A Personal Account of Converting (reverting?) to Orthodoxy.
At the age of 32, it may seem quite late in one’s life to be baptised, but when I began to rediscover my faith and cleave to God in my mid-to-late 20s, I didn’t want to run out and find the first person who would be willing to baptise me.
Growing up in a presbytarian parish with parents who didn’t go to church, I didn’t receive much in the way of Christian teachings other than the odd bits and visits to churches at primary school – but I did have a natural curiosity which led me to spending much of my time alone in cemetaries and sneaking out to church services. I suppose I was peculiar child in that I knew God was there and I spoke to Him, but was lacking a foundation in the way of membership of the Church.
I lost my way at some point as a teenager after seeking new experiences and pleasures – alcohol, recreational drugs, music. As they would say in the Jewish communities – I went ‘Off the Derech (path)’. I developed severe anxiety issues and found myself in a dark place of depression and the inability to socialise or leave my home; I spent my time studying everything that interested me – from natural sciences and the occult to computer science and linguistics which I had always loved. Eventually, when I started listening again I heard God – not a voice, but His presence. He was still with me, I had just numbed my senses with alcohol and secular studies.
After a lot of self-discovery, meditation I found myself able to go out more (albeit medicated), and on a trip to Amsterdam a stranger came up to our group, ignored everyone else but came up to me and told me “Don’t forget about Jesus – He hasn’t forgotten about you”. Initially I put it down to a crazy evangelist wandering the streets looking for sinners to preach to, but he didn’t want anything else – or to tell anyone else anything. Just me. I knew then that it was time to return to God.
I spent the next few years studying the roots of Christianity through Judaism, the history of the Church, and the various denominations that stemmed from it as well as other religions. I wanted to find the truth – true Christianity.
I subsequently (and swiftly) found that I was drawn to Catholicism – particularly the ritual, liturgy and theology which separated it from protestantism. But where I live I was limited to the Roman Catholic Church which had been heavily diluted and changed, especially since the 1960s; and Anglo-Catholic Anglican churches… which remained traditional, but there was still something lacking. I looked for older Catholic churches in hope that they offered pre-Vatican II liturgy with a latin Mass, celebrated ad orientem – but there was only one which did occasionally. Ideally, I needed something close to early Christianity which would consume my daily life – offices, other devotions, fasting, tradition, and most importantly: without heresy.
Faced with having to make compromises if I joined either church, it seemed the right thing to do would be to start a home-church roughly built around the tradition of Old Catholic Churches. I knew I wanted to honour the British/Celtic saints, and that ancient British Christian liturgy was the way to go so I began researching the Stowe and Bobbio missals. After translating small parts myself and wading through non-canonical hobbyist Churches who use the missals with some random Roman and other bits pasted in, I finally found a translated compilation by an Orthodox priest which had been approved by the Church!
Excitedly, I emailed the author and asked his permission to use it in my chapel (which was still a pipe dream). He of course was curious as to why someone outside Orthodoxy would want to use this liturgy and noted that the website I had set up appeared to be in line with a basic Orthodox catechism. I explained that I had always seen Orthodox Christianity as a foreign concept – I admired the beauty of Eastern Orthodoxy but I thought it was one of those things you could only really get into if you were Greek, Russian, Romanian, etc. I do speak some Romanian and Russian but the Churches still seemed alien to me and besides, there was no permanent Church in my city that I had seen – how could I become Orthodox without an Orthodox church?!
Father opened a door of revelation for me; I realised after all the searching and studying – what I was looking for was right here all along. Pre-schism Christianity in the British Isles was in fact Orthodox – and would still be today if it wasn’t for the Roman Catholic Church and its obsessive heresies and self-superiority.
I write this not to dwell on the past, but to mark the passing of my previous life and my rebirth into Orthodoxy – as on Trinity Sunday this year I was Baptised as David (after David the King), Chrismated, and blessed as a server; the most important day of my life made extra special by new friends & family as well as the feast of the Trinity. Thanks to God’s direction through the Holy Spirit, I am no longer a lost sheep. I have no need nor want to search for what was missing in my life all these years – it is here. There is a peace within me, that has grown – firstly with increased prayer and the Holy Spirit, then subsequently with the Holy Mysteries of Baptism, Chrismation and [first] Eucharist. I cannot stress enough how important it is that everyone should experience this – developing true love for God begets true knowledge of Him. Scripture doesn’t really come alive and enter your heart, in my experience, until you can say that you truly do love and trust in God.
With the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church falling victim to ultra-liberal politics and increasing heresies, I can but pray that more lost sheep find their way back to Orthodoxy.