Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Hales' Journey, part 14 - Catechumens!

Catechumen Clint and Debbie (and kids). All kidding aside, what a great moment in the life of the Hale family! Pictured also is Fr. Christopher Foley

At this point in our journey, I was ecstatic! My wife had unexpectedly made a complete change in her opinion of Orthodoxy and was now on board. As I said earlier, I was still preaching for a small church in southern Virginia. I had just completed my Masters Degree in English and was trying to find a position teaching for a community college.

That was easier said than done, as you can imagine. There are actually few full time jobs available out there in English and those that do open up are hotly contested. A guy with a new degree and zero college experience doesn’t stand much of a chance. But, as always, God was looking out for us.

I was hired as an adjunct instructor at a large community college in the Greensboro, NC area. I was to teach two classes during the Fall 2007 semester. It was about an hour drive from my house to the parking lot at the school. Both of my classes were on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, so I only had to make the drive those three days. Luckily, my job as a minister was not very time-intensive, so it wasn’t a big deal to get everything done for it, and still drive and teach.

As I gained experience, other doors starting opening. Another community college (which was a bit closer) hired me for a class in the Spring and the original school kept me on for two more classes. By the end of the Spring semester, I had even picked up a few online classes. I was getting my experience. Fr. James also helped me get hired as a teacher full-time in the school district where he worked in the Houston area. I would be teaching High School English, starting in August of 2008. There was also some training that would be required that summer, so we actually moved back to Texas in June 2008. I will talk more about the job stuff next time.
While I was getting this teaching experience, we were also getting some Orthodox experience. In the Greensboro, NC area, I was able to make contact with Fr. Christopher Foley of Holy Cross Mission (OCA). Debbie and I started taking our family to Vespers each Saturday evening. We developed a very close relationship with the people at that mission. In fact, we still email with several of them and keep up with each other.

Fr. Christopher was amazing. I suppose that every Orthodox clergyman that I have met along my crazy journey has been amazing, so I don’t know that I was surprised, but he really was a tremendous example. He knew from the start that we would be moving to Texas, yet he drove to our home on several occasions (at least an hour each way) to teach us more about Orthodoxy. He loaned me books. He and his family invited our family to go to lunch on several occasions. He would answer my off the wall questions and gave some really great advice on things.

During the six months or so that we attended Vespers and got to know Fr. Christopher and the wonderful Christians at Holy Cross, our faith really deepened. I actually took a vacation day one weekend when Archbishop Dmitri came to visit Holy Cross. Orthodoxy had come to permeate our whole existence. It wasn’t just me; it was Debbie and even our children. The two oldest kids started singing with the choir during Vespers.

Archbishop DMITRI presiding over the Divine Liturgy at Holy Cross

Our youngest son, who was about four years old at the time would walk through our house singing the “Prokeimenon in the 6th tone” that we heard each week at Vespers: “The Lord is King, He is robed in Majesty.” (His Sunday School teacher at the Church of Christ actually asked me for the words that he was singing all the time, because it was so pretty). Both of my sons would turn their Star Wars light sabers upside down and swing it like a censer, and go around “smoking the house.” They called the Orthodox Church, “the smoke church.” Everything we did was somehow connected to Orthodoxy.

Finally, our time grew short. I had submitted my resignation as a minister. We got everything boxed up and ready to go. It was almost time to move.

But before we left, we wanted to do something “official” with Holy Cross. So after the last time I was to preach in the Church of Christ, at the next Vespers service, Fr. Christopher received Debbie and me and our children as Catechumens. We went through the ceremony there at Holy Cross, surrounded by quite a few friends that we had made there over the past few months.

A few days later, we moved back to Texas. It was a wonderful day. For the first time in nearly four years, I no longer had to straddle a fence. I was 100% Orthodox-committed. We were catechumens and excited about being able to attend Liturgy on a regular basis. Our lives had definitely changed.


charlene said...

Your story continues to enchant me, and make me eager for the next installment.

I believe you are right on point when you say Orthodoxy is all-consuming. Fifteen months ago I had never strpped foot in an Orthodox church. We were part of the life of three denominations and four churches in the 17 years after I left Roman Catholicism. You don't just "join the church" and have your membership moved when you become Orthudox. It is a whole different way of seeing the world and living your life. EVERTHING changes. (One of my sisters asked me if I had joined a cult!) It really is wonderful, isn't it?

elizabeth said...

Wonderful! I had been waiting for the next installment!

(And I am intrigued also by the MA you did, as I am at a crossroads in my own 'what do I do for a living? questions!).

It is an encouragment to see how God leads and provides!

Paul said...

I get the cult question alot from family too, but from friends it is more of "what do you believe? and how is this different from RCism?" Acceptance is always there and this often times leads to more private questions later. Not that many people agree to visit a service. I have had 2 though do so.

Isabel said...

this is a great journey tale...I am enchanted you all got to spend a liturgy with Archbishop Demetrios, he is one of my faves. I actually got to meet him once (I am such a groupie) and tell him how much his writings on the Beatitudes meant to me.

Clint said...


I would be happy to tell you about the degree that I did. Email me at

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

The Orthodox church often makes instant sense to the youngest attending services; it is as though they are "hard-wired" into this type of worship on such a deep spiritual level.

I really love seeing them "play church" :-)