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Author Topic: Will distance affect my spiritual growth?  (Read 484 times) Average Rating: 0
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Brigit Faye
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« on: June 01, 2013, 07:25:04 PM »

Hi
I have been looking at Orthodoxy for a few months now, but I haven't had a chance to attend a service. I live quite a distance away from any Orthodox church and community. What I would like advice on is because I cant commune with an Orthodox community should I go perhaps to the Catholic church? I wonder if my spiritual growth will be hindered by not been able to attend church? Everything I have read so far about Orthodoxy speaks to my heart but there's only so much reading a person can do. I would like to be living out my faith but without support of other believers around I wonder how possible that is? What are peoples thoughts on this?
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Michael David
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« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2013, 07:58:10 PM »

Hello Brigit Faye! I'm new to the forums as well.

I don't have too much experience with the distance question, as I've been lucky enough to live near some sort of Orthodox Church. May I ask where you live, just so others may be able to help find something nearby, be it a church, mission, priest, what have you? There are people from all over here.

Since you are still looking into Orthodoxy, have you watched any video of the Divine Liturgy to see what it is like? You can find videos for entire services online to get an idea of how they are. Since distance is a factor, I make this suggestion so you can see what it is like prior to saving money and gas and making a trip "blindly" into a church and then disliking it for some reason. The experience is so much different in person that I don't think this would take away from the initial visit at all, but it may help to get an idea of what to expect. This would also be different from just reading; though reading is important, I sense you want something a little more to experience it further. (Plenty of nice podcasts as well!)

How is your prayer life? Again, not a replacement or anything for church, but praying about this may bear some important fruit and connect you in other ways and help you live out your faith more fully for the time being.

I'm sorry I can't offer more advice, but I know there are very helpful people here.
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« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2013, 09:09:19 PM »

Hello there Grin

How long is 'quite a distance'? Could you make the trip once a month or every 2wk for example....or are we talking not even reasonable driving distance? Agree with the poster who said what is your location, sometimes Churches can be hidden, no website, etc. I just recently discovered a Coptic church down the street from me that I never knew existed; no website, phone, or anything, just word of mouth. Granted it is tiny but still.
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« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2013, 10:50:56 PM »

Welcome!  I remember asking myself the same questions several years ago.  The nearest Orthodox church for me is 100 miles away and it also means leaving my husband on his only day off, as he has not converted (yet... Wink ).  But I did and I do and it's worth every moment it takes for me to get there.  I use that time to my advantage to center my mind, pop in a prayer CD, podcast or simply be silent.  I live in SD, so winter driving makes it a hit and miss scenario but it also reminds me how much I love participating in the liturgy.  Absence can make the heart grow fonder!  May God guide your journey.  Remember, sometimes the right decision isn't the easy one. 
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lovesupreme
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« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2013, 11:44:01 PM »

Hi
I have been looking at Orthodoxy for a few months now, but I haven't had a chance to attend a service. I live quite a distance away from any Orthodox church and community. What I would like advice on is because I cant commune with an Orthodox community should I go perhaps to the Catholic church? I wonder if my spiritual growth will be hindered by not been able to attend church? Everything I have read so far about Orthodoxy speaks to my heart but there's only so much reading a person can do. I would like to be living out my faith but without support of other believers around I wonder how possible that is? What are peoples thoughts on this?

I would try to make it out to an Orthodox parish so that you can speak with one of the priests. Tell him your situation and he might be able to advise you (whether it's about parishes of which you weren't aware, or how often he thinks an inquirer such as yourself should make the trek). Also, he might be able to maintain contact with you in the mean time to answer any questions that you come across.

I would say you should only to the Catholic Church if you have an interest in converting to Catholicism. If you're just going because it's "the closest thing to Orthodoxy in town," that's probably not a great reason. But I'm just a schlub whose opinions should not be taken too seriously. Wink
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Brigit Faye
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« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2013, 06:19:04 PM »

Hi Everyone
Thanks for your replies. I hadn't thought of watching the liturgy on u tube.  I have tried to keep contact with a priest through emails but he must be very busy because I don't get any regular replies.  I think my main concern was partaking of the Eucharist.  In the Catholic church it is stated if you don't attend mass regularly you will die spiritually.  Is that a thought also in the Orthodox church? I am worried I am weakening my faith somehow by not being able to attend regularly.
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« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2013, 07:39:44 PM »

Hi Everyone
Thanks for your replies. I hadn't thought of watching the liturgy on u tube.  I have tried to keep contact with a priest through emails but he must be very busy because I don't get any regular replies.  I think my main concern was partaking of the Eucharist.  In the Catholic church it is stated if you don't attend mass regularly you will die spiritually.  Is that a thought also in the Orthodox church? I am worried I am weakening my faith somehow by not being able to attend regularly.

How far away is far away?
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« Reply #7 on: June 02, 2013, 07:51:22 PM »

Hi Everyone
Thanks for your replies. I hadn't thought of watching the liturgy on u tube.  I have tried to keep contact with a priest through emails but he must be very busy because I don't get any regular replies.  I think my main concern was partaking of the Eucharist.  In the Catholic church it is stated if you don't attend mass regularly you will die spiritually.  Is that a thought also in the Orthodox church? I am worried I am weakening my faith somehow by not being able to attend regularly.

One of our saints, St. Mary of Egypt, communed only twice as she lived in the desert.  People can do Reader Services at home on Sundays and Feasts in their icon corner.

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Michael David
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« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2013, 09:52:28 PM »

You've got some great responses here already. Priests can certainly be fairly busy, but do try and keep in contact with him, or any others that are somewhat near your vicinity.

St. Mary of Egypt provides a great example. We should try to commune as much as possible, but there's much in the way of additional things that should be done as well. Prayer, fasting, and much more all help to guide and improve ourselves mind, body, and soul. I'm not saying we don't need church, especially if there's the chance to get to one, but there's a lot more to it than any one singular thing. (Bible alone, church alone, works alone, etc.)

In no way am I trying to sway your opinions in "choice" of church, and I hope others choose to share videos from many other dioceses and traditions for you to experience, but ACROD's website provides full Divine Liturgy videos if you care to watch through one:

http://www.acrod.org/organizations/cathedral/live/last-service/

They offer these videos as a ministry for shut-ins, soldiers, what have you. Again, do try to find other service videos online from other traditions just to see what they are like. I'd gladly post up Youtube links that I find, but I only know what I know, and I don't want to accidentally post up a video of something inaccurate because I'm not familiar with the tradition. But, other parishes and things might host their own videos outside of Youtube.

After you see a few, you might consider trying to find the text of their Divine Liturgy to read through and understand even better what's going on, since some finer points might be missed in the videos.
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« Reply #9 on: June 02, 2013, 10:05:38 PM »

hey micheal what acrod parish do you attend?
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« Reply #10 on: June 02, 2013, 11:32:37 PM »

hey micheal what acrod parish do you attend?

I attend St. Mary's Orthodox Church in Morgantown, WV. It's original name was Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God Russian Orthodox Church. I'm originally from Bluefield, WV which is on the opposite side of the state, and there is another ACROD parish named St. Mary's, but in honor of the Dormition of the Mother of God. I've never gotten the chance to attend there, but I think the coincidence is pretty neat. Even more coincidental, my girlfriend (whom I met up here) and I first stepped foot into St. Mary's here in Morgantown on the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, and we were both received into the Church a year later on the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos.

I've got much to learn in this faith, but it seems the Theotokos is certainly there to guide me along the way!
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« Reply #11 on: June 02, 2013, 11:39:32 PM »

Hi Everyone
Thanks for your replies. I hadn't thought of watching the liturgy on u tube.  I have tried to keep contact with a priest through emails but he must be very busy because I don't get any regular replies.  I think my main concern was partaking of the Eucharist.  In the Catholic church it is stated if you don't attend mass regularly you will die spiritually.  Is that a thought also in the Orthodox church? I am worried I am weakening my faith somehow by not being able to attend regularly.

No.
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« Reply #12 on: June 03, 2013, 12:14:38 AM »

Hi Everyone
Thanks for your replies. I hadn't thought of watching the liturgy on u tube.  I have tried to keep contact with a priest through emails but he must be very busy because I don't get any regular replies.  I think my main concern was partaking of the Eucharist.  In the Catholic church it is stated if you don't attend mass regularly you will die spiritually.  Is that a thought also in the Orthodox church? I am worried I am weakening my faith somehow by not being able to attend regularly.

First off, as someone who isn't Orthodox (yet?), you wouldn't take the Eucharist anyway. Communion in the Orthodox Church (and in most Roman Catholic churches) is reserved only for baptized members. While attending the Divine Liturgy (mass) is important, your spiritual health is a matter between you and your spiritual father or mother. It's not as if missing a certain number of services puts you in a "danger zone"; as others have said, there are plenty of private devotions that you can do that will help build your faith even when you're far away from the parish.
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« Reply #13 on: June 03, 2013, 05:41:31 AM »

I recently moved to an area where I can't attend services as much, and when I do, I don't speak the language.  This has made my spiritual life harder, but you gotta do what you gotta do to get by.  For me this involves supplementing what I'm missing, e.g. read more spiritual writings, pray more, etc.

About the Catholics... speak with your spiritual father about this.  I would just warn you to be careful, because Rome can be divisive with their communion practices.  An example of this is a sign that I heard of outside a Catholic church in an Orthodox country which said something to the effect of "Orthodox can receive communion here".  This is wrong because they are aware that we wouldn't be being good Orthodox if we were to commune with them, yet they still offer.
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« Reply #14 on: June 03, 2013, 07:52:04 AM »

Hi Brigit Faye,

Welcome to the forum!  Distance does make the journey towards Orthodoxy more challenging, but not insurmountable.  You've received some good advice in this thread.  This is a thread I started in a similar vein last year, which you may also find helpful.

Reading books or listening to podcasts about Orthodoxy is good, but can only take you so far.  Orthodox Christianity is by nature a faith that is lived and nurtured in community.  I would suggest, at the earliest possible opportunity, to make the trek to an Orthodox Church to worship with and meet others and talk with the priest.  In this country, the Antiochian Churches are probably the best introduction for English-speaking inquirers, followed by the Greek Churches.  Failing that, finding a priest, deacon or mature Orthodox Christian who is willing to work with you in your individual situation would be the next best thing.

As far as "weakening of your faith" if you can't attend an Orthodox Church or go to a Catholic one instead is concerned, that's probably more an individual pastoral concern rather than a doctrinal one.  If you find that attending a Catholic church for now is feeding your faith and need for Christian community, I would hesitate recommending dropping it cold turkey before you are 'hooked in' to an Orthodox Church community and/or in contact with a helpful priest.  In the early months of my journey into Orthodoxy, during the long stretches in between being able to get to the Orthodox Church, I found solace in attending an Anglican church liturgy and worshipping with others.  In time, I found attending non-Orthodox churches left me feeling confused and spiritually empty, and stopped; but for a period, that Anglican church was a little oasis in the middle of a vast wilderness.

As far as the eucharist goes - you can't receive communion in the Orthodox Church until you are a baptised/chrismated Orthodox Christian.  However, if you have been baptised into Roman Catholicism or another Christian faith tradition, you can still receive communion there until you become a catechumen in the Orthodox Church.

I hope that is of some help.  All the best with your journey into Holy Orthodoxy and will be praying for you.

God bless
Deborah
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