On Christmas Day, Wednesday December 25th, 2013; I will preach my last sermon at Trinity Baptist Church. I will also resign my Certificate of Ordination in the Baptist Denomination. As of January 1, 2014; I will be a member of St. Basil the Great Antiochian Orthodox Church in Poquoson. I will also work with the Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black in its efforts to introduce Orthodoxy to African-Americans and all who seek this ancient Christian faith.
From the sermon, Stepping Out of the Boat (http://trinitybcofwestpoint.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/todays-sermon-stepping-out-of-the-boat/)
It was the sermon that I knew I had to preach sooner or later. Actually, I converted to Orthodox Christianity earlier than I thought I would. My original plan was to continue to serve as the Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church for another year or two to make sure my finances were in order, had another job, and was going to receive some sort of title (although I knew the priesthood was out of the question for the first 5 years of being Orthodox). But, I remembered the advice of a preacher who got put out of his church, “A good pastor does not stay at a church longer than he should.”
I also thought it wise to follow the advice of a pastor I looked up to since childhood, “John, if you remain Baptist, you will only become bored and frustrated.” I had to choose between being broke or crazy. I already had one person suffering from mental illness in my home. We didn’t need two. So, I renounced the Baptist denomination and became an Orthodox Christian. People were angry, disturbed, and saddened at my decision. Creditors have sent me some mail no one wants to receive. No, the transition has not been easy. I have had to stand alone as no other minister I knew of, of any race made, such a leap.
And yet, I know firmly that I made the right decision. While I still struggle to make ends meet, God has provided the means to keep the bills paid and something in the fridge. I am still friends with my former congregants. My church family at St. Basil has welcomed me with open arms. And not only they, but other Orthodox Christians and Churches have counted me as a brother in the faith. With all of the challenges I have had this past year, I can say that I have grown in ways that I could not have had I remained where I was.
If it is God’s will, my growth in the Orthodox Church will continue as I seek to be more deeply rooted in the ancient faith. Central to this is my personal asceticism. I have found my rule of prayer to be the truest means to know the ways of God. I have found a pattern of words from the church and early fathers as well as my own expressions that bring me closer to the Holy Trinity. I see a new light to the scriptures when I read them. The works of the desert fathers have been very influential to me and I look forward to reading other writings, including those of Seraphim Rose and the Philokalia. Even fasting has become more of a part of who I am (although I do start to hallucinate about Philly steak and cheese burritos half way through Great Lent).
I enjoy being one of the Matins Chanters. Reading the six Psalms (3, 37, 62, 87, 102, & 142) and chanting the Evlogateria (Benedictions) re-enforces the meaning of the Gospel. The 50th Psalm is the call for the very first and essential thing Jesus proclaimed, repentance. Divine Liturgy is the most heavenly form of worship I have ever experienced as the body and blood of our Lord is the focus of our worship. We all partake from the same cup, venerate the Theotokos (God-bearer, Virgin Mary), and enjoy one another’s company during and after worship at coffee hour (the food is so good).
I look forward to the challenge of evangelization. Fr. Adam Sexton of St. Andrews OCA has given me an invitation to speak. I believe others will follow. I must be mindful to practice humility at all times. It is way too easy to think too much of myself. It is also too easy to speak and write as if all Protestants are corrupt and doomed (I fear that I have made that mistake already and repent to anyone whom I have needlessly offended). But, as a member of the Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black, I am excited about the prospects for sharing my faith.
I thank all of you who have read my blog articles and kept me in prayer. May the fullness of God bless you as we prepare to celebrate the Feast of the Nativity and enter into the year 2015.