When I was three years old, I was baptized in the Armenian Orthodox Church. Despite those roots, I ended up meandering in various protestant churches during my childhood, teen, and young adult years. This was due in part to the distance of the church, to family circumstances, and to a language barrier (since my mother was the only family member who spoke Armenian). In short, we rarely attended church.As a child, I was invited from time to time to attend church with various friends and acquaintances. I have some vivid memories of those experiences, which ran a wide gamut: from heavy fire and brimstone Baptist preaching to Vatican II Roman Catholic masses to being left in the Mormon Sunday school while my hosts went into the temple. By the time I was a teenager, I regularly attended an evangelical youth group at a Presbyterian church.After a very fallow period in college, I discovered the traditions and aesthetics of the Episcopal Church. This lasted a few years, followed by another hiatus. By the time I married in a secular ceremony, a sense of urgency to find my home in a church hit especially hard. Although my husband did not feel this same sense of urgency, I knew that when we had children they must be baptized. But where? By whom?
While my husband slept in, I went on my Sunday morning missions about town. I floundered around, but finally settled on an Episcopal (but very traditional “Anglo-Catholic”) parish close to home. I was very active at that church, serving on the vestry as well as delegate to the diocesan conventions at the National Cathedral. My experiences at those conventions forced me to conclude that the Episcopal Church was caught in a hopeless downward spiral of worldly pursuits. And it showed no sign of reversing. However, it was in that Episcopal parish, during a Lenten program that I met a very holy and humble man, Fr. Richard Kunkel. He would later convert to Orthodoxy and become St. Gregory’s own Father Joachim, and his wife Margaret, St. Gregory’s own Matushka. They were a major influence in my journey to Orthodoxy.
I could feel my Orthodox roots pulling me back Home. My family and I finally arrived Home when we were chrismated in January 2001.
– by Stella Green
“Perverse and foolish, oft I strayed, but yet in love He sought me, and on His shoulder gently laid, and home, rejoicing, brought me.”
I have known only a very few things in my life. “Knowing” is a concept badly misunderstood in our culture. In the Western intellectual tradition – prideful, secular, rationalist, scholastic, humanist – one knows with one’s mind only that which can be “proven.” God cannot be “proven.” My road to Orthodoxy was a long and tortuous one, the details of which do not bear repeating. For two decades, I was raised in barren religious soil. For the next two decades, I sought to explain beliefs – truth, meaning, right and wrong, free will – that are unexplainable in the secular humanist tradition. I approached the infinite chasm of the unexplainable several times during this journey, but always shied away. But over the years, the vacuity of my intellectual tradition became clearer. Quantum quandaries dissolve science, logic and mathematics fall to incompleteness and inconsistency, and none address the mysteries that sanctify our lives. I grope for words to describe the moment I threw myself – fell? was so gently pushed? – into that chasm. There are no words, really, to describe the experience of the unexplainable. But in that moment in my forty-first year, I knew in a way that cannot be explained or proven to a secular humanist, that would be unconvincing to a scholastic, that a rationalist would find laughable – I knew the Holy Spirit with all my heart and all my soul and that God was real and that Jesus was his only begotten Son. And I knew that the one true and continuing church must be my guide in a journey that would continue for the rest of my life. I and my family arrived in the Orthodox Church seven years later, refugees from an Episcopal Church thoroughly polluted by the very secular humanism we sought to escape through worship.
– by Brian Green