Journeys to Orthodoxy? - Printable Version
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Journeys to Orthodoxy? - John Charmley - 26-09-2006
Yes, I think it is important that we try to get this off the ground, not least because of the dispersed nature of our 'community'.
I am at a much earlier stage than yourself, having become a catechumen only this past Saturday, when Abba Seraphim received me into this first stage of my journey towards being fully Orthodox.
I am interested to know from others how they found their way to whatever point they are at. For me it was the growing realisation that Anglicanism had gone to a place I could not follow it and that it was never coming back. This was disconcerting, and the precise process that led me to the BOC rather defies reconstruction, since it came through reading and on line searches; but I am glad I have found it.
Peter and Abba Seraphim have been most supportive, and I am eager to know from those further down the line, or indeed at any stages, what they have found helpful in terms of a growing knowledge of Orthodoxy.
Bishop Kallistos' books were obvious ways in, but I have also found some of Matthew the Poor's books helpful. What other suggestions do people have?
- Michael Kennedy - 26-09-2006
I guess my disillusion with the Church of England is probably similar to many others. I summed it up for myself in one word 'authority'. I came to believe that the C of E did not have the authority to do many of the things it proposed, most obviously for me, and at that time, the ordination of women to the priesthood. This was not the only issue but it was a watershed. At the time of the vote in synod I was serving as a Reader but stood down in order to take stock of the situation. After a year or so I started worshipping with the Russian Orthodox - I had always been drawn to Orthodoxy - and soon after providentially encountered the then Orthodox Church of the British Isles, soon to become the BOC, through Fr Michael who I had known for some while previously. When the OCBI became the BOC I asked to be received and have not looked back since. Recent history I think demonstrates the rightness for me at least of the move.
As far as helps along the way, yes, Bishop Kallistos and later Matthew the Poor, and at the time of my move various publications, meetings etc, by the Antiochans and what was then called Pilgrimage to Orthodoxy. Also Fr Lev Gilet, the Monk of the Eastern Church, whose writings I had known to some extent much earlier. More recently works (in often dubious English translations!) by current Coptic Fathers, Fr Tadros Malaty particularly. And not forgetting HH Pope Shenouda's works which seem to me to be consistently helpful. I was also fortunate enough to make two visits to Egypt which was each time a faith building experience. This touches on a previous topic - our relations with the Mother Church. In my experience these are very good indeed. I have always been welcomed and accepted by Coptic Orthodox faithful, at home and abroad. It's always very moving and humbling.
Journeys - John Charmley - 27-09-2006
You were more far-sighted than I was, and it is so good to know that the decision you took then has been blessed; it is an encouragement.
I have found Pope Shenouda's works enlightening, and I shall certainly follow up some of your other suggestions.
Have any other members of the Fellowship any advice from their own experience?
It is interesting to see that we come from a variety of Christian backgrounds - which says much for the mission of the BOC.
We are fortunate in Norfolk to have Babingley, but that is a good ninety minutes drive from here, which is why Mark Wright and I are trying, with Abba Seraphim's encouragement, to hold an Orthodox evening service twice a month at Mickfield. It is slow progress, but the spirit there on Sunday was a good one.
- Paul Harrison - 29-09-2006
This is a somewhat personal question, but I'll ask it anyway: as you have just been received as a catechumen by Abba Seraphim, have you now severed your scaramental ties with the Church of England? Personally as a high churchman I find receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord an awesome, indeed mystical experience. As a catechumen, which I suspect for a church like the BOC could be quite a lengthy process, you will presumably be unable to receive. In a sense it matters not, if we can't trust the sacramental assurance of the Church of England then there is no point in receiving there.
I have been a member of Forward in Faith for a few years which seeks to preserve that assurance within a church which has lost its way. I have been passionately committed to that cause, but I think it has failed. Also, when women become bishops, I don't see how any FiF bishop could give any further allegiance to Canterbury. In the last few years I have come to realise how much more sense I find in Orthodox theology than I do in Western, Catholic or Protestant, influenced so deeply as they are by Augustine. I already knew of the BOC from a contact I had with it several years ago and now I feel impelled to find out more.
By the way are any of Pope Shenouda III's writings available in English and if so, where can they be obtained?
On the journey: Pope Shenouda's works - John Charmley - 30-09-2006
The only difficult part in deciding to become a catechumen was the knowledge that I would have to cease communicating at my Anglican church. That was very hard, at one level, but I see it as a form of spiritual fasting, and as such a discipline to be followed like others in the Church.
For some time I had been uneasy when partaking of the eucharist at my local church, and this has made matters a little less hard than they would have been, but I can't pretend they are easy!
I don't want to criticise the Anglican Church. I have been a member of it for most of my life, and it has given me a great deal; I am simply sad that it has gone to places where I cannot follow - and happy to have found the BOC.
Pope Shenouda's writings can be ordered at:
<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.copticcentre.com/bookshop.html">http://www.copticcentre.com/bookshop.html</a><!-- m -->
as can other works on the Coptic Church. The translations are not always what one would wish, but the message is crystal clear.
- Paul Harrison - 03-10-2006
I agree that the Anglican Church is going places I can't follow too. I would hope you will keep us updated on your experience as an Orthodox catechumen. I can only speak from personal experience, but I find receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord a mystical experience, in which the veil between heaven and earth is at its thinnest and we who are still on earth can join the Communion of Saints at the heavenly banquet. At services of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament there is the awe of being in the presence of God's creative Word.
It is therefore an almighty leap to give all that up for an extended period to become a catechumen. I'm not sure how long the process takes in the BOC, but Orthodox Churches, quite rightly IMO, are very strict on who they admit to communion. In the West, especially in the Protestant tradition, we have trivialised Christ's gift of His Body and Blood to sustain us on our spiritual journey and let us thank God that there are still some churches in the world which make no compromises on such a vital issue.
So there's much to think about and a lot of prayer and soul searching required of those of us who feel inclined to take the step you have taken but haven't yet made that commitment. Please keep us updated.
On the road - John Charmley - 03-10-2006
Paul Harrison Wrote:Dear John
I concur with everything you write, and whilst we all need praying for, I sometimes feel that those of us who are in these dark places may stand in even more need than we usually do.
For fifteen years or so I have struggled with remaining an Anglican. I found the so-called ordination of women very problematic given my beliefs on the nature of the priesthood, and I have always had a problem with the 'filioque' clause and have never understood why the C of E has not followed up its own advice to itself to omit it. But, as a matter of obedience, I have stayed with it.
It was, I suspect, the spiritual aridity of where I was that made me realise that the time had come to look inwardly. The Eucharist apart, Anglican worship had simply ceased to do anything for my spiritual life. The Eucharist is vitally important to me, but if I can no longer believe that the Anglican church is the orthodox 'branch' of the Church, I had to question the nature of that communion.
The discovery of the BOC was a great breakthrough, as it seemed to offer Orthodoxy with a British ethos, and the more I have explored it, the clearer it has become that this first impression was spot on. It is, of course, a small church in this country, but that does not bother me - there was once a time when the entire Church could fit into an upper chamber in Jerusalem. The question for me was how to grow spiritually. It was the realisation that I could not grow where I was that made me take the step I have taken, because my nourishment was coming from Orthodoxy.
It is, though, as you have intuited, hard; but that, I take it, is part of the discipline required to lead an Orthodox life. I have found Abba Seraphim and Peter great standbys here, and however problematic reaching a decision was, and however difficult the road appears, the spiritual feeding that I am getting on the journey makes me know it is worth it.
As for how long it takes, I suspect it will take the whole of my life on this earth, but I trust in my spiritual advisers to know when I am ready for the next step in this world.
Thank you for your interest, and I hope others will feel emboldened to join us in this dialogue.
Catechumenate - Michael Kennedy - 03-10-2006
Dear Paul and John,
May I as an ex-Anglican from a High Church background offer some thoughts?
I sympathise Paul with everything you say. When I broke my ties with the Cof E, in which I had grown up and in which at the time I was very active, as was my entire family, I went into the wilderness. Everyone around me was very understanding but it was a very painful experience. Indeed, it is still painful that as an Orthodox I am separated at Holy Communion from my family, and especially from my wife, who all remain Anglicans. But I could not with any integrity stay where I was and I will have to live with it. FinF seemed to offer a solution but in my opinion it could only ever be temporary and events seem to have justified that assessment.
During my wilderness period, although for some of the time I continued to attend Anglican services, I was out of communion - as I say very painful. I thought it was right - no one asked me to do it. I think it was right. It is I am sure a mistake to think we must communicate at all times; it is surely not an Orthodox understanding. Many Anglicans hold dear an understanding of a 'spiritual communion', ie one that is passive rather than actively receptive. My point is simply this, that it is right to trust in God and be led by the spirit. I am not encouraging anyone to do anything against their conscience but I would say that some time in the wilderness is not necessarily a bad thing - and there is of course good Gospel precedent, and in the lives of many of our fathers among the saints.
In Christ as ever,
On the road - John Charmley - 04-10-2006
Quote:During my wilderness period, although for some of the time I continued to attend Anglican services, I was out of communion - as I say very painful. I thought it was right - no one asked me to do it. I think it was right. It is I am sure a mistake to think we must communicate at all times; it is surely not an Orthodox understanding. Many Anglicans hold dear an understanding of a 'spiritual communion', ie one that is passive rather than actively receptive. My point is simply this, that it is right to trust in God and be led by the spirit.
Thank you for this, which I found very encouraging. Although I know that I can still go to my local Anglican church, for the moment I have taken the decision not to. Your feeling of being 'in the wilderness' is one I share; but there are times when this seems preferable to being in the wrong place. There is a spiritual aridity about my local Anglican service which does not lift me from where I am.
One of the things that kept me where I was for so long was the feeling that to take a decision to move elsewhere would be a 'protestant' thang to do. But gradually I came to understand that what was motivating me was the desire to be, as I saw it, orthodox and within the tradition of the ancient undivided church - and the realisation that that could not be done in the C of E.
I have decided to go with the flow of this spiritual river and rely upon the Lord to provide.