When Evangelicals Long For A Bit Of Orthodoxy

We visited St. Augustine this week. We were completely broke but it was Spring break and the city had been calling to me for a while so we reached deep into our lint-filled pockets and spent one night in the ancient city.

I love St. Augustine. Few places in America will you find so much history, so much richness. There’s a peace about the city, pockets of quiet and holiness.

Right smack in the middle of the downtown hustle and bustle there is this amazing little Greek Orthodox Shrine. It’s nestled in so well you might miss it in the line of establishments trying to sell you hats, t-shirts, and ice cream.

St. Photios

We’ve been there before but that doesn’t stop us from drinking in every bit of Byzantine. And the candles, oh the candles. More than ever on this visit I wanted to light one. But the self-conscious Baptist inside of me won the battle and I refrained.

Eastern Orthodox Candles

There’s something so downright . . . sensory about all that is orthodox. The paintings, incense, candles, music.  I see the appeal. Even this calloused, struggling evangelical can feel the pull of the holiness in these places.

St Photios. Jesus' baptism.

Down the road from the Eastern Orthodox Shrine is a Catholic one. Our Lady of La Leche. Again, I am overwhelmed by the peace that satiates the gardens, the icons, the chapel.

St. Augustine

And I wonder, why do I never feel this in an evangelical church? Why do Baptist churches lack this holiness? Why do they not stir my soul?

When I think of evangelical traditions I feel legalism, shallowness, harshness, coldness, blindness, obligation without understanding.

When I brush up against orthodoxy I feel warmth, depth, holiness. There’s an inherent . . . thoughtfulness. Reverence. Openness. Peace.

The fact that I bother to process and voice these feelings is one of the many reason that I am occasionally shunned.

Catholic candles.

In the Catholic shrine again I was drawn to the candles. But this time I gave in. I dug a dozen quarters out of my car and claimed one for my own.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Candle

Six days it’s supposed to burn. It is my #SouthAsia2015 prayer. My longing to fulfill this calling, to see it to fruition.

It’s an icon and I welcome it. It reminds me that God has good things in store for us. That he hasn’t forgotten us. That he’s with us on this journey. That he is the light in the darkness.

And, also, that He isn’t Baptist. Or Catholic. Or Greek Orthodox.

Nombre de dios cross.



  1. Kristin K says:

    AMEN AMEN AMEN! I’ve been having the desire to visit the Catholic churches for mass. The litergy, the beauty, the tradition has been calling to me.

  2. Jessica!! This is my very favorite thing I’ve ever read of yours – and that’s saying something. God is calling to you through these sacred spaces, dear girl. And I urge you to try a retreat at a Catholic retreat center – a quiet day and night away from the demands of life, utilizing the services of a spiritual director and discovering the beauty of sitting in the back of a liturgical worship service, singing the prayers and feeling the power of history, time, faith. We have so much to learn from our Orthodox and Catholic brothers/sisters. I will never be a Catholic or an Orthodox believer, but I welcome what they bring to our shared table. Layers are added, rich layers of color and silence and candles and liturgy. And if you think scripture should be the centerpiece of worship – well then. You will hear FOUR readings in every mass. The word is spoken with power and the Spirit is alive and well in the liturgical church. Follow the lead that the Spirit is giving you – read Nouwen and Merton and Rohr and Rolheiser. Try an Episcopal service if a mass feels too intimidating – such beauty there. Go for it, arms open wide.