When I was first asked to write about my journey into Orthodoxy, it was hard to pin down any one particular prompt that eventually led to my becoming Orthodox. Christianity has always been a crucial part of my life, but each tradition (or “non-tradition”) seemed to go about worshiping God and pursuing a relationship with Him in a different way. Some churches emphasized rules, other churches emphasized grace. Some explored the heart, others the mind. All of them had parts of the truth, but I always sensed there was something more.
My journey to Orthodoxy truly took off when I joined Christ the King, an Anglican church of about 100 members. I was 19 and I had to work through many struggles regarding my faith. It was unlike the Baptist church of my childhood, the nondenominational mega church of middle school, or the 20 member Lutheran church of my teenage years. At Christ the King, we used St. John Chrysostom’s liturgy every Sunday, talked about the historical church, and put a huge emphasis on living out our faith in community with each other. My priest there recommended Alexander Schmemann books to read, highly encouraged confession, and affirmed the seven ecumenical councils.
I went to see Frederica Mathewes Green speak on the Jesus Prayer. Christ the King held a study called “Images of Christ” where we examined church architecture, the Pantocrator, and why religious pictures have didactic significance. I even went to a Pascha service as well as my own Easter morning liturgy on one of the rare years the Western and Eastern calendars aligned. (It was easier to get by on less sleep in my early 20s.)
Faith at Christ the King overlapped with Orthodoxy in many ways, but I was happy there and had little interest in pursuing Orthodoxy. After a time, I grew restless at Christ the King. I had been there for six years and it seemed that the well was dry. I began to notice that there was a lot of room for doctrinal variations within Anglicanism, and I suspected that I identified more with my particular priest’s teachings than that of the Anglican church as a whole. This was reinforced when one of our visiting bishops said something theologically incorrect. Eventually, I began to rethink the policy of open communion that was practiced at Christ the King.
A few families from my parish had already left to pursue Orthodoxy, but when my best friend and her husband joined them, I began to wonder if I should follow suit. Instead, I delayed as long as I could stand it. I knew just enough about Orthodoxy to know I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to lose choosing what to give up for Lent, fast-free Sundays, and optional confession.
One night when I was visiting my Orthodox friends, they read a book to their children about St. Seraphim. In it was his famous saying, “Acquire a peaceful spirit, and around you thousands will be saved.” At those words, I realized that staying where I didn’t belong would damage myself as well as those around me. I was also instantly sure that my relationship to Orthodoxy went beyond an intellectual pursuit, casual curiosity, or an emotional draw.
I was called to obedience and began attending St. Paul’s OCA where I became a catechumen, was chrismated, and eventually got married. Although St. Seraphim had a part in calling me to Orthodoxy, I took on the name Anna after the Prophetess who spent her days in the temple awaiting the coming of Jesus. In trouble, she clung to the church and through her faithfulness was able to see the promise of salvation. Through her prayers, I hope to follow her example and grow in faith for the rest of my life.