Into Orthodoxy: The Long Journey Home

by Fr. Lawrence Farley

long journeyIn my journey home to Orthodoxy, I took the long way around.  I was born into suburban respectability in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and therefore attended Protestant Sunday School like all the other respectable kids my age.  Since Christian Faith in my home was more nominal than real, when Sunday School became boring (the ultimate indictment), I stopped attending and soon sunk into agnostic adolescent mediocrity.  I didn’t give ultimate questions much thought; I was more interested in girls.  (Sadly, they were little interested in me.)

But around midway through my teenage years I thought that life must consist of something more than a meaningless dance of atoms, and so I went back to my United Church looking for answers.  There I encountered a few people my age who introduced me to the Jesus Movement (it was 1970), and in the Jesus Movement I encountered the Lord Jesus.  It was a very high-voltage part of the Jesus Movement, replete with speaking in tongues, prophesying, and effervescent evangelism, characterized by a direct experience of the overwhelming love of God and the power of the Spirit.

One thing that was missing, however, from my United Church, was any historical memory.  The United Church of my upbringing was created in 1925 and my mom was created in 1921, and I intuited that one’s Church should at least be older than one’s mother.  I began looking for a sense of history in my church experience, along with beauty in worship, and an affirmation of the realities I had experienced in the Jesus Movement.  The liberal United Church could not supply these, so I started to look elsewhere.

Being a Protestant, I of course did not fish outside the Protestant pool.  I became an Anglican, and thereafter, an Anglican priest.

FRLassemblyI had lousy timing.  The Anglican Church of Canada was then energetically engaged in throwing overboard just those things in her theology and liturgy that I joined her to experience.  For the longest time I tried to pretend that the Anglican church was not just another species of liberal Protestantism.  But reality is a relentless thing, and eventually I had to admit that the Anglican Church I joined was largely like the United Church I left.  So, where to go? Then, providentially, I discovered Orthodoxy.

I always considered the Fathers paradigmatic (which is why Roman Catholicism was never “on the table” for me).  Too bad the Orthodox didn’t speak English.  When I soon discovered that they did speak English, I was hooked.  I found in Orthodoxy the convergence of the two things I had come to value above all in the Church:  an experience of the Holy Spirit and of patristic continuity.  Conversion for me meant coming home and resolving the tensions between the charismatic and the historical.  In becoming Orthodox I was not conscious of renouncing any of the things I found precious in my past, but rather fulfilling them, and being able to enjoy them in their proper places.

I am grateful to God both for all the places I have been, and for where I now am.

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Comments

  1. This story seems so familiar. My own background is very similar here in the UK. I too came home by the round about route. Also I have found there was very little to renounce from my varied background but each element was and is fulfilled and enhanced. God bless you.

  2. Fr. Fred Dougherty,MSJ says:

    Starting to work on the same journey. God Bless you and thank you for your story.

  3. Dear Father Lawrence,
    I am Roman Catholic and have been on a long journey toward Orthodoxy but haven’t arrived yet. I am torn between and guess I need to continue to seek God’s guidance. I am strongly drawn to Orthodoxy, but hesitant and am confused to some extent why. Please pray for me, Father.

  4. Nida Picton says:

    I too am strongly drawn to orthodoxy and have read a lot on the history, church fathers and the saints. My reason for not making that final step is my husband as he is very critical of me going the the orthodox church. I have gone a few times without him knowing and I know he won’t come with me. The church services are in Greek and he uses that as a reason to be critical. Please pray for me. God bless.

  5. Fr. Andrew says:

    This certainly spoke to me… the amendments are my story and true in England today… “I became an Anglican, and thereafter, an Anglican priest…. the Church of England is energetically engaged in throwing overboard just those things in her theology and liturgy that I joined her to experience. For the longest time I tried to pretend that the Anglican church was not just another species of liberal Protestantism. But reality is a relentless thing, and eventually I have to admit this…. So, where to go?

  6. Welcome home, Fr. Andrew.

  7. David Matthias Moore says:

    This might as well have been my journey, with a few extra bumps here and there. i was born in Great Britain so of course “God Save the Queen” was usually connected to “Lord have Mercy”. I found Orthodoxy… rather it found me. I am a better person for it, I think. I “know”….

  8. Patricia Dimsdale says:

    I want to attend an orthodox church regularly, but the one I went to closed for the winter. It is a long drive to any orthodox church. Is there any sort of community fellowship online (not a forum) which encourages people when they cannot travel to church? This is Canada, and the orthodox church seems to only be in large cities. Then six months of winter prohibits travel. Can someone recommend how to get in touch with others?

  9. Patricia, we have sent you an email. Follow up with us and let’s stay in touch. We will help you however we can until we can connect you with local Orthodox Christians and your nearest priest.

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