by Mary Michal Rogers
My journey from Protestantism to a sort of nameless faith to Orthodox Christianity began really without my knowledge.
My parents’ disillusionment with the church they’d always known started and culminated before I was old enough to know much about what was going on. What I do remember is the search and the fight to keep faith alive even when we didn’t know what to call ourselves. That fight led us to the truth – the True Light.
It also led us to an inherited, non-working dairy farm in a town called Spokane, Missouri. It isn’t what you’d call a particularly progressive part of the state; Branson sits 30 miles to the south and the Bible Belt influence thrives. The farm and my ancestors were well-known in the community, but we ourselves were still outsiders. My sisters and brother and I all had been homeschooled for most of our lives, we knew nothing about farming, and we had no plans to attend any of the local churches. Instead, we drove an hour each way most Sundays to Ash Grove, where Father Moses Berry served Liturgy in a gardening shed in the middle of an historic cemetery.
We didn’t exactly blend.
And then in the fall of 1996, we removed all doubt from the minds of the locals. My parents hosted an Orthodox gathering on the farm (which sat, quite literally, right on a main thoroughfare); Father Alexii (then Father Paisius), Father Moses, Mother Pachomia, Mother Bridget, even Father Herman and a host of other monks, nuns, priests and Orthodox faithful journeyed to our 80 acres and camped out for a weekend. We held services in the hayloft of the old barn, prayed and sang and talked around big bonfires, and were only vaguely aware of the Baptists and Lutherans and Pentecostals slowing down when they saw men and women in black robes and caps sitting around a fire in our front yard. From the perspective of our ancient faith, nothing could have been more normal.
There’s some humor in this account, but the truth of it is that the holiness of that one weekend never went out of that farm. Until the day we left it, it was as if you could hear the Akathist and Typicon still being sung in that hayloft. Just like I see Christ when I look into the eyes of the monastics, the Fathers, the Elders, the holy icons…I knew in my soul that I’d been part of something otherwordly (even where just a few are gathered in My name…). My own rocky, meandering path towards the True Faith began.