Posted by: Shawn Ragan | August 3, 2009

Holy Baptism – The Journey Begins

Just a little under three years ago I sat in Fr. Patrick’s office in Twin Falls.  I went on a retreat to Jerome, just about ten miles away from Twin, every few months for prayer, study, and to plan upcoming sermons and church goals.  A few weeks before this trip, I had met with Fr. Patrick at the Orthodox Church in Boise and in a way I had not yet comprehended had had my world shaken.

Fr. Patrick had talked about a number of things during that visit that spoke to questions I had been asking myself for a few years as a pastor.  There had been things I was struggling with, both as a pastor and as a Protestant Christian.  One of those things was the need for a spiritual father.  I saw my need for this as a pastor more and more as the years went by.  I had people I could talk to, but the relationship he was talking about was something more than I could get from my pastor-friends or others I talked to.

So we sat in his office and I asked him if he could help me in that way.  Obviously there were limitations, him being an Orthodox priest and me being a Protestant pastor, but he was happy to do what he could.

One of the things he told me during that meeting was about the journey I was about to embark on (if in fact I was really going to pursue the Truth wherever it led me).  He spoke of a bridge in New York (or somewhere back east) where from one side of the bridge you could not see the other side.  The best description, perhaps, for the sake of the blog, would be to say it was like a really shallow upside down U.

He said that as I embarked on the phase of my journey it would be like crossing that bridge.  Right now I could see clearly where I was at, and this side of the bridge.  As I walked over the bridge, if in fact I chose to do so (he made it clear I could walk away if I wanted to), I would see more of what was on the other side, but I would be less connected with what was behind me.

He said that as I walked across, people who I am close to now would become more distant and some no longer wish to even be my friend.  That was not something I understood at the time, because I was sure that the people I was friends with before, as well as my colleagues (other pastors) and those I pastored, would continue to want to associate with me as I walked this path.  Sadly, Fr. Patrick was right and I lost some friends in this journey.  Some colleagues stopped talking to me in the same way, especially as I got further down the path.  Even in the congregation I was serving as pastor, there were a few people who turned in what seemed like hatred against my family and I.  Even among those that I remained friends with, I found we no longer spoke the same language.  Orthodoxy is so different from the Protestantism that I was a part of that in a very real way we lost our ability to communicate.  Even recently, discussions have been confused because we speak from a very different worldview.

While crossing that bridge had its share of hardships (other than losing some friends and other social elements, I also left the pastorate with its pay and benefits – in a time when the economy hasn’t been so hot), it has had far more joy.  My view and understanding of God not only changed, but became overwhelmingly and awesomely greater.  I began to see ways in which I was hurting my family, and have worked to overcome those things.  I was able to watch my wife move from hating Christianity to having an active spiritual life and love for Christ and His Church.  We have not just read about Truth, but we have experienced in ways that were never possible before.  We have had the joy of coming home to the Faith of the Apostles.

This last weekend the walk across the bridge ended.  As we were received into the “One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church” through Holy Baptism and Chrismation, we stepped off the bridge.  Having arrived at the other side, almost three years later, has brought me incredible joy.  Seeing my wife and children brought into the Church brought tears to my gleaming face.  We are home.

And now, the real journey begins.  As challenging as it was to cross the bridge, we know that it will be far more challenging to walk the narrow path that has been set before us.  Just like the bridge, the Narrow Path with its challenges and struggles is filled with far more joy.  With the help and prayers of our spiritual father, Fr. Mark, our godparents, Matthew & Natalia, a wonderful parish filled with those walking the journey with us, the Saints who have gone before us cheering us on, and with the Holy Spirit illumining us along the journey and with Christ Himself truly present, we step out on the path.  Lord help us and have mercy on us.

Asking for your prayers,

Shawn (Ephraim)

Hugging my godparent before the Baptism

Hugging my godparent before the Baptism

Being anointed with oil before Baptism

Being anointed with oil before Baptism

The Servant of God, Ephraim, is baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The Servant of God, Ephraim, is baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Holy Chrismation

Holy Chrismation

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Responses

  1. Grant unto Thy newly-illumined servants, Ephraim (and I need the other names!), mercy, life, peace, health, salvation, and pardon and remission of their sins, and furtherance in all good things, and MANY YEARS!
    GOD GRANT YOU MANY YEARS!
    Shawn Ephraim, please provide me with the baptismal names of your entire family so I can enter them into my book of commemorations.
    To Tori and the kids, GOD GRANT YOU MANY YEARS!
    I am so happy for you, in your new life in Christ’s holy Church!!!

  2. Welcome! All the best to you and your family as you begin your journey into the Orthodox Faith. May the Theotokos, whose Dormition we celebrate today, help you and guide you in the path of your life and grant you many blessings.

  3. So, where is the rest? How are you now? You really should keep this blog going!

    We went through the same kind of journey in 1978-1979, and found the same problems of communication with our old and dear friends. And the gap has only become wider as we have progressed farther into Holy Orthodoxy. To balance it out, however, are the new friends we have made in the Orthodox Church. They are like our family. More, they ARE our family. We are struggling through Great Lent, now, and pray that our struggles will profit us when we come to Our Lord’s Passion and the bright Pascha that comes after that. I pray that your Great Lent will also be profitable to your soul.
    Love in Christ,
    Elizabeth


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