Blasting Into Oriental Orthodoxy

BEFORE today, it had been well over a decade since I last visited a church that I was not preaching for or attending as a ministerial guest. Once upon a time, I did what I did today all the time. I used to visit different services every Sunday to get an up-close-and-personal perspective on what people believed and what they did. Once I ran the gamut of availability, I stopped and focused more on other ways of ministry development and study. I never stopped learning but attending different services every week wasn’t feasible. Sometimes I had to preach, sometimes I had to minister, and sometimes I was busy maintaining my own congregations and groups. I’d also seen a good portion of the denominations we associate with western experience, and nothing in them was changing enough to merit new visits.

When I started teaching a seminary class on missions a few weeks ago, I had no idea I would be challenged to do exactly what my students were assigned to do. Over the years, I have not only visited services, I have also ministered in Puerto Rico, Hispanic churches, minority churches, and in Europe, so I am not a stranger to variances in ethnic faith dispersions. The only thing that has been kind of consistent is most of the churches I minister in for the past decade or so have been Pentecostal or neo-Pentecostal. Every now and then I would hit up a Baptist church, but they were always Baptists with strong Pentecostal ties and roots, so that doesn’t count as going somewhere different. Yet in the instructions for the course, which is mostly involved in looking at missions from a multicultural and diverse perspective, there is an assignment to visit an ethnically different church from your own, to learn more about Christians and the Christian experience in a country that interests you in missions.

For almost a year, we had our own church property here in Raleigh, which kept me notably busy. After it was time to move out (due to mold) and then wait to relocate (which I am still waiting on), there was no real reason to seek out another building. When you are a church leader and you’ve run your own gamut preaching in and out of local places, there aren’t many options when you are waiting on your next move except to stay home a lot. We all know how people immediately start giving you words about joining their church and leaving what you do to become a part of them, and I have been down that road once too many times to desire to entertain it any more. I know who I am and what I am called to do, and if that means waiting…it means waiting.

I heard my own challenge to my students in my words, the call to learn more about the churches that exist in different places. Ever since I started studying more of missions and the history therein, I have taken a particular fascination with the Assyrian Church of the East, or the Nestorian Church. I’ve wanted to see their liturgy for as long as I can remember, so when I discovered a church that had ties to the Syrian language and history, I was quick to say, this is where I want to visit first. It was going to be my first brush with Oriental Orthodoxy, which I knew was different from the Eastern Orthodoxy I’d already seen. This church was a part of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, descending from the St. Thomas Christians of India. Even though it wasn’t a part of the Assyrian Church, it had enough similarities and similar roots to make me happy. I delighted in it all week. I went and told other people about it, who were jealous I was going to see a liturgy in Syriac. I was thrilled.

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Me, outside my apartment, as I prepare to leave for my encounter with Oriental Orthodoxy.

I carefully plan my attire, and I worried about it for days. I settled on a blue two-piece suit that I’d found recently at Ross’ through a brush of divine favor, but I still wasn’t sure. I was worried it might be too…blue. After all, when I attended a Divine Liturgy years earlier, everyone was wearing black, like it was a funeral. The Eastern Orthodox I had met were staunch and rather mean, looking down on each and every Christian group in existence because they felt we were all not Christian enough to stand up to their antiquity. So I had no idea what to do. But I was careful to make sure my outfit matched, and was washable, because I hate the smell of incense and I knew they were going to use it some.

I stood all dressed and ready to go, and my coordination was spot on. There was just one problem. I left the bathroom and found my mother, who was coming to the service with me.

“I look Pentecostal.”

She gave me a look that only mothers give to their daughters and said, “What does that mean?”

“I don’t know, I look Pentecostal. Everyone is going to know that we don’t belong in this church. I am even wearing blue, the pristine color of stereotypical Pentecostal polyester.”

I think my mom was trying to ignore me at this point, especially because she was concerned about how her sweater was looking its age, but what I was trying to express is that my suit, like every other suit I have bought in the past ten years, was a little on the flashy side. It had glitter on it and my shoes were blue glitter and even my jewelry had a glittery hint to it when it hit the light. I looked like a Pentecostal. Of course, I am a Pentecostal, so of course I look like one, but I didn’t expect it to be so…obvious.

It’s not bad enough that Oculo-Cutaneous Albinism causes me to look like the person with the whitest skin tone in every room I am in. I am also short (4’11”), with puffy blonde hair (that came out perfectly, by the way), spike heels (4.5 inches as of this particular day), now I looked like a Pentecostal dyed in the blue tradition of 100% polyester glitz and glamor, and I was going to an Orthodox Church.

Sigh. I was not changing. We were going to the church, and if that meant everyone in there turned around and stared at me, that was what it was going to mean. I was going to go as myself. Off to St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church we were to go.

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St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church

Trying to explain Oriental Orthodoxy is extremely difficult, especially if one has no frame of reference for Orthodoxy in general. It is not readily studied in western seminaries, which typically trace their history through Roman Catholicism (at least to some extent). History is written by the victors, and that means we almost treat eastern and Oriental Christians as if they aren’t even believers. Because the Orthodox communion was deemed heretical at different points in Christian history (for things most of us wouldn’t even care about today, and I shall explain more on this in a little bit), they have been considered as good as irrelevant and unimportant. We don’t study their histories and the way we see their churches, they were a part of the “right” church until they willfully broke away, as is taught in westernized church history, over matters that make them doctrinally errant…or so we are told.

Even the best seminarian from the top school was lied to about schisms and church unity. We are presented a version of history, often even among those who are not a part of the Catholic Church, that Christianity was, at one time, perfectly unified. If you start digging into realities, however, the truth is that there have always been marked differences between Christian understandings found in the west and east. When we talk about “west” and “east,” it is a sort of understanding of faith as falls between Europe and near-Asian lines, starting with the Middle East and Africa, and working through points of India, Pakistan, Turkey, and even Eastern Europe. From the very beginning, Christianity has been different in the east than it is in the west, and many of the politics, polarities, and even spiritual understandings have always been radically different. It seems impossible for western minds to comprehend that the same apostles, taught by the same Jesus, were founders and influencers of Christianity that appears markedly different in different places, so we sort of botch over Christian history. We make it sound like people were rebellious and difficult and just refused to submit to established authority, rather than understanding that differing perspectives and differing authority has always been in place since the beginning.

Proof of this is evident nowhere more than in the Orthodox Churches, of which there are three main divisions, then several different subdivisions, and literally thousands of different communions, organizations, groups, and solidarities that have formed throughout their formation.

Westerners don’t typically have experience with the Orthodoxy in any form unless they live in communities near or of immigrants who practice the various ethnic Orthodoxies found in the world. If one does have an Orthodox frame of reference, it is, most likely, through eastern European organizations, such as the Russian Orthodox or Ukranian Orthodox, those Eastern Orthodox churches that resulted from the Great Schism of 1054. Many compare Orthodoxy to Roman Catholicism, but this is quite incorrect. It is also incorrect to compare different orthodox groups to one another, because even they can vary from one to another.

The term “Orthodox” literally means “right teaching.” The Orthodox identify themselves as such due to the different identities as relate to the various schisms to indicate they have the correct, or traditional teaching, whereas the church of the west has deviated from truth. In order to understand where the histories divide, let’s start by looking at what the Orthodox do have in common with traditional churches of the west: they believe in apostolic succession, or the principle that the main authority of the church comes through their bishopric. This means they believe their leadership traces all the way back to the original apostles and disciples of Christ who, in turn, left “successors” after their death (bishops) who were ordained with the same power as them, who then did the same thing upon their death. They believe this has created an unbroken line of tradition, which means the traditions, practices, and teachings of their church are the same as those of the first-century believers. They accept the authority of the early ecumenical councils of the church (how many they accept varies from group to group), which were early formations of what the church was to believe and how it was to structure itself (contrary to what they might teach, the councils do prove their church formation does not go back to the apostles, but I digress). Orthodox of all sorts accept all believers and saints as their own up to the point of their breaks, thereafter embracing their own unique set of saints and believers. They all classify themselves as Trinitarian, but the way they believe in the specific nature and identity of the persons of the Trinity vary, mostly in ways people don’t get what the big deal is about, but are identifying markers for their unique theologies. They believe in liturgy (although they have different forms), all of which equate to highly structured, ritualized worship. They also adhere to sacraments (although the number, way they are executed, and the rules surrounding them often vary) and a yearly liturgical cycle. They all have leadership that consists of bishops, priests, and deacons, in one way or another. They also chant through their entire services without the use of instruments, and members are expected to stand through most, if not all, of their liturgy.

Beyond these commonalities, the various Orthodox churches are all very different from western Christianity and also from one another. It can be quite overwhelming to witness, especially if one is not familiar with liturgical traditions of any sort. To sort through the minefield, I am going to attempt to break down the major forms of Orthodoxy and highlight some of their major differences, differing points, and history.

Oriental Orthodoxy – Oriental Orthodoxy is known by many different names (Old Oriental, Non-Chalcedonian, and Monophysite, among others) and ethnic church identities. It came into its own unique, specified identity after the Council of Chalcedon, which defined the nature of Christ as having two natures in one person (human and divine). Prior to this time, the church upheld the belief that Jesus was only one being, though divine and human, in only one nature. When this change came down the line, the churches who resisted it were seen as conceding to Nestorianism (the belief that Jesus had two natures and two wills). I am not sure how this was understood, since these churches in question believed that Jesus had only one nature and one will, but that one will was human and divine. It’s all a “who really gives a crap” now kind of thing, because it was the work of theologians trying to figure out aspects of Jesus we will never understand, but back then, it was taken with such severity, it divided churches. It’s kind of simplistic to define the schism this simply, because the truth is that there were already issues and divisions over authority, doctrine, and who answers to who long before the issue of natures and wills ever came up. As this form of independent Orthodoxy is so ancient, it does have traditions that overlap with other Orthodox groups generally unaccepted by one another, including Nestorian Orthodoxy, which we shall discuss next. Oriental Orthodoxy has a long and sorted history, including many battles with western forces of colonization, church controls, and loss of traditions due to invaders within their nations. In our modern times, it is most readily associated with certain ethnic groups that trace themselves back generations in observance from their own native countries. Such groups include India (Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church), Syrian (Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church), Armenian (Armenian Apostolic Church), French Coptic (French Coptic Orthodox Church), Alexandrian (Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria), Etriean (Etriean Orthodox Tewahedo Church), and Ethiopian (Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church). They are few and far between, and difficult to locate in the western world. Oriental Orthodox celebrate Holy Qurbana (in form, attributed to the Liturgy of Saint James), or “Eucharist,” as they call it, celebrated primarily in the original liturgical Syrian language. Most trace their roots back to the St. Thomas Christians of the Orient, especially in India. They accept the first three ecumenical councils of the church, and use the Peshitta Bible, which is the Syriac version translated from the Aramaic and believed to be the original foundation for the New Testament prior to Greek. This is not necessarily accepted in the west, but it is worth noting the Peshitta contains many important idiomatic references and concepts within its translation that are not always so clearly spelled out nor identified in western Bible translations.

Nestorian Orthodoxy – Nestorian Orthodoxy is frequently confused with Oriental Orthodoxy, and I will admit making this mistake myself. This is because they are extremely similar with the exception of theological difference: they believe Jesus has two distinct natures and two wills, rather than one and the same. They are also known as the Nestorian Church, and trace their roots within the Syriac traditions of oriental Christianity. They use the East Syrian Rite (Assyrian or Persian Rite), which is also used by churches in communion with Rome that maintain their own unique ethnic liturgies (such as the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church). They also celebrate Holy Qurbana in liturgical form, embracing Eastern Syrian Rite, and seeing development in ethnic regions such as India, Syria, Iran, and Russia. It, too, is believed to be founded by Thomas the Apostle and specializes in services in Syriac and Malayalam, much like that of Oriental Orthodoxy. It also overlaps with Oriental Orthodoxy in membership, embracing groups of St. Thomas Christians of India and other places in the ancient world, and has a great deal of division within its ranks. Nestorian Orthodoxy is also known as the Church of the East and includes the Assyrian Church of the East, which have minor schisms and differences among their different ranks. As hard as it is to find an Oriental Orthodox church, it is that much more difficult to find a Nestorian Church, even though their history is far more diverse and includes missions to China and the far east as early as the 600s.

Eastern Orthodoxy – When we think of Orthodoxy, most of us who are familiar with its different strains think of the Russian Orthodox Church or the Greek Orthodox Church, which are noted for their icons, or flat, two-dimensional images of Christ and the saints believed to be windows of their glorification in heaven. Most of us have seen Orthodox icons at some point in time, but I was surprised to learn on my journey through Orthodoxy that not all Orthodox embrace icons. The Eastern Orthodox churches began as a part of what’s called the Great Schism back in 1054. They accept the first seven of the ecumenical councils and also have held nine of their own subsequent councils, all of which upheld their own beliefs. Eastern Orthodox beliefs are unique in many ways, including variances on Trinitarianism, salvation, redemption, sin, eschatology, sainthood, and differences in acceptance of Biblical canon. Eastern Orthodox observe the Divine Liturgy, which in some ways resembles Oriental Orthodox services and in other ways resembles older versions of the Roman Catholic rite, with a few of their own variances and differences. Eastern Orthodox fast throughout much of the year depending on their specified group, and there is a great deal of emphasis placed on personal disciplines, sacrifice, and a general satisfaction of being the right, or only true, existing church. Eastern Orthodox Churches are associated with cultures, and those cultures indicate the language the Divine Liturgy and different prayers are spoken in, especially Russian and Greek. The main communion recognizes fifteen different groups, including American, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Georgia, Greece, Cyprus, Albania, Czech and Slovakia, and Poland.

Then there are the Byzantine Rite churches, which I am not going to get into too much for the sake of space. Byzantine Rite churches hold services within the traditional framework of liturgy and language of their cultural identities, but are in full communion with Rome. They do not have the same requirements as Roman Catholic churches (such as celibate clergy), but they adhere to the governance of Rome. They are also known as Eastern-rite Catholic Churches. These include the Marionite Church, Byzantine Church, Alexandrian Church, and Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, which specifically was a part of the Assyrian Church of the East before the Second Vatican Council.

One of my particular interests with Orthodoxy is that I believe they are the modern-day filter for much of Gnosticism, at least the spirituality of which that was absorbed into the eastern churches. It’s worth noting that the eastern churches have always been far more mystical than those of the west, and it is not surprising that the Gospel of Thomas and other Thomasine writings were associated with eastern spiritual understanding.

Before I went, I assumed the group was a part of the Assyrian Church of the East due to its affiliation with the Syriac Church. It wasn’t an unreasonable assumption, as they are from the same time frame and alike in many ways. The church itself was a modern structure, built in only 2013. It had those red chairs we have in all our churches, which was disappointing to me. I was like, if I am going to see something different, I don’t want to see chairs that I’ve seen at a thousand other churches over the past twenty years. But I was willing to overlook that. The church was also not as ornate as I expected. There were two pictures on the wall: one of Mary with Jesus as an infant, which I had seen as a Catholic child and did not look remotely like it was from India, at all, and one of a man I am assuming is St. Gregorios, the patron of the church.

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My shoes from today.

My first mistake was not considering my footwear. I wore beautiful blue spike heels that matched my outfit perfectly. If I had been in a Pentecostal church, everyone would fuss over the outfit. Not so where I was. I was standing in those shoes. For two hours. Not sitting. Because no one sits. Not my finest hour. Just a reminder that I am what I am…ouch. In keeping with Indian tradition, I noticed all those in the sanctuary removed their shoes, but since I wasn’t in the main sanctuary, I kept mine on. I wasn’t taking them off, anyway. If someone took off with my shoes, I might not act real holy and I was trying to do right by my school, my class, and well, be a good example. The shoes were staying on. That is, until I took them off and kept them by me because I was going to cut off my feet if I didn’t.

I also made myself crazy beforehand, trying to find out if the church required the women to wear a head covering. In the forms of Eastern Orthodoxy I had experienced prior, they specifically told me I didn’t have to cover my head because hats had become a symbol of wealth and position, and so it didn’t serve the purpose it had before. I sent the church a Facebook message beforehand, asking, but nobody answered me. I get there and every woman had her head covered, and at certain points in the liturgy, they all moved and readjusted their head coverings. So much for trying to be prepared. Me and my puffy blonde hair sat in a room in the back, which I could see the service through a large window and hear everything over the loud speaker.

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Holy Qurbana in progress, from the women’s side of the room.

The congregation sat all the men on one side and all the women on another, and never the twain shall meet. The women wore traditional Indian attire, and the men wore western clothes. The priest was elaborately dressed with extremely fancy robes, and he had at least four different attendants up there to assist with each and every need. They were busy, too. They used incense at least nine times (one man waved it during all the readings and censed the people at least three times, but it seemed like more) and others were busy ringing bells on what appeared to be cymbal-sticks, lighting candles, holding and getting books, and the priest spent most of the service with his back to the people, praying and chanting away. The people also were relatively non-participatory, only responding or speaking on occasion. During the consecration, they drew a curtain, where he performed the rite with his helpers and no one else, because it is regarded as too sacred to be seen. As one who is not a part of the Orthodox Communion, I was not permitted to receive, but I did note communion was received on the tongue via intinction (the bread is dipped in the wine and then given to the participant), and the bread was leavened.

The service was not just in Syriac, but also parts in Malayalam (an Indian language of south India), and short portions of prayers, responses, and readings were also in English. There were also phrases uttered in what sounded like Hebrew (might have been Syriac) and Greek. From what I was able to pick up in English, Bible passages are found throughout the liturgy, which is an interesting learning method for those who were (and maybe are today) illiterate. They don’t vary, however, and are read at specific times, repeatedly. The Bible readings were joined together from different parts of the Bible, and sometimes the way they read didn’t make sense to me as a native English speaker. I learned later this is due to the fact that the church falls back on seven different Bible translations, and at any time, any of those seven translations can show up somewhere in the liturgy.

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Holy Qurbana in progress, with the curtain open for the liturgy of the word.

The service itself was different from what I expected, because I expected to see something more along the lines of the Divine Liturgy I had seen earlier in my life. It had some similarities, but it was quite different. I do believe it is an ancient form of worship, but I also think it’s safe to say there have been cultural insertions here and there which have modified things throughout time. The chants were intense, the traditions were notable, it was obvious that attending the church is a part of maintaining the culture where the people were from, and that was of primary interest for those who were there.

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Shirley, a member of the church whose outfit was so beautiful, we had to photograph her!

I was most blessed to speak with some of the church’s members afterward, who were most eager and interested to talk with us about their church and their beliefs. They were quite respectful of my ordination credentials and experience through seminary, and that I was an ordained minister (even though they do not ordain women in their tradition). I tripped up a little with trying to explain what it means to us to be apostolic (five-fold ministry) and Pentecostal, because our usual, standard, long-winded answer was not going to work on people who did not natively speak English. But they were quite impressed with the idea of missions work and seeing how other Christians worship, and fellowshipping with their church. It was obvious they wanted to talk and to share, and it didn’t matter how different I might have looked. They provided me with a few different books detailing their liturgy, both in native languages and in English, and someone gave my mother a children’s book for Sunday school. They also talked about their culture, how they came to live in this area, and one even shared about missing his job now that he was retired and how genuinely scared people are with the current political climate.

Overall, what did I learn? Besides the thought to give more prominence to footwear for appropriate occasions, I came away with:

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Some of the books we were given.

Ancient does not equal authoritative – One of the biggest things Oriental Orthodoxy (and most traditional churches) hang their hats on is the belief that they can trace their leadership back to the time of the apostles. It’s the concept that because the apostles were anointed, they had the power to transfer that same anointing to someone else, and so on and so forth, and that the leaders they have today are still walking in that same exact anointing. It’s a nice idea, but it is an absurd one, for a few reasons. The first, and main reason, is it denies the work of the Holy Spirit as having the ability to transcend to our current era. The anointing each minister has, in each generation, is unique for the work and situations that they will encounter in that time frame. We could say if the anointing breaks the yoke, the Holy Spirit is there to endow us to break the yoke we will encounter in that era. If we are relying on an ancient concept of authority to try and give power today, we are missing the Spirit’s work and activity right now, what He wants to do today. Just because something is old or is the way it’s been done for a long time does not mean it has the authority or power that is needed for our modern times.

Old doesn’t equal authentic – Sometimes we assume something that’s old is authentic, while things that are modern are less authentic. This has to do with our concept of lineage and accountability, and the way that we perceive where we are, right now. It’s often associated, even in modern Christian groups, that old is good and new is bad. We compare now to the “good old days” and think things were better or more authentic once upon a time, and we insist that returning to an old method is the way to revive true authenticity. There are a lot of reasons why this becomes theologically problematic, especially in light that we are assuming what is old was ever authentic to begin with. The biggest challenge we face as Christians is how to take a book that is, in and of itself, old, and make it apply to where we are, right now. Just because things have been done a certain way, even if that certain way has been done for thousands of years, doesn’t mean it is authentic or the way Jesus intended it to be done.

Tradition does not equate to truth – Tradition is one of those sticky topics that no matter how much we study, we can’t seem to agree on how much is enough or how much is not enough. We are quick to denounce tradition in many of our more modern denominations, especially in the face of what I saw today in Oriental Orthodoxy. I won’t deny, what I saw was all tradition, and I agree that tradition is extremely problematic. It doesn’t give us a sense of responsibility in the Christian life and it doesn’t teach us the Word of God, properly and in a way we can understand. It reaches a point where we are doing it to maintain something other than truth, be it our identifications or our own hopes that we won’t lose part of our own identities if we give it up. But I think we need to stop pointing fingers and realize all groups have developed traditions, and we are all quick to fall back on our traditions in order to avoid dealing with the realities God wants us to see within ourselves. Whether it is a long liturgy where everyone stands and walks out smelling like burning trees or the tradition of only using the King James Version of the Bible and insisting it’s best, tradition is tradition is tradition, and whether those traditions are new or old, they all keep us from where we are supposed to be in Him.

All traditions can cloud spiritual realities – As I sat in the back and watched the service, I wondered if the people in that church had any sense of God in their everyday lives. God, hearing from God, learning about God, and developing spiritual insight is such a part of my daily life, I forget it’s not that way for everyone else. If we hang our hat on being right in our traditions and our exteriors, we will overlook the role God desires to play in our lives. Some of us are quiet and some of us are loud, and then there are those of us who try to maintain a balance between the two, but learning how to hear from God for us, ourselves, is an essential part of balancing the Christian lifestyle and learning how to be a believer. We are all called to learn how to be believers for ourselves, without relying on the traditions we hold dear to lead us where we might not be sure we’re going.

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Me, standing outside the church after service.

We’re the heretics western Christian history talks about – Protestants get a bad rap for being divided and disunified. To hear Catholics speak on it, you would think there is nothing worse than the endless parade of Protestant denominations that exist today. I don’t deny non-Catholic western Christianity has its divisions, but a realistic look at Christian history proves divisions and schisms have always existed. The term “heretic” literally means “to change one’s mind.” Most of us started out as one thing, and are now something else. We’ve all left churches because we couldn’t find a point of unity or agreement where we were. It wasn’t as simple as being rebellious or disobedient troublemakers. Most of us left recognizing we already weren’t in union with where we were. Yes, the Orthodox are divided, Catholics are divided, Protestants are divided, people are divided. We are divided because of sin. Only the work of the Spirit can bring us back together, and that requires each of us to do the work of God in our own lives and learn the leading of the Spirit to who we should connect and grow from in our lives. It also means we need to be brave enough to step out and do different things, even if it means history will somehow brand us in a negative light.

Perfect love casts out all fear – Bombings, shootings, attacks, and general disrespect are thrust on foreign churches and immigrants all the time, even if we don’t hear about it. It’s generally understood that people don’t typically receive those who are different from them. When I was first in the church, many of the people seemed unfriendly and awkward. My mom pointed out that many of them are probably afraid. We know why we are there, but they don’t, and as far as they know, we could be there to harass or harm them. A simple conversation, exchange, showing of the meeting of the minds proves that in all things, showing other people great respect removes any barrier of fear that might exist.

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Some of the books we were given.

We talk often about how we can reach the world, especially right where we are. Yes, these are individuals who are immersed in a tradition that means more to them than just “being right.” It is a part of an ancient identity, a culture, something that keeps them together and connected to their ancestry. In a world that doesn’t always embrace diversity, we can prove that Jesus loves them, right where they are, right as they are, by helping, serving, and being willing to talk and listen. So much is gained by learning from others. They might not have agreed with me, but you better believe I intend to send a follow-up email to talk more about the Bible and other understandings, if nothing more, as a witness that we can love others and treat them with respect.

Not bad for a trip that started off with Pentecostal blue polyester and big hair. Always something to be learned. Always someone new to reach. Always missions work to do.

Glory be to Thee, O God,

Glory be to Thee, O Creator,

Glory be to Thee, O King,

Christ, Who does pity sinners, Thy Servants.

Barekmor (Syriac for Bless, Lord).

(From Service Book of The Malankara Orthodox Church, The Anaphora of St. John Chrysostom)

(c) 2017 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.

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