Monday, May 15, 2006

Come Over And Help Us

As I said at the beginning of this blog, I wanted to explore the plight of converts to the Orthodox Christian faith.

My previous posts have been a glimpse into my own struggle with some issues of a convert with literally no ethnic connection to any Eastern Orthodox groups coming into a community where the conversation has been going on for centuries.

I wanted to first start by examining my own soul. Usually when I am confronted with this kind of struggle, its roots are in my own spiritual poverty, so that's where I have found I must begin if I am going to work through a spiritual struggle. King David prayed that God would search his heart to see if there be any wicked way in him.

It is this willingness to begin first with my own spiritual poverty that helps protect any struggle from a prideful and self centered trap that leads to resentment and self righteousness.

To be sure, it is not guarantee that this trap will be avoided, but it is a good beginning.

Now that that is said, I confess that my current struggles have to do with the sense of being a stranger in my own church. Having converted to Orthodoxy after a lengthy spiritual journey, I (foolishly) thought I had dealt with the possibility of confronting a heavily "ethnic" mindset within Orthodox churches here in America. I was wrong.

This "ethnic" mentality has exhausted me of late and I am currently assessing my own spiritual strength. I am not wondering about Orthodoxy at all. I will leave the Orthodox Church half an hour after the Ecumenical Patriarch leaves the Church! But I am wearied of being "xenos" among a people who seem to have little sense about how to do anything other than be "ethnic" and preserve their "ethnicity."

My prayer is that there will finally be a bishop who has a vision as St. Paul did of the Macedonian calling out "Come over to Macedonia and help us!" (Acts 16:9)

Maybe a Southern bubba stepping out of his pick-up and calling out "Come and help us, y'all!"

I am convinced that Americans are spiritually hungry for the theological depth of Orthodoxy, but can they ever have access to this abundant spiritual banquet if there is no sense of urgency to help them make the journey?


Anonymous said...

I agree. It is very probable that many Americans do not attend Orthodox churchs simply because they say "Greek" or "Russian" before Othodox. And how disheartening it must be to be new to one of these churches and then not understand a word because the church is clinging onto its language and not its faithful. It is so hard to walk into a church down here and feel that sense of "home" or even be able to participate in church because I do not speak the language, and that is the worst part of all. If I can not participate then why go to church? If I do not feel as if I am communing with the people in the church then why go and feel like the "sore thumb"? Too many questions and not enough answers. But I feel I shouldn't have to learn a foregin language to speak to God or to be a part of His church. How will we every grow in our faith if we do not know what is being said and done? This is my struggle....


Anonymous said...

I empathize. I am most thankful for the OCA and pray and hope that there might one day be a patriarch of all the Orthodox Churches in America (Greek, Russian, etc), unified by our common faith and mission to bring Orthodoxy to this hungry country. As a convert, I find I am still making the cultural transition to the Orthodox faith and probably will be for many years to come. Chuck, thanks for your very cool, southern Ortho. blog!!

Barney said...

I had a long discussion today with a precious Greek Orthodox laywoman who was confused by some of the things I had written.

She asked if simply changing the language was what I wanted.

The answer was "yes and no." The language issue is a symptom of a lack of awareness of the exclusivity of the ethnic community.

Simply changing the language while not truly confronting the mindset won't change a thing.