Why Did You Convert (or Revert) to Orthodoxy?

by Protecting Veil

Since becoming Orthodox years ago, I have come to realize that there are many different answers to this question. In my experience, responses differ due to many reasons including differences in gender, experiences, as well as (though this is more difficult to prove) personality type. Because of these differences, trying to produce media that is helpful to many different people becomes a tricky affair.
Protecting Veil’s mission is to produce media that edifies both Enquirers and Orthodox. To this end, as we consider the types of products/media we should produce in the coming years, it would help us greatly if you would trust us with your stories! We are asking our friends to answer one or more of the following questions:

1) What is the most significant reason you became Orthodox?

2) Which (if any) books/media were most important in your path to Orthodoxy (& why)?

3) What most helped you in the conversion process (reading, attending church, speaking with Orthodox folk)?

To stir the pot, I’ll answer these questions from my own experience:

1) I realized that the Orthodox Church’s claims regarding itself were true. This was largely influenced by my experience of the reality of the Church’s integrated, organic living of, and expression of, Christian truth.

2) The Way of a Pilgrim and The Brothers Karamazov (among others). On reflection, I realize that while it was helpful to read theology and Church history, it was through the stories of lived Orthodoxy that I was most able to enter into the truths of the faith. My experience convinced me that non-liturgical art produced by Orthodox folk has an important role to play in the Church’s expression of itself, and mission, to the modern world.

3) Worship and the experience of Christ/the Saints/Heaven in Church would have to be at the top of the list. Tied for second would have to be reading The Way of a Pilgrim and The Brothers Karamazov, and meeting charismatic bearers of the Orthodox tradition.

We greatly look forward to hearing your stories! Please comment below, or if you’d prefer to respond anonymously/by email, please write to: MyStory [at] ProtectingVeil [dot] com.

  • http://profiles.google.com/kempisosha Kenneth O’Shaughnessy

    1. I came to realize that ecclesiology was paramount, if salvation was a result of being in “the body of Christ” – and that body had to actually be as it was described in the scriptures. The Church that fulfilled this description is Orthodox.
    2. I read “The Orthodox Church” by Bp Kallistos Ware, and the Ante-Nicene church fathers. That, some history, and various articles online mainly on the goarch.org website took care of the historical and doctrinal issues.
    3. Being involved in the church and the liturgy was primary for me – not just the services, but fellowship. My wife asked what we had to do to “join the church” during a church camping trip.

  • David Twombly

    This’ll have to be the Cliff’s Notes version, but here goes:

    1.  I found not only (the) Truth, but also love and grace (and lots of individuals quietly embodying those virtues in their lives) at my local parish.

    2. Honestly, the Jack Chick tract “Are Roman Catholics Christians?” upended my inner life when I was about 13; I spent much of my life afterward seeking confirmation for my gut feeling that Chick’s take on Church history was off. Various books and articles by Gillquist et al revealed the possibility of “something else” to me, but the specifically Orthodox (in this case, Patristic) book that pointed me more squarely toward the Church was On the Holy Spirit by St. Basil the Great.

    3. I attended Inquirer’s classes on and off for awhile; that and attending services (the Divine Liturgy and Vespers, especially) regularly for an extended period allowed me to “live” the Church and (as was the case for Kenneth mentioned) develop relationships that continued to grow deeper and stronger over time. I don’t want to understate the importance of the reading I had done and was doing, but I’d been reading a long time before I ever had the nerve to attend a service (and that at the longstanding invitation of an Orthodox friend).

  • http://www.ProtectingVeil.com/ ProtectingVeil

    So…in a sense, the really decisive event was finally experiencing the worship of the Church? I’d have to say this was also the case for me…although my initial experience was hampered (it seems to me now, in retrospect) by (among other things) serious liturgical and architectural (in particular, pews) problems that made it nearly impossible for me to experience the beauty of the liturgy. It wasn’t until my second experience (at an Antiochian mission with a particularly good liturgical and aesthetic sense) that I actually experienced the worship of the Church. I’ve often wondered if my experience is unusual (in the sense that perhaps I am overly affected by aesthetics?)…or have other converts had a similar experience: where one is initially unable to understand/experience the Church’s worship because the externals (aesthetics, pews, organs, language, etc.) are simply too difficult to overcome (or, rather, they distort things to such an extent that the internal life of worship becomes disfigured/inaccessible)?

  • Mary

    1) My parents are Protestant missionaries, and I was raised being taught everything about Christianity. Intellectually I understood about Christ, but I was too proud and self-righteous to really know Him. Despite myself I had some sort of awareness that I didn’t know God, and that this was not good. I asked Him to reveal Himself to me as He truly was and to break down anything that stood in the way of me knowing Him (esp. pride). This was in my freshman year of college. The next 8 years were hellish. I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say, I was fairly spiritually, morally, psychologically and even physically hurt by the time I came to the Orthodox Church. God was very merciful to me. In Orthodoxy, I found the love of God. It was in the Orthodox Church that I finally understood that salvation is found in the person of Jesus Christ. I did not understand that as an Evangelical Christian. I became Orthodox because it is in the Church that I met God.

    2) I’ve read a number of books on Orthodoxy, but one book that really had an impact on my conversion was a biography on St. Seraphim of Sarov. I can’t remember the title. As I was reading it I felt as though I was understood and loved by St. Seraphim. He seemed to speak into my heart. It was very healing.

    3) I visited an Orthodox Monastery while I was still an inquirer. When I was there I had a tangible experience of God’s love. After I left the monastery I wanted to become Orthodox right away, but I waited another 8 months.

  • http://www.ProtectingVeil.com/ ProtectingVeil

    Thank you Mary…it was edifying to hear your story…I’m glad you found your way home!

  • Twomblyd

    The short answer is Yes.

    The longer answer is more complicated. Overall, I’d say that the worship of the church drew me in once I was convinced that I was welcome to become part of it. My first visit to an Orthodox worship service was at the wedding of a relative; the wedding service was beautiful, edifying–and strangely distant. No one went out of their way to make me unwelcome (the opposite was the case, in fact), but it was not a situation in which I felt invited into the community. When I finally visited what became my home parish, it was at the invitation of a friend with whom I’d had many conversations about the Faith. The service itself (Great Vespers for the Feast of St. Nicholas) was still very foreign to me, but I think getting past the first internal hurdle of wondering if I was truly welcome allowed me to perceive what I could later identify only as holiness; the next day, unrelated to the verbal content of the service, I took the first steps of trying to turn away from a particular sin I’d struggled with for years.

  • http://www.ProtectingVeil.com/ ProtectingVeil

    Interesting…when one becomes really reflective of one’s experience of entering the Church, it becomes even more clear (again!) that each person’s experience is truly unique…and that God truly does know people’s hearts and, like a wise Fisherman, how to draw them in.

  • Philoxenia

    My path to Orthodoxy came by the slow but sure working of the Holy Spirit & came upon me without my having any idea what was happening. I had set aside church like a traveller who boards the train leaving his most valuable luggage behind. This was useful as returning to the church had to be through new eyes.
    I was at an antiquarian store in Portland, Oregon, & looking for things to read in my sleeping car on the train home, when I found a cache of Orthodox books on a shelf, obviously a small collection from someone who had left their baggage behind; so I bought them all, about fifteen I think, & I was deeply moved by what I read, having read nothing like it before. The most memorable were Archimandrite Sophrony’s The Monk of Mount Athos; St. Xenia Press’ Maria of Olonets; The Way of the Pilgrim; L. M. Andreyev’s Russia’s Catacomb Saints; & I. M. Kontzevich’s Acquisition of the Holy Spirit in Ancient Russia. 

    I did return to church, but it was the Anglican Church, & I stayed in this manner for about fifteen years; the progress is slow but sure, & then one day a friend suggested I visit the Greek Orthodox inquirer’s class. There was no pressure, but I found it so congenial to my natural spiritual temperament that I might wonder why it had taken me so long to find it. I came down from that very first class thinking “I can do this.” Recognizing the door is a big step, but going through without looking back is even bigger. I didn’t come from the Anglicans “slamming doors & breaking dishes,” but I simply knew this was the right call for me to hear & obey. I have a very old Russian Icon called the “Unexpected Joy.” I think it very much suits me. 

    Nektarios 

  • http://www.ProtectingVeil.com/ ProtectingVeil

    Thanks for sharing, Nektarios! When you read those books were you aware of the Orthodox Church yet, or did they simply point you back towards Christ as you knew Him in the Western confessions? Do you recall ever sensing a disconnect between what you were experiencing in Anglicanism and what you had read in those books?

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