspiration to others who live close to our church and may have taken that proximity for granted.  My heart aches when I am unable to make the drive for other services (which happens often), but I take consolation in the knowledge that I have finally arrived at the doorstep of our True Home on this earth.  I would love to be there more frequently but, at the end of the day, I'd rather go less often and know that I am bring truly fed and healed than to live next door to a church that lacks fullness. Nothing worth having comes easily.  May God grant you many blessings as you, too, find your way home.  Be patient and diligent; persevering as God opens the doors which appear to us as road blocks.
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« Reply #21 on: March 18, 2012, 04:54:34 PM »

My job involves working every weekend, at a time which clashes with the services of most churches (I rarely make it to a service at my existing church because of this).  The closest Orthodox church is an Indian Orthodox Church 1 1/2 hours' drive away, and the next nearest is nearly 3 hours' drive - distances I cannot afford to travel at this time.

How are your weekday hours?

During Lent, most Eastern Orthodox churches (i.e. the churches that follow the Byzantine liturgical tradition - Greek, Russian, Romanian, Serbian, Georgian, etc.) celebrate a very solemn and beautiful Communion service called the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts on Wednesdays and Fridays. Many parishes celebrate these in the evenings, so it might be worth looking into.

During Holy Week (9th - 15th of April), there will be services every evening of the week.
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« Reply #22 on: March 18, 2012, 05:05:12 PM »

Quote
During Holy Week (9th - 15th of April), there will be services every evening of the week.

Depending on the size and resources of the parish. Many smaller parishes begin their Holy Week services on the evening of Holy Wednesday. Check first.
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« Reply #23 on: March 22, 2012, 07:28:56 AM »

Leap of Faith, thanks for your encouraging message, it is just what I needed to hear!  I hear what you're saying about needing to attend DL at an Orthodox Church, however distant, rather than the sincere (but lacking) church down the road, once you're convinced Orthodoxy is THE church.  I've heard similar things from other converts and inquirers - that once they've attended a DL, they could not in all good conscience, go back and receive communion in their old church.   

Attending an Orthodox service seems like a remote prospect right now.  It's not an impossibility, but will need to work in with my employer and save for a while to make the trip.  It may take 2-3 months, but I'll get there. 

Thanks also for the book recommendation, it's added to my (growing) list.

Orthodox11 - I work on a 7 day a week on-call basis, no set days.  Work hours vary, but normally fall between 9am-2pm.  I get about 12-18 hours notice before a shift, so difficult to plan more than a day ahead for anything.  Weekends and public holidays are the busiest times, so it's 99% given I get called in on those days.  The one-and-a-bit hours distant church has a monthly DL on Sunday mornings, so that's out unless I arrange time off in advance.   Next closest option is about 5-6 churches of various jurisdictions about three hours away - at least one of them should have weekday vespers or other services.  I'll check their websites to see what they are doing for Holy Week.

Thanks again
Deborah
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« Reply #24 on: March 23, 2012, 01:30:11 PM »

Hi Deborah,

I was raised as a Presbyterian, became a Southern Baptist after I believed, remained there for about 15 years, and am now in the process of entering the orthodox church. Once I finally visited a local church the priest told me I should read The Way: What Every Protestant Should Know About the Orthodox Church by Clark Clarkton.  It is a relatively short introduction, but I found the book very helpful in regards to relating to and explaining the Western/Protestant mindset I had been indoctrinated with.  If you'd like to read it but can't afford it, then please shoot me an e-mail at jason@acts420.com and I can send you my copy.

Having experienced what I've experienced, if I were you I would at least order a copy of the liturgy in English (or just google it so you can read it online).  I would try to read and pray through it on Sundays.  You can also do the daily Scripture readings from many of the orthodox calendars that are available online (for instance http://www.holytrinityorthodox.com/calendar/ ).  Both of these things will at least start to immerse you in orthodox Christianity somewhat even if you can't worship with the orthodox in person.

I understand all that could take more time than you have.  I would at least recite the Creed on Sundays ( http://oca.org/orthodoxy/prayers/symbol-of-faith ).  I also personally find the "Prayers Immediately Preceding Communion" (from http://www.transchurch.org/prayers.html#communion ) to be very powerful, even if I can't yet fully participate in Communion.  So perhaps even just those two prayers on Sunday.  And of course many here have also recommended great books and practices.

I wish you all the best in your journey,
« Last Edit: March 23, 2012, 01:32:35 PM by acts420 » Logged

In Christ,
Jason
www.acts420.com
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