Some of my ancestors were Orthodox, from Belarus. They had immigrated to a town in with no Orthodox church. They were also extremely poor—my grandmother told me the only Christmas gift she would get was an apple—and there were eleven children. So when they didn’t have enough food, and a Presbyterian minister and missionary came to town, he helped out their family and they moved to a town near his and joined the Presbyterian church. They sent my grandmother to live with his family when she was about ten. It was a strange thing, though, that he had gotten caught on the wrong side of the Old-School/New-School controvery. His family were practically Puritans, fresh from Scotland, and not only the ‘no drinking or dancing or card-playing on Sundays’ type but the ‘no drinking or dancing or card-playing ever’ type, but their church ended up in the PCUSA, the most left-wing group of Presbyterians.
My family did not leave it though and I was baptised into it by my foster-great-grandfather and brought up in it. He died when I was a baby and I was left with nearly no Christian teaching. Apparently my parents and grandparents thought the church was taking care of it. The church did not have catechism or any similar teaching, and although it had liturgy, it had no communion. I didn’t even believe in God, because I had been taught next to nothing about Him.
Eventually I married my husband who had been brought up Catholic and had fallen away from the church. One day he told me he was looking into Christianity; I didn’t understand why. Soon after, he began to go to a Lutheran church in the Missouri Synod and asked me to attend classes with him. I asked all the hard questions, and have probably begun to achieve notoriety among clergy for that.
Soon we joined the church and began to read the doctrine. When I read the 95 Theses, I thought it made sense that Lutheranism was supposed to be just like the Roman Catholic Church except with those 95 items changed. We had found that church relatively unpietistic, having a traditional liturgy with chanting, but were still studying and trying to figure out what was correct.
My husband applied to attend the seminary in another state and was accepted. Our pastor told us when we looked for a church there we would find all kinds, including ones with praise bands—which was a terrifying thought—and ‘even ones with incense’—which we were very excited about. When we got there, we didn’t find incense, but found a church which seemed otherwise to be transplanted (and translated) from 16th-century Germany. Unfortunately, it was too far away to drive to regularly. After trying another church, which was stuffily particularly pietistic, we decided to attend the local, not particularly pietistic one.
Within the year though, we discovered the Missouri Synod was considering changing the creeds to exclude Christ, because Mohammedans had come into one of the churches and began to feel ‘uncomfortable’, and still calling the creeds by the same names. Furthermore, we found that the Synod allows contraception, even telling married couples to ‘keep an open mind and make themselves aware of all forms of contraception’, and we found that while it disapproves of contragestion, it doesn’t condemn it.
Then we looked into the Wisconsin Synod, finding it more pietistic and about the same on contraception, and into the Lutheran Churches of the Reformation, which remain opposed to everything contraceptive and contragestive. We found the latter still somewhat pietistic (I continued to ask the hard questions, such as, ‘Why is the service no longer called Mass?’ Bach, a staunch Lutheran, wrote Masses. Answer, sadly, like that of any other question about reasons for pietistic practices: too Catholic.) but joined it.
Finally, my husband began to look into the Orthodox church. I was very nervous, clinging to the LCR like to a life-preserver in a sea of contraception, fearing my daughter becoming corrupted by the zeitgeist and my never having any grandchildren, finding it hard to believe any other church could be completely opposed to contraception, more opposed than the Roman Catholic Church. Of course, I was very relieved. We found the church to be just what we had been searching for—my husband has always thought ‘something was missing’ and I had discovered what was basically the Roman Catholic Church plus the 95 Theses, but better, obviously, because it is the true Church, with the true liturgy and unbroken Apostolic Succession. It was also shocking to discover that something we had left a church to avoid, changing a creed and calling it the same thing, had already happened centuries before and we had finally escaped the deception!