We headed back to St Nick's again this morning. No baptism today, and we got there early enough to sit on the other side (where we can hear the chanters better) and to grab a couple of liturgy books so we could follow along. We did much better in that regard this morning, but it still seemed like they were skipping some large sections, particularly as the Eucharist approaches. Their liturgy book is published by a monastery, so I'm wondering if St Nick's is actually following an abridged liturgy. The wording the priest & choir used were different, as well. Just translation differences - nothing too big. I had intended to ask the priest if there might be a better book that we could buy for ourselves, but plum forgot. (Or is it "plumb forgot"? Weird expression, anyway you spell it.)
Just as last week, Fr Schmemann's wonderful "For the Life of the World" became immediately relevant to me. We were in the Liturgy and I think I started to ask myself "how much longer is this going to be?" But before I could finish the thought, his lengthy discussion on our perception of time came into my mind. And I had almost a vision of my week - the job search, going to class, studying, and all the rest of my activities - as a big Spanish galleon or a Ship-of-the-Line, crashing into the shoals of this time at church, and foundering. But not to its destruction; it merely stopped and could go no further. Whatever mission it was on, whatever deadlines it felt compelled to keep, made no difference to the mission of those rocks. Their mission, I think is, in large part, to stop those very ships, to keep them in their proper place. Those rocks announce the Kingdom and everything else is diminished to its true size. What is one week in eternity? After that, the service simply flowed - easily, peacefully and without major distraction or discomfort.
We stayed for the coffee hour and had a delightful conversation with a grandmotherly woman. She made sure to tell us several times she hopes she sees us next week. A few minutes later, Fr David came in and when he saw us, immediately came over to talk. We discussed our relative backgrounds a bit - turns out he's a convert. He had about 6 months left on his seminary ecuation at Concordia (a Lutheran school) here in Fort Wayne when he really started reading about & exploring Orthodoxy. He finished his MDiv, but was still unresolved on where he was headed, so went back into another degree program. A few months later, he and his wife decided to convert and they joined St Nick's. He did some time as a deacon before heading out to St Vladimir's for a year's worth of classes to get ordained as a priest. He pastored at a church in Michigan for a bit, but was able to come back to St Nick's a few years ago. It was encouraging to hear that he would know from first-hand experience the kinds of things the wife and I are going through - our questions, our concerns, our problems, as well as our hopes and desires. He even knows what its like to have resistant parents - both his dad and father-in-law are Lutheran clergy. He said he met a lot of resistance from both of their families at first, but things have changed over the last few years. He said they've seen the truth of it lived out in his and his wife's lives. We talked a little more about other stuff - he was in the Army as well, the deacon is from my wife's home-town, the inquirer's class, etc. It was a good conversation, one that made us feel very much at ease.
After church we went out to lunch with some family members - including uncles Bob and Brad from my justice post a couple of weeks ago. Bob, ever the inquisitor, started up with the questions after he heard we'd gone to St Nick's the last 2 weeks. No hostility or anything, but you can tell there's definitely a lack of understanding, both about Orthodoxy and why we would want to go. It'll be interesting to see how things play out with family in the coming months. I don't for one moment think there will be any hint of judgment or condemnation, but I'm certain there are going to be some rather long conversations about it.