What I did for a long time was simply get my hands on as many books as I could and spent a lot of time researching on the internet. Outside that, I really don’t have much advice. Due to my work, I still don’t get to attend nearly as much as I would like and my church is only 45 minutes away. But you have something I didn’t at the beginning, a spiritual father. Mine came into the picture later.
Thanks for sharing Kerdy! Yes, I've come to realise what a blessing it is to have a priest or spiritual father as a mentor or guide at this stage of the journey, for which I'm immensely grateful.
Truthseeker32 - I'm glad you're getting a car soon which will open up opportunities to get to DL, and that your priest is open to phone/email contact in the meantime.
short answer: do it slowly!
remember this difficult time. it is important in your spiritual growth.
then when you are orthodox in the future and are deciding whether or not to leave your nice bed early on sunday morning after a busy week to attend divine liturgy, you will remember that you did not always have the blessing of meeting with God Himself in the sacrements.
you will forget whoever it was in church who annoyed you last week, forgive them, repent of your own sins and get out and receive the blessing!
Thanks Mabsoota - don't worry, I will! Even though I'm itching to be a bit further along, this time of learning (and possibly testing) is important, now and for the long haul. Learning and growing long-distance is going to be slower by virtue of the fact you don't get a full experience of the liturgical life of the church through the year and can only visit the "family" occasionally. However, I want to do this in God's timing and will and for the right reasons.
i, personally did continue to go to protestant churches for ages (partly because of family issues) and now, when i infrequently visit them, i look upon it as a chance to share orthodoxy
but i remember how waiting for the right time to become orthodox was really difficult towards the end. i did keep taking protestant communion (i didn't realise how different it was back then) because it was still for me a time to repent and pray and worship.
i don't do that now, not just because of the wish not to ignore / disobey my spiritual leaders, but also because it gives the message that the theology is nearly the same. (it's similar, but the misunderstanding that the Holy Body and Blood are just symbols is important to correct).
Lol - Orthodox-sharing opportunity is a unique take on it! I'm still a member of and go to my local church on occasion. However, the only church I feel comfortable receiving communion at is a local Anglican church - they believe in the real presence of Christ in the eucharist, but don't know how close their view matches that of Orthodoxy. When I enter the catechumenate, I'll formally resign from my home church (if I haven't done so already) and stop receiving communion anywhere else. I wouldn't want to create confusion or a false sense of Orthodoxy just being another denomination.
JoyceV925, Thomas, Αριστοκλής - thanks for the suggestion of watching recorded or live streaming Divine Liturgies! I couldn't do it too often due to a low bandwidth and limited data allowance, but it would be great to catch services online occasionally in lieu of not being able to attend in person.
In the coarse vernacular of the day: doing Orthodoxy long distance sucks. It is a religion that by its nature – the transmission of tradition, etc. — demands the neophyte be a part of a community, and when one is not often allowed to participate in the life of the community vis-à-vis the liturgical feasts and cycles of the church, there is a certain temptation toward despair or even anger that the Church’s missionary impulse has not yet pulsed its way into your area. I am not saying it is a right or appropriate feeling, only a temptation.
But from here I will speak only from my own experience. For a while I inquired at the closest Orthodox church while still being involved with my in-laws congregation. I experienced no small amount of cognitive dissonance and gave myself no small amount of grief by not severing those ties completely once I had made the decision to become Orthodox. It did not help that at the time the parish at which I was inquiring did not have a full-time priest for six months in the middle of that first year.
At the time, my job did not allow me to attend many services due to the distance (an unfortunate situation in which I once again find myself), and so I often felt like I was left to my own devices and prayerbooks I did not fully comprehend. (Those prayerbooks turned out to be better teachers of Orthodoxy than much of the literature that is otherwise available.) Nonetheless, I persevered, and after a move that made breaking away from the family church much easier than otherwise, eventually started attending another long-distance Orthodox Church where my catechesis could be more fully developed.
That was also not very fun, but I was able to attend more regularly and am now happily Orthodox.
Now, all of this is not to give some boiled-down version of a particularly boring conversion story.
It is to offer a couple of pieces of advice:
--Once you have made your mind, do not delay in severing ties with your old faith community; lingering only breeds resentment or pain and makes the parting that much harder.
--Don’t try to adopt too many spiritual exercises without some kind of counsel. People doing Orthodoxy solo create a very goofy religion unto themselves (cf. OC.net archives). The flip side of that advice is to avoid going too far across the road and ending up in the ditch of desiring a goofy level spiritual micro-management with which your priest likely doesn’t want to deal.
--Network, if I can use so gross a word, as much as you can. Even if they don’t live in your town or attend your parish, knowing other Orthodox Christians is a boon in a non-Orthodox society.
--Attend services as often as you are able. Talk to the people while you’re there. Be sure to speak with them the next time you attend. Rinse and repeat. See above point: it is possible the members of your far-away parish may be able to direct you to someone who lives a little closer.
Agabus - yes, long-distance is sucky and the antithesis of what it means to live and be Orthodox. Despair is an occasional temptation I try to avoid/fight through prayer. Thank you for sharing your old church/distance woes. Like yours, this situation is only temporary.
Thanks also for your pertinent points. I will probably officially leave my church soon, regardless of when I become a catechumen. It's too confusing being in a Protestant environment and receiving Protestant teaching. I feel like a hypocrite, outwardly a loyal Presbyterian Christian, whereas in belief I'm more Orthodox than anything else. Spiritual exercises - I cross myself and use some basic prayers from a small Orthodox prayer book, but any more than that I won't take on without guidance from a priest. No, I don't intend to lean on and hand over life management to the priest either! I recognise there is a risk of stepping over priest/laity boundaries while he is the only 'in-person' source of Orthodox spiritual counsel I have - that's another good reason for networking and having other Orthodox Christians in your life. Attendance/socialising - yes, I will do that every time I'm there. The closest Orthodox Christians I've met live halfway between my town and the church. Prayer - yes can't pray enough right now.
Thanks for linking to Seraphim98's story - that is amazing and so encouraging.
xariskai - thanks for pointing that out, that we, and where we're placed, is the Church.
We can start, where we are. I've emailed the priest about the situation and waiting to see what he suggests.
Thanks again to all who posted in this thread, sharing your insights and experiences.