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adsum
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« on: April 01, 2006, 07:38:32 PM »

My shiny first post.  First of all, thanks for keeping this forum.  It’s good to hear these kinds of discussions because I never do elsewhere.  

I’m not even sure potential “convert” would accurately describe me, since I wouldn’t be converting from anything.  I got to my 30th birthday without having to attend any church “religiously” (sorry, couldn’t resist) and was never hostile to those who did.  I was raised in this academic — but not exactly atheist — house where rigorous work was rewarded with rigorous play.  My parents are lovely creatures but we moved around a lot and I was never baptized.  I can’t say what has brought me to study orthodoxy, but I got quite bookish about it.  Eventually I was compelled to listen to some services at Ancient Faith Radio.  One thing has lead to another... and here I am.  I’m trying to summon the nerve to just go to the brick-and-mortar church on a Sunday to meet someone but I’m terrified that I’ll either seem over eager or under prepared or — this is the worst trick my head plays on me — unwelcome.  I haven’t felt intimidation like this since fifth grade.  In turn, I call myself silly or tell myself to take my time.  Nobody’s rushing, nobody wants me to rush.  

I do think that some of this intimidation has everything to do with the fact that I wouldn’t know what to do on approach to any church at all.  That I’ve decided Orthodoxy makes sense, well, could it be any weirder?  I understand people being “wooed” by Orthodoxy, then falling out of love with it after a few years (someone posted about this recently).  It’s not a woo I’m feeling.  It’s very calm, this, apart from the whole devilish intimidation thing.  I just need to get to the point where I don’t feel like I’m church stalking.  There’s only one Greek Orthodox complex in this town and I’ve cased the place like I’m planning three points of emergency egress...  how funny is that?  I’m willing to scuba dive with Bull sharks but put me on the other end of the church’s answering machine and I quickly fold.  

So there’s my story.  Rereading it, I don’t know if I’ve asked a question but maybe it’s interesting, a little, that some random secular American can get here, too.  I have a feeling the non-religious types probably lurk instead of post... it’s just so hard to know what to say.  It’s harder still to know how/ if you’ll be received.  
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suzannes
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« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2006, 09:35:38 PM »

Adsum,
Honestly, I've wondered about people who *don't* feel intimated by their first visit to an Orthodox church!
You might consider going on Easter, when the church is full of "non-regular" attendees.  See how many priests the church has, and then maybe approach one who seems like you would feel comfortable talking with him.  Don't be afraid.  If you don't feel moved to cross yourself, don't worry, no one is watching.  You have to take the first step, and then see if the second step is right for you.  Don't worry!  No one will kick you out of the church!  (Unless you're a girl wearing pants to a crazy convert church...JUST KIDDING, JUST KIDDING, ONLY A JOKE!)
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« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2006, 10:22:10 PM »

Don't worry!  No one will kick you out of the church!  (Unless you're a girl wearing pants to a crazy convert church...JUST KIDDING, JUST KIDDING, ONLY A JOKE!)

And, if you do get kicked out for that (or any other reason) keep far, far, far away from that parish and find a sane community Wink
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adsum
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« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2006, 12:17:25 AM »

Suzannes, I figured the looming ORTHODOX was something tough for anyone at first, and in light of "convert zeal," it's tougher to not see cynicism in anyone's eyes.  I thought about Easter services and am already on the church's email list so at least I know when I can stalk the church with the best results.  (I'm half joking.)  Thank you for your humor, though, I find it's easier or more honest with some humor.

Greekischristian, I'm not quite to the point where I'm worried about being kicked out.  I'm old(er) and kinder and understand more than I used to... the benefit of age, again, rears her head.  It's more at I just want to talk about these things.  I have moments when I feel like "pestering" a pastor about my inquiries is like asking for free psychotherapy.  I've never had/ needed psychotherapy, but I wouldn't ask for it on a pro bono basis from a stranger, either.

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« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2006, 01:38:14 AM »

Check out 12 Things I wish I knew before visiting an Orthodox Church by Frederica Mathewes-Green. I think you can find it on the Antiochian Orthodox website or on her site. Google either one and fish around.

Just sit in the back pew. That way you are don't have to feel like anyone is looking at you.
I figure you probably know how to cross yourself. Peripheral vision will tell you when to cross. If you are slightly different or out of sync, they will just think you are form another jursidiction!

Don't wait till Easter, just go!
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serb1389
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« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2006, 09:01:49 AM »

If you'd like to have a good time, and have a bunch of old men who have no idea who God is just stare at you, go to a Serbian church!   Grin

I'm sort-of kidding about the old men.  Actually there are some really nice serbian communities.  Its kind-of hit and miss.  But you can't argue with free or next to free drinks!   Grin Grin
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Kaminetz
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« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2006, 11:51:20 PM »

Don't be intimidated by anything or anyone. There are strange people everywhere, it's just that in church we always notice them more because we're in a house of God where we want to feel love and unity. Anything that falls short of that jumps out like a sore thumb in comparison to other places. Most importantly understand that you're going to God's house, not to a social arena. We are all there because we need to be with God together.

It may be a surprise to you, I was raised Orthodox from the cradle and when I visit other ethnic parishes where I don't understand the language and don't know anyone, it's not easy for me either. I feel like a newbie.

There are, for example, small yet noticeable differences in tradition. Russian priests expect the faithful to approach them for a blessing, but they all will shake your hand too, esp. if you're not Orthodox. Other priests don't usually do the blessing at all, Serbs usually don't, neither do Romanians, with Greeks only bishops do it, etc. Also, Serbs kiss their candles when they put them up, Russians don't. Other Orthodox have a tradition of lighting a candle and then approaching the candlestand with an already lit candle. Russians don't do that. Many Orthodox cross themselves at clergy when being censed at by the priest or deacon. Russians don't cross themselves at clergy because, as the clergy say, "we are not icons". Some people kneel on Sundays, Russians as a rule don't do that because Sunday is considered a celebratory of the ressurection. Then in one church recently I was barred from putting up a candle during the reading of the hours and during the first part of the liturgy. I've never seen that anywhere else - as a matter of fact one would usually argue that this is THE BEST time to put up candles. Things like this can throw me off when I go from place to place!!

Also, some churches are particularly newbie friendly (and ALL churches SHOULD be like this). Others are full of older people from an ethnic community who've known each other for years, who probably built that parish together, and may be somewhat cautious about new people coming in (and to be fair to them, there are many horror stories of new faces coming in who try to take over the parish, etc). I know of such parishes where it will take months for people to warm up to a new person and cut them into their social circle. That's wrong imho, but it does happen.

Go to the place where you feel most comfortable. Stand in the back, so you don't feel intimidated. You can come up to kiss the cross at the end of the service and recieve the antidoron (bread), but sacraments such as communion are for those who are already accepted into Orthodoxy (baptized/chrismated) and have prepared. If the service is in a foreign tongue, ask for a service book in English. Even if the service is in English, it's a good idea to have it anyway, it helps you follow along and make sure you don't miss anything.

If you can't stand for the whole two hours don't feel bad about it. Go for fifteen, twenty minutes for a start. Show up for the beginning, it's a little less crowded then - although the time to meet people is after service. Often after liturgy they serve memorial services for the deceased, so it may take a while for the priest to be free and meet you.
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adsum
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« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2006, 07:57:17 AM »

Brother Aidan, I'm familiar with Frederica's essays and, you're right, "12 Things" is a great start for someone like me.  

Serb1389, sometimes it's only about the free drinks!  I don't think I'm anywhere near a Serbian community, but I'll keep this in mind.

Kaminetz, thank you for your kind words.  A basic discussion, like this, is nice to hear.  You'd think I would realize that even if I go, and stand in the back, and at some point just get that uncomfortable... I can leave.  Again, I know I'm being silly but I also don't want to be rude.  Whenever I go, I want the hard part of this debate settled so that the small committment of weekly attendance (of all the committments, isn't that a reasonable one?  I think so.) comes easily.

Thank you all for reading/ writing.
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aserb
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« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2006, 08:08:58 AM »

Adsum:

Welcome, welcome and remeber just as there are a few loose screws in all churches, there are also a few here on the internet. Nothing can relace the teaching of your priest. So go, don't be intimidated. You never know, someone other than the priest may come up and befriend you.


Suzannes. Love the pants comment.
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« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2006, 08:12:10 AM »

We don't kick out women wearing pants. But we do provide nice wrap-around skirts Wink  And if you are a man and are wearing shorts, well, since we don't have wrap around pants, they are just out of luck and have to stay in the vestibule with the candle guy Wink  And we don't have that many converts to speak of so don't blame it on that Smiley

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« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2006, 08:14:35 AM »

As a fellow random secular academically raised not quite atheist but Jewish sorta after mom converted person (say that three times fast), though now I have converted (I have a certificate!)  I would like to recommend the following. ÂÂ

at least I know when I can stalk the church with the best results.

A good time is the midnight walk around the church at Easter, it's dark, nobody can see because of the weird glare of the candles and half the people there only go for that service anyway, so nobody recognizes anyone else as it is.  Cheesy Grin Wink

oh, and welcome!!!!
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SouthSerb99
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« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2006, 09:38:44 AM »

The pants comments and the comments about going on Easter are hilarious!

I know, every year Easter services bring out "all sorts" out of the woodwork (and not just for the post liturgy booze).

Good luck on your journey adsum.  Welcome.
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« Reply #12 on: April 04, 2006, 11:31:27 AM »

You'd think I would realize that even if I go, and stand in the back, and at some point just get that uncomfortable... I can leave.  Again, I know I'm being silly but I also don't want to be rude.

You'd be surprised but many who were raised Orthodox like me didn't always come there for the very beginning and stay through the end, putting it mildly. For many years I'd arrive usually right before the eucharistic prayer, which is already the third third of the service.

It takes a while to get used to standing that long. The time flies by faster once you understand the liturgy and as your inner prayer improves. There was one time when I stood in church for a whole two hours after having a mere two hours of sleep and driving for an entire hour. I had some issues on my mind and that really got me to pray with a great heart, following the service intensely. I stood with great attention and the service seemed like it took ten minutes. That doesn't happen often for me, but it's a testament to how that ability can come about inside of you.

I have a weak lower back, so usually I try to step out somewhere during the liturgy to take a little break. There's nothing wrong with that, or with leaving early, or arriving late. Nobody is going to stop you or ask questions. You have to take things in pieces, as you can absorb them. That's the way it is with all of our spiritual lives, we're taking things as we can handle them, gently pushing ourselves to go forward.
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« Reply #13 on: April 04, 2006, 04:32:28 PM »

adsum, welcome!

Nooo, it's not strange at all that of all places you should first come to Orthodoxy.  That IS the first, the rest of us were simply sucked in by the more conventional before we arrived.  Wink  You'll have advantages over those of us who had ingrained what church was "supposed to be like."

"Church stalking"... that's funny!
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« Reply #14 on: April 04, 2006, 04:33:36 PM »

Good idea. If you're too scared to go for the whole service, just turn up half way through or near the end. Everyone will think you're Greek! If you go just for the Midnight service at Easter and you're planning to stay through it all, take a nap during the day before. Last time I went to an Easter service I didn't do this and I fell asleep! (Luckily I was sitting at the back surrounded by lots of coats so I don't think too many people noticed!)  Cheesy
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« Reply #15 on: April 04, 2006, 05:07:45 PM »

Sooo, you're going to a Greek parish huh? Good luck...I mean, you'll be fine Smiley

OK, can't remember if anyone has highlighted this, but:

Once you walk in, there should be a table (usually with an usher behind it) with candles on it. Pick up a skinny one. (The big ones are for baptisms, memorials, etc.) and give a small donation 25 cents/ $2, whatever you can afford to give that morning. Then you can either light the candle at the back or when you enter the church there is usually a candle stand at the front which you can light your candle at....but for now, you might just want to light your candle, right at the back of church, where there's usually almost nobody. Then just go in church.

If you don't look Greek, or if this parish is really small and everyone knows each other, and people SEEM to stare, don't take it in a bad way. They are probably just very interested in you and are wondering who you are.

Some greek parishes have this wonderful program where they have english speaking ushers at the back to welcome everybody and offer any assistance to new-comers. You seem to point that this parish is realy small so I don't think they would have this but u never know.

This may sound rediculous but if someone speaks to you in greek don't worry, just nod lightly with a small smile or you could always say "yiasas" which means hi.

Hope I did not overwhelm you
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adsum
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« Reply #16 on: April 04, 2006, 11:34:13 PM »

You people are awesome.  Thanks!  I've decided that whenever I finally get to the church, I'll decide that everyone else in there are all of you that have written these kind things to me -- I just don't recognize you yet.  Please keep writing hints or more encouragement.  It really -- I can't say how much it matters.  

aserb:  I've sifted through a lot of things on the internet about Orthodoxy and understand your comment about a few loose screws.  This is why I'm starting to go from "research" to a congregation.  

Anastasios:  I own a skirt or two, no worries  Wink.

aurelia:  Oooo, a midnight walk sounds good, especially in candlelight.  Thank you for your warm welcome!

SouthSerb99:  Maybe I'll be one of the "sorts" at the Easter services this year, but I'll take it easy on the booze.  First impressions and all...

Kaminetz:  See, inner prayer is the thing, I think.  Services matter in that regard.  You wrote: You have to take things in pieces, as you can absorb them. That's the way it is with all of our spiritual lives, we're taking things as we can handle them, gently pushing ourselves to go forward.  I like the way you put this.  It's how I feel when I'm telling myself to be patient and concentrate without going mad.

StBrigid:  It really does feel like I'm church stalking sometimes, though!  :'(   Thank you also for your welcome.

annaspencer:  I guess I could pass for Greek but I'm more a dark-haired German, really, and I'm quite tall.  I'll remember the advice on napping, though!

Timos:  I appreciate your advices, as well.  Pretty sure this parish is comprised of English speakers (I'm in the South of the United States -- my town doesn't even have a Greek restaurant but the GO church is historic) even if lots of the names in the congregation are certainly Greek.  You did not overwhelm me, in fact, tell me more if you remember something else.  Your attention is greatly appreciated.

Again, everyone, thank you thank you thank you!  

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Starlight
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« Reply #17 on: April 26, 2006, 03:50:12 PM »

Adsum,
In order to search for an Orthodox parish, I would recommend this directory:
http://www.orthodoxyinamerica.org
I have been using this source in my trips. It is excellent!
Take care.
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serb1389
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« Reply #18 on: April 26, 2006, 04:37:27 PM »

i was wondering if Adsum could tell us how the experience went??
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