I have grown up in church.
When I say church, I literally mean many, many different kinds of churches. For background purposes let me explain a little more. My first memory of being in church was when I was about 5 or 6 years old. I played the lead in Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer. It sounds like a sweet story until I tell you that it was a tap dance performance, and it was my very first one. I must also mention that I am a huge momma’s girl; so much so that I slept by her bed for as long as she would allow, and then I continued to sneak down in the middle of the night and sleep outside of her door.
Pathetic. Endearing. Annoying. Sweet now, not then.
Anyway, I think you understand. As we all tapped out onto stage and began to sing our carols, I desperately searched the crowd in hopes to see my mom. When I couldn’t find her, I panicked. I tapped my way to the very edge of the stage with my little red nose and just stopped. My eyes slowly began to fill with tears under the spot light and I simply waited for my mom to come forward. What seemed like an eternity, maybe lasted a few minutes. But this was long enough for the church crowd to go from, “Oh, that cute, little, blonde Rudolf is stage shy” to “Good Lord, get that screaming brat off the stage so we can see our own children singing”!
Well, now that you can see how I was traumatized by the church (and reindeer) at a very young age, you will understand why I have never found a church home or liked Rudolf much.
Back to my point that I have been to almost every denomination you can think of from Baptist, Church of God, Presbyterian, Anglican, Pentecostal, Methodist, Lutheran, and now Greek Orthodox. I also have the greatest memories as a little girl going to the Lutheran church with my daddy and sitting somewhat quietly beside him while coloring or napping on his lap, so not all made negative impressions.
In conclusion, I would say that I was a pretty “churched” person and have seen the good, the bad, and ugly when it comes to a church crowd. Everyone has heard stories of fights in the parking lot or indecent signaling from drivers with “Christian” bumper stickers, but something more recently I have encountered are the old ladies here who show no mercy. After the service, you approach the front of the church to receive the antidoron*. The old ladies come from all directions and stealthy wind up ahead of you in line. It is complete and utter chaos really. No lines. No order. Everyone for themselves, and deceivingly fragile old ladies, who in reality the undercover ninjas they are rumored to be, win every time. This is also the case upon existing the church. It is like the flood gates are open and everything in its path is abstracted. Don’t they look so frail and angelic?
My only advice is just like when you get pulled under by the current of a dam or whirlpool, DON’T FIGHT IT. Go with the flow until it spits you out and you become free. Or even better, you can pick an old lady, one with that linebacker look in her eye and stay as close behind her as possible. Let her do all the “polite” pushing for you, just go with the flow. I have found this works all over Europe for foreigners. If someone is walking straight toward you, don’t step to the side; focus, flex, and fight your way, politely and Christ-like of course 🙂
*Antidoron is a blessed bread made by the very angelic old ladies who take no prisoners. It is prayed over while making, blessed by the priest, and then shared at the end of service for everyone, especially including those who didn’t receive communion.
PS. I will have to post later about my other experiences with becoming Orthodox. It has been a grand journey showing and teaching me many things that I missed out on in my Protestant experiences.