Thursday, June 28, 2007

Singing in Dad's Home Town

Headline caption from Ukrainian newspaper reads: Orthodox American. [See Comment #1 for translation.]

Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2007
Updated: 22 Aug 2013

Having returned last night from Ukraine, there is much to report. That will take time. In the interim I have two comments:

1) In a discussion of my "Orthodox Odyssey" with Russian Orthodox relatives, cousin Olga observed that my sub-title [which had been "Remembering my father's lost tradition"] might use the word "forgotten" instead of "lost".

2) In a different discussion with another side of the family who are both Orthodox and evangelical, I sat quietly for some time while mother (Zhanna) and daughter (Natasha) engaged in a heated debate about the differences between Orthodoxy and evangelical Christianity. Zhanna, who can often come on strong, could not understand why her daughter had become Orthodox. Both parents seemed of the opinion that Natasha was being contrary. I had observed earlier that Natasha is generally quiet, shy and non-combative.

Noticing my long silence, cousin Igor (Natasha's father) turned to me and asked what I was really thinking. "Zhenya", he said looking at me intently, "what are you thinking? Tell us the truth!" Deciding to be candid, I said, "I believe Natasha is an intelligent woman with her own reasons for choosing to be Orthodox. I honor her choices." At that moment I saw tears of gratitude come into Natasha's eyes, although she remained silent. I think she felt heard.

Thanks to Zhanna and Igor, I had opportunity to sing "God with us" in their Grace Melitopol Christian Church, which has American Campbellite roots.

Later, thanks to Natasha, I had opportunity to sing "God with us" in two different Orthodox Church settings. The last was in the largest Orthodox Church in Melitopol, the very church in which my father was baptized in 1903. It had recently been restored since the fall of the USSR.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Singing S nami Bog (God with us) before public screening of Russian film

Event: May 5, 2007; Updated: 14 March 2012

At dinner shortly after meeting Fr. John Hennies at the annual Bliny Breakfast, he asked if I would sing the chant I'd sung in the church basement that February day we first met. He said he would be screening a recent prize-winning Russian film, The Island, for the local population, which had an Orthodox theme and wanted me to set an Orthodox mood for the audience. I was pleased to do so. Fortunately, one of my sons (James) was there to film it. This story is captured on YouTube below.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Ferren L. Christensen dead at 77

Event: April 1, 2007

Brother Virgil calls. FLC had died at 77. I call Glennie. Talked to oldest son Lee.

Ferren had a huge effect on my life, beginning with his challenge to me in summer 1957 when, as bishop of the Laguna Beach Ward, he called me "the biggest hypocrite" he'd ever met in his life. In response to this I made a silent vow: "No one will ever say that to me again and tell the truth."

A week or so later he introduced me to President David O. McKay in the Laguna Beach ward house as "This is the young man I told you about who speaks Russian." Whereupon McKay took my right hand in both of his, closed his eyes for what seemed like a very long time, then opened them to look straight into mine and said, "This is good. Keep it up. I have a strong feeling that that mission is about to open."

I will post recollections of Ferren on this blog as opportunity permits.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Burden

Event: March 2007
Updated: 31 July 2010

A few weeks after we met in February 2007, I went to see Fr. John as a man of God to ask him to help me remove a burden I had been feeling about the Mormon Church for decades. His response surprised me. "Don't be in a hurry to have this burden removed. The Lord has placed it on you for his own purposes. He will remove it in his own time."

I left our conversation relieved and rejoicing.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Meeting Father John Hennies

Sunday, February 17, 2007
On Friday, February 15, Birgitta learned about the existence of St. Dimitri of Rostov parish of the Orthodox Church in America here in Los Alamos from one of her gym partners, a long time OCA member. The parish was serving its traditional annual "Bliny Breakfast" the followig Sunday and we were invited. I jumped at the chance to become acquainted with local Orthodox people.

Arriving at the parish, we discovered it is in a converted house and were directed to the kitchen basement. There were only three or four other brunchers. I was asked about what began my recent search for an Orthodox Church and that led to recounting singing an old Slavonic chant to Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Anastassy in 1954. When I mentioned that I still knew the chant as well as all four choir parts, parishioner Barbara invited me to sing the chant.

Birgitta suggested I move away from the table (she knew what was coming!) and I was thrilled to sing that wonderful chant (from the other side of the room!) for those hardy parishioners. My old voice felt strong and clear.

No sooner had I finished than I heard sounds of loud footsteps quickly coming down the stairs from the sanctuary above. (It hadn't known there was an upstairs sanctuary) The priest, Fr. John, and his wife plus one another person came rushing into the kitchen wanting to know where the singing came from. They were most effusive in their enthusiasm. Fr. John immediately invited me to sing in their services anytime and asked if I would teach them that chant and chorus.

A marvelous spirit-filled conversation ensued as we got acquainted and shared stories. Birgitta and I felt we had found another Christian home.

One aspect of this first meeting and conversation with Fr. John stands out in my recollection. When I asked about the meaning of the word "Orthodox", he replied that it is the word for "right". Why, of course! I thought, recalling my engineering background and the drafting term "Orthographic projection". Then I was flooded with the memory of a long-ago symbol in a major dream (see : pre-analysis dream, March 1966) and realized a new level of understanding it. The dream's first scene is of a wind swept desert on which are two mobile homes positioned in an "L", i.e. at a right angle! Until this recollection, I'd always thought of the Mormon "sign of the square"--the symbol for truth. This dream now offered a new level of meaning as my outer Orthodox Odyssey continued to evolve and unfold.