Sunday, July 31, 2005

Seeker Friendly?

Just got off the phone with my mother, with whom I have had no small amount of difficulty regarding my conversion to the Orthodox Church (it's man-made religion; it's dead ritual; it's all about rules and regulations; etc.), and who attended (along with many other family members) the glorious baptism of my lovely daughter, Hope Elizabeth today! (Don't worry, faithful viewers; pics are coming soon! Stay tuned...)

Mom also stayed for the Divine Liturgy, during which I read the assigned epistle reading. She, being the faithful Protestant she is, had large, chain-reference Bible in hand, ready to follow along in the reading, only to be disappointed when I sang out, "The reading is from the epistle of the holy apostle Paul to the Romans..." and that was it. She was unaware that, as far as the service itself was concerned, the faithful hear the Word of God read aloud, and were free to read it at their leisure throughout the rest of the Lord's Day. Hence her call. She was troubled that nothing was provided for folks to read along with the epistle/gospel for that day, which led her to believe that we Orthodox therefore "just didn't care about the lost and didn't mind if they were confused about things." My mother: queen of jumped-to conclusions...God love her. She does mean well...

My friend Alan, at Rhoblogy, has written here about "seeker friendly" churches and why they're NOT what any Christian church gathering, regardless of one's confession, should be about. To summarize (and paraphrase the end of the post), "Church meetings are primarily for those who are already believers; the world is where we engage unbelievers." True. Dat.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that we couldn't run off copies of the day's readings (my former parish in Tulsa did this) or have greeters at the door who hand you a service book if you want one and pair you up with a knowledgeable "buddy" who can answer questions during or after the liturgy (my current parish does this). But I would ask this: regarding those denominations or groups (like the one in the abovelinked post) who bend over backwards to attract converts, are the people who stay truly seekers? Moreover, how grounded in the faith are those who've stayed for a while if all efforts are about gaining new inquirers? If everything is so accessible that even an unchurched visitor immediately grasps everything that's going on, I wonder how good an opportunity the faithful members have to "go deep" in their faith. Further, if someone walks in, sees something (or, as is often the case in Orthodoxy, many things) that could lead to misinterpretation or just downright confusion, and leaves right after, for good, and asks no questions to try and understand...well...I question just how serious a "seeker" they were in the first place.

My mother has been to...I believe four divine liturgies. Definitely enough to build up a good cache of questions. Only perhaps once have I received a question about why we did the things we did. Nevertheless, opinions have now already been formed in her mind about us, and she has apparently resigned herself to the fact that we must just like to be confusing.

In the words of Bill Cosby: Riiiiiiiiight!

We're fond in the Orthodox church of saying "Come and see" when asked what we believe--referring, of course, to our beautiful services which do, when listened to and understood, proclaim what we have always believed. I would, however, issue this further call to all who visit--and those who (may God grant that they be more and more) are brought through her doors by the faithful who bear witness through their words and lives: "Come and see...then stay and ask." We who have tasted and seen will help you, God helping us. Allow yourselves to seek, and you will find.

5 comments:

Rhology said...

Bryan Peter said: "Further, if someone walks in, sees something (or, as is often the case in Orthodoxy, many things) that could lead to misinterpretation or just downright confusion, and leaves right after, for good, and asks no questions to try and understand...well...I question just how serious a 'seeker' they were in the first place."

To paraphrase what you said, True. Dat.

Philippa said...

You bring up an interesting point BP. If you read some of Willow Creek's stuff (they are a big non-denominational church in IL), they have sold themselves as very seeker friendly. Their membership is huge - like thousands huge. But they are finding it difficult to keep those who have moved from "seeker" to "faithful" primarily because they are 20 miles wide and 1/4 inch deep if you get my point.

Xenia Kathryn said...

I like that. "Come and see, stay and ask." I think too often visitors come, expecting to have their questions answered by simply observing an Orthodox service. But really, it just spurs on more questions. Thanks for the idea!

Mimi said...

Congratulations to your daughter.

A lot of good points, Bryan Peter.

choirfiend said...

Hope you can pass on this message to your mom, somehow--you raise a good and civil point.

And congrats to baby Hope! Did she cry? You've got a cradle in the family now:)