Dear Fr. Aristotle,
You asked me about my experiences vis-a-vis my conversion to Orthodoxy. As you know, I was chrismated into the Greek Orthodox Church in December of 1990 in Newburyport, Massachusetts. At that time I knew very little, in a practical way, about the Orthodox Church. I had read quite a lot about the historic Church and about the Fathers. I had also read a number of patristic texts, particularly some of the ante-Nicene Fathers. However, none of this meant that I knew anything about being Orthodox or how to conduct myself in an Orthodox Church.
Besides Fr. Chris, my priest, several very kind Greek ladies, particularly, Stella, Thelma, and Mary, who were active in our parish, took me under their wings. I fondly remember Thelma, who is a wonderful woman in her seventies, teaching me how to make the Orthodox sign of the cross, how to light my candle, how to venerate the icons, and several prayers her mother had taught her. At that time she and her delightful sister, Mary, were teaching the same traditions to Mary's three-year-old granddaughter. I was invited by them to tag along, sit next to them, and learn right along with Mary's grandchild. Stella made me one of her own family, introduced me to everyone at church and saw to it that i was never alone. It was a wonderful experience, and only the first of many wherein the Greek Orthodox community reached out to me, my wife, and my three children and engulfed us in an embrace of Aegean warmth and hospitality.
Copyright 1995 by Frank Schaeffer