real live preacher visits St. Anthony’s again

Gordon Atkinson went back to St. Anthony’s (although this time without his family). Once again, his thoughts speak for themselves, but I am most struck by this anonymous comment:

I wouldn’t hang out there at the Orthodox Church any more unless you’re planning on converting. Use your sabbattical (sic) to get as much variety as possible. Go to a Pentecostal or charismatic church. Try to find a black church. You will be richer for the experience and will become a better pastor to your congregation.

“I wouldn’t hang out there at the Orthodox Church any more unless you’re planning on converting.” That’s a loaded statement, to say the least. Depending on how it is motivated (and it’s anonymous, so we can only speculate), I could read wisdom or snark into it. Any thoughts?


7 Responses to “real live preacher visits St. Anthony’s again”

  1. 1 Sbdn. Lucas 5 June 2009 at 11:12 am

    It comes across, to me, as snarky.

    Not knowing how it was intended, I would, in either case, simply disagree. If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, then one must come and see–and not on one’s own terms, but on the terms of the Church–before drawing a conclusion. His apparent desire to do just that is why I’ve found this a refreshing essay.

  2. 2 Sbdn. Lucas 5 June 2009 at 11:19 am

    In charity, I will amend the above: having re-read the entire comment in the context of the other comments, maybe it isn’t snarky as much as it is dismissive. The suggestion is more one of, ‘if you’re going to be a spiritual tourist, why not see a few other sights while on vacation?’

    • 3 Gordon Atkinson 5 June 2009 at 11:39 am

      As the one who received it, I’ll tell you how it came across to me. A little nosy. Many people receive a small amount of information about someone. Then they project a ton of their own “stuff” into the situation. That’s fine. But then they react with anger or whatever.

      To me, if I read someone’s honest account of a spiritual journey, I’m not going to take up the posture of that person’s mentor. “What you did was nice and thank you for writing about it, but now I am involved. Let ME tell you what I think would be a better plan for you.”

      It’s funny isn’t it, really? Wow, this person truly feels qualified to do spiritual direction with me via email.


      I’ve been blogging long enough to have dealt with a variety of comments. There are a number of people who don’t think to much about it. They just say what comes to mind.

      • 4 Richard Barrett 5 June 2009 at 12:07 pm

        Pastor Atkinson — welcome, and thanks for dropping by! Do feel free to stick around.

    • 5 Richard Barrett 5 June 2009 at 12:04 pm

      To me, the snarky way to read it is, “Don’t drink the poison unless you’re prepared to drink ALL the poison, in which case we have nothing more to discuss anyway.”

      The more charitable way to read it, in my view, is, “If you aren’t prepared to submit to being transplanted, then you might perhaps be better off continuing to grow in your current pot, but trying to have it both ways is going to be unhealthy in the long run.” (A more succinct and pungent phrase about a pot, and one needing to choose to remove oneself from it if one is going to not perform a particular bodily function, might also be a valid reading.)

      Still, even if there might be wisdom in the latter reading, I’m not sure it would be applicable after all of two services.

  3. 6 rjhargrav 5 June 2009 at 12:47 pm

    That comment was the snarkiest, but there certainly are a lot of folks trying to do spiritual direction via the comment thread. It’s more than a little embarrasing. Pastor Atkinson’s charitable responses to these email-spiritual-fathers has been refreshing. He’s a really, really good writer.

    • 7 rjhargrav 5 June 2009 at 12:54 pm

      It’s enjoyable and illuminating to read rlp’s archives about his visits to other houses of worship. He’s a good and generous writer; the way he describes each place makes me think “Gosh, I’d love to visit too” and also wonder “is he gonna convert to X? He sure seems to love it.”

      I suspect that a lot of his commenters have come upon the blog the same way I did– “look at this link!”– and, reading one warm and kind account of Orthodox worship absent the context of the blog, believe they’ve got a potential convert on their hands. Some of the responses have made me a little ashamed of my own people– this is not an attitude we Orthodox are known for (thank heavens), and it’s really not very becoming.

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