Fr. Mark Wallace in AGAIN Magazine
Some of you may have seen this already, but it's well worth passing on: an article in AGAIN magazine on the journey of St. Andrew's, formerly of the Charismatic Episcopal Church, and how the parish moved from the Convergence Movement to Orthodoxy. Entitled "Holy Endings and Beginnings" by (n0w) Kh. Susan L. Wallace, it's worth quoting at length and reading in full.
She described the sacrifice her husband, Fr. Mark, experienced (and the full parish shared) in laying down his sacramental ministry in obedience to the Orthodox Church. (The entire parish did without any sacraments from March 2007 until its chrismation in January 2008, a time Kh. Susan describes as "a hard yet necessary wilderness season that is forcing us to look within and embrace obedience rather than feelings." Thank God in passing through the desert, they used it as a well.) At that last service as part of the CEC, no one including:
[O]ur mentor, Fr. Constantine Nasr, was prepared for the sobering moment of reality as we sang our joyous recessional. My husband, Fr. Mark, turned to face the altar and slowly began to take off his chasuble. For eleven years he had put it on to serve at this sacred table, but now he was laying it down as a sacrifice. A holy hush filled the room as he lifted the priestly stole of authority over his head and offered it also in solemnity. An ache pierced my chest as I stood in the back and watched an entire congregation weep bittersweet tears...I watched as my husband took off his beloved priest's collar and added it to the sacrificial pile of vestments. He was serious as he gathered them up in his arms and handed them to Dru, the chief acolyte. Without rehearsal or even suggestion, Dru instinctively walked down the aisle and placed the precious garments of servanthood into Fr. Constantine's arms. The torch had been passed, and divine peace flooded the room.Obedience is sweet, indeed. Kh. Susan then described her previous spiritual life as a charismatic:
All those years of excitable worship as charismatics did not produce victory over the flesh...we were in bondage to the emotional rollercoaster of feelings without spiritual discipline...Goosebumps were a sure sign we had been visited by the Holy Spirit...Then many, if not most, would go home to become enslaved again to offenses, envy, jealousy, and covetous desires and appetites. Without our realizing it, the pleasure barometer affected our ability to "bring every thought into captivity" (2 Corinthians 10:5) and every response into obedience to Christ. Ultimately, life was based on feelings...Like so many forced to live on this meager ration, she knew there had to be more. Fr. Mark first met with Fr. Constantine Nasr in December 2006, and as much as it may surprise some, Fr. Constantine gladly embraced both this CEC parish's interest in Orthodoxy and the idea of the Western Rite:
When Mark began to inquire of Fr. Constantine about the possibility of bringing our congregation into the Western expression of the Orthodox Church, Father's face lit up. He had been praying for two years to start a Western Rite mission. To our surprise, we discovered the Antiochians had become visionaries in the task of recovering this Western Rite of the Orthodox faith. Fr. Constantine lovingly bade us, "Come home."Thank God they have, in fact, come home.
...[God] heard the cry of our hearts and saved us from ourselves...We are learning to offer worship that pleases God—not ourselves...Each Sunday, as I gaze upon the iconic faces of the "great cloud of witnesses" who so willingly laid down their lives for His sake, my resolve to throw off the bondage of spiritual pleasure-seeking is strengthened.
On a separate note: At the request of Fr. Constantine, Fr. Mark Wallace delivered a moving homily concerning his group's journey. This homily is available for viewing online here, courtesy of Fr. Wallace.