Holy Archangels Orthodox Monastery in Levin, New Zealand
Holy Archangels Orthodox Monastery in Levin, New Zealand
NEW ZEALAND OF MY HEART
Levin, Νέα Ζηλανδία: Η Ορθόδοξη Μονή των Αρχαγγέλων
Journey to Orthodoxy: New Zealand
USA OF MY HEART
NEW ZEALAND OF MY HEART
ALASKA OF MY HEART
Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Fairbanks, Alaska, USA
Hannah Hunt: In Search of the Bride
From New Zealand to Alaska
JOURNEY TO ORTHODOXY
I was raised to love God. Throughout my entire adolescent life, I, along with my three brothers, was immersed in the protestant faith and was diligently raised to live as a godly person. I always knew that God worked directly in my life and was always there for me. Even during the tumultuous teenage years, when my actions were anything but godly, my inner heart never grew cold towards my Lord and Savior. In youth groups of varying denominations, I was taught to firmly own what I believed and equipped with the weapons necessary to defend those beliefs; however, the structure of these denominations remained a mystery to me and I simply trusted that they were all the Bride of Christ.
Born in New Zealand, my first protestant churches were Presbyterian and Anglican. My mother did a lovely job raising us with Bible study, family devotionals and sweet songs which fill my childhood memories. At some point during my pre-school years, my parents experienced the Pentecostal movement. I was around the age of five when I was led to believe that I was a gifted child, a child who was so filled with the Holy Spirit that I was able to ‘speak in tongues.’ This prayer language would remain with me for years, although I never felt comfortable praying with it in public or in church services and it always seemed just beyond my understanding or comfort level.
I was nearly seven when my parents, who were US citizens, moved the family back to the United States. My Christian experience then began to become increasingly jumbled. I attended such diverse denominations as Moravian, Mennonite, Pentecostal, House Church, Church of Christ, non-denominational, inter-denominational, etc. My father, who was raised Quaker, seemed to drift into the background; leaving our spiritual upbringing in the hands of my mother.
At the age of ten, my belief in God being able to work directly through me was awakened while attending an Assemblies of God church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. One Sunday, a missionary from Haiti came to speak at our church. Her name was Eleanor Workman and she awoke within me an awareness of poverty and global responsibility which shook my young soul. Determined to do something, I ran door to door in my neighborhood requesting donations of clothing and toys. With the assistance of a friend and my mother, I collected enough donations to fill our VW Van. The joy that my small efforts would so greatly benefit the orphans in Mrs. Workman’s orphanage changed my outlook on my relationship with God. I became more and more determined that, with the help from God, I could achieve anything and do great things for His glory, and told anyone who would listen that I would personally go to Haiti before I was thirteen.
At the age of twelve, my mother joined Youth with a Mission and went through their Discipleship Training School and School of Evangelism in Tyler, Texas. It was listening to the conversations carried on by the adults around me that I began to formulate some rather strong opinions about denominations. I was accustomed to pouring through the pages of the Strong’s Concordance so I looked up denominations, learned that it meant divided in Greek, and read the related verses. Romans 16:17-18…
“I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people”
Thus was the beginning of my mistrust of any denominations and my clinging to non-denominational groups.
It was during this time in Youth with a Mission that I was blessed to be part of two missionary endeavors. The first was into the interior of Mexico with a drama team. The second was to Haiti and came about in a rather interesting manner. The team my mother was assigned to was originally destined for Aruba; however, due to political upheavals, the team had to find a new destination. I, only twelve, approached one of the YWAM leaders, Jeff Johnson, and told him all about the missionary from Haiti and her orphanage that needed help. He presented the idea to the other leaders and we became the first YWAM team to visit Haiti. We returned to the States just prior to my thirteenth birthday, fulfilling what I had firmly believed since the age of ten. My mother returned to Haiti as an unaffiliated missionary and we remained in Port-Au-Prince for nearly a year.
My teenage years were a bit tumultuous. After a year and a half in a High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I moved to Australia to live with some family friends. I attended much of tenth grade in an Australian high school but returned to Florida before completing it. I dropped out of high school and was living on my own at the age of sixteen. In 1989, at the age of seventeen, I took my GED and married the love of my life, Daniel Hunt. His father was a Presbyterian minister and it was at this point that I really began to learn more about doctrinal ideas that went beyond the mere knowledge of Scripture.
Staunchly I would keep my mouth closed and refuse to pray their creed or any prayers that I considered contrived. I lacked the maturity to give credence to my convictions but knew only that Christ died for His Bride and, not being able to find the Bride, I rejected all organized denominations and the membership that ensued.
Thus, I badgered my husband into attending Assemblies of God with me as they claimed to be non-denominational.
We faithfully attended Assemblies of God communities for the next seven years. My husband being active duty in the United States Air Force, we were stationed in Nebraska and then Alaska. It was during our stay in Alaska that I began to gain a deep enough understanding of various protestant doctrines to start developing the questions that had always evaded me leaving only echoes of doubt in my heart. Two venues led to my awakening doubt; the Women’s Ministries of Assemblies of God, and the Protestant Women of the Chapel, PWOC, a military wide Bible-study organization. With the Women’s Ministries, I was asked to become a leader. In order to do this I had to officially become a member of their denomination which is not a denomination.
I was horrified to realize that they, too, had a doctrine of faith; however, I agreed to prayerfully read it and consider. I was in true spiritual torment when faced with the twists of Scripture and doctrine that I could clearly see was not founded in God’s Word but rather another man’s attempt to prove their beliefs. I stopped attending AOG and began attending the generic military chapel which was both a doctrinal void as well as a hodgepodge of Calvinists, Baptists, Methodists, etc. I had already been faithfully attending the PWOC Bible Studies which were hosted by the chapel.
However, the more we studied Scripture and the more I heard the interpretations tainted by doctrinal views, the more I realized that each denomination was twisting and manipulating Scripture in order to further their own propaganda. I became an outcast in the PWOC, the annoying member who always halted their smooth lesson plans by asking questions they could not answer and arguing points they were comfortably solid on. This was my first open exposure to the numerous protestant doctrines and the first time the blinders were ripped off my face. I became increasingly restless and despondent proclaiming to all,
“Christ is returning for His Bride, not His harem; and all of your denominations act like jealous harem girls fighting for the Master’s attentions.”
I knew that Christ could not have intended this and my heart ached for truth.
Ironically it was during the most intense times of my distress that my mother began to tell me about a strange Christian group she was researching. When she first named them Orthodox, I thought she was converting to Judaism. She corrected that misunderstanding and began referring me to the internet. Being 1997, the internet was still a new concept to me and, following the Heaven’s Gate cult tragedy, I was skeptical and concerned. My mother had always been our spiritual beacon and now she was taking a sudden and unexpected turn. Soon, my older brother, Cameron Thorp, and his wife were of like mind with my mother. Out of need to understand what they were buying into and in order to debate them, I began to study the Orthodox Church. I remember the moment clearly when my husband walked into our bathroom holding my religions textbook from college.
“You’re not going to like this,” he said, “this Church actually seems to agree with everything you have always believed.”
In disbelief, we read and reread the chapter on Greek Orthodox. Next, my husband looked up Greek Orthodox on the internet. Our eyes almost popped out when the first web site we found was the Church of Cyprus, founded in the New Testament. Having been raised in the belief that the Early Church had vanished and that Christianity had reemerged in a tainted form in the renaissance, this confrontation with the idea that the Early Church survived, and was functioning in a capacity to be on the internet, truly took our breath away and awoke a thirst for more knowledge.
My mother began to send us literature on the Orthodox Church. The first book I read was Dancing Alone and confirmed my belief that I could no longer be a protestant. Desperate to find an Orthodox Church for us to visit, my mother searched and found a parish in our town, Fairbanks. I called to ask for information and was dissuaded from attending. I was told that my children would be bored and that the priest was moving. Discouraged, I resolved to keep reading and wait until we were re-stationed before attending an Orthodox service. About a month later, a casual friend, Kealani Smith, was visiting and began talking about the religious symbolism in one of my quilts. We began discussing our Christian beliefs and I opened up to her about my search. She was Episcopalian, and the first person I met who had any prior knowledge of the Orthodox Church; we decided to look into this religion together.
A short time following our conversation, Kealani was at her apartment building’s playground with her son. Another little boy was being bullied so she stepped in and offered to escort the little boy home. She immediately noticed the little religious painting hanging on the boy’s apartment door. When she knocked, the door was opened by a man with a long beard who was wearing a black robe and a cross. This demure, proper woman of German descent cocked her head to the side, looked him up and down and asked,
“What are you?”
“I am the area’s new Orthodox priest,” he replied.
Imagine his surprise when this strange woman threw her hands into the air and began to excitedly proclaim,
“My friend’s been waiting for you!”
A few weeks later, Kealani and I visited Saint Herman Orthodox Church in Fairbanks, Alaska. The little building sat several miles outside of the city in the rugged hills. It had no electricity and no heat, yet, I was spell bound. I was so confused by what was going on in the service but something resonated deep within my soul. The beauty took my breath away, the reverence touched me, and the magnificence of the worship of God rather than the focus on me and my entertainment awed me. This was real. Approached by the Matushka and Priest, Father John Peck, following the service we said,
“We know this is the truth, but what is it?”
They kindly invited us to return and begin learning more. I wept the entire drive home. My husband, who had remained at home with the children, asked what I thought. I told him that while I had no idea what I had just witnessed, I knew that I would never go to church anywhere else.
I had found the Bride.
The most humbling moment of my life was the acceptance that my lifetime of knowledge; my training as an instructor of AOG Missionettes, Sunday School, Children’s church, and VBS; my position as a Christian leader in my community; my incorrect Pentecostal beliefs, including my so called gift of tongues; my Scriptural knowledge… everything that had defined my respect and standing within the protestant community had to be stripped away. I told Father John that I was coming to him in humility and willingly setting aside all my preconceived ideas and ideologies. I came to him as an empty cup.
“Just teach me the Truth,” I asked him, “show me the Bride.”
My husband, Kealani, my three children and I were baptized on Theophany in 1998, along with two other women and Kealani’s son who were chrismated. My mother, brother, and brother’s family had been baptized in 1997. My eldest brother along with his wife and children, and many of his extended family were baptized in 1999. My youngest brother and his fiancé were baptized in 2000. The last in my immediate family to convert to the Orthodox Faith was my father, at the age of 87, in 2008. Thus began a love affair that only strengthens with each passing year.
Holy Saint Herman of Alaska, Pray to God for us sinners.
AUSTRALIA & ST PAISIOS OF MY HEART
NEW ZEALAND OF MY HEART
New Zealand’s Maori Convert To Orthodoxy
ORTHODOXY IS LOVE
The indigenous Maori people in New Zealand are converting to Orthodoxy under the influence of Russian immigrants, the diocese in Russia’s Urals said on Monday, citing a Russian emigre.
According to a letter sent to relatives in the Urals by a Russian woman who married a student from New Zealand, Russian immigrants “maintain Russian traditions in every house.”
“Seeing the example of Russian immigrants, many indigenous New Zealanders convert to Orthodoxy,”
the woman wrote, as quoted by the diocese of Yekaterinburg.
“They baptize their children and give them Russian (Orthodox) names.”
The number of Russian immigrants to New Zealand increased after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. According to the most recent official nationwide census, carried out in 2006, a total of 4,581 residents said they were born in Russia. Unofficial figures estimate the Russian population in New Zealand has since grown to about 6,500, including first-generation children of Russian parents.
JOURNEY TO ORTHODOXY
NEW ZEALAND, AUSTRALIA & ST PAISIOS OF MY HEART
GREAT BRITAIN OF MY HEART
A Journey Of Faith In New Zealand
by Alexandra Wood
JOURNEY TO ORTHODOXY
When I was a little girl it was still possible to teach Scripture in schools and even people who did not attend church were happy for their children to be taught.
I remember as a child of eight or nine that I pictured in my mind one night the Mount of Olives with a bright full moon and a grove of trees and Jesus praying. I was very moved.
We heard “The Man Born to Be King” by Dorothy L Sayers on the radio, not the original 1940 broadcast of course! There was a very good TV series called “Jesus of Nazareth” which was repeated several times on the BBC I think. William Barclay also was a popular broadcaster later in my teens and I owe him a lot.
I was always interested in the daily life of the people in my Scripture lessons so I became interested in the daily life of the Romans in Britain, the Ancient Britons etc. as I went up through school. I had the advantage of living in the City of London where excavations were part of daily life. I left school at the age of nineteen and went to the Institute of Archaeology to learn to be a Museum Technician. So, Scripture took me to archaeology.
I realised from then on that to be Christian was not fashionable among the intelligentsia and also that those who furiously spurned religion in general did not apply the same standard of proof which they demanded in their own research.
I was not impressed by the intelligentsia. Therefore, I decided to make a hypothesis that God existed. It seemed that more learned people than I could ever be had, in the past, overcome what I could perceive as “Objections to Christianity,” therefore I would try to see if the orthodox teachings actually worked if taken as a practical blueprint for life. This seemed to me to be a more scientific method of assessment.
The book “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis, followed by most of his other religious and ethical essays formed my mind at this time When I got to University as an adult student I found that I had to study Fine Art as part of my Prehistoric Archaeology course along with Ancient History. These were fortunate aberrations for me as D. Talbot Rice was our Art History professor and we had to consider Icons and Byzantine history and we also found ourselves taking in Late Antiquity as we studied Post Roman / Early Christian Archaeology in Britain and Ireland with Charles Thomas. While studying the origins of the monastic movement for Late Roman Archaeology I read “The Desert Fathers” translated by Nora Chadwick(?) and “The Desert a City” by Derwas Chitty and so came across the hermits and St Pachomius, the early British Saints and the extent of the Church in Britain and Ireland. Edinburgh University certainly gave us a good, wide, thorough education!
When I came to New Zealand I finally found myself joining the Anglican Church in the seventies because at the time there was a very orthodox feeling to the church, at least in the parishes. I did find, though, the clergy I met strangely uneducated in early church history and about the Orthodox Church.
The New Zealand Anglican Church then went through some strange and turbulent times with the Charismatic Movement etc.etc.
I found, after a while, that it got most of my pastoral help not from sermons but from the books of John White a professor of psychiatry in Manitoba, one which I am rereading now. It is called “Flirting with the World” and is about worldliness in the church. I also found a very sobering book called “Crumbling Foundations” by Donald G Bloesch about the death of the mainline churches in North America and the opportunity for rebirth as the original faith grounded in apostolic witness. It seemed to mirror concerns I felt here, in New Zealand
I remained in the Anglican church because I found nowhere else to go.
A few years ago I found a book in the public library called “The Orthodox Way” by Timothy Ware and because I was still interested in Late Roman Antiquity I got it out
I read it from time to time and then came the Internet.
Through the Internet I found the British Antiochian Orthodox Church and I asked the priest at Colchester which is near my brother, Fr. Alexander Haig, if there was any Antiochian Orthodox church in New Zealand. He surprised me by saying there was! In the end I found out where Fr Jack Witbrock was living. I also received much help from Fr Gregory Hallam in Manchester and of course there are the plethora of sites on Orthodox topics. None of this was possible before the World Wide Web.
So now I am Orthodox Christian and my patron saint is St Alexandra, wife of Diocletian. Back to late Antiquity! My way to Orthodoxy took many turns but was aided at all times by books and broadcasting and by the Internet so it was a very personal journey, tailor-made to my circumstances. I still continue the great experiment.
The New Zealand Antiochian church is scattered through out the land now. You may visit this site where you will discover a lively community under the guidance of Metropolitan Paul in Australia.