Jerome Danner is a graduate of the University of West Georgia and holds a degree in anthropology. He currently works as a middle school teacher. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook for more of his thoughts and commentary.
I would love to be completely immersed in the Orthodox faith. The desire is there, but the distance (between the closest parish, other Orthodox Christians, and me) provides a very deep spiritual conundrum for me. It is not a matter of “do I continue on my journey to one day be completely involved in my Orthodox faith? To be faithful to the Divine Liturgy, follow the Liturgical calendar, taught the ways of Orthodoxy by a beloved priest, and engage in many other wonderful traditions?”
The conundrum is more a matter of, “When I will be blessed with more opportunities to live in a closer proximity to a parish, learn more of the ways of the Church, and interact and be part of a community with the Orthodox faithful?”
Nevertheless, I do not doubt that I made the right decision to have, at least, started my journey. Each time that I have ever set foot in the sanctuary of any Orthodox parish—though it may sound cliche—I feel that I am home. With the recent changes in my life (the birth of my daughter and starting a new job) and the lack of interest in this historic faith by my Protestant family, I have considerable difficulty in getting to the parish nearest me, which is about 40 minutes away in south Georgia.
However, I am blessed by the love and support that I have received from my fellow parishioners. They know and understand my story because they choose to do so. Although they see that I cannot be as faithful as I’d like to be, they have continued to welcome me with open arms. Saints Constantine and Helen Orthodox Church is located in Helena, Georgia. And the church is really in existence because of the love and continued dedication of one particular family.
Now, there are other beautiful souls that are faithful to this parish, and I do not mean to dismiss or disrespect anyone else at Saints Constantine and Helen. But I speak of this particular family because members of this family have desired to help with my growth and my journey into Orthodoxy. When I first called the church about my interest and desire, I was hesitant to visit because I had been to churches (Protestant and Orthodox) where a visitor, even a Christian, is not treated lovingly as an extension of God’s family.
One phone call put my unease to rest. The kind sister at the other end of the phone assured me that my race (or culture) would not matter when I came to worship with them: truly, an example of God’s love in action. Another reason for my continued connection to this parish is that this woman’s son became something of a mentor and guide to me, and I am grateful for his desire to share with me an education centered around Orthodoxy.
Obviously, I can create a prayer corner at my home, listen to homilies through the internet, and follow the Liturgical calendar by myself. And I am doing all of that more and more. But there is nothing like living the Orthodox life among the brethren. There is nothing like facing the trials and tribulations and the blessings of life with those who desire to walk in the Lord and identify with the ways of Orthodoxy. Well, here is to my prayer being answered and my desire met in God’s time.
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