I’m at my secular job, focused on some computer-related task, and the phone rings.
“Father Anastasios?” asks the caller, somewhat unsure how to pronounce my name.
“Yes, how can I help you?”
“I have some questions about the Orthodox Church.”
This is how many conversations have begun in the past few years since I became a priest. I quickly move to a conference room, and then engage the caller, answering all his or her varied questions. They seem positive, and promise to come for services the next Sunday.
They don’t show up. And they never call again.
Unfortunately, many of the people who call us and ask about the Church show a momentary interest, but then fade away. I am reminded of the Parable of the Sower:
And it came to pass, as he sowed…some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away (Mark 4:4-6).
Am I criticizing those who call and ask for information about the Church? Of course not! I love to talk to people, and answer questions about the Orthodox Church. I wouldn’t want someone who is genuinely interested in contacting me to hesitate to call. However, there is a difference between asking questions without making a commitment, and enthusiastically promising to visit and not showing up and not following up. Things come up; I know this, but why no follow-up phone call or email to let us know?
You see, I’m a caring person—it’s part of the reason I became a priest. I want to help people find the Truth, to find salvation in Jesus Christ, and the Church which He established. When people contact me and state an intention to come to the Church, I get excited and look forward with anticipation. When there is follow-through, I am pleased. When there is no visit, I feel disappointed. I pray for the people who contact me, and am genuinely concerned.
Such communications have taken a lot of my time and emotional energy; and my missions are growing, which means I am spending more time with those who have already joined the parish. Both of these are reasons why I have had to limit how much time I can spend speaking to new people on the telephone. Presently, I encourage people to visit the Church first, and I will answer their questions after the liturgy. Orthodox Christianity is best experienced; it is hard to understand it without visiting a liturgy and seeing it for oneself. Many questions can be answered just by participating in the Divine Liturgy.
No one who has questions about Orthodoxy should hesitate to contact us, for sure, and we look forward for your call, as you realize that Orthodox Christianity is the True Faith, and you seek to join us in the Church. It is a real blessing to us that there are many people who have called and emailed and have come to the Church, and are now members! You will not be the first to find Orthodoxy in this way, nor the last. So get your questions together, come to liturgy, and let’s talk!