Today I went to an Eastern Orthodox Church. I’ve done a bit of reading on it, seen those 3 words here and there lately and decided to look into them. I found out they are the oldest existing traditional denomination today, changing even less than Catholics over time. I am not really religious, but I am never opposed to thought experiments. I do occasionally visit churches nearby out of curiosity as well.
I’ve been to a Catholic Church before, and it was surprisingly different than the Methodists I’d been raised going to. Mostly I’d just hear a pastor reading passages, and giving his two cents on what the stories mean to him. The Catholic Church was much different. Much more talk of the spiritual, mystical, the divine. They had a communion, and talked almost exclusively about getting closer to god.
Knowing they split from older Catholics, I had expected the Eastern Orthodox Church to be more similar to them than anything else, but it seems I was wrong. There wasn’t really the singing and reading of passages like I was use to. Coming from Protestants, it actually felt more like Paganism than anything else to me. These traditions are REALLY old. They were burning candles and incense the entire time, it filled the room. They had an alter full of images of various saints, the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ. The priest brought out a golden bible and hold it up to the alter while praying.
There weren’t really songs, more like a stream of hymns coming from a few people. This was a small church, there aren’t a lot of Eastern Orthodox here in the US and I am in a small city as well. It didn’t feel like it had much structure or organization to me, people would occasionally walk up to the alter and bow to the image of Jesus, making a cross on themselves as Catholics do and kissing his feet. People would bow, pray, or make the cross on themselves, whenever they felt like doing so it seemed to me. They stood throughout the service.
Unfortunately I forgot to switch my phone to vibrate, and a buddy of mine texted me a few times during the service. It was a little awkward. There is another, larger, Greek Orthodox Church in my city that is closer to where I live. Pretty sure I’ll be visiting that one next time and see what I think. I didn’t really want to stay for after the service when people would start introducing themselves and get you to become a member and return next week. So I walked out about 10 minutes prior to the ending, probably missed out on their version of communion. Oh well, I’ll see it at the next church.
I’ve been to every type of church from the silent Anglican, to the Pentecostals, but this one was probably the most unique. I’m not sure how I feel about it exactly, only because it was too different to me and I feel like I did not quite understand the significance of everything I was seeing. Maybe next week I’ll have a few more answers though.