When I left the Baptist church to become an Orthodox Christian, I knew that I would not immediately be ordained into the clergy. I had much to learn about the Church and parish life. I needed time to adjust from being the key figure in an (almost) all African-American congregation to being in a “white” church. Besides, not having to come up with sermons and teach the adult Sunday School class every week was very relaxing. I have been serving as a lay chanter/reader during Matins and at the altar during Divine Liturgy. While I haven’t really done as much as I should have with the VA Chapter of the Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black, I have spoken about African saints at St. Andrews (OCA) and St. Nicholas (Ukrainian) this year. It looks like my time of just absorbing and chilling is coming to an end.
Firstly, I have an ambitious vision for the VA Brotherhood. I want to visit 8 to 12 different parishes in 2016 to encourage evangelism and have quarterly events in different parts of the state. I also want to use a couple of contacts with the Orthodox Christian Fellowship to share the ancient faith on college campuses. Starting a prayer group in my home in West Point is not completely out of the question.
Some of my brothers and sisters at St. Basil have been asking me if I want to become a deacon or priest. While the thought has been in the back of my mind, I have preferred to keep it there for now. I have been blessed with a financial gift to further my education. Last week, I received an acceptance letter from the Antiochian House of Studies. Earning a Masters of Applied Orthodox Theology will not guarantee me ordination into anything. But, at least, I will have the tools needed to be effective wherever the Church needs me.
I have accepted the opportunity to teach the teen seminar at our Church for Sunday School. Being a convert and former Baptist pastor, I hope to give these kids a perspective about Orthodoxy that they may not get from someone who was brought up in the Church. Besides leading them to knowledge and spiritual maturity, I want to encourage them not to take the faith for granted. Orthodoxy has a precious depth of 2,000 years of history, prayer, saints, spirituality, and wisdom that no other expression of Christianity can give. If I can help instill a love for learning and living the ancient faith, that will be a blessing.
When I was still at Trinity Baptist Church, someone who was concerned about my talking about Orthodoxy from the pulpit asked, “Where is all of this leading?” I didn’t know then. I still don’t know now. But, St. Cyprian of Carthage (whom we “new calendars” honor today) let God lead him in hiding during persecution to keep the Church encouraged and to his martyrdom as he encouraged his executor to behead him. Before him, were Perpetua and Felicity who were martyred in that great city. And before them were Neokorus (a Carthaginian who served in the Roman army in Judea) and his grandson Callistratus, the later was martyred as he was discovered praying ceaselessly to Jesus and refused to worship any pagan god. And among those who taught Neokorus (who was a witness to the death and resurrection of our Lord) may have been the Apostle Thomas who told the disciples as Jesus was to lead them back across the Jordan to see the dead Lazarus, “Let us go with him and die” (John 11:16). I guess I am going to die to something so that I can live to something greater.