What are some things to appreciate? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
So on Monday, I wrote an appreciation to my pastor for Pastor Appreciation Month, which was last month. I had done something on Facebook, but I wanted something more public. I thought about that later on and realized I should go to someone also who could be called the other pastor in my life.
Not sure if he’d agree 100% with that title, but many of you know that my wife is a catechumen in the Eastern Orthodox Church. At first, I had my concerns and doubts, but I grew to appreciate the change that I saw in her. We also both got to know the priest down there, Father Barnabas, very well.
Sometimes, we would go in for a counseling session together and the way he has talked to her has often impressed me. It’s a calm approach, but it is often firm and tough as well. There’s no beating around the bush. He used to be a police officer so he knows something about how to talk to some people.
Yet what is amazing is the time investment. There’s so much of it. At the end of a session, he’d often ask if he could get a hug and then say something like, “I like you. You’re a good kid.”
Other people have noticed that liking too. When my wife and I went to an event a few months ago in downtown Atlanta at a major cathedral there, we sat with the priest of another church and other people we didn’t know. It wasn’t intentional. We just sat somewhere and they joined us.
Before too long, Father B (As I often call Barnabas) saw us and came over and put his hands on our shoulders and said “You can’t have these two. They’re mine.” I thought it was just a fun little comment, but afterward, the other priest told me, “He’s really protective of you two. I could tell when he said that that he really meant it. He’s really looking out for you.”
Bible studies at the church were often fun too. The only one we’ve been to is Revelation and there were many times when he’d ask a question and say “Does anybody know?” and I’d raise my hand immediately and he’d say “Not you.” Allie was getting concerned about it, but he assured her it was a game we played together. It was fun.
Yet the interesting thing is we both know I am a devout Protestant, but I think he’s just as much there for me as he is for Allie. He’s helped me learn to think about different issues on how I relate to Allie better. He’s been there for me when Allie has been in a suicidal state.
Why is this? Something he tells Allie all the time. “Father’s not a title.” He made a donation to her fundraising effort and said to her mother on the phone, “It’s for a selfish reason. I want that child to get well.”
If that’s selfish, we need more selfish people out there.
Something else I like is that my Protestantism has not been used against me. He’s told me why he left that world. I respect it. When I have talked one-on-one, I have never been told something like, “Well if you would just abandon your Protestantism and accept Orthodoxy, your problems would be solved.” I think that’s a cheap move anyway, but it’s never been an issue.
Many times when I’m at the church with Allie, people know that I am a Protestant, and they’re okay with it. It’s not an issue. I can look around and say “These are my people also.” I would hope that if any of them ever came to my Protestant church, it would be the same way again.
Now do Father B and I have our disagreements on theology and history and things like that? Yep. Never been an issue though. He’s still supported me. When I went and debated Dan Barker, I found out later from him that he actually watched the whole debate online. I was really pleased with that. There has never been a hesitancy to share a prayer request from me either.
I think I have been fortunate to get some of the wisdom that I’ve seen. I’ve read a number of books on Orthodoxy and from an Orthodox perspective. I still disagree, but there is a good respect here. I also still maintain my strong stance when it comes to dialogue between Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox, to strive to see all as my fellow Christians and go after any who question the salvation of the other.
So thank you Father Barnabas for what you have done with Allie. I hope it keeps up and I can definitely say from what I see, Father is not a title.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)