There’s a difference between those who were born into the Orthodox faith and those who converted. The difference is all about the journey. For the Cradle orthodox, they’ve been able to experience the faith all their life. It’s not just a religion, but also an identity. However because it’s been a part of their life since the beginning, these cradle orthodox people haven’t had the same struggle as those who have converted to the faith.
My wife and I converted to Orthodoxy in 2012. And our journey was one of struggle. Orthodoxy was this mountain, and in order to reach the summit, we had to climb and be 100% certain about each rocky nook and crevice we put our fingers into. The physical exertion for us was actually research, prayer and an insurmountable amount of reading. We had to learn what it meant to be orthodox. My wife and I had been struggling in the spiritual wilderness, looking for Christ and his church, but until we came to the Orthodox Church, we didn’t know where to go. And like I said when we finally found the Orthodox church, we then had to climb the mountain.
Just like The Prodigal Son returning to the father, the son struggled because he was living a life of sin and the return journey home was not an easy one.
At the conference, Father Theodore Paraskepopoulus used the metaphor of The Prodigal Son to explain the difference between converts and people who have been Orthodox since birth. He said those who had converted were like the prodigal son. We were lost, but after repentance and the actual journey, we came home the church.
The cradle Orthodox represent the older brother who stayed and helped his father. They didn’t have the same journey as the younger son did. They were brought up in the faith, and have practiced it all their life. However, Father Ted soon made it clear where the problem was.
Father Ted spoke:
“If we know the parable of the prodigal son, we know that while the prodigal returns in repentance to the father and is accepted, it is the older brother, the one who never left – the one who was apparently always faithful and never broke a rule, who in the end refused to enter the banquet. It is the older brother who could not accept his own blood when he returned back to the fold. And really isn’t this what we constantly see in our predominantly ethnic parishes in the way they treat those who convert to the Orthodox faith? Has it not become a cliche to consider converts much more knowledgeable, zealous and faithful to Orthodoxy than their cradle counterparts? The Ancient Faith Radio listenership polls even identify this trend. However we can always find evidence of this in a myriad of other aspects of church life: Tithing, attendance, volunteerism, missions, etc. All of these are often dominated by converts. And this is a problem!”
Father Ted believes the best way to solve this issue is with adult education and re-catechism. Either through in person class type settings, or through his podcast FR.TedTalks – he has found adult interaction and engagment increases across the board when we get the adults involved. And when we teach the adults, they teach the children.
The children are always the future, especially in the church. If we don’t give our children a proper foundation to stand on, they will loose their balance when they get older.
Without the home life centered in faith, the children will suffer, and so will the adults. Since learning is top-down, like a hierarchy, it starts with the parents. This is how we grow the faith!
Children should look to their parents for understanding about how faith works, parents should create engagement so that through activity and participation the faith is learned. If you create the right culture, it will change the house.
This was a pretty amazing talk. I am so glad I participated, and engaged myself to really understand what Father Ted was saying.
I came to this conference with no expectations or preconceived notions. All I wanted was to learn, and to converse with other Orthodox writers. My heart was opened, and because of that, I was transformed. I became friends with several of my peers and enjoyed conversing with the clergy. As I traveled home, my mind was swirling with new ideas and thoughts. I couldn’t help but be inspired, especially with everything that I had learned, and all the people I met. These wonderful AFCon people not only helped deepen my faith, they actually changed my life for the better. I can’t wait for the next conference.
Until next time my friends!
My view I had this afternoon, on my way home.