Sunday, 11 October 2009

Three years searching

This second post to my new blog is intended to bring my journey of faith a bit further forward.

Following that midnight conversion experience, I didn't throw myself into things.  I waited and prayed.  I read a lot, and in particular started to listen hard to the Vicar's sermons.  Most people around here are evangelical Anglican or Methodist, maybe not Sola Scriptura, but pretty close, and I couldn't see that - after all the first Christians only had the Hebrew Scriptures.  The local church is low Anglican (The Church of England is a broad church, as they say), quite a long way from my Catholic heritage.  Services are fairly predictable from the Common Worship style, although there are still Churches where only the 1662 Common Prayer Book is used.

However, the Vicar led prayer meetings too, and I soon started going to these, and also to some of the Bible Studies that he ran.  The prevailing prayer style appears as Chatting to God.  I'm  not really inclined to this, as it seems to me that the important thing is to foster the relationship with God, yes by confessing our cares and yes, by being open to him, but in some way no one was telling me how to do that.  And in Bible study groups the pace is governed by the level at which the group can go - and many people can't go further than a very literal interpretation.  I end up in such groups either dominating or silent and unsatisfied. In short, this way lies anger, despair, and sin.

Still, I met some wonderful people, they are all dearly loved friends now, and I could not be without them.

I had the opportunity to represent the parish at the local Churches Together group, and that has helped me a lot.  It's given me a better view of what others believe, and how others do things.  Boy, the Catholic Church has changed since I knew it in the 1970's; and the Society of Friends have wonderful meetings that I love. Even the local Charismatic church has a lot to offer, but for me it isn't right.

Then one day, Ros came home from a History Society meeting, they had been addressed by a local clergyman about the Local Celtic Saints.  After the meeting she had met an Orthodox Deacon who had retired with his wife to the area, and was setting up a Community - Saint Herbert, Saint Mungo, and Saint Bega - the local Celtic Saints!

Well, of course, we had to invite him to the next Churches Together meeting, and there I met him.  Fr John's approach is to hug everyone, I think it's Russian, although he is very British.  He expects a full kiss too, no chaste cheek touching.  He rather impressed me.  We got talking, he told me that he had a Chapel in his attic, with full frescos on all the walls.  I invited him for tea (well, I'm English, it's what you do) and we have become firm friends.

About this time our local vicar resigned from the church - the pressures of the job had given him what was close to a nervous breakdown.  It's completely understandable, we have two priests for nine parishes.  We were lucky, we got a new man in just six months, but they were a long six months for me.

Just about then too, Fr John asked me if I knew how he could ask the Church of England for the loan of St Bega's Church for his ordination to the priesthood - he wanted an ancient place that was big enough for his bishop and all those who would want to come.  St Bega's certainly pre-dates the Great Schism, it was built in stone about 950, but there was probably a wooden church there before that.

Saint Bega is one of the patrons of his community too, and it would be the first time in over 1000 years that an Orthodox Bishop ordained a priest to serve in Cumbria.  In due course we managed that difficult introduction between Bishop Basil of Amphipolis, and my lord Bishop Graham of Carlisle which resulted in special permission being given, and a year ago this weekend Deacon John was dragged to a little travelling altar I made in the crossing of St Bega's and ordained a priest.  It was my first Orthodox Liturgy.

Fr John arrived on our doorstep a few days later with a copy of his great book: "The Living Tradition of the Saints, and the significance of their teaching for us".  That book, and the man that goes with it, changed everything again.

And I think that will do for today.

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