I grew up nondenominational Protestant, attending Baptist, Evangelical, Assembly of God, and Foursquare churches, along with Christian schools. There was an emphasis on Bible study, avoiding sin, politics, evangelizing, and the end times. To me, this was authentic Christianity. I thought of “being saved” by “asking Jesus into my heart” as a one-time event, and I struggled with doubt, wondering if I had prayed the “sinner’s prayer” sincerely enough. After moving away to college, I stopped attending church regularly. The doubt persisted.
My wife Halli (who grew up Seventh Day Adventist) and I were married in 2008, and we went to Adventist services once or twice a year. Prompted by a distinct impression God was calling us back to Him, we started attending an Evangelical church in 2015. It was what we needed at the time, but eventually we felt compelled to find something deeper. We prayed God would lead us.
Around the same time, I’d been meeting with my Nike coworker Steve Tussing (now Fr. Steve). We started talking as fellow believers after I learned he was attending Greek Orthodox seminary, but I didn’t have a clue what Orthodoxy was. Over the next year, Fr. Steve patiently answered my many questions as we shared our perspectives on theology and faith. One day Fr. Steve gave me a copy of The Orthodox Church by Kallistos Ware. Here was a history of Christianity that I had never known: the early Church, the councils, and the Fathers.
I finished the book with even more questions. I read Surprised by Christ by Fr. James Bernstein, and was struck by the Orthodox ideas of worship, salvation, and non-juridical atonement. This challenged my existing perceptions of Christianity, which had a strong focus on literalism and legalism, and came heavy with guilt and shame. Most compelling of all was thinking of the church as a spiritual hospital, salvation as a process, and repentance as a lifelong focus on restoration and healing. I started watching Orthodox lectures and homilies online, reading Orthodox blogs, and listening to Liturgies and chant during my daily commute. An impression began to take hold in my heart. Driving to work one day, I was overwhelmed with this idea of an all-merciful, all-loving God who became flesh and redeemed all creation, and it resonated in the core of my being for days. Everything started to come together: the Mysteries, the Incarnation, theosis, all of it. I had a newfound desire to seek Christ, and it was clear this meant seeking the Orthodox Church.
Eventually, after more meetings, Fr. Steve extended the inevitable invitation: “Come and see.” In August of 2019 we attended our first Liturgy at what is now Holy Resurrection in Salem. Liturgy was beautiful, reverent, worshipful, and unlike any service we’d experienced. This wasn’t just going to church – this was worship of the Living God. After church we talked with Fr. Steve and Pres. Katie for hours and drove home in a bit of a daze. As we tried to process our reactions, Halli softly stated “I feel like I’ve come home.” Exactly! This was where God had been calling us all along.
We attended Liturgy at St. John for the first time a week later. Everyone was so welcoming and excited we were there, it truly felt like a family. We walked out of the Logos Bookstore with armfuls of books, and soon met with Fr. Matthew and started our journey as inquirers and eventually catechumens. We were baptized into the church in November of 2020. Thanks be to God! He is faithful, and He never stops calling us to Him.