THE USUAL SPIEL, OR THE YADA YADA…
I think when some of you look at the “About” page, you expect to see curriculum vitae sort of stuff. So, I’m going put some of that here. If, however, you don’t want to see that, and you’d rather read my “story,” go ahead and skip to the next heading.
- Presiding Priest at St. Elias Orthodox Church in Dubuque, IA (current)
- Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (Crestwood, NY)
- M.Div.; magna cum laude in Sacred and Orthodox Theology
- University of Missouri-Columbia (Columbia, MO)
- M.A.; Art History and Archaeology
- University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN)
- B.A.; Classical & Near-Eastern Archaeology, and Religious Studies
- Dubuque Ministerium, current president
- Dubuque Rescue Mission, current president
- Children of Abraham, board member
- Dubuque CROP Walk, co-president
- Dubuque Area Congregations United, delegate
- Saved By Beauty: Sister Mary Charles McGough, OSB (Duluth: Duluth Benedictine Books, 2014)
- Co-author along with John Schifsky, Sister Lois Eckes, Peter Spooner, and Meridith Schifsky.
- Winner in the category of Art/Photography at the Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards (May 21, 2015).
I GREW UP “ALL AMERICAN”
I grew up in southeast Iowa. In fact, I’m a 6th generation Iowan, and a 9th generation American through my Irish and Scotch-Irish heritage. On the other hand, I have Native-American blood in me through two great-grandmothers (both Cherokee).
I grew up in the United Methodist Church, and I was very active in Sunday School, Youth Group, Confirmation Class, and the Worship Committee. It was, to say the least, a very traditional Methodist upbringing.
I WENT TO COLLEGE IN THE BIG CITY, WHICH CORRUPTED THE SMALL TOWN BOY
When it came time to pick a college, I had nothing against Iowa, but I wanted to get away and experience a big city. So, I ended up in Minneapolis.
There I found the one Methodist Church in Lutheran country (you betcha), but I was in for a wake-up call. The theology of that Minneapolis church was nothing like the theology of the small Iowan church I grew up in – despite both churches being in the same denomination.
I was shocked!
THE VARIETY OF THEOLOGY LED ME TO WONDER: WAS THE CHURCH DEAD?
If these two churches – within the same denomination – couldn’t hold to the same theology, practice, and belief, then how do I know that I’m in THE CHURCH started BY CHRIST 2,000 years ago?
Perhaps the Church was a nice idea, but it just didn’t make it out of the world of antiquity…
IN GREECE I DISCOVERED AN ANCIENT CHURCH STILL ALIVE
About the time I was wondering what happened to the historic Church, I decided to go to Greece. I was studying archaeology and I was expected to participate in excavations as a part of my degree requirements.
What I discovered during the two summers I lived there was that you couldn’t walk without stubbing your toe.
I stubbed it either on pagan temples or ancient Orthodox Churches.
Hmm, I wondered. What exactly is this Orthodox thing?
BACK IN AMERICA I FELL IN LOVE WITH ORTHODOXY AND CONVERTED
After my second summer in Greece, I was in my senior year. But I was still wondering about Orthodox Christianity, and what it was all about.
So, I decided to go to the local college group on campus (called Orthodox Christian Fellowship, or OCF) to find out. I thought to myself, I’ll go, learn, and that’ll be that.
The friends I made there, however, wouldn’t let me just LEARN about Orthodox Christianity. They insisted that I had to EXPERIENCE the faith. They even offered a ride, and I accepted.
The church I was taken to had a Russian background – and this was the church I ended up converting to Orthodoxy in – so, I guess I had to go to Greece, in order to come back to America, so that I could convert in a Russian Church…go figure!
THE CHURCH HAD SURVIVED, AND IS CALLED ORTHODOXY TODAY
My first experience in the Orthodox Church blew me away.
The tie to history and Scripture!
What I discovered was a church that had direct ties to the New Testament.
Could this be the church of Christ? Could this be the original Church? Could this be THE CHURCH?
The more I learned and experienced Orthodoxy Christianity, the more I became convinced: THIS IS HEAVEN ON EARTH.
So, I converted and became an Orthodox Christian.
IF ORTHODOXY IS THE TRUE CHURCH, WHY AREN’T THEY ALL OVER THE U.S.A.?
After I converted to Orthodox Christianity, my dad, still in southeast Iowa, became interested, and he started reading up on it. Then one day I got a phone call from him.
He asked, “If Orthodox Christianity is the fullness of Biblical Truth, if it’s THE CHURCH, why isn’t there an Orthodox Church near me? Has God abandoned me here in Iowa?”
That was a great question, yet, at the same time, a very sad question.
What it revealed was that Orthodox Christians had A LOT OF WORK TO DO!
ON TO THE PRIESTHOOD TO EVANGELIZE AMERICA
Though my wife was initially hesitant about seminary, and the idea of me becoming a priest (yes, married men can become priests in the Orthodox Church), God willed that path for us.
So, by the will of God (and my wife’s blessing) I became ordained.
Part of my motivation was driven by that phone conversation I had with my dad. Christ tells us to go and baptize ALL NATIONS. This includes even those people in my own back yard!
So, here I am, a priest in Iowa.
ORTHODOXY IS A HIDDEN TREASURE IN AMERICA
I truly believe that the Orthodox Church is THE Church and that it’s a hidden gem.
Some people may FEEL that it’s too exotic, too liturgical, or too foreign.
In some ways, I also FELT that way.
But what I FOUND was that all of that contributed to the beauty of the Church.
It was all of that which allowed Orthodoxy to CONTINUE TO PREACH the fullness of CHRIST CRUCIFIED as it always had – now for 2,000 years.
In fact, converting to Orthodoxy was actually coming home.
EVEN YOU CAN COME HOME THROUGH ORTHODOXY
I believe through Orthodox Christianity, you can form an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
I believe you can engage the scriptures in a whole new, and deeper way.
I believe you can be healed through Jesus Christ, and you can come home.
P.S. THROUGH ORTHODOXY I GREW CLOSER TO CHRIST
I start my story as a Protestant in a small Iowan town. After asking questions, and seeking for Christ, I discovered the Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Universal, and Apostolic Church – the Church of the New Testament.
Now, I seek to spread the love of Christ as an Orthodox priest.
I invite you to also explore the Orthodox Church, and deepen your faith in Christ.
Why not learn more?
I’ll see you all at St. Elias this Sunday (9:30 @ 2001 Asbury Rd, Dubuque, IA).