I was raised in the "Liberal American Protestant" tradition. For most of my childhood, my family attended church about every other week. We had no particular denominational affiliation, but chose individual congregations. As I got older, my parents became disillusioned by the superficiality and materialism in the church we were attending, and virtually stopped going, although they officially remain members to this day. I continued to attend, and soon began asking questions about the meaning of certain scriptural passages, about the beliefs of our denomination. The answers given were often equivocal and rarely satisfying. I was particularly dissatisfied to hear that everybody could believe as he or she pleased on most things. I felt that I needed something more, something tangible..: I needed Truth.
Shortly thereafter, I spent a few months intensely reading about the Mormon church, attracted by the unequivocal and logical nature of many of their dogmas. At one point I considered meeting with their missionaries, but, by the mercy of God, this interest soon passed. I began to see that there was something "not quite right" about their whole schema of beliefs. After this, I stagnated for some time, not attending church at all during my first semester of college. Then I went through several phases of church affiliation. I attended Friends (Quaker) meetings for a semester. Then, just as I was thinking of joining them, I visited the local Episcopal church with a friend. I was attracted by the liturgics and the more spiritual "feel" (it was a traditional congregation), and I began attending services there. Several months later, as I was preparing to seek confirmation, my spiritual search took me down yet another path, a path that would finally bring me to my desired destination -- the Truth.
I discovered Orthodoxy while "surfing" the World Wide Web. Attracted at first by its antiquity and by the idea of apostolic succession, I continued reading, both on web pages and in books such as Timothy Ware's, The Orthodox Church. I also began following postings on the Orthodox e-mail list. Reading The Orthodox Way, I began to see that I had stumbled across something unique and meaningful. After I had exhausted the limited (at that time) resources on the Internet and in my local library, I decided that I needed to find an Orthodox priest.
With the aid of an Internet contact, I reached a local priest, Fr. Daniel Meschter. It was November, 1995 Fr. Daniel immediately arranged to speak with me m person. This first talk lasted three hours -and it was an eye-opener! Nothing was said about apostolic succession, liturgy, sacraments, etc. Instead, I learned that which my innermost soul had always known: that spiritual life is a reality, that good and evil are not merely abstract principles. 1 was given my first glimpse of the struggle which is Christianity, of the path of the cross. Father Daniel left me that evening with Tito Coillander's Way of the Ascetics, which I read through twice in the next month. Soon, I obtained a prayer book and a book of scripture readings. I also visited some local Orthodox parishes. Throughout the ensuing months, I acquired and read a quantity of books, and began to attend services regularly.
Father Daniel avoided, to the extent possible, discussion of the sticky "jurisdictions" question. I had, however, done some reading on the issue, and soon came to a conclusion for myself. Over my Christmas break, I visited two different "modernist" parishes near my hometown, and was honestly impressed by the Liturgy, the tradition and the atmosphere of prayer -- as compared with my previous experiences in other Christian confessions. Returning to school for the spring semester, however, I visited the Synodal parish in Philadelphia, and saw and felt the difference, The choice was made.
On Pascha, 1996, I was invited to attend services at an English-language mission in Pottstown, PA, and was kindly given a place to stay for the weekend, I had little if any concept of the significance of the Resurrection, and I didn't take much away intellectually, but, as any Orthodox knows, the grace of Pascha is sufficient for all. I was no exception. I can still remember singing "Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered" to a melody which still brings tears to my eyes. That summer I began to attend weekly Vigil and Liturgy, and I soon asked to receive Holy Baptism.
I spent the Dormition Fast at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanvi]le, and Father Daniel baptized me before the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, giving me the name of the Holy New Hieromartyr Nicholas (Prozorov), a "Josephite' priest. Having read about the "divine" feelings of Father Seraphim Rose after his Baptism and first Communion, I had pridefully half-expected some such manifestation, but the Lord deemed otherwise: my "baptismal gift" was a sinus infection. I believe that this was done to humble me, and to remind me that the Christian life is that of the Cross, and that consolation and other spiritual gifts are just that -- gifts. By the mercy of God and the prayers of the saints, my true, inner conversion continues to this day, and one things at least is certain: the experiences of this past year testify unquestionably to the truth of Holy Orthodoxy
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