On Thursday night, the wife and I attended a Bible study sponsored by St Nick's. It was a good sized group of people mostly our age and mostly made up of converts - some recent and some not-so-recent. There is at least one couple that are cradle Orthodox and he is actually a doctor who has patients on my floor. A very nice man, he came up and talked to me on Friday - a senior doctor talking to a lowly nurses aide...I guess you have to have been in the military to understand how odd that kind of fraternization can feel.
The study was on Colossians 2 and it was surprisingly good. I had always wondered what an Orthodox Bible study would look like; I mean the Church kind of has a definitive understanding of things, so I kept picturing something rather more like a lecture. I was way off. Well led, good questions on meaning & application, personal reflection, etc. I will say it wasn't as personal as some Protestant studies I've been too - not a lot of talk about personal issues, struggles, doubts, etc. And that not in a bad way, since as I said, the study was quite good. I think its just a difference in emphasis, with that kind of thing being reserved for your spiritual father/confessor rather than a group of (semi)strangers. It was markedly different in that the leader delved into some key nuances of the original Greek text and there was, of course, a strong emphasis on the historical context that St Paul was writing from. There were a few things that made my wife uncomfortable, and myself less so. They mainly had to do with attitudes towards Protestantism or caricatures of some positions. We talked about it and I think we've come to the conclusion that, while her church growing up wasn't perfect, it was probably a bit of an exception and definitely different from my experience. (The negative attitudes of a few of the people got a lot clearer on Sunday - more in a moment.) We met a few new people, had some good conversations and were invited to lunch on Sunday after the Liturgy.
My experience of the Liturgy on Sunday morning was good - peaceful and focused. Last weekend I had trouble staying on track, so it was good to be back to normal. We had an inquirer's class shortly after Liturgy, which was only attended by us and one other couple. They were probably in their late 40's and said they had been involved in church planting in their evangelical denomination. I guess we all have our own reasons for being drawn to Orthodoxy and I'm hoping to hear more of theirs in future classes. Afterwards, we headed out to the restaurant and were treated to lunch - it was us, 2 other couples and a bevy of their respecive kids. We talked about a variety of things but all ended up sharing a bit of our lifestories; sort of a 'where we're coming from' kind of thing. Both of the guys had come out of a Reformed background. One had come to faith later in life, while the other had been raised in the church since childhood and had gone through the typical periods of rebellion. The latter had been all over the ecclesial map - Methodist, Presbyterian, Assembly of God, Lutheran (but was in a Reformed church the most) - and had been badly burned in each setting. He was ostracized at a Christian college here in Ft Wayne and those judgmental souls somehow managed to follow him to a couple of different local churches and sour a couple of romantic relationships. He became Orthodox about a year ago. The other guy had similarly hit some serious bumps in the road in his faith while Reformed in his thinking and wound up avoiding church for a good long while. These are the reasons for the negative attitudes towards Protestantism I mentioned above.
Neither really intended to become Orthodox - the first couple was church shopping and decided "what the heck?" and the other was invited by the doctor I mentioned above. They were all blown away by Orthodoxy and, obviously, eventually joined. What is apparently the typical fashion of most couple-converts, the wives took a little longer to warm up to the idea than the men - which is what the wife and I are experiencing right now. I'm definitely closer to diving in, while she is still dipping her toe in the water. And that's fine with me. I can be a bit impetuous at times, so her steadiness in things is a great brake for me to make sure I've really thought & prayed about something before committing. We complement each other very well in that respect.
It was nice to meet some people our own age and I really felt like they were genuinely interested in us as people, and not just potential converts. They were focused on it, though, but not in a creepy way. I've experienced that before. No offense to any Mormon readers, but I had more than a few Mormons stop talking to me after I expressed sincere doubt in their position. No, these guys were more like people excited about something huge in their life and wanting to talk about it, to share it and to get others in on it. I think there is some good potential for real friendships - something I haven't experienced in several years.