I was born in Vancouver, Washington into a German/Irish family in 1943. When I was three-years-old, my father was inducted into the US Army. During his absence my mother began attending a small evangelical Quaker church. She faithfully took my older brother and me. Upon our father’s return this habit of regular church attendance was well-rooted and we continued to go as a family. My parents became pillars in the church and we attended nearly every service. Our lives were filled with church activities.
Though they were faithful to the church, our parents’ marriage was rocky. They loved us, but in our home there was always a lot of arguing and strife and eventually they divorced. While our parents were unable to show us an example of a healthy Christian marriage they were able to set their own troubles aside and give us the heritage of regular church attendance and guide us in developing a relationship with Jesus Christ. They built a strong network of Christian friends, leaders and teachers around us and encouraged us to bring our church friends to our home. These people provided stability for us and created a refuge from the problems at home. I learned at an early age that I not only had a caring church family but I could also talk to my heavenly Father in prayer.
I believe these life situations created in me sensitivity to God’s leading. From the time I was quite young, I felt a tugging at my heart to serve the Lord. I remember asking as a teenager if I could teach Sunday School for the church’s pre-school children. I was allowed to do that, which fed and strengthened my desire to serve. I felt a calling perhaps to serve as a missionary. I am thankful for the early tugging, along with a desire to have a deeper spiritual relationship.
Later I met and married a man that had a similar calling to serve God full time. He had been raised in a Conservative Baptist Church and had also attended church faithfully. Shortly after our second child was born we moved to Portland to begin our formal training to enter “the mission field.” He got his Bachelor of Theology and I my Associate’s degree from Multnomah School of the Bible. The doors of the country where we felt called to serve, however, closed. In the interim, we became Youth Ministers at a Conservative Baptist congregation in Tigard. We served there for several years. Eventually my husband felt led to serve with the state headquarters of the Conservative Baptist Organization in Salem. I settled into raising our growing family and teaching Kindergarten in one of the local Conservative Baptist churches.
Over the years we struggled to make things work in our marriage, but after 32 years it ended. I wondered what would happen next. Would God ever be able to use me again in the work of the church? As a single person, I visited a number of churches, and I even attended one for a couple of years and taught Sunday School. I had this tugging in my heart and a still small voice urging me to something deeper. It seemed there was a deeper level of spirituality that I could tap into, but I didn’t know how. Uncertain, I eventually stopped going to church regularly.
In 1998, I married my dear husband, Maur Horton. We joined our families, including six adult children, their spouses and 12 beautiful grandchildren. Even though he was a lay minister to a small Religious Science congregation, I still didn’t go to church regularly. I remember one day he said to me, “It’s odd that you consider yourself the more spiritual of the two us and yet I’m the one who goes to church regularly.” That didn’t make me feel very good. I certainly hadn’t acquired that deeper level of spirituality I had been looking for. It also showed me that I had a prideful air about me. His comment made me take a look at myself, and I knew something needed to change. Where had that longing to serve Him and the desire to have a deeper relationship with God gone? I began to pray that God would show me the way. With a heart that was open and a willing spirit, God in His loving way guided me.
During that time, I was invited to a Pascha service at St John the Baptist. That was over six years ago. I came and then I couldn’t stay away, even though I had to drive 45 minutes to attend. I knew there was something at St John’s that I hadn’t experienced before. I yearned to come—it was like being pulled by a magnet. It also meant that each week I was able to spend time with two of my precious grandchildren.
My daughter in-law, Jen and the children were catechumens at the time. She and I had many conversations about Orthodoxy and early church history and she was able to answer many of my questions. I read books that she and the ladies in the church bookstore recommended. I attended the Inquirers Class. I met with Father Theodore and the abbess at St John the Forerunner Monastery in Goldendale, Washington. I wanted to know and experience more of this beautiful faith.
I loved the liturgical worship that I had never experienced before. I couldn’t get my head completely around it, but I knew God was speaking to my heart and offering that deeper level of spirituality that I was seeking. I remember Father Theodore telling us that we must not allow our failures to define us, but rather use them as valued teachers. I am thankful for that truth, and I’m eternally grateful to God for His mercy, and for leading me in His ways. Eventually I became a catechumen and entered the Orthodox Church in January, 2008.
I have entrusted my life to God and I hope to live it out in faith, trust and thanksgiving. I want to serve from my heart in every way that I can. I am truly humbled and honored to be a part of the St. John’s community, to be able to teach Sunday School, to help with the Glendi and the Parish Council. I believe this church and congregation is my calling in the same way as being called to “The Mission Field.” I believe this is where He wants me at this time in my life. Being able to serve in these different ways is a joy! I pray for each of you and I humbly ask for your prayers as we journey together in His service and that we will all be found worthy of eternal life with Him.