Cradle or Convert? A Trend in Orthodoxy

Not long ago my mother and I visited her hometown parish for their annual food festival. My mom still has family and friends there, so it was a wonderful opportunity to visit and reconnect.

While there I noticed a table with literature and signage. As I approached, I saw titles such as, “What is Orthodoxy?” and other related information. I admit to being fascinated at that moment. As a Greek Orthodox Christian born into the faith, this impressed me and brought a smile to my face. Never before had I witnessed an Orthodox church that openly sought converts.

Currently in my own church we have numerous converts. I am soon to be 60 years of age and I would say in the last decade I’ve seen and had the privilege of actively working with converts in ministries. I am in admiration of those who choose the Orthodox faith from other religions. Two priests, Father Paul Abernathy of St. Moses the Black Church in Pittsburgh and Father Andrew Stephen Damick of St. Paul Antiochian Church in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, are two that I’ve had the honor of meeting.

My husband is a convert, and I know many others who converted due to marriage. But what of those who come from other religions and actively seek out Orthodoxy? In Father Damick’s book, Orthodoxy and Heterdoxy (Ancient Faith Ministries), his moment of described conversion brought tears to my eyes:

And there in that borrowed room with fewer than a dozen people present, a wiry, vested priest with a wiry black beard swung his censer and intoned his prayers, and the people responded. And I knew that heaven touched earth there on that altar. Time seemed to suspend its motion.

 I went to an Orthodox writer’s conference recently (where I met Father Damick), and I was overjoyed by the number of converts in attendance. It was a tremendous spiritual experience to be surrounded by those not only born into the faith, but those who actively sought and chose it.

My approach to those who have converted is warm and open. Most often, I ask them what church they are currently attending. If we keep talking, I ask them about their conversion. Why did they choose Orthodoxy? These answers bring a deep feeling into my heart, and I feel an instant connection.

My wish is for all of us to embrace our faith and come together in unity and love, whether we are born into it or just arrived. Please be friendly and welcoming to those you meet who are new. We are all one in Christ Jesus.

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Joanne Jamis Cain is a steward of the Holy Trinity…
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