American Converts in Syria

I recently sat down with Fr Matthew MacKay (St Joseph, Houston) and Fr Richard Petranek (St Paul, Houston), both American Converts, and spoke with them about their recent mission trip to Syria, their meeting with the Patriarch, the holy sites, Syrian hospitality, and a hospital where it can be said of the doctor, “Father knows best.”

PICTURE: Fathers Matthew and Richard and their DOWAMA mission team (pictured behind the clergy, L-R: Dwayne, Ruth, Wes, Salvatore, Andrew, Ron, Rene, and Marilee) just happened to be in Syria at the same time as some of the American Antiochian bishops. Fr Matthew is seated to your far left, Fr Richard to your far right — in the midst of them is pictured, from left to right: His Grace, Bishop MARK, His Eminence, Metropolitan SABA [Archdiocese of Bosra-Hauran (Southwest Syria)], His Grace, Bishop BASIL, and His Grace, Bishop THOMAS.

Both of these men, Fr Matthew and Fr Richard, have a great sense of humor, but we tried to keep the conversation sober and serious. However, when piecing it all together for upload, I noticed there are a few stray chuckles here and there that lack context.

Forgive us that — and enjoy!

The Orthodixie Podcast on Ancient Faith Radio.

UPDATE: The following email, excerpted and edited here, was sent to me in response to the priests’ mentioning that Protestant missionaries are flooding the country … and, as it’s against the law to convert Muslims, they are “evangelizing” the Orthodox.

— Begin AFR listener’s email —

Please let that Syrian bishop know that the American “missionaries” are the way that his, the oldest group of Christians, can legally spread the faith. These missionaries are not Muslim, so the laws against trying to convert them don’t apply. Tell him that he has the love, faith, and patience to help these poor Americans discover the first century church. They don’t know about apostolic succession. They don’t know about weeping icons and other such miracles. They don’t know the difference between veneration and worship. They don’t realize that they worship the bible and that we don’t worship icons. Gently lead them to the truth.

“Oh, thank you, you have a bible for me. Great. I have a bible for you too, only it has more books in it. Martin Luther took out the parts he didn’t like. Let me show you …”

“Oh, you want to show me the love of Jesus Christ. Thank you so much. You may stay in my home for several months. I will feed and care for you as a brother. This is the hospitality which is normal for my culture. We put up pilgrims all the time. What’s a hotel?”

“I would love to sing a hymn with you. After we are done with yours, I have one from the second century you’ll really love!”

“Tithing and generosity are very Christian, it is true. I agree. Why, this vestment alone took 8 women their entire lifetimes to complete. They gave their handiwork, and unfortunately, their eyesight, to the church. What do you tithe?”

“What you smell are Frankincense and myrrh with many other spices. The recipe for this one is in Leviticus. How does your church use scent to bring people closer to the divine?”

I could go on and on. Virtually everything that is done or seen in an Orthodox Church has a deep meaning and history to it. Virtually everything in a Protestant church does not. Be not afraid, Bishop. You sound so wonderful and pious. Take the opportunity to help the “missionaries” in Syria to truly convert. I’ll pray for you and for them. Please pray for me.

— End AFR listener’s email —

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