Sunday 28 December 2014

Letters from a Desert Place - 1

Dear Father Peter,

I wanted to send a short message to say how much I enjoyed meeting you yesterday. If it hadn't started raining so heavily I'm not sure I would have come into your Church. I've passed it many times of course, and I told you that I have had a vague interest in Orthodoxy for some years. But the door was open and I didn't have a coat, so I found myself in the middle of the Liturgy.

It wasn't what I expected. I mean rather that there were aspects I expected from some of my reading about Orthodoxy, but it affected me more than I had imagined. I have found myself recently in a dry and desert place as far as my spiritual life is concerned, and there was refreshment for me in the service of worship this morning.

Perhaps we can correspond? And I will try to attend some future liturgies. I am still trying to work out where Orthodoxy sits in respect of the evangelical community I belong to at the moment. There are aspects of Orthodoxy I find attractive and I wonder if it is possible to continue as an evangelical while introducing some of these elements.

With warmest best wishes in Christ

A Pilgrim


My dear friend,

It was a blessing to welcome you out of the rain. I hope that you felt that you were welcome. And I am very glad indeed that having spent some time in prayer with us you found it a refreshment to your spirit.

I am more than happy to continue to correspond with you and to try to answer your questions. Perhaps I should say this. As Orthodox Christians we do not consider that the Christian community we are fortunate to have been joined to is just one among many. On the contrary, it seems that history requires us to say that the Orthodox Church is that same community as that Apostolic one which we read about in the New Testament, and which has left us many interesting writings from the first centuries.

Why do I say this? It is because the earliest Christians, those who were taught by the Apostles themselves, have left us documents which tell us how they understood the Apostolic Faith, and we can see that in fact their faith and their way of life is substantially the same as that of the Orthodox Church. Nor is this accidental, since it is the Orthodox Church which has the historical continuity with that earliest Church. Our own Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, for instance, is presently led by Patriarch Tawadros, the 119th successor of St Mark, the Apostle and Evangelist, who preached the Apostolic Christian faith in Alexandria in the first century. There is a constant connection from the first century to the present. We know the names of each of the leaders of the Church in Alexandria who followed one after the other, and from the earliest times to the present the same things can be shown to have been taught and believed. 

Perhaps we can investigate some of these things in due course.

As I mentioned to you, I am also from an evangelical background. From the Plymouth Brethren in fact. And I can point to this movement being started in about 1828. The things we were taught in the Plymouth Brethren were not the same as the teachings I find in the writings of the Christians who were taught by the Apostles. I find it a real problem that a group which began in only 1828 should have beliefs which are not found among the earliest Christians. How can I consider them to have any authority? As an evangelical who has become Orthodox, I have to say that it seems to me that a Church which believes the same as the earliest Christians, and has an historical continuity for 2000 years, must have a greater claim, even the greatest claim of all, to be considered the same Apostolic Church.

You are always welcome to join us in prayer, and I will always try to respond to your correspondence.

May God bless your pilgrimage. 

Father Peter

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