Saint Katherine’s church would be my home, but at this stage in my journey, I was more confused than anything else.
Driving home, I remember telling my wife, “That’s what church should be. People making you feel like you’re family.” I still had a multitude of problems with the church intellectually, but relationally it felt right. She fought hard (maybe not too hard) to refrain from saying “I told you so.”
We didn’t end up going to a “real” church on Sunday like I had planned. The Saturday service had me intrigued, and I was willing to extend it another day.
For the next few weeks I continued to try and find answers to my questions. I posted on web forums. I read a hodgepodge of articles. I read arguments for and against the Orthodox Church. I spoke with people I trusted. But I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere. The arguments I read against Orthodoxy did not really answer the questions I had. And Orthodoxy had plenty of answers that made sense to me.
I wanted to know why Mary was so revered by the church. Why did they follow a liturgical format? Were these things biblical? What did prayers to the saints entail?
Some things I had wondered since before I even heard of Orthodoxy. Two of my biggest questions were; did the reformation remove too much when it broke away from the Catholic Church, and why did pastors no longer give blessings like we see the priests doing in the old testament church and like Christ did to others?
I realized the format I was using for research was inadequate at best. I was uncoordinated and grasping at straws. I swallowed my pride and sent an email to Father Phil asking if I could meet with him. We set an appointment and my wife and I arrived in his office a week later.
Father Phil was and is the most Christ-like man I have ever encountered. He has been patient, kind, genuine, and self-effacing. He never treated me like I was asking silly questions, nor did he ever push me to believe what he did. Throughout the whole experience, his methodology was to help me focus my research and provide me with reading material. The choice was always mine, whether I would join or not.
At the first meeting, we discussed some of my concerns. I didn’t understand much of church history, and he gave a brief synopsis of how Orthodoxy can directly trace its roots all the way back to the apostles. His own baptism can be traced back to Saint Andrew. The Orthodox Church truly believes and practices apostolic succession, though the servants who take on the office of apostles are now known as bishops.
He gave me one book to read, and while it was not the most important book in my conversion process, it was exactly what I needed.
Becoming Orthodox by Peter Gillquist was a book describing how Peter and others journeyed from their beginnings with Campus Crusade to Orthodoxy. Gillquist shared my concerns and questions and he along with others did extensive research into “returning to the Church of Acts.”
In my next post, I will explore this book in more detail and how it helped me.