by Sue Lisowski
On Saturday, October 30, the Very Reverend Father Peter Gillquist spoke
at our Orthodox Christianity forum at Moraine Valley College. The event was a success,
well-attended by parish members and visitors. In fact, just about every seat was filled.
Although we didn't attract as many non-Orthodox Christians as was hoped, the turnout from
other Orthodox parishes was very good.
The evening began with Father Howard Sloan offering his personal
testimony of how he converted to Orthodoxy from a Lutheran background. Father Peter's
presentation centered primarily on his journey from being part of the Campus Crusade
movement in the 1960's to becoming an Orthodox priest. He and a small group of friends,
feeling like "churchless Christians," set out on a quest to rediscover the New Testament
Church. They decided to delve into the history of Christians in the first century,
assigning each person to research a different aspect of early Church life and worship.
For sources of information, they consulted early writings such as
Justin Martyr's "The Apology," dating from 150 AD. There were many surprises--and there
were some things that Father Peter candidly admitted that he didn't want to accept at
first, like that the early Church was very much liturgical and sacramental. As they
learned, they tried to model their worship after that of the early Christians. Soon they
were conducting Liturgies and calling themselves the Evangelical Orthodox Church. At
this point they had never even been in an Eastern Orthodox Church! Eventually, they made
the acquaintance of several Orthodox leaders, who guided them in several areas. In 1986
they were accepted into the Antiochian Orthodox Church. Father Peter is now head of
Missions and Evangelism for that archdiocese.
Father Peter summed up his talk with a comment on why he thinks so
many people are being drawn to Orthodoxy. One is the sense of worship. In an age when so
many churches are little more than auditoriums, many are craving a sense of sacred
worship. Second is the idea of historicity, being part of something 2,000 years old.
Third, in Father Peter's words, "Nothing is up for renegotiation." The church does not
waver from its fundamental truths.
When he finished speaking, Father Peter welcomed questions, and
answered each in depth. Discussions and fellowship continued over coffee and cookies.
The forum was the first in what is to be an annual evangelism event
near the time of the feast day of Saint Luke. Next year we plan to again bring a speaker
on a different topic and hopefully attract an even larger audience.