Ex-Anglicans to be received into Orthodox Church this Saturday
By Michael Spears, Staff Writer, Friday April 22, 2005
Fort Saskatchewan Record — For seven months several former members of the Anglican Church have been meeting in the Chapel of the Riverview Funeral home to lay the foundations of a new church in the Fort. The ‘new’ church will in fact be one of the oldest branches of Christianity, the Antiochian Orthodox Church. The church will be a part of the Archdiocese of North America, Diocese of Los Angeles and the West.
“We were looking for a stability that doesn’t exist any more in the Anglican Church,” said David Johnston, Mission Coordinator of the Fort Saskatchewan Antiochian Orthodox Christian community. “And stability is exactly what we’ve found – a stability that is rooted in the doctrines and teachings of the Apostles, and that doesn’t shift with the last public opinion poll.” The months spent studying the literature and text of the scriptures, have served to prepare not only Johnston but those who will form the congregation too.
The congregation numbers eight converts and three Orthodox members. “It’s been a journey to Orthodoxy. We are at a point now where we will become full members of the Orthodox Church and we will be able to participate in the whole life like be able to receive the sacraments. To describe it, the best description I have is that, it feels just like coming home,” said Johnston.
“For me this journey has given me more confidence in my life in Christ, and being Christian. It certainly also has changed the disciplines of my life. Orthodoxy has a very strong ascetical element in terms of practicing spiritual disciplines. “
This Saturday the Orthodox congregation will take part in a Chrismation ceremony. It is open to the public and it takes place at St. Philip’s Antiochian Orthodox Church, 15804 – 98 Ave, in Edmonton, Saturday, April 23 at 11 a.m. following the regular Orthos or Matins. Then the Divine Liturgy will be given and the Fort Saskatchewan congregation will then receive their first Communion.
“Chrismation and Baptism are two of the sacraments. Chrismation is the anointing with oil. In the Western Church the closest thing to it would be Confirmation,” said Johnston. “What will happen, this Lazarus Saturday, is that we will all be presented by our sponsors. We will then affirm our faith by saying the Nicene Creed. Then we will be annoited with oil as prayers are said over us. The prayers will include in them asking the Holy Spirit to fulfill in us whatever is lacking.”
From reading and practicing the teachings of the Bible in the Orthodox fashion he has noticed a few changes in himself. “Now I am experiencing more personal strength over the temptations and the things in me that I don’t like. Just belonging to the Orthodox Church has brought a real sense of personal victory. Things like getting angry are very different. I find that I am not getting angry the same way about things that I used to. Part of that is due to the ascetic discipline which includes fasting,” said Johnston. “When we fast as Orthodox Christians we don’t eat certain foods. There’s nothing wrong with eating food, but by saying no to certain foods we train ourselves to say no to the things that we should say no to. We are not in the habit in today’s society of saying no to anything,” said Johnston.
It is through this spiritual strength that he has reached what could be perhaps likened to an new evolution of self. “By practicing through fasting we become more equipped to say no to the sins like anger, lust, gluttony and all of the seven deadly sins. Within Orthodoxy the fasting is entirely voluntary. The only required fast is that to receive communion you are to have fasted from food for that day. The other fasting during the week and during the fasting season like Lent is entirely voluntary,” said Johnston. “The church in Her wisdom says that if you want to grow, become more mature and more Christ-like you should fast, pray and give alms. Fasting is a way to do that and it is a proven way to do that for over 2,000 years.”
Mentorship has been immensely valuable to David Johnston. “Father John Finley has been coming up every month and that has been invaluable. First of all because he has been through what we’ve gone through. He’s able to zero in on just the right issues that we need to. He’s been a Father in Christ, a brother, and a dear friend, that mentorship has just been invaluable,” said Johnston. “I think that anybody who converts to Orthodoxy ends up with somebody in that position. Instead of a father it will be a week by week relationship with their parish priest.”
In future the Fort Saskatchewan Antiochian Orthodox Community will be expanding on its services. “We hope starting in May to start having two Divine Liturgies here in Fort Saskatchewan each month,” said Johnston.
Thanks to anonymous FWD.