by Marina Moss
I cannot put my finger on any one reason for my conversion to Orthodoxy. The awareness of the Orthodox Church crept up on me over many years. I liked history and I read many books about the early Church, especially in Britain. I was convinced that the Orthodox Church was the New Testament Church and I mused on how it could have been had the Church here stayed united and faithful to the Church of the Apostles.
A pilgrimage to the Holy Land at Christmas in 1982 gave me an opportunity to experience a little of the wonderful worship.
At the same time I was happy with my worship and service in the choir of my local parish (Anglican) church which my family had attended since at least 1775. But, in the early 1990’s, I was beginning to feel a lot of disquiet with the changes which the Church of England had been inflicting on itself. The new liturgies and prayers with which I had once been content were proving, for me, to be uninspiring and prosaic.
I was worshipping regularly out of habit but I no longer felt happy or comfortable in the Church of my baptism. Spiritually, I was in the wilderness.
During 1993 I began to get snippets of information about something called ‘Pilgrimage to Orthodoxy (PTO),’ and began, through a friend, to receive some of their literature, but nothing was happening in Manchester and I became quite frustrated because, although drawn to the idea of investigating ‘PTO’ further, I felt I had nowhere to go.
My prayers were answered by a second-hand invitation to a meeting of like-minded people in Stockport, after which I was sent two forms – one invited me to register as a ‘Friend’ of PTO and the other invited me to register as a Catechumen. To this day I do not know why I decided to sign the second one. Was I convinced of the path I was to take as early as that? Anyway, I was then invited in February 1994 to join the Stockport group for instruction.
This meant a nine mile journey each way every fortnight or so to a place where I always got lost on the way there – and back! There were times during that dark, wet winter winter when this made me want to give up, but something kept me going. During the early weeks I was trying to convince myself that I should stay with my parish church because it would have been easier. I had lots of good friends there and it was only five minutes walk away! But it soon became evident that the Holy Spirit was urging me on even though, having no friends at that time in the group, it was a pretty lonely experience.
The Catechumenate classes were very comprehensive. Amongst other things we explored the Church Councils, the Holy Fathers, Holy Tradition and the Scriptures, Orthodox teaching on the Creed, the Virgin Mary, the Sacraments and Icons. My long held opinion that the Orthodox Church was the true Church was confirmed during those months of instruction. When in 1994 I was asked to make a decision, I joyfully, but fearfully committed myself to the new Community of St. Aidan, (then), Stockport.
Resigning from my parish church was painful. My long time friends there were saddened and some were angry. They did not understand at all. My relatives were just bewildered and didn’t want to discuss it.
The Community initially rented a room in Stockport and we met there for our first Liturgy on Sunday 4th September 1994. Although I had seen the Eastern Rite in print and we had “rehearsed” some of it, I had never heard it sung before (apart from the Holy Land experience). Afterwards I learned that some of our number found it strange and intimidating but I was transported out of this world! I knew from that day that all the pain of separation from my former Church and all the miles I had to travel were justified. All the following week I found myself singing “lay aside all earthly cares”, which was all I could remember of the Cherubic Hymn. The prayers, which I knew were ancient, I found to be full of poetry and relevance.
I was hard to be deprived of the Sacrament until our Chrismation, especially over Christmas, and, Orthodox time being what it is, it was Palm Sunday, 16th April 1995, before that glorious day when I, with twenty others, was chrismated into the Holy Orthodox Church.
In 1996, with God’s help, we purchased our won building in Levenshulme, Manchester and I am sharing with the congregation in the equipping and beautification of the once bare hall. That group of strangers with whom I started my journey have become my dearest friends in a warm and welcoming congregation and I am grateful to Fr. Gregory Hallam as the instrument of my conversion.
Four years on I am satisfied and complete in my faith. Orthodoxy is still a wonderful mystery and I know I still have a lot to learn but I also know I made the right decision in July 1994. I still feel a sense of anticipation when the priest begins the Liturgy with the words, “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”, and I am still thereafter able to “lay aside all earthly cares”. I feel thoroughly Orthodox and find it difficult to believe I was ever anything else and, by the grace of God, I will in the years to come, continue to grow in the Faith of the Church.
Thanks be to God.