This past week we enjoyed a wonderful vacation in a beach side condo with my parents. Oh the joy of Sabbath. The week culminated, after our return home, with my parents coming to liturgy with us. It was their first time in an Orthodox service and maybe their second in a liturgical service - they usually attend a non-denominational, "low threshold" church (see my previous entry about growing up in the Vineyard). We did our best to prepare them by talking about the service and having them read Frederica Matthewes Greene's essay "12 things I wish I'd known..."
The service itself went well, aside from it being Pentecost so following the Liturgy in the book was difficult, and my mom took a break from the incense for fifteen minutes or so after the homily. Coffee hour was great, since it gave them a chance to talk to some members of the congregation.
I think the toughest part, at least for my mom, was the lingo (Theotokos, antiphon, anaphora, Eucharist, etc.). As she said "it takes Christianese to a whole other level." Somehow we also failed to impart the fact that the iconostasis (you know, the wall with the pictures at the front) separated the congregation from the altar, not a storage closet.
Overall, it was a good visit and led to many conversations. My parents are very interested in parts of Orthodoxy that I haven't thought about. For instance, missions has always been big for them and they wondered how modern Orthodox reach out to the "unchurched", both in the States and around the world. It's definitely something we will be looking into - I know Orthodox mission organizations exist, but that's about all I know at this point.
Basically, I think as long as we can keep the communication lines open they'll be okay with our eventual conversion - if we decide to go that route. They don't seem to be opposed to anything in particular, just ignorant.
Here's one final anecdote from the weekend that I'll share because I found it to be very encouraging:
On Saturday evening, after a long conversation about Orthodoxy and the upcoming service, my mom asked my dad if he recalled the first time my grandmother had visited their church shortly after they were married. Oh yes, he remembered. My grandmother had always attended very strict traditional churches (my mom grew up Brethren, at the time I think she was attending a CMA church) and my parents were worried about her reaction to their more modern non-denominational church. I think they were mostly concerned about the extreme difference in musical style, but come the Sunday of the visit a rather charismatic guest preacher spoke on the gift of tongues. My grandmother, however, slept through most of the service and didn't have nearly the reaction they had feared.
Hearing this story, I thought back over all the conversations Peter and I have had about how our parents may or may not react to our exploration of Orthodoxy. While my mom had no knowledge of those conversations, it was clear in that moment that Someone who did knew I needed some reassurance.