Tuesday, April 17, 2007

From Baptist to Bosnia to Byzantium (Part One)

Everyone who has converted to Orthodoxy from another tradition has a unique and interesting conversion story. There is no such thing as a “typical” story. Because of this, I cannot claim that my conversion story is all that different from the (non-existent) “typical” story. Nevertheless, after having related my experience dozens of times, I have noticed a recurring reaction: Person after person has told me that my story is “amazing,” “fascinating,” “different,” or some other such adjective (Some of my former missionary colleagues would say “insane,” but more on that later…). Many people have urged me to put the story in writing and even to publish it. I have delayed doing this for about five years for one very simple reason: I hate to write. Not only that, but I have been very busy for most of the last several years.

But now I think that it is finally time. So, I am going to try an experiment: I will break up the story into several short pieces and publish the pieces one at a time in this blog. In fact, this is one of the reasons I started the blog: to give myself an impetus to write about my conversion experience. My hope and prayer is that you will find some inspiration in reading about the path along which God has led me over the last several years, and indeed how He has guided my path my entire life.


I was born March 8, 1968, to parents who were in their late forties and who had been married for 24 years. I was the youngest of four children, with siblings who were 22, 15, and 11 years older than me. Because my brother and my two sisters were already in college or the workforce by the time I was old enough to remember anything, I spent most of my childhood living much like an only child, with parents that were the same age as most of my friends’ grandparents.

My father had served for 26 years as an officer in the United States Marine Corps, retiring as a Colonel the year before I was born. After his retirement, he worked in three different short-term jobs in three different cities, until 1974, when he accepted a position as a Marine ROTC instructor at a high school in Pasadena, Texas, a suburb of Houston. My mother and sister and I joined him there the following year, and so it was at the age of seven that I settled down in the city where I would grow up and where I currently work.

My parents were decent, moral people who imparted to me a strong sense of right and wrong. However, neither of them had much interest in God or the Church, and we very rarely attended any type of church. My only memory of anything remotely religious was attending an Episcopal school for the first half of my Kindergarten year, where on at least one occasion I was spanked by the priest/principal for some type of misbehavior that I cannot remember.

Until I was nearly fifteen, I considered myself a staunch agnostic. I never gave much thought to whether or not I believed in God, but I was unquestionably a functional atheist at the very least. This began to change, however, during my freshman year in high school…


paul said...

Father James,

You can't stop there, it is just getting interesting.

Rdr. Michael said...

Father, Bless:

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

I remember you telling about your conversion story about a year or so ago at St. George. Always interesting to hear, and I enjoy reading about it in detail.

I didn't know that your father was a former Marine. Me too! (although only a Corporal, not very high-ranking at all). Semper Fi!

Fr. John Whiteford said...

Which High School did your Father teach ROTC? Sam Rayburn, or Pasadena High School?

Fr. James Early said...

Fr. John,

He taught at Pasadena High. I attended Sam Rayburn and then later taught at Dobie.

fdr said...

To direct you readers to the next post:


It might be confusing otherwise....