About this time of year (Orthodox Holy Week) we start seeing people in church who seem unfamiliar. Some, of course, are people looking in to Orthodoxy. Because the Western and Eastern Holy Weeks are often on a different calendar people from other Christian communities interested in the Faith will take advantage of the opportunity to visit and learn.
Others, though, will be people who’s connection to our Faith is only partial, those who occasionally visit especially on days like Christmas and Easter (Pascha). Some of these “Chreasters,” the Christmas and Easter attenders, learned this from their own less than fully engaged families. Some have been hurt in the Church and can only bear to be present a few times a year. Others may have a hidden guilt or sense of unworthiness that contributes to a feeling of not being good enough. There are as many reasons as there are people who only come to church on Christmas and Easter.
As a Priest who sees these unfamiliar faces around this time of year I have only one thing to say. “Welcome!” I’m glad that you’ve come to be with us even for these few holidays. Of course I’d like you to be with us more often, there is a great blessing in regularly being with people seeking God, but however and whenever and in whatever place you are in I’m glad you’ve chosen to be with us and we are blessed by your presence.
Something inside inspired you to come to church and you listened to it. That’s a beautiful start. Keep on listening to that still, small, voice calling you to seek God because that’s the voice that’s been at the beginning of many powerful human transformations. It can be the voice of Love calling you to discover love. It can be the greatest need of your heart seeking to find the only One who can help you find rest.
Whether you come a few times or often, from devotion or curiosity, in brokenness or vitality, God loves you and welcomes you to a journey of being taken from wherever you are to the good place He wants you to be. Our doors will be open as often as possible and our hearts as well. If the Easter service is your first of the year you are invited. If you only come to church when there’s trouble, the invitation still stands. Of course we’re open throughout the year but whenever you come you are still God’s, and our, honored guest.
Don’t be ashamed. Don’t be frightened. Don’t worry about being perfect. Just come, and know that some of the greatest and most blessed things happen when you take walk in to an Orthodox church.