Andrew

I often tell people that my wife dragged me to the Orthodox Church kicking and screaming. To be honest, I was content in my little Evangelical Baptist Church, teaching Sunday School and making friends. I realized my wife, a Protestant convert to Orthodoxy, would not be content. So I followed her, confident that God would be there also.

"It was the “work” involved with Orthodox worship that enticed me from the start."

It was the “work” involved with Orthodox worship that enticed me from the start. I could respect standing for long services where entire passages of scripture were read. I wanted to participate in corporate fasts that were realistic yet challenging. I had no doubt this form of worship would bear fruit so I was Chrismated (received).

"Studying the writings on this central question vanquished many of the doubts I had..."

Then came the studies. Standing before me were two-thousand years of unbroken history and theology and I wanted to consume it all. I didn’t. But I tried. This is where I fell in love. I found many of the questions I held over the years were discussed at length during the early centuries of the Church. Many of the doubts I had concerning Orthodoxy, I found, were distortions created by a Western Church who is at odds with itself. Orthodox theology revolves around the question, “Who is the person who is Jesus Christ?” Studying the writings on this central question vanquished many of the doubts I had about the Orthodox Church and the choice I made to be received by Her.

"In a world that increasingly finds ways to divide itself into factions and parties, this little parish is home to all of us."

I would be lying if I said there were no lingering questions or doubts. But this is why I stay. The Orthodox Church is not afraid of those questions. I have never felt afraid to ask them. St. Mary Magdalene as a parish is exceptional in providing this comfort. In a world that increasingly finds ways to divide itself into factions and parties, this little parish is home to all of us. We can disagree about the many ways to engage our culture through politics or discourse, but we engage one another always in love. And we always meet at the Divine Chalice together, as The Body of Christ. This is the miracle we experience at St. Mary Magdalene.      

Meghan

I grew up in a very faithful household.  We were Protestant and belonged to a large local church.  I even attended a Christian elementary for a few years in my youth.  My brother, who is six years older than me and someone I had spent my whole life looking up to, felt called into the ministry at a young age.  While I was struggling with questions about my religion and church, my brother was studying and learning about something new to us-- the Orthodox Church.  As a recent high school graduate, I was beginning to feel a deep rift with the church I had been raised in. My brother moved home from his Protestant seminary and invited me to start attending an Orthodox Church with him.

"My faith had been strong, but I had questions my church could not answer."

It was love at first sight, smell, touch… I was at an age where I wanted to know “Why” about everything.  My faith had been strong, but I had questions my church could not answer.  For the first time I was in a church that could.

My journey from my first visit at an Orthodox Church to St. Mary Magdalene’s took me through a difficult time in my life.  By the time I finally joined the church I was a young single mother in college.  I am happy to say that I have been with this church since its very first day, in the small chapel at St. John’s.  Here, I have a second family. 

"...the people in this community have wrapped me in love, encouragement, and most importantly, understanding."

My son is now in high school, I am married, have a step-son, and two more children in elementary school.  When my children were very young, it often seemed difficult to make it to church, but the people in this community have wrapped me in love, encouragement, and most importantly, understanding.  These people are not just my fellow congregants, they are my children’s godparents, my fellow Church School teachers, my students, and my friends.

Elizabeth

Growing up in the Ukrainian Catholic Church was a good beginning.  Add to that a parochial school education, which only reinforced my beliefs.  All of my youth and most of my young adult life revolved around the Catholic Church.

"As we all find in life, circumstances often pull us away from spiritual pursuits..." 

As we all find in life, circumstances often pull us away from spiritual pursuits and we begin to believe that God and the Church are not as important as we thought.  After being a monastic for eight years, I left to strike out on my own, living without the constraints of the Church.  During that time God watched as I fumbled around trying to make sense of my life.

Not until my future husband took me to an Orthodox church service one Sunday did my spirit recognize that I had finally come home.  I was chrismated on Holy Saturday and my husband and I were married the week after Pascha. 

"The pastoral guidance that oversees God’s work in our parish has been a blessing as we continue to grow."

Today, being part of St. Mary Magdalene parish, which offers a full cycle of services along with adult learning programs that gave me opportunities for questions and discussions, continues to enhance my Orthodox experience.  The pastoral guidance that oversees God’s work in our parish has been a blessing as we continue to grow.

Dave

My journey to the ancient faith was very much like a courtship that lasted years.  A wayward evangelical, born into a family of Pentecostal preachers, I first uncovered the hidden pearl of American Orthodox Christianity in the most unlikely of places. 

"In 2008, I made my yearly pilgrimage to a Christian rock music festival in Illinois called Cornerstone."

In 2008, I made my yearly pilgrimage to a Christian rock music festival in Illinois called Cornerstone.  There, my good friend Brian discovered a booth run by Orthodox Christians from California.  They published an underground magazine called Death to the World which catered to the punk-rock scene, and sourced much of their table’s product from St. Herman of Alaska Monastery in Platina.  Brian was struck by the character of the monastery’s founder, Fr. Seraphim Rose (of blessed memory) and so his own journey to Orthodoxy began.  I little thought then that this would serve to be the catalyst of my own spiritual journey.

"Ultimately it was not my mind being convinced or my conscience moving me to act..."

The next six years constituted an intellectual and theological wrestling match with the very idea of Orthodoxy and all of the unique traditions that come along with it, most of which often serve as challenging to those of us brought up in a stringently Protestant tradition.  Ultimately it was not my mind being convinced or my conscience moving me to act that brought me to the narthex of St. Mary Magdalene Orthodox Church; it was instead the profoundly humbling experience of attending my first Divine Liturgy, of forsaking my reticence and being finally willing – after much insistence from Brian, whose parents are now my Godparents – to follow the invitation to “come and see”. 

"...like any relationship that leads to marriage, this path has been fraught with struggle and sacrifice..."

I compare my journey to the True Faith to a courtship, and I have good reason to feel this way.  My wife, Jaclyn “Salome”, was courted by me for some amount of years before she gave in to my romancing.  I remember the profundity with which I was struck by nervous love and anticipation on our first date: something I had so long sought after was happening before my eyes.  In this way, it was much the same for me in faith as well as love.  I courted the idea of a deeper faith, of shaking off the apathy of a despondent youth disinterested in all but the most basic concepts of Christ, for well over six years.  But it was during my first experience of the Trisagion hymn that I felt again that same nervous, and almost romantic, anticipation of something deeper than a singular visit blossoming. As the parishioners crossed themselves and bowed around me, singing as one, “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us,” I realized that I was experiencing Christ wooing his Bride, an eternal romance rooted in a history and a tradition much richer and more challenging than I could ever have imagined.  And, like any relationship that leads to marriage, this path has been fraught with struggle and sacrifice, but the rewards… well to understand what rewards a romance with the Orthodox Church can bring, one only needs to come and see…

Susan

Our youngest son had taken to it from the start, but the first time my husband and I visited the Orthodox Church, back in 2008 (after having been in the Protestant Church for many years) was for me like entering a foreign country.   Why so much standing, why all the going in and out of the altar, who was this Theotokos they kept referring to? 

"Why so much standing, why all the going in and out of the altar, who was this Theotokos they kept referring to?"

Thankfully, our son was determined to be in the Orthodox Church, so we continued to attend and after several weeks a book was loaned to us that was a big turning point, "Facing East:  A Pilgrim's Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy," by Frederica Mathewes-Green, a convert to Orthodoxy and wife of an Orthodox Priest.   This wonderful book answered so many questions, and many copies have since been given or loaned to fellow seekers.

Another huge help was the gift of my Godmother, along with another SMM friend, both cradle Orthodox and very knowledgeable about the Orthodox faith.  So many church related discussions and questions would end with, "I'll ask Irene or Jeannette."

"...the community here at St. Mary Magdalene, who...love and care for one another..."

Now, eight years later, we can't imagine being anywhere else.  The beautiful Liturgy, with its glorious hymnography; the richness of Orthodox theology, with depths to plumb for a lifetime; the inspiration of the blessed Theotokos and the saints and martyrs, and being privileged to seek their prayers; and the community here at St. Mary Magdalene, who pray and sing together and love and care for one another.  This is family, this is home.  All glory to God!

Renea

I have not always been Eastern Orthodox. In fact, I was not even raised in a Christian home. In my late teens, my eyes were opened and I became a believer in Christ. A few years later I met and married my husband. He grew up Roman Catholic but was no longer practicing it. After we were married we started to attend a couple different protestant churches. We finally found one we really liked. It happened to be a huge mega church with a band and skits during the services. It was fun and easy to attend. We dove right in, joined a cell group and went to as many services and activities as possible.

". . .slowly we started to attend different churches, still not knowing what we were looking for. . . "

We were very happy and content there for a couple years. But, after awhile, we both started to feel that something was missing. We had no idea what, so slowly we started to attend different churches, still not knowing what we were looking for. During this time we had our first baby and if that wasn't enough, we decided to pack up everything and move down to Tennessee to live a more simple life in the mountains.

Within a year we made our way down south. While looking for a new house in Tennessee, we were staying with my family who recently converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. Not knowing anything about Orthodoxy at the time, we were able to see it up close and personal. We could see how it was lived out at home. The beautiful icons, morning and evening prayers, fasting and the love for the services. We attended weekly services and witnessed some of our family being baptized into the church. We prayed and learned about the history of the first Christians. It didn't take long for us to realize that we had found what we were looking for, what had been missing- the Holiness of the Orthodox Church was what was needed in our lives.

". . .I never experienced services that were so rich in scripture, so serious about Christ, and so full of tradition. . ."

It's been nine years since I started this journey. The more I learn about Orthodoxy and the history of the Church, the more I believe in it with all my heart. I know I could never go back to the way things once were. Up until I was Orthodox, I never experienced services that were so rich in scripture, so serious about Christ and so full of tradition than that of every single Orthodox service. I am so thankful to be part of the Church that was created by Christ himself. Becoming Orthodox wasn't a onetime done deal. It is a life long journey toward my salvation. The icons, the fasting and the daily prayers are all tools the church gives us to lean away from our earthy passion/desires and to live a more Christ like life.

"My children love it and always feel welcome."

Saint Mary Magdalene has been an integral part of our lives since our move back to Michigan seven years ago. We’ve watched the church grow and really develop into a family. I am so grateful to call this church my home and the wonderful people here my family. My children love it and always feel welcome. And I'm so thankful my kids will always have a home parish to rely on, now and when they are older.