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Jacque Larson

Christian Diversity
Final Journal and Reflection

Research Bibliography
A. Academic/Scholarly Sources

1. McCuckin, John Anthony. The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to its History, Doctrine,
and Spiritual Culture. (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2008).
This study of the Eastern Orthodox tradition of faith covers the history and theology of
the church. It also touches on some topics that have development Orthodoxys political
role in the secularized Western World. There are different focuses of the text such as
Orthodoxys Reading of the Scriptures and the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
2. Clendenin, Daniel B. Eastern Orthodox Theology: A Contemporary Reader. (Grand Rapids,
Michigan: Baker Books, 1995).
This is a compilation of different articles and theological arguments from Greek
Orthodox Authors, and edited together by Daniel B. Clendenin. The articles focus on the
liturgy, sacraments, traditions, encounter between person and God, and the ecumenical
relationship between the Orthodox Church and other branches of the church.
3. Chryssazgis, John. Light Through Darkness: The Orthodox Tradition. (Maryknoll, New
York: Orbis Books, 2004).
This book is a part of the Traditions of Christian Spirituality Series. This particular
book focuses on an introduction and serves readers in an understanding of what the
Orthodox faith is. There is a deeper look into the faith and spirituality of the Orthodox
4. Mathewes-Green, Frederica. The Meaning of Christs Suffering and Passion and Atonement.
March 1, 2004.
Originally this article was published in the New Yorker in 2004, followed up by response
piece Passion and Atonement. What is beneficial about this source is that it was
helpful in understanding the Eastern Churchs view of salvation, sin, and the Passion of
Christ. The language of the Eastern Church is different from the Western Church. The
Eastern Church focused on sin and salvation as sickness and healing. This source was
very helpful in understanding this concept.
5. Webber, Archimandrite Meletios. The Mind, the Heart, and the Way of Salvation. October 9,
This article was a good way of introducing a non-Orthodox Christian to the views and
beliefs of salvation and spiritual life of an Orthodox Christian. The article gave a clear
distinction that the Eastern Church is more focused on the heart than the mind. This
article gives insight to the importance of waiting in silence for God, and coming to a deep
awareness of God in your life. It gave insight into the fact that the Eastern Church finds
spiritual life to be meant for allowing God to heal us.

B. Other Sources

1. Vaporis, N. Michael. The Divine Liturgy. (Brookline, Massachusetts: Holy Cross Orthodox
Press, 1983).
This is a copy of the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. This Liturgy is the basic
Liturgy followed in Orthodox churches all over the world.
2. Borysov, Eduard. The Doctrine of Deification in the Works of Pavel Florensky and John
Meyendorff: A Critical Examination, Greek Orthodox Theological Review (2012): Pg. 115-134.
This article focuses on the concept of deification in the Orthodox tradition. There is a lot
of text about the concept of the Holy Spirit and the relationship between persons and God
and persons and Jesus.
3. Karachristos, Ioannis. Filling in the floating gaps in the history of the Greek Orthodox
community of Ayvalk: A study in cultural memory, International Journal of Media & Cultural
Politics Volume 12, No. 1 (2016): Page 75-93.
This article discusses the cultural tradition of a specific tradition of Orthodox faith:
Ayvaliks tradition of origin. This is an interesting look at a culture of the Greek
Orthodox faith that is different from what I am personally experiencing in America.
4. Anonymous. The Icon, History, Symbolism and Meaning, Dormition of the Mother of God
Orthodox Monastery, A Monastic Journal Vol. 16, No. 2 (2003).
This online article addressed the Greek Orthodox use of icons in their worship. It sheds a
light on how iconography is not idolatry, but a way in which Orthodox Christians connect
with the invisible God.
5. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. The Greek Orthodox Church.
This website has many articles and resources for learning about Greek Orthodoxy. Some
of the resources I found were, Our Faith: A brief Introduction and An Important
Challenge for Greek Orthodox Christianity.
6. LeMasters, Fr. Philip. Orthodox Perspective on Peace, War and Violence. March 31, 2011.
This article gave the position of the Greek Orthodox Church on peace and war. The
article was enlightening in its ability to convey the passion with which the Church is
against violence. It also conveys much of the history of the violence the Church has
encountered. The article conveys the relationship between God and humanity as one of
God as the creator of life, and therefore it is a sin to take away the life that God has given.
7. Bishop Isaiah of Denver. Protocol 97-03 (Abortion). January 16, 1997.
Found on, this letter regarding the Orthodox Churchs
stance on abortion portrays the opinion of the Church that God is the Author and
Principle of Life. This letter also shows the incredible value that the Orthodox Church
places on life as a gift.

Immersion Experience
A. Church Visit

Feeling Prior to:

What is my background in going to church?
I have been going to an Evangelical Lutheran Church my entire life. I was brought up in two
different traditional, small ELCA churches, baptized at 6 moths old in one of the churches and
confirmed in eighth grade (14 years old) in the second church. My family moved when I was five
so that is the reason for moving churches. The two churches shared a lot in common. Both
were/are small congregations that are traditional. The majority of the congregation was older
couples and grandparents and then young families with little children.
I now work at an ELCA church in Spokane (St. Luke Lutheran Church). This church is much
larger with three Sunday services; the first two being more traditional with hymns and the
structured prayers in the worship aid/bulletin, and the third is a contemporary worship service
with contemporary worship music and less structured prayer. The church has a little bit of
everybody, old, young, college, high school and middle school, and young children.
I have also had a lot of experience with non-denominational churches where there is no specific
structure like that of the Lutheran churches I have been a part of. These non-denominational
churches are set up like a coffee shop / concert / cool lecture that is more relaxed and more
come as you are than some other denominations. Contemporary worship and the
sermon/teaching are the main focuses of these churches in my experience. There is more of an
emotional presence at these church services that appeals to me a lot.
Ive had experience with Catholic Mass because of my work with Gonzaga. There are many
traditional similarities between my experience with the Catholic and Lutheran denominations,
but I feel a bit of disconnect form God at Mass, which I think is because of the closed
communion. And I do understand the reasoning for closed communion. However, I do see how
connection is felt because of the uniformity and tradition of Mass. And I do think there is
something very beautiful about the tradition. Its beautiful that a large group of people can come
together in unison and worship together. I think that is what you can experience at any church
service, because there is uniformity at any service you go to. The people of the church come
together under a shared way of worship that is beautiful and uniting. The community of a church,
regardless of the denominations, is special and comforting.

What would I consider my own religious identity, and would I consider myself a regular
II think I am still in the process of choosing my religious identity, at least in terms of
denomination. I am Christian, and I believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I have a personal
relationship with the Trinity. I would consider myself a regular worshiper. I am very involved in
youth ministry, and have been since high school. My faith life is very important to me.
But what is my religious identity. My identity if found in Jesus, not in the institution of a church
or the beliefs of a specific church, but in what God has shown me in the life I have lived thus far.
And I think that is constantly and ever changing and growing. I agree with a lot of what the
Lutheran church believes, but at the same time, Im still learning what the Lutheran church
believes. Im still trying to figure out how I fill my cup and through what types of worship. So
what defines my religious identity is my belief in Jesus sacrifice for me and for all people, and
my personal relationship with him.

What churches have I been to before other than my own?

My own: ELCA Evangelical Lutheran
Catholic Mass St. Aloysius, Welcome Mass, Mass of the Holy Spirit, various small Mass
experiences with a youth program (Francis Youth Institute).
Non-Denominational Summit Church, New Community Church, Christ the King Church
(Burlington, WA), Common Ground Church (Burlington, WA)
Evangelical Covenant Church Bethany Covenant Church (This is a church from my home town
and Ive been there once or twice, I dont really remember much about it but its an experience
that Ive had Mt. Vernon, WA.)

What have been both the positives and negatives of my religious experience so far in life?
Positive: When I began attending and participating in non-denominational churches and youth
ministries, is when I felt fed and when I felt embraced in my relationship with Christ. Non-
denominational services and programs were a major part of the growth of my faith life. There
was comfort and joy that I felt in the non-denominational church. It felt like a real experience
compared to just saying words that were given to me to say at traditional Lutheran services that I
had been a part of. Since coming to college, my experience with the Lutheran Church has been
very positive. And now that I have been working in Lutheran youth ministry and learning more
about the Lutheran faith I have started to value the words of the prepared prayers that are offered
in the traditional services. Now that I have a way of filling my cup through worship music and
my own personal relationship with Christ, the tradition of Lutheran and Catholic services is more
inviting and I am able to appreciate the structure more.
Negative: I have felt hurt by closed communion at Mass before. This hurt came from believing
something different about the Eucharist that the Catholic Church does. My belief is that anyone
is welcome to the body and blood because Christ died for all, regardless of what you believe or
practice. And I respect the tradition of the Catholic Eucharist so I didnt take Communion, but I
felt like I was being excluded from something that I know is for me just as it is for anyone.
My upbringing in the Lutheran Church was not a very relationship-based faith perspective and,
as someone who values the emotional side of my faith, it was always difficult to feel like I was
being fed by the Lutheran church. When I first attended non-denominational church services I
was taken-aback by the laid back non-traditional dress and function of the church.

What do I know so far about the denomination that I am going to visit?

Greek Orthodox believes they are the one true Church of Christ, founded by Christ. They chant a
lot and use a lot of incense. They apparently kiss rather than shake hands during the sharing of
the peace. They believe in deification. They value icons a lot and will kiss and worship through
the use of icons. They value the presence of the Holy Spirit greatly, and this is a main focus of
their faith the presence of the Holy Spirit with them at church. The building and the sanctuary
are meant to evoke the emotion of finding heaven on earth and connecting with God on earth.
There is a prayer service before the regular church service and apparently there is no structure to
when the service begins in relation to the prayer service, but the main worship service starts at
10:00 a.m. The service is called the Divine Liturgy and is spoken in English and Greek mainly,
but Im not sure how often they use the two languages, or why that is so important to the church.

What do I know about the specific faith community I am going to visit?

Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church is a mixture of Greek, Slavonic and English heritage. And
thats about it.

What is my attitude going into this situation?

I am super anxious and dont really want to do this because I think the congregation is small and
they will know that Im new. I am afraid of feeling out of place and like an outsider. I dont want
to be recognized as an outsider. I also dont want to do anything dumb that the regular attendees
of the service will notice.

What are my goals?

To make it through the doors into the sanctuary. To be respectful of the new culture and to learn
about this different way of worshiping.

What are my fears?

That someone is going to make me stand up and introduce myself. Do I go up for a blessing like
I do at Catholic Mass? Since Im not taking communion, that they will all know Im not one of
them. And then because they know that they are going to ask me a whole bunch of questions
about why Im at the service.

What are my specific expectations what do I think it is going to be like (worship service,
worship space, other people)?
I expect that there will be a set structure to the service with very distinct transitions from one part
of the liturgy to the next. Because of an article that I read I expect that there are some church-
goers that will be praying on their own during different parts of the service, particularly at the
beginning of worship because of the prayer service that the main church service starts from. I
expect that I wont really have anything to follow along with so I will be observing a lot,
especially because I dont speak Greek or Slavonic. I expect that I may feel uncomfortable and
anxious. I expect the building on the inside will be extravagant and filled with gold, deep reads,
icons, painting, stained glass, and incense. I expect that the people will be loud and proud, that
there will be many things said that I dont understand because I dont speak the language.
However, I dont think that everyone will be Greek or Slavonic because that just isnt the
demographic of Spokane. So Im not really sure what to expect of the people. I wonder how
often they get visitors I dont expect very often.

What do I think I will learn, specifically, about this faith community and this denomination?
I think I will learn the role(s) of the Priest and what the structure of the worship service really
looks like. I think I will learn the functions of the Priest, the readers, the lay people, etc. I think
that I will gain context for the history and tradition of the Greek Orthodox Church that I have
been researching and learning about. I think I will learn about how this denomination of
Christianity differs and compares to my other experiences of church, my thought is that it will be
very different and there will be similarities in structure, but differences in teachings.

First Church Visit:

Sunday, October 9, 2016
Greek Orthodox
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church
1703 N. Washington, Spokane, WA, 99205
(509) 328-9310
Father Stephen Supica
What does the church building look like from the outside? What part of town is it in and what
kind of neighborhood (poor, middle class, affluent)? How might these factors have influenced
your expectation of that particular community or of the denomination BEFORE you even
walked in the door?
From the outside the building is big, and striped. There is a large dome with four pillars.
This building looks like a kind of temple, very old in style and seems very important or holy, for
lack of a better word. There is also a lot of construction going on outside of the church.
The church is right across the street from another larger church building, actually the
other church is very large in comparison, but both churches are impressive. The church is right
off of Washington St. and seems to be in a lower middle class neighborhood. The parking lot is
shared with a school parking lot. So maybe the church doesnt have a lot of money?
I think these factors were influential in helping me recognize the church as a less of a
building and rather a community of people. By this I mean that this is home to people. This is
more than a building and is a place of comfort and transition for a community of people. This is
just me reading into the environment and taking everything metaphorically, but, the construction
was a good reminder to me that communities are constantly changing and growing and
progressing. The construction was a good way for me to recognize that communities work
together in transition and when they are waiting for something to be completed.

Who is the pastor or main leader of this community? What is my first impression of him? How
many other members play roles in the service? Is it all led by one person, or are their multiple
ministers? What is the relationship between the leader(s) and the congregation?
The pastor (Father Stephen Supica) seems to be a very soft-spoken man who is very
intelligent and important.
What is interesting is the way in which the Priest is made to seem higher than all of the
supporting deacons and lay people. There was one main Priest, and assistant, which I think is
referred to as a deacon, and then another man who read the prayers, Psalms, and chants off to the
left hand side of the icon screen that is in front of the sanctuary where the holy altar is. (The lay
people and I sit behind the sanctuary, holy altar, icon screen and Solea, in the Nave which is
where all of the pews are.)
The Priest was robes in a robe of an intricate gold pattern, while the Deacon was wearing
a gold robe with a gold stole that he used a lot for gesturing and he held it in his hand the entire
service (so that is something I want to find out about). The others, those who carried candles or
who brought the incense to the hands of the Priest were wearing more ivory than gold. And there
was one man I saw behind the icon screen that was wearing a brown robe and a big cross
necklace around his neck (maybe hes a monk?).
The relationships between the leaders: The Priests hands were kissed every time the
incense was handed to him. At the end of the Divine Liturgy the entire congregation lines up to
kiss the hands of the Priest before leaving.
The Leaders do everything except for the two readings or he Psalm and the New
Testament Reading (those two readings were done by members of the congregation, and I
wonder if there are requirements for being able to read?). The choir, who sit above the
congregation in the balcony, led the majority of the hymns and chants. There is no huge
participation by the congregation other than the standing, sitting, and kneeling. The Priest leads
the Eucharist and the preparation for the Eucharist. The Priest is the main person who is the
director of the entire service.
About how many people were present at the service you went to? How were they dressed?
What kind of diversity exists in the congregation? (age, ethnic and cultural background, other
less obvious types of diversity may be noted as well). How do the members of the congregation
relate to each other are they friendly, chatty, or reserved, quiet and reverent? Are they
curious and welcoming of strangers? Were they curious, welcoming, helpful to you?
There were probably around 60 people at the height of the service (the Eucharist). Most
people were dressed nice, not super fancy. What you expect if you were to say Sunday
clothes. Pants were acceptable for women. There were some women wearing scarves around
their heads.
The congregation was fairly diverse. Most of the congregation is Caucasian. There were
some who clearly have Greek heritage, while others are clearly from the Slavonic heritage. This
diversity is shown through the use of all three languages during the church service (the Lords
Prayer was said in all three languages and the Nicene Creed was said in Greek and English, and
many of the hymns/chants were sung in Greek, Slavonic, and English).
Everyone seemed pretty reserved and kept to themselves, or their family. They do all
seem to know each other and have relationships with one another. Its like a family that doesnt
have to say hi all the time because they just know the other person is there. They are all
comfortable with one another and with the constant movement and noise of the Divine Liturgy.
They were definitely curious and welcoming of me. They could tell right away that I was
a visitor and that I was a college student here for a class. They wanted to help me feel
comfortable and gave me instruction on what the service was going to be like and what to expect.
There were about four people who really wanted to help me feel comfortable and at home with

Describe the inside of the Building, as well as the sanctuary. What is the relationship of the
gathering space to the sanctuary. How is the sanctuary arranged is there and altar or table,
a stage or separate area for the service leaders. What is the relationship of the altar area
and the congregation, how are the seats or pews arranged. Is there a formal or informal
The inside of the building is magnificent with lots of gold and warm hues of color. There
are icons everywhere and stained glass windows. There is also a giant crystal chandelier that
hangs over the front of the pews and stage area of the building. All of these visual elements
come together to great a work of art.
There are four sections of the worship area: 1) the narthex or entrance hall, where all of
the service and church information is and where congregation members can grab their candles
and enter into the nave or worship area. 2) the Nave or the pews, where the congregation sits
and is present. The choir sits in the balcony above the Nave. 3) Solea or the stage area where
the pulpit is and where the Eucharist is served and the readings are given. This is the space
where the Priests and Deacons meet the congregation. 4) the Sanctuary, which is behind a screen
of icons (or a wall of icons). This is where the holy altar is. There are three doors in the screen
of icons. The congregation cannot see what goes on behind the wall of icons except for in the
center archway where we can see in to what the Priest is doing around the altar.
The people of the congregation go up to the stage area between the altar and pews only
for Holy Communion and if they are reading. The Priest and deacon and other leaders stay
mostly behind the screen of icons except when bringing the Gospel or Communion pieces out
from behind the screen to be with the people in preparation. The Priest and Deacon and other
leaders never use the center archway for exiting the screen of icons. They use two doors on
either side of the archway, except when re-entering with the Gospel or body and blood.
There is a formal atmosphere, but there are many people who come and go as they please. Most
everyone is there for Communion, but other than that people come it at any time of the service
right up until the Eucharist, and then some leave directly after the Eucharist.

What kind of religious artwork is around. Describe colors, textures, smells What theology
is communicated through the art and architecture of the church. Be specific, and tie specific
characteristics of the art and architecture to specific theological criteria (positive and negative
theological anthropology, ascending and descending Christology, specific ecclesiological
There icons and icons galore. On the ceiling, on the icon screen, at the front of the
church. The stained glass windows. The paintings of Jesus and the four writers of the gospels in
the dome above the altar. Above the center archway in the icon screen is a painting of Pentecost.
The Crystal chandelier. Gold foil, deep yellow and warm brown and maroon. * Carved in the
icon screen are peacocks and grapes on the side doors and around the doors are angels. There is
a lot of incense used.
The theological anthropology communicated is negative, that God is above. However,
there is a mix of the ascending and descending Christology because Christ is here but also rise.
There is such a huge emphasis on the risen Christ along with bringing Jesus here, and having him
in this space of worship. A major ecclesiological trait I was aware of was Church as Institution
and not many other traits. The entire worship service was run by the ordained, and the members
follow along.

What was the order of the service. What readings were used. Pay attention to the words of the
prayers that are not directly read form scripture but come from the community. Pay attention
to the lyrics of the hymns both to the style of the music and especially to the lyrics. Pay very
close attention to the homily or sermon. What theology is being communicated by all of these.
Does the theology seem to be consistent, or do you get mixed theological messages. Does the
service seem to flow aesthetically and theologically?
The Divine Liturgy begins with the Great Litany and the Antiphons, which is a series of
prayers and chants. There is a lot of chanting/singing that is led by the choir. Followed by the
entrance of the Gospel with more chanting and hymns. Then there is the Trisagion Hymn. There
is a lot of Lord, have mercy. Then there are the readings from the Psalms and from the
Apostolic periscope, followed by the Holy Gospel. Following this are more hymns led by the
choir. Then there is a childrens homily, the creed, prayers of the church, the Lords Prayer said
in three languages, communion, then the homily. Following the homily is the prayer of
thanksgiving and the dismissal. Announcements follow the service. After the final hymn the
congregation lines up to kiss the hands of the Priest. The readings were 2 Corinthians 6: 1-10
and Luke 7:11-16. The common language of the Divine Liturgy is: Lord, have mercy, Let us
commit ourselves, and Savior save us, bestowing on all the world Your great mercy
(Resurrectional Apolitikion, Gave Tone), intercede with our merciful God that He may grant our
soul forgiveness of sins (Apolitikion of St. James, Son of Alpheus), You are blessed, O Christ
our God, You who did reveal the fishermen as most wise, when You sent upon them the Holy
Spirit, and through them You drew the world into Your net. O Friend of man, glory to You
(Hymn of our church), Our faithful advocate before the Creator, though we are sinners, do not
ignore our entreaty, grant your timely help to us who appeal to you in faith, for you always
protect those who honor you (Ordinary Kontakion), Theotokos (Mother of God, which in the
Eastern Orthodox Church is used for the name of the Virgin Mary).
Father Stephen Sucpia gave his sermon on the Gospel reading for the day. He talked
through Luke 7:11-16 and explained a little of what is going on in the story. Father Sucpia talked
about how it is considered a miracle that Jesus raised the son of the widow from the dead, like it
is also considered a miracle that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but pointed out that these
men that were raised from the dead will eventually go back to the dead. Since they will go back
to the dead, the good news is not in the miracle of these men being raise. The good news is in
Christs resurrection. In the case of the widows son and Lazarus death still has the last word;
death still takes the life from these men. But Christs resurrection had the last word over death.
Father Sucpia said, we should not breath as others do, without hope, meaning that as Christians
we have hope in the resurrection of Christ that he has overcome the grave. We should do
everything in our power to prepare to join loved ones in the Glory of Gods Kingdom.
Father Stephen Sucpia also gave a short little childrens sermon relating the construction
to confession. He talked about how sometimes the old stuff gets cracked and broken like the
cement that was surrounding the church. And there are times when that old cracked and broken
stuff is shed light on. The light is shed on our cracked and broken stuff in confession, and this
allows for the new to be made.
A negative theological anthropology and a descending Christology are being
communicated because these phrases assume God and Jesus to be above or higher than human
beings. God and Jesus are being asked to be active agent here and the people recognize
themselves as needing to commit to God in the language of the Divine Liturgy. The people are
saying things that deem them unable to do anything on their own. God, Jesus, and the Virgin
Mary are the only ones who can intercede for the people. Jesus is the Savior who gives the
people hope and a way out of eternity in death. The childrens sermon was interesting because it
was a way of viewing confession that I had never thought about before.
This theology seems to be pretty consistent. In every way the Greek Orthodox Church
has a pretty straightforward view on their relationship with God and Jesus. Only by Gods mercy
do they have hope. The common teaching and language of the Greek Orthodox Church is that
God above, that Jesus is the bridge between humanity and God, and the Priest is the bridge
between the people and Jesus.
The service follows a very specific order, but its fluid and there is no explanation of what
is going on or what is coming next, it just happens and there is a common knowledge about what
is going on because of the uniform structure of the Orthodox Church. There is never a pause in
the service, it moves from one thing to the next without explanation. It just happens and the
people move along with it and it is led mostly by the direction of the choir that sings throughout
the whole service. Theologically, the teachings, prayers, hymns, and readings all follow the
same view, and there is no question as to what the Church believes.

What other types of small faith-sharing groups, religious education, community service
projects, exist in this community, and what are the goals of these groups. Do they do
evangelization, and what does that mean, specifically. Do they have mission groups and what
does that mean, exactly Conversion to the faith or social justice?
Weekday Liturgy (Tuesday or Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.)
Teen group (Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.)
Intro to Christian Spirituality (Thursday at 7:00 p.m.)
OCF College student dinner (Thursday at 6:00 p.m.)
Vespers (Weekly on Saturday at 6:00 p.m.)
There are efforts to connect with the youth. There are opportunities for students to be
embraced in the community. There doesnt seem to be anything that is meant to out-rightly
evangelize. There is no clear missionary work in terms of going out to communities and
preaching about faith and the saving grace of Jesus. The congregation just had their Greek
Orthodox Festival, but they mostly just keep to their own community.

What did you learn from this experience. What was unexpected. Challenging. Engaging.
Offputting. Positive and negative feelings. Did your experience match your expectations. Did
your experience match the research you are doing on this denomination. In what ways is this
community representative of the denomination. How does it seem to conform or depart from
the statements of faith and doctrine that the denomination asserts of itself?
I felt like the congregation was just observing and listening to the service going on
around them, and not really participating in the worship. I had thought everyone would sing, and
perhaps its just unique to this church, but the choir sang everything. The only part of the service
that the congregation participated in were receiving the Holy communion, the Nicene Creed, the
Lords Prayer in the language that each person spoke (Greek, Slavonic, or English), and a few of
the congregational responses and prayers. All of the hymns were sung by the choir only.
The Church service, overall, was not very engaging and did not require much
participation form the congregation. However, it was very lovely. There was a peacefulness
about the service that came along with the continuous acapella hymns and chants.
I learned that Greek Orthodox services are very fluid and continuous. There is no
stopping point or pauses in the service. The structure and words of the service are the same
every week so the congregation can eventually get to a point of memorization in their church-
going experience. The congregation also has the points of standing and kneeling memorized.
The structure is something I expected, but the fluidity of the service was surprising to me.
Something else that surprised me was how many people come and go at different points in the
service. There were people entering up until the point of the Lords Prayer, and people who left
right after communion. (Of course this could just be people who were running late, or people
who needed to leave early, but there were many families who were entering and exiting the
service at different times.) I sat at the back of the Nave and whenever a new group of people
would enter they would wait until the end of a prayer to fully enter into the pews in the Nave.
No one ever entered, exited, or went up to the front of the Nave to light candles during a prayer.
Nothing was really challenging or off-putting, but one thing that I dont fully understand
is the use of incense. The Greek Orthodox Church uses a lot of incense, before the gospel
reading and a lot before Holy Communion. I smelled like incense for the next two days, and Im
not kidding at all.
Im not sure what I was expecting of the altar and the Priests, but I was no expecting that
the Priest would have his back to the congregation for the majority of the service. I was also not
expecting that the altar would be nearly separated from the congregation. The structure of the
building is a literal separation between the congregation the Priests and the Holy altar where God
is present. The building itself is a representation of the theological anthropology of the Greek
Orthodox Denomination. God is above in the sense that there is a literal separation between the
Holy Altar and the congregation, and the Priest it the bridge to that gap.
As I expected, only males were serving as altar boys, deacons, and Priests. There was a
woman who read scripture, and I was unsure is I would see any woman involvement at all. Fun
fact: The leader of the choir is the Priests wife. And on that note, yes, Priests can be married,
but only if they were married before they entered the priesthood.
This community is a representation of the denomination because of the diverse
congregation. There are people from so many different heritages and there are three languages
spoken at this Church service. This hints at the diversity of the denomination as a whole. This
congregation is also representative of the denomination as a whole because their Divine Liturgy
is the same here in Spokane as it is in Seattle, and that is the same as a Greek Orthodox Church
anywhere else in the United States. The structure of the Divine Liturgy is the same in all Greek
Orthodox Churches throughout the world, but different countries and cultures may perform and
practice the Divine Liturgy differently.
I felt like my experience was better than what I expected because I was nervous that I
would be called out and recognized as out of place. I expected the theological anthropology to
be negative and for the Christology to be descending. I expected an institutional ecclesiology. I
expected there to be more presence of a body of Christ ecclesiology because of the huge focus
on the Holy Spirit and deification that I had researched about, but I did not experience that
Overall I feel like the community conforms to the statements of faith and doctrine that the
denomination asserts of itself. I felt like everything lined up, and nothing felt out of place. The
faith and doctrine that I expected were present.

Second Church Visit:

Sunday, October 23, 2016
Greek Orthodox
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church
1703 N. Washington, Spokane, WA, 99205
(509) 328-9310
Father Stephen Supica

If you attend the same faith community for worship or for another related service, how was it
the same or different this time, and in what ways. Was there a different leader or leaders. Is
the congregation the same or is it a different population of the community. What were the
readings. Is there a sense of ordinary vs special liturgical times. Pay attention again to the
music, prayers, readings. Do you get the same sense theologically as you did the first time. Is
there theological consistency?
The second time I visited Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church everything was
practically the same as the first time. The language of the service was pretty much exactly the
same. They said the same words as before such as, Holy immortal, have mercy on us, Let us
commit ourselves, and Savior save us. They chanting, and singing of the hymns remained the
same, as did the bilingual, or trilingual, nature of the liturgy. The same Priest, Deacon, and Altar
boys were presiding and performing the Liturgy. The community in attendance was the same,
with the same level of diversity as the first time. There were people who still came and went as
they pleased. There did seem to be more people that stayed toward the end, and I found out later
that this was because of a memorial service that took place directly after the homily. The Epistle
reading was Galatians 1:1119 and the Gospel was Luke 8:2739. Two women read the epistle
this week, one in Greek or Slavonic and the other in English. The first woman who read the
Gospel in a different language chanted or sang the Epistle, while the woman who read it in
English just said the Epistle.
The one main difference in the Liturgy was that this was a Feast Day the Feast Day of
Saint James, Jesus brother. A Feast Day basically means that a certain Saint is being recognized
on that day. There are different prayers and hymns that are said and sung on Feast Days. This
Feast Day of Saint James led to a new concept for me about the story of Jesus and Joseph.
According to Fr. Stephen, Joseph had a wife before Mary, which had left him with other children.
James was one of those children, and James accompanied Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem when
Jesus was born. James was also the only brother who fought for Jesus to have a fair share in
Josephs land when he passed away. For these reasons James was seen as a saint. I thought this
was interesting because it was something I had never heard before and gave me more insight to
the Greek Orthodox view of saints and the view of scripture.
The fact that everything in the liturgy was mostly identical to the first time I went is a
great representation of the tradition and consistency of the Greek Orthodox Church. There is
rarely any change, the liturgy is structured every single time, and even when the liturgy is a bit
different it is still structured because the Church has been doing these Feast Days for years and
years. There is so much tradition and consistency that I dont necessarily understand how
members of the parish continue to be interested in the liturgy.
I definitely got the same sense of theology (negative theology of the relationship between
God and humanity and descending Christology). Even more so than the first time, actually. I
realized the large separation between God and the congregation. What I mean is that I became
more aware of how the Priest is the only person in the entire church building who is portrayed to
be in full communication with God. The congregation of people seems to only be able to access
their connection with God because of the Priest. This felt so amplified because I continued to
watch the deacons and altar boys kiss the hands of the Priest every time they came into contact
with his hands. I think I also noticed it more because of the homily. Fr. Stephen talked about the
Gospel reading, which was about Jesus casting the demons out of the man into a pack of wild
pigs. Fr. Stephen connected this campaign season to the story. He said the Psalmist says, put not
your trust in the sons of man. He reminded us that no politician, however great, will save your
soul, and no politician, however awful, will prevent your salvation. This was a clear separation
of God and humanity. Reading between the lines, Fr. Stephen is commenting that God is so
much higher and more powerful than any human being will ever be. He then went on to say that
many of us have dual citizenship, we also live all live in dual citizenship, but the citizenship that
matters most is in the Kingdom of Heaven. He said, we never want to lose sight of where our
true citizenship is and the path of salvation doesn't seem to work easily like we wanted to the
more thorny the path the more powerful the salvation. This descending Christology places Jesus
as the savior and a much holier that any human being. Fr. Stephen finished by saying, perhaps
we will be able to share how much Christ has done for us amidst this craziness and silliness in
this campaign season. The homily allowed me to see further into the teaching of the Church
and what the parish is taught about Jesus.
Finally, how have YOU CHANGED since the first visit. Do you feel more familiar, more at
home. Do you feel uncomfortable in this atmosphere, and if so, why. What further things
were you able to observe. How has your relationship with the community changed since the
first time you visited. What further theological reflections about the denomination and about
this particular community are you having. How has the research that you have done in
between visits influenced your experience?

I felt more comfortable, still a bit nervous, but I felt like I knew more about what I was
walking into and what I was going to experience. I was much more comfortable and familiar
with what was going during the service. I still struggled to follow along with the Liturgy binder
that they use for the liturgy, but I think I am starting to get a handle on it. I still felt like I stood
out and like I was clearly not a part of the congregation though, just because of the slight
difference in my clothing choice and my bright blonde hair. The congregation isnt fully Greek,
like I have said previously, but a majority of the congregation has brown or dark brown hair, so I
think they know that I am not of Greek or Slavonic heritage.
Walking in today I was more confident in myself, and confident in where I was going and
what I was doing. I wouldnt say I was totally comfortable. I wasnt uncomfortable, but I did
still feel out of place. The tradition and structure of this church does not usually appeal to me,
which is why I have such a difficult time connecting with the way of worship and praise of this
denomination. I wonder why that is. Why does the structure and tradition not appeal to me I
I think the research I had done between the first and second liturgies I have attended
influenced me to better understand what was going on in the service, what is being said, and how
people are worshiping. I still don't fully understand and don't know how the congregation can
feel connected to the worship going on when they don't participate vocally. Maybe that has to do
with the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit coming upon the people through the work of the Priest,
the deacon, the altar boys, and the choir. After some more research and talking to people I think
Ill start to understand the participation of the congregation more.
I keep wondering if I were to be fully engulfed in the tradition, in the sacraments, in the
offering and the prayer, and the veneration of the icons, would I feel the Holy Spirit moving in
me here. Would I feel as close to God here as I feel to Him in my other forms of worship. As in
every Church body, Im sure there are many people who just go through the routine of faith and
who are not thinking about their practices as in depth as I am right now. Do these Greek
Orthodox Christians feel connected to their faith because of the tangible things that they can do
that they have at their disposal the candles, the icons, the incense, the communion, etc. Do
these things help them feel like they are participating in their faith. And is that so bad. I think
that participating in those things is not bad at all! The problem I run into is with salvation and
sin. If they truly believe that they need to participate in these things, and in confession, in order
to be saved, then I dont think that I can agree. I think that these tangible practices could be
beneficial to faith, but I cannot get myself to believe that these things are necessary in order for
salvation. What about grace? Where does Gods grace come into the picture for the Greek
Orthodox Church?

Third Church Visit:

Sunday, November 20, 2016
Greek Orthodox
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church
1703 N. Washington, Spokane, WA, 99205
(509) 328-9310
Father Stephen Supica

If you attend the same faith community for worship or for another related service, how was it
the same or different this time, and in what ways. Was there a different leader or leaders. Is
the congregation the same or is it a different population of the community. What were the
readings. Is there a sense of ordinary vs special liturgical times. Pay attention again to the
music, prayers, readings. Do you get the same sense theologically as you did the first time.
The second time. Is there theological consistency?

This is my third time attending Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and like the second
time, the liturgy was the same. Fr. Stephen was the Priest once again, and the deacon and altar
boys were the same men as well. The diversity of the congregation was the same. I recognized
quite a few people that I have noticed at the previous two services that Ive gone to. There were
a few young and old couples that I had not seen there in my first two visits. I think about my
own attendance to church and recognize that I am not consistent in my church attendance either.
But I think what the three times of attending Liturgy have taught me is how diverse in culture
and age this congregation is.
There is still little to no verbal participation of the congregation, except for the Nicene
Creed, the Lords Prayer, standing, sitting and kneeling, and the involvement with the candles
and icons. There was no Epistle reading, but there was a psalm read I believe, I dont really
know because it was read in a different language so I couldnt tell or follow along with it very
well this time. The Gospel reading was Luke 12: 16-21. This day was also a special liturgical
day. Today was the Eve of the Entry of the Theotokos (the virgin Mary) into the Temple. So
they said a couple prayers that were different than a typical Liturgy. However, I notice that
special liturgical days feel the same as ordinary Liturgy. Something else that was different was
that a man in a black robe stood at the entrance of the sanctuary as I walked in. I believe he was
standing there in order to acknowledge my entrance, but it was somewhat daunting and
intimidating. I was a little thrown off by that and I was not expecting a man in a black robe to be
waiting by the door for me to enter. After that I didnt see him again throughout the entire
liturgy. I think that he was there specifically for the prayer service that takes place directly
before the Liturgy.
Something that I forgot to comment on the second time I visited, but that I noticed again
this third time, was the constant flow of members of the church walking in and out throughout
the beginning and end of the liturgy. I still dont get why people enter so late and why people
leave so early. Maybe its because they have something else going on that day like soccer games
that is why my family would have to leave church after communion; because we had to make it
to sports on time. But I dont think that is the reason why people walk in late or leave after the
Eucharist. There is such an awareness among the congregation of when it is appropriate to enter
the church and walk forward to the sandboxes with candles in them, and there is a great
awareness of the importance of the Eucharist, that I cannot imagine that people would be coming
and going because of sports. In all of my research, the Eucharist is an incredibly important part
of the service, it is very holy and sacred, so missing it would be bad. Of course all of the other
parts of the service are important too, but not held up to the same power as the Eucharist. So
maybe thats why people come up until the Eucharist and leave right after, because that is the
most (and maybe only) important thing to them. It may be the one thing that they believe they
need every week.
I still find it so interesting that there is no clear beginning or specific transitions during
the Liturgy. I suppose that is a reflection of the Greek Orthodox faith. The faith and life in
Christ is never ending there are no points of stopping and starting in faith. Once you are
baptized into the family of God as an infant you are always cared for in the family of God and
that journey never ends. Maybe there is sin and sickness that impacts faith, the journey of faith
never stops. According to the tradition, life is given by God so there is never a starting point or
completion of faith. The liturgy would be a reflection of these ideas.

Finally, how have YOU CHANGED since the first visit. Do you feel more familiar, more at
home. Do you feel uncomfortable in this atmosphere, and if so, why. What further things
were you able to observe. How has your relationship with the community changed since the
first time you visited. What further theological reflections about the denomination and about
this particular community are you having. How has the research that you have done in
between visits influenced your experience?

This was the first time that I brought another person with me to the Liturgy. It was
interesting because I felt like I was preparing her and bracing her for what the service was like,
which means that I was much more comfortable and felt prepared for this Liturgy. I also had a
sense of pride in that I was her guide through the Liturgy. However, regardless of my
increased comfort I still felt out of place. I think Ive gotten to a point of feeling comfortable
with being the random blonde girl who keeps showing up to Liturgy, not necessarily feeling like
a part of the community. But I think that would be difficult to do with just visiting the
community three times. What has been interesting is that each time I visited there were
definitely people who recognized that I was visiting and said hello to me. They welcomed me
and told me to grab pamphlets and looked all over the place for a special bulletin that explained
the Liturgy to newcomers. But no one wanted to approach me to talk about my class or anything
about me beyond if I was visiting from GU for a class. I wonder if that is because so many
students visit the church for class or if it is because of the character of the tradition itself. People
seem to be pretty closed off and private in the Greek Orthodox Church. I kind of get that though
because the Church is so focused on the family model and keeping everything within the family.
Something that Fr. Stephen talked about in the childrens homily was Mary and the
entrance into the Temple at age three (naturally because today was the Eve of the Entry of the
Theotokos). I had never heard the story of Mary and am a little wary of this church teaching. I
dont see where the story of Mary being brought to the Temple as a child is biblically grounded,
or if it is biblically grounded at all. I get that Mary is the dwelling place of God like the
Church is a dwelling place for God, but I have a difficult time with the theology surrounding the
Virgin Mary. I originally thought that this may add an element of positive theology to the
relationship between humanity and God because God comes into direct contact with humanity
through Mary, but since Mary is seen as a sinless and holy being then the view of God stays in
negative theology.
The negative theology was once again reinforced through the homily. Fr. Stephen said,
We dont have the right words to speak of God, or speak for God, because we use human
words. This statement made it obvious that God and humanity are not on the same level; that
God is higher and more eloquent than all humanity.
This Sunday was interesting because it was also Stewardship Sunday and IOCC
(International Orthodox Christian Charities) Sunday. That being said, there entire homily and
announcement time was used to teach on the Churchs position on service to those in need. It
was interesting because it is the first that I have heard about charity in the Greek Orthodox
Church. The IOCC gives grants and use money for people in dire need. It was good to see and
hear that the Greek Orthodox Church is involved in service and that their service is grounded in
the teachings of Jesus. Fr. Stephen read a letter from the Archbishop of the American Diocese
who said, We too can become like the Lord when we serve others. So deification is actually a
thing and I dont know how I feel about it because I dont think we can ever become like the
Lord. I dont understand how serious the Greek Orthodox Church is when they say that they are
becoming more like Christ. Are they thinking that they are going to become as holy as Christ
because they are acting like Him? Or do they think that they are just modeling their life after
Jesus. That last comment is what would make the most sense to me given the ascending
Christology that I have experienced with the Greek Orthodox Church. But from all of the
reading that Ive done on deification I think that they actually believe that they can become holy
like Christ. Do I believe that a human being can become holy. I dont know. I suppose it
depends upon the definition of holy and what qualifies a person as holy. Anyway, it was good
to understand that they Church is vey focused on supporting their world charity because the
Church is worldwide.
As I reflect on my last visit to the Greek Orthodox Church I think it is important to notice
that I am leaving here feeling like the core beliefs and practices of the Church are the same core
beliefs of any other Christian denomination. God is the Father, Jesus is the Son and the Savior,
the Holy Spirit lives in each of us, and it is our role as Christians to love and care for all of
humanity. I still dont feel connected to this tradition, but I think this is because much of my
faith experience has been cultivated through Churches and practices that appeal to my emotions
and use emotion to connect me with faith. The Greek Orthodox Church is more centered on faith
that is cultivated through internal reflection. I read something the other day about the mind and
the heart in the Greek Orthodox Church. The faith is not focused on the logic or the thoughts of
the mind, but the thoughts of the heart. The tradition trusts the heart more than the mind because
the heart is what experiences the Kingdom of Heaven. In other words, the heart is connected
with what is more profound and more holy. Honestly, I bet I would be able to get to the same
place in my faith through the external reflection or the internal reflection because both lead me to
the same reflection on the heart and mind.

Visit to Another Denomination:

Southern Baptist Inland Church
Sunday, November 13, 2016
2525 E. 29th Ave
Suite 10-B PMB 231
Spokane WA 99223

What does the church building look like from the outside. What part of town is it in and what
kind of neighborhood (poor, middle class, affluent). How might these factors have influenced
your expectation of that particular community or of the denomination BEFORE you even
walked in the door.
Southern Baptist Inland Church is located on the South Hill in a middle class
neighborhood in the Perry District. The building is surrounded by many other buildings, and
does not stick out, as I would normally expect of a church building. Inland Church does not own
the building; they rent the space from another church that owns the building. Therefore the space
may not be representative of the Southern Baptist tradition. However it does seem to be
representative of the autonomy of the denomination. I think I expected the service to be relaxed
based on the environment and found that the space seemed to suit the congregation of young
families and laid-back personalities.

Who is the pastor or main leader of this community. What is my first impression of him. How
many other members play roles in the service. Is it all led by one person, or are their multiple
ministers. What is the relationship between the leader(s) and the congregation.
The pastors of the Church are Blake Cooley, Colby Ivey, Derrick Oliver, Michael Mills, and Jon
Tettleton. I wasnt able to figure out who was who specifically, but I noticed that they seem to
each rotate leadership positions each week. My fist impression of all of them was that they are
very young, and not necessarily traditional in the practices of how they run the church, although
nothing about this church was very traditional. There was one pastor who opened the night in
prayer and explained how they do things at the church. There was another pastor who gave
announcements and introduced the pastor giving the message. There was a pastor who gave the
message. There was a musician who I think also doubled as a pastor. Then a woman from the
congregation read the scripture that was talked about during the Sermon (Isaiah 6). One of the
pastors and the woman who read provided communion for all those who wished to participate at
the back of the room during the response time or worship time. All of these people seemed to be
on the same level of importance. No one person, whether in the congregation or speaking to the
congregation, felt more important than another. This was especially evident during and after the
message when the congregation added to the discussion and when there was a time for sharing
God moments and announcements. Everyone felt equal.
There didnt seem to be a very organized structure to the service, and I wouldnt be
surprised if the order of the service was changed every week (I dont believe it is mixed up each
week, but I wouldnt be surprised). All of the pastors are young and dressed very casually.
There doesnt seem to be any formality about this church or the liturgy. The pastors are a part of
the community and the community, as a whole, seems to be an essential part in the growth and
development in the faith lives of one another. The pastors encourage the congregation to
participate in the teaching and want everyone to feel comfortable with doing whatever they need
during the response time after the message. For example, the pastor who gave the message and
the musician emphasized the numerous ways in which praise and worship manifests, such as
standing, singing, praying, writing, talking to someone who will listen to you, taking
communion, etc. The environment created is one of comfort and openness.

About how many people were present at the service you went to. How were they dressed.
What kind of diversity exists in the congregation. (age, ethnic and cultural background, other
less obvious types of diversity may be noted as well). How do the members of the congregation
relate to each other are they friendly, chatty, or reserved, quiet and reverent. Are they
curious and welcoming of strangers. Were they curious, welcoming, helpful to you?
There were probably about 30-40 adults present and 10-15 toddlers and children.
Everyone was dressed pretty casually jeans, sweatshirts, button-up shirts casual but put-
together. Mostly everyone what Caucasian and in their early 30s, which is much different than
the Greek Orthodox Church that I have been attending. The congregation was very small, so the
diversity might have been a representation of the Spokane demographic in the area. There were
many parents with young children. There were a couple of Moody Bible Institute students and
one or two other GU students. There were one or two other older couples that seem to be a large
influence on the community (I guess this because of their large participation in commenting on
the sermon and in the comments and announcements portion of the evening). This congregation
seems like a big giant family, which makes sense because of all of the young children and
families. They all seem to know each other very well. They all came from Texas and started this
church in Spokane together. Everyone is pretty chatty and welcoming to newcomers. I also
think that this comfort and ease is present because of the autonomy of the Southern Baptist
I attended with two friends, and I could tell that Laura, who was a part of this
denomination for the semester, felt totally at home and genuinely happy to participate in worship
with this congregation. The congregation members were more than happy and willing to answer
any question we had about their lives, and their stories, and they were very interested in the class
that we are in. I also attended with Kelly, who has been representing the Quaker denomination,
and the Pastor/musician was very curious about what she had been learning throughout the

Describe the inside of the Building, as well as the sanctuary. What is the relationship of the
gathering space to the sanctuary. How is the sanctuary arranged is there and altar or table,
a stage or separate area for the service leaders. What is the relationship of the altar area
and the congregation, how are the seats or pews arranged. Is there a formal or informal
The main space was a large room that was fairly simply and was spilt into two sections.
Half of the room was tables where we ate dinner, and the other half were comfy, cushy chairs
where the service took place. There was a single step raised stage-like area with lights and a
microphone for the musician, but the musician and pastor who spoke did not stand on the stage,
they stood on the floor on the same level as all of the people of the congregation. There was no
altar, no table, just chairs and a music stand. There was a nursery room right behind the eating
area. Everything was pretty much in one room. There was no strict structure to how the building
was designed in terms of the service itself. It was a very informal and friendly atmosphere that
was comfortable and relaxed.

What kind of religious artwork is around. Describe colors, textures, smells What theology
is communicated through the art and architecture of the church. Be specific, and tie specific
characteristics of the art and architecture to specific theological criteria (positive and negative
theological anthropology, ascending and descending Christology, specific ecclesiological
There was no specific religious artwork that I noticed, but there were a few spiritual-related
words and bible verses that were painted on the walls. I wonder if that is because the church
shares the space with another congregation, or if this is typical of this denomination. There were
flowers and wreaths all over the walls that I believe are a part of the regular decoration of this
building. I would say that a positive theology and ascending Christology is communicated
through the lack of artwork because there is a much larger focus on Christ inside of us, and God
with us in this church community. There is not much of a focus on the art and architecture and I
believe this congregation would be comfortable having their service anywhere, in any setting.
This is what makes me think that they really value the ascending Christology.

What was the order of the service. What readings were used. Pay attention to the words of the
prayers that are not directly read form scripture but come from the community. Pay attention
to the lyrics of the hymns both to the style of the music and especially to the lyrics. Pay very
close attention to the homily or sermon. What theology is being communicated by all of these.
Does the theology seem to be consistent, or do you get mixed theological messages. Does the
service seem to flow aesthetically and theologically?
The night began with a prayer from one of the pastors, who then invited everyone to
partake in the potluck dinner. The pastor explained how in sharing a meal together and through
conversation and interactions we are able to see Christ working in each other. We ate and chatted
with a few of the community members. I felt very welcomed and many people were interested in
talking about the class that I am a part of. As mealtime ended we cleaned up and moved to the
comfy chairs.
The service began in prayer and then one of the pastors explained the different events
happening in the community of the church. He then opened the floor for other members of the
community to make other announcements. Prayer groups, opportunities for fundraising, and
future events were discussed. After this a lady from the church came forward to read the
scripture, Isaiah 6, which the sermon was based off of. The pastor giving the sermon explained
that this chapter is very dear to his heart and he transitioned directly from the reading into his
sermon. His sermon was very conversational and not extremely structured or rehearsed. He
spoke about his life and experiences. There were a few times when members of the community
spoke out in agreement or were nodding along to what the pastor was saying, which
demonstrates the informal nature of this church.
Following the sermon was response time, which is the same thing as worship. This was a
time for reflection, singing, and worshiping in any way that is most comfortable for the
individual person. This was also a time for offering prayers and taking communion. A
pastor/musician led the time by singing five worship songs at the front of the church. There were
so many options for each person. It was cool to have a church experience where every person
felt comfortable in expressing their faith in whichever manner they chose. This showed that the
community felt safe and comforted by one another. The service ended with their churchs
specific benediction or doxology. I definitely see how this informal faith community keeps
consistent with their ascending Christology and positive theology. There is consistency in the
autonomy of the community and the personal relationship with Christ that is encouraged in this

What other types of small faith-sharing groups, religious education, community service
projects, exist in this community, and what are the goals of these groups. Do they do
evangelization, and what does that mean, specifically. Do they have mission groups and what
does that mean, exactly Conversion to the faith or social justice?
From what I could tell in this single service specifically this church is good with
ecumenical dialogue and service work. The week following this service the church joined with
two other churches of different denominations from the area to worship together on Sunday
morning. They have something called the Friendship House, or the House of Friendship, that
they are raising money through. I think this money is primarily going to grow the reach and
ministry of the church. They also seem to have some sort of general assembly that some of the
congregation members had attended recently. There were no specific conversations of social
justice or service work.

What did you learn from this experience. What was unexpected. Challenging. Engaging.
Offputting. Positive and negative feelings. Did your experience match your expectations. Did
your experience match the research you are doing on this denomination. In what ways is this
community representative of the denomination. How does it seem to conform or depart from
the statements of faith and doctrine that the denomination asserts of itself?
Overall this church service was very enjoyable and comfortable for me. I felt accepted
and cared about. I think that I went in not really sure of what to expect, or expecting it to be
strange or not ordinary, but left feeling at home and comfortable. I expected that this experience
would be incredibly different from my experience with the Greek Orthodox Church, and it turns
out that it was. I imagined this would be a church service that I felt more comfortable with and I
was, but I also expected there to be more people and for it to be a bigger church. So when I
discovered the small size of the church I became nervous about being noticed and standing out as
I went in to this experience with the descriptions of the Southern Baptist Church from our
class only, so I wasnt really sure what I was going to experience. What I experienced was care
and individuality within community. But I also experienced a group of people who seemed to
care for one another and cared to support one another. The casual nature of the church was very
engaging and welcoming. The church felt like one body.
In relation to the Greek Orthodox Church, this denomination is very different and on a
completely separate spectrum of tradition. The Greek Orthodox Church is very structured and
follows a strict order in comparison to the Southern Baptist Church. The Greek Orthodox
Church feels rigid in comparison to this comfortable church. Theologically, the Greek Orthodox
Church stresses the divine and holy nature of God and Jesus, while the Southern Baptist Church
brings God and Jesus to a personal and close relationship with humanity. I do see the same value
of individuality and community shared between the two denominations. Overall, I think that
these denominations are quite different in their experiences and traditions of the Church.

B. Interviews

1) John Kafentzis Professor of Journalism at Gonzaga University, Member of Holy

Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, October 18

Information Kafentzis gave me about the Preists and Deacons:

Father Stephen Sucpia is the presiding Priest at Holy Trinity. Father Deacon Timothy will
become a Priest, but for now he is a Deacon and a Professor at Whitworth University. Father
Gregory Roth is a retired Priest that helps with Communion to help the process along. All three
are very academic based in their theology so the congregation feels lucky.
For both pastors and regular members, how long have you belonged to this
DENOMINATION (not just the faith community) and if you came from some other faith
background, why did you join this one?
Kafentzis has been a part of this denomination for at least 40 years now. Kafentzis grew up
Catholic, his dad and uncle were catholic, but his Grandfather was raised Greek Orthodox.
When he and his wife and family moved to Spokane from Montana, the Priest at the time had
been looking through the phone book and called him asking him if he was Greek (because of
Kafentzis last name) and why the Priest hadnt seen them at church at all. Since then John
Kafentzis has been going to Holy Trinity. In converting to Greek Orthodoxy Kafentzis says,
Baptism is Baptism, but my wife and I had our marriage blessed by the Church.

What is it about this particular denomination you are attracted to? What do you think is
the unique character of the denomination?
The unique character of the denomination is that the Church is oriented toward nationality and
culture. All churches are similar in Liturgy, but spoken in the native tongue of the community.
At Holy Trinity the Greek, Slavonic, and English languages are spoken in for the Nicene Creed
and the Lords Prayer.
Easter is the biggest holiday because as one Priest once told Kafentzis, rising from the dead is
bigger than being born!
Other unique aspects of the denomination are how little the words of the Liturgy have changed
over time. People of the congregation find comfort in this tradition. Orthodox is orthodox and
there is security found in the fact that this will stay the same regardless of the ever-changing
world around us.
There is a lot that is shared with Catholicism, however a Priest can be married if they are married
before becoming a Priest.
The other unique fact is that the dogma may seem strict, but there is a wide interpretation of the
dogma. By economy things can change and what is practical is taken into consideration when
there is dogma or doctrine that is not strictly followed. However, Kafentzis also said that
because there is such a heavy emphasis on how everything always stays the same, any time you
want to change something its a really big deal, which he expanded upon with the Greek
Festival that Holy Trinity coordinates in Spokane.

Why do you like this particular faith community? How does it represent the
denomination? How is it unique in terms of the denomination?
Father Sucpia embraces the culture of the church and speaks fluently in Slavonic. This is
something that Kafentzis feels is special about this specific faith community because there are
some Priests who are not fluent in the languages of their Church community, and therefore are
uncomfortable with performing the Divine Liturgy in other tongues, but Father Sucpia could if
he wanted to.
In this particular community of faith, Kafentzis pointed out the culture connection and the big
Greek Festival that unifies Orthodox Christians across Spokane. The Greek Festival that is put
on by the Orthodox Church is largest and oldest festival in Spokane.
The icon screen and the icon paintings in the dome of Jesus and the writers of the four Gospels is
something that you will see in every Greek Orthodox Church. All icons are also two-
dimensional. The pews in the Nave are uniquely American. Typically, everyone stands or kneels
for the duration of the service. Another unifying factor is that all hymns are sung acapella.
If the person feels comfortable, and please make sure you communicate this to the person
with whom you are conversing, what issues do you feel the most strongly about regarding
this denomination? Are there any controversies or divisions within the denomination that
are worrisome?
Ecumenical controversies have come out of the opening up of Eastern European countries that
were previously communist countries. Orthodox Christians in Serbia and Russia wanted to claim
these countries as Orthodox turf because historically this is where the denomination was. The
denomination did not want other denominations imposing on the Orthodox turf.
Kafentzis also commented that, while the Roman Catholic church was dealing with priests who
had committed sexual abuse, the Greek Orthodox church was facing a small amount of this same

What kind of ecumenical/interChristian or interfaith dialog is the person you are

interviewing aware of or involved in?
Kafentzis commented that the Patriarch Bartholomew had done the same kind of ecumenical
work regarding the environmental crisis about 15 years prior to Pope Francis Laudato si. This
was in response to the Eastern European countries coming out of communism who wanted better
care for their environment.
For interChristian dialog, the Greek Orthodox Church works best with other faith backgrounds in
charitable functions. Other than that there are no really big connection with other
denominations. But there is good dialog between different Orthodox churches throughout the

What other information would the person like to share? Make sure you thank the person
generously and if they are willing to give you contact information, please send a note of
thanks to them.
The Greek Orthodox Church follows the Julian Calendar, and normally Easer (the Highest of
Holidays) falls behind the nationally recognized date for Easter. This means that Orthodox
Christians get great discounts on all of the Easter candy for when they celebrate Easter.

2) Father Stephen Sucpia, Priest of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, November 30

If they are a pastor or church leader, what formal training or education did you go through
to be a pastor or minister?
Fr. Stephen went to formal seminary in New York for three years after he graduated from the
University of Kansas. When he finished his three years of seminary he went to Greece for three
years. He thought that if he were planning on being a true Greek Orthodox pastor he would need
to know how to communicate with his Greek congregation, so he immersed himself in the
culture to really learn the language.
He said that the decision to go toe seminary was something that he just really trusted God with.
He said that God made it so that there was no other choice for him, but to go to seminary.
Now, he has been at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church for 28 years, which he said is pretty
uncommon. It is not typical for one priest to remain with a parish for that long of a time.
Normally a priest will move to a new parish every six to ten years. A priest is usually assigned a
parish by the bishop (who is addressed as your grace). Fr. Stephen said that if the current
Bishop overseeing him now were to call and suggest a move, Fr. Stephen would be able to
suggest reasons for him to remain at Holy Trinity, however the previous Bishop would have been
someone who you just said yes to (he was a Cretan priest).

For both pastors and regular members, how long have you belonged to this
DENOMINATION (not just the faith community) and if you came from some other faith
background, why did you join this one?
Father Stephen Sucpia did not grow up Greek Orthodox, but was baptized into the Orthodox
faith at age 21. He was raised on the fringes of the Protestant churches, and said that for much of
his childhood he was atheist because of his experiences with religion as a child.
Initially Fr. Stephen went to the University of Kansas and got his degree to work for the
Department of Defense. In college he explored different religions such as Buddhism and
Christianity, eventually settling on Christianity. He took a very historical approach to religion,
and chose the Greek Orthodox branch of Christianity because of its full and intricate history.
This means that he read as many books on Orthodoxy as he possibly could, from Serbian
Orthodoxy to original Greek texts.
He recalled a moment when he and his girlfriend at the time went to the Orthodox Church near
their school and were snooping around. The priest came out and offered them eggs (because it
was Easter). Then he proceeded to tell me that Easter, Pascha, is a big deal in the Greek
Orthodox Church.

What is it about this particular denomination you are attracted to? What do you think is
the unique character of the denomination?
What attracted Fr. Stephen to the Greek Orthodox Church was the history. Within the history he
was attracted to the focus on the apostles and how Jesus sent them the Holy Spirit to work for the
Kingdom of Heaven. The consistency in the practices and standings of the church over time also
attracted him; there are no frequent changes to keep up with and you can rely on the Church.
There is also this incredible presence of 2000 years of spiritual experience and practice available
to you in the Orthodox faith it has worked for 2000 years so how could it not be so great. This
experience allows for a great toolkit for spirituality (even though he says many people do not
always use the toolkit). Within the toolkit there is a deep stream of spiritual experience and it is
up to the individual to take advantage of it.
Fr. Stephen said that what is unique about the Greek Orthodox Church is that deep stream of
spiritual experience. There is no other branch of Christianity that has this same type of spiritual
experience in its back pocket. The history and unchanging nature of the church allow the deep
stream to go deeper. Where the western church is fragmented and has continued to split over
time, the Orthodox Church has maintained a strong and steady worldwide system.
Fr. Stephen said the difference between the east and west is that the east does not trust Plato and
Aristotle like the western church. There is a larger focus on thinking and the mind in the west,
and not as much focus on the heart and the spirit. He says, the language of the western church is
fine, but the entire system does not fit within the Eastern Church. There are also the obvious
surface level differences, such as the Pope in Rome and the concept of celibacy vs. marriage for
priests, but it is the deeper stuff that matters the most. There is a tendency in the western church
to speak about life in legal terms, whereas the Eastern Church speaks about life in medical terms.
Where the west says sin is messy and wrong, the east says sin is sickness. Where the west talks
of needing punishment and deserving punishment, the east talks of a need for healing. The feel,
approach, and attitude are different in answering questions that sound the same from the east and
west. The questions may sound the same, but they have different meanings for the east and west.

Why do you like this particular faith community? How does it represent the
denomination? How is it unique in terms of the denomination?
Fr. Stephen said that this parish (Holy Trinity) used to be very Greek, but now there is no one
who fully speaks or reads the language. The Church was mostly Greek when he first got to Holy
Trinity, but now only about 20 percent of the congregation is of Greek background. Right now,
the congregation is made up of many Russian/Ukrainian families and couples, so Slavonic is
included in the liturgy alongside Greek and English. Most of the liturgy is in English though
because there is no person in the congregation who communicates only in a foreign language.
Basically everyone is fluent in English. He said that there are variations of Greek (from formal
to informal) that make the language difficult, so unless the people in his parish grew up studying
Greek, or have a strictly Greek education, it would be difficult to do the entire liturgy in Greek.
However, Fr. Stephen supplies the Sunday bulletin in five different languages because of the
diversity of community that he leads. Fr. Stephen said there is a good representation of every
style of Orthodox faith in the parish. He also told me that Holy Trinity was the only Greek
Orthodox church in Spokane for a while, which contributed to the diversity in the community.
He said, it is a fun mix of people that keeps the church very interesting. There is ethnic flavor
to the church that reminds us of who we were.

If the person feels comfortable, and please make sure you communicate this to the person
with whom you are conversing, what issues do you feel the most strongly about regarding
this denomination? Are there any controversies or divisions within the denomination that
are worrisome?
On controversy surrounding the Church, Fr. Stephen did not focus on anything specific, nor did
he directly answer the question. He did mention that Of course there are clergy problems, but
not nearly as public as the Catholic Church. I asked him specifically about the refugee crisis,
and he said that during the refugee crisis they helped resettle some families in Spokane, mostly
Russian families. But for the last 10 years they have not experienced much with refugees
because most of them are Muslim and are not showing up here at the Orthodox Church. There
has been fairly consistent work done with the organization World Relief. Other than that, Fr.
Stephen did not mention much about worries or controversies. One thing that he did mention a
few times outside of this question was technology and that the immediacy of technology is a
concept that the Church as a whole has been figuring out.

What kind of ecumenical/interChristian or interfaith dialog is the person you are

interviewing aware of or involved in?
In Spokane there is not much ecumenical work being done. Fr. Stephen recognizes the
importance of mutual understanding for dialogue, but as of right now there seems to be no reason
for partaking in ecumenical dialogue. In the past Holy Trinity has worked with other church
communities through the organization World Relief and Campus Kitchens.

What other information would the person like to share? Make sure you thank the person
generously and if they are willing to give you contact information, please send a note of
thanks to them.
Fr. Stephen sent me off with some wonderful reading materials. He said that Fr. Meletios Weber
and Frederica Matthews Green are Orthodox authors who give a great introduction to the
Orthodox faith. Two booklets he gave me are very useful in beginning to understand the Greek
Orthodox point of view. He also mentioned that when something in the eastern perspective, it is
really just a different way of looking at the same thing as the western church. He also told me
about the history of the Church building. It is very old and has been here for many, many years.
He said, It speaks of God and does much of my work for me.

A. Meet My Artifact

What did you learn about your adopted denomination that you didnt know before as you were
looking for this artifact and researching this artifact?
The artifact I brought to share from my denomination was a Greek Orthodox icon. In
researching this artifact I found out that an icon is more than a two-dimensional painting or
image, an icon is sacred and designated to be an image of the holy, primarily Christ or the Virgin,
that is used for veneration. Veneration is showing great respect or reverence for something. I
also learned that there are many different images that can qualify as Christ or the Virgin.
I learned that icons can be made of any material in practically any form wood, marble,
ivory, coins, needle work, or vestments for the priest. If there is an image of the holy (Jesus
Christ, The virgin Mary, The saints, John the Baptist, and saints of the church) on it, it can be an
icon. You can also have an icon of an event that involves any of the holy. These events can
spread from antiquity to contemporary times.
There has been history of controversy regarding icons. The Byzantine emperor said the
Orthodox were worshipping idols. However, the icon is not an item that is worshipped, but is a
worship aid. The Orthodox are not worshiping the icons themselves, not the wood or the paint,
but what holy person/being/event is being depicted in the icon. There is honor given to the
image, passing through the prototype to represent the holy. (Like if a grandparent were to kiss
and hug a picture of their grandchild they are not kissing and hugging the glass or the photo,
but the person in the photo.) The icon is a way for a person to see Gods image and likeness in
another. The icon is an object that evokes contemplation and prayer for the individual. In Greek
Orthodox tradition the icon is used in the process of repentance and recognizing the brokenness
that we each live in, and this realization moves us to prayer and connection with God and the
Holy Spirit.

What were the most striking artifacts from the other denominations and why?
Some of the other artifacts I found intriguing were the Singing the Living Tradition from
the Unitarian Universalist (UU) and the God is Still Speaking, movement from the United
Church of Christ (UCC).
The UU has a book called Singing the Living Tradition (1993). The version of this
song and prayer/poem book was revised to make it more inclusive of all the varying beliefs. The
God talk was mostly taken out. The book is neutral and inclusive of all genders. This book
really represents the individual and personal spiritual path that the UU is built on because it has
different readings, hymns, and poems from different religious backgrounds. What I found
interesting was that there were still many Christian hymns that I recognized in the book, which
use God talk. When Jamie was talking about it the question of how this book is not
undermining a Christian faith. She said, it is strengthening because it challenges you to find your
individual faith. I reflected a bit on this from the Greek Orthodox perspective, where community
and self-reflection are both highly valued, and think that the unifying point of this denomination
comes from their individuality. Because they are fully involved in their individual faith they are
united through their differences and can gain strength in the common goal of individuality.
The idea that God is still speaking, the comma is very interesting and engaging to
me. The position of the UCC is that God is still present in our lives and He still walks with us
every day. Which I definitely agree with and the Greek Orthodox Church would agree with. The
difficulty is the wording of the movement slogan because it suggests that God has held back
some information from the world, that he has not revealed the whole truth in Jesus coming to
earth. However, the main idea is that the world is changing; therefore, there is a comma. God is
not changing, the world is changing, and the comma suggests that God is helping us
understanding new situations in this changing world.

What did you learn about YOURSELF PERSONALLY and your OWN ORIGINAL FAITH
Personally, I learned that I am struggling to understand the use of icons in the Greek
Orthodox tradition. I can explain it, and explain what I have read and said to others, but I dont
think Im convinced by the explanations. I think Im trying to figure it out just like my
classmates. What doesnt make sense to me is, do the people of the denomination feel the need
to go to icons in order to move into a place of contemplation, reflection, and repentance, or do
they just choose whether or not they want to participate in that aspect of the faith? I get confused
with whether or not they are reliant on the icons, or if they could do without them. Are the icons
like comfort blankets? I dont think so because they are written and considered to be sacred
and representative of Jesus and Saints. I feel like I am struggling to understand the Greek
Orthodox denomination because there is so much more underneath the surface of the
denomination. There is so much to unpack that I dont feel like I know how to unpack. I think
this is the case because there is such a long and deep history of this tradition that has been
growing and shaping from the beginning of Christianity. There is something about this structure
that has worked for centuries that I cannot figure out.
About my own faith tradition, I recognize that my focus on scripture and the value that scripture
has held for me all my life is directly from the Lutheran traditions (I have experience from both
ELCA and LMS). I grew up in the ELCA tradition, but did not realize until this class that the
motto was scripture alone. Faith alone. Grace alone. I get where many of my beliefs and
opinions on faith come from now.

B. Meet My Skeleton

Your write up for the final journal will be to discuss the controversy/resolve and to also discuss
The skeleton I brought from the Greek Orthodox faith was the lack of change, strict
tradition, and lack of reaching out for ecumenical dialogue in the Church. There is tension
within the Church because the younger generations want to see some change, but there is a desire
from the older generations to continue the tradition as is. Many members find stability with the
unchanging nature of the church, but this can also make some feel trapped and stuck. Other faith
backgrounds see this tradition as stubborn and weird. Some think that the church is so aught up
in the tradition and the icons, and the Saints that there isnt an actual focus on God, Jesus, and
the Holy Spirit. The more focus there is on the uniformity, the more difficult it is to talk about
dissent and change.
I found the Skeleton of the Quaker tradition extremely interesting. There is discord about
homosexuality, and this has been going on for years because the church cannot come to a
consensus about the topic. The church is grounded in dialogue and consensus, so the fact that
this discussion has taken so long is a really big deal. Kelly shared a quote that was very
interesting: If we as Quakers cant talk about this, then what do we have to offer the world? I
am interested to hear if they will ever come to a consensus because I dont think its a topic that
anyone will ever come to a consensus on.
I also found the Seventh Day Adventist skeleton of womens roles in the church very
interesting. The World SDA Church has decided to continue to keep women out of leadership
roles and any official titles. But the American SDA church doesnt agree with this. They would
rather the World Church changes their standing, but similarly to the Quaker Church, there has to
be consensus among the World Church for the roles of women in the church to change.
Therefore, the American church will stick to the world churchs decision. There is tension within
the American SDA church because of this worldwide practice. Im curious to get a further
understanding of how this may be dividing or causing more tension in the Church.

C. Legislative Conference

Who your dialog partners are, what is distinctive about them in their denominations and as
persons. In other words, how do you encounter them? What are your impressions of your
partners? Do you think they are representing their denominations well? What more would
you have liked to know about them?
My dialogue partners were Melanie Kerger representing the Presbyterian Church and
Alexis Brown representing the United Church of Christ. Both of them have denominations that
are much more liberal in comparison to the Greek Orthodox Church. They are also both much
more obviously involved in mission and service work. The two of them have similar views on
social issues, which are different from my faith tradition. However, we all tend to have a fairly
negative theological anthropology, for it is God who has made us and formed us, and we are
never as powerful as God. Jesus is our savior and we are only able to be in relationship with
God because of Jesus death and resurrection.
My impression was that our denominations would clash and not be able to come to a
common ground on anything at all. I was worried that they would gang up on my denomination
and want to avoid the Greek Orthodox voice. I think that they represented their denominations
very well. They made the voice of their denominations heard and really where aware of what
their denomination would say in a certain situation, conflict, or discussion.
I think what would have been helpful from the start would have been to sit down and lay
out the basics of what each of our denominations believed, figured out where our beliefs clash
and why they clash. From there I think that would have given us a good foundation to build our
statements on. I wouldve liked to know more about what they were struggling with in their
denomination and share what Im struggling with in my own. I think that there is a lot of
common ground to be found in the struggles.
How did you feel about your participation? Were you able to find a voice that was authentic
both to yourself and to your denomination? If you felt uncomfortable about it, why? What
are some of the underlying factors? Did your conversation become more comfortable or did
conflict arise, and describe this?
I think that I struggled with really knowing what a Greek Orthodox person would actually
say in my position. I think that I have a good grasp on the denomination, but I think that I was
easily blindsided by the strict tradition and lack of change in the church. I think that if I had
years of background in the Greek Orthodox denomination my delivery wouldve felt more
authentic. For what knowledge I do have, I think I portrayed the position well. One thing that
was difficult was remembering everything all at once. I had to reference my notes and look up
Greek Orthodox statements because a lot of what we talked about had never crossed my mind
I felt bad for my partners because of how traditional and unchanging I was. I felt like I
was making things difficult, and I was, because my tradition is on the complete opposite side of
social issues than these two. The challenge was to stop focusing on the surface level of conflicts
and disagreements, and start focusing on what is underneath the reasoning for the stance of the
denomination on a certain topic. I think that the more we talked and tried to dive deeper into the
conflicts of the topic of abortion, the easier it was to see that we are all coming from the same
place of wanting to care for people, we just have different opinions of what it looks like to best
care for someone.
I think that our conversations became more comfortable because we were willing to look
beneath the surface of our differences. We were willing to figure out where we all met on a
common ground and go from there in making our combined statements.

How did you develop the process for discussion? Was it easy or difficult and why - what were
the factors? How much of this was due to the compatibility/non-compatibility of the
denominations, and how much of it was due to the personalities of the participants? Were
your buttons pushed? Did you push the buttons of others? What procedures worked well or
not so well, and why?
At first developing discussion was somewhat difficult. I think because of my
denomination, but also because we each came in with preconceived notions about the other
denominations. We all thought that this was going to be a huge challenge so we struggled at
first. I dont think the struggle was avoidable. I think it needed to happen in order for us to
understand just how different our denominations views are. Once we understood our differences
(at least to some extent) we were able to look underneath those differences.
Greek Orthodox is not that easy to work with because of our unchanging and somewhat
stubborn way of handling differences. However the Presbyterian denomination is very
intellectual in nature, so if something is not logical it is difficult to move forward with them.
And the UCC is so liberal on many of their viewpoints that they can sometimes fall into ignoring
the other side of the discussion. These things were not major barriers in this project though
because the three of us (Melanie, Alexis, and me) are all pretty easy-going and where eager to
figure out how to make statements that were inclusive of all three denominations, as well as true
to each individual denomination. We each wanted to participate and produce our best effort.
I think that in terms of button pushing, we were all very gracious with one another. We
asked tough questions of one another, but we were also able to separate ourselves from the
questions and discussions that may have pushed buttons because we recognized that this
assignment was dialogue between denominations that normally dont converse.
What worked well was offering the positions of the three different denominations and then
discussing common ground. For example, with the social issue abortion, each person offered her
denominations position on the subject. After talking through the positions we each explained
the reasoning for the position based on the denominations theological perspective. When we got
to theology we were able to find common ground, because beneath it all our three denominations
believe the same things about who God is, who Jesus is, and how we are meant to live a life of
love that values the life of ourselves and others.

Discuss some of the significant things you learned in this exercise: about your classmates,
their denominations, about yourself, about your denomination, etc. What have you learned
about consensus building that you will take with you out of this class into the world? What
strengths have you developed and how might you improve in other areas?
What I learned about my classmates was that we all are very thankful for this opportunity
to try to understand a different perspective more fully. I learned that we all are curious and
interested in the work that others are doing. We want to participate in what everyone else is
learning because what we are learning is so in depth and valuable. I think we all really see the
value that each persons perspective brings to this class.
What I learned about the denominations is that we can all find common ground on some
things, such as the purpose of Christianity to love our neighbors and value life and love. No
matter what our social standings, we all want the Kingdom of God to reign on earth.
I learned that I dont feel like a good Greek Orthodox because I like and want change in
the Church. I dont want structure; I want unification through diversity. I learned that I typically
I think very logically and practically, but the Greek Orthodox Church focuses on the heart rather
than the mind. I want to learn from the Greek Orthodox Christians. I want to use my heart to
understand my faith, but I also really appreciate the logical side of my faith as well. I also think I
am good at creating discussion between denominations because I am good at uncovering
connections between topics and ideas that seem like polar opposites (aka Greek Orthodox and
UCC on the topic of abortion).
About the Greek Orthodox Church, I learned that their value of life is very high. They
are also way more conservative than what I had ever imagined. What is interesting is that they
word all of their statements so eloquently, but what they are saying is usually so harsh. Its kind
of off-putting and makes me take a step back. Their statements about abortion and war actually
made me do a double take because the statements were so harsh.
What this has taught me about consensus building that I want to take into the world is
that we should not be focusing our attention on the surface of the issues. We have to go to the
underneath, the place where the surface statement comes from. We need to ask: Why do you
believe what you believe? What in your life has brought you to this belief? Why is the position
important to you? How have you been impacted by this? We need to learn how to communicate
and come to mutual understanding with one another. We need to heal the deeper wounds,
because if we only focus on the surface wounds we will never be able to work together fully. We
will stay divided. I think this statement shows my strengths, but I also think that I am good at
communicating and connecting ideas. I hope to improve in asking more questions of my
classmates so that I can understand where they are coming from.
Seeing Through the Others Eyes

Preliminary Reflection Questions 1:

How does this reading make you feel? What are your negative and positive reactions? Is
there an issue in your own life that you can relate to Nepos reading, OR is there a story from
the news or from family or friends that seems like it fits? Why is what Ghandi/Nepo ask us to
do in this meditation so difficult?
It makes me think about all of the small moments in my life where I have held a grudge
or judged someone because they have wronged me. It makes me think about the challenges
between other people and how quickly we judge rather than forgive. We hold other peoples
wrongs against them, no matter what the original intention. I feel angry, surprised, confused,
awestruck, but I also feel like it makes so much sense. It is so difficult to be forgiving to
someone who violated you so intensely. How could the man possibly forgive the killer? I
suppose when the man embraced the killer, he was able to recognize the man as a human being
and not just a killing machine who harmed him and his daughter. If a man can embrace the
person who killed his daughter, I can embrace someone who said something rude to me or
offended me. I think there is good in each of us. This shows that it is possible to tap into that
good even amidst the most violent of times. I think our world is at a place and time where our
dividedness has been exposed. People keep saying that this certain person has divided our
country more than ever, or that this person will divide our country indefinitely. Really, we are
already divided. We have always been divided. I think our country would benefit from this
reflection. This reading is difficult because it feels wrong. It feels wrong to embrace the person
who violated you. Our human nature, our society, says, Fight! Hurt the one who hurt you! Eye
for an eye! But this is what Jesus asks of us in the Beatitudes. If someone hits your cheek, turn
the other to be hit also. It doesnt feel like there is justice in the act. Why should the killer get
forgiveness? Why should the hitter get to hit me again? Why should the bully get to continue
his reign? Its wrong, and not just. But with the embrace of the killer the violence stopped, the
weapons were laid down.

Preliminary Reflection Questions 2:

What do you think are the main roots of religious conflict? Of the root causes listed on these
sites (ignoring all the advertisements as you scroll down through the reading), which ones do
you think have the biggest influence: a) in your own life; and b) in the life of your adopted
denomination?; c) in the world today? Please refer specifically to the websites. What do you
think personally about how to define who is Christian? How is this the same or different
than how your adopted denomination would define or accept as a Christian?
Speaking directly to Christianity, I think that at a core level it is interpretation of scripture
that divided religious groups. Scripture, in most Christian denominations, is viewed as very
valuable and important to the decision making process of a church. Some see scripture as Gods
revealed word that is unchanging, completely correct, and everything written is Gods divine
word, which means that there is generally one overall interpretation of scripture. Others view
scripture as written by human authors with human error and historical context, the scripture is
still God inspired and sacred, but historical criticism is applied to scripture, which leaves
scripture up to individual interpretation more often. From scripture stems the understanding of
sin and salvation, repentance, works vs. grace, Saints, human rights, womens rights, and LGBT
rights. Of the root causes, the interpretation of scripture and salvation in terms of grace vs.
works has the biggest impact on my life. In my adopted denomination I think it also has to do
with works and their role in salvation. In the world today I think the root cause is
misunderstanding and a lack of effort to understand an opinion that is different from our
individual opinions. I think Christian is a term that encompasses people who believe that their
salvation is found in Jesus Christ. Im not sure I believe that there is one right denomination,
if there was I think we would all feel drawn to it by now. I think that God is able to reach
different personalities, from different backgrounds through these various lenses of Christianity. I
believe that Jesus is the connecting piece. In my experience, the Greek Orthodox Church would
agree with my definition for the most part, but they might add to it that Christianity is living in a
way that is to share in the life of God and to become like God because Christians are in a
movement toward God through the Person of Jesus. This would look like following the

Preliminary Reflection Questions 3:

Why is reconciliation important? Why is confronting those with whom you have a problem
important to reconciliation and peace-building? What is forgiveness, and what is NOT
forgiveness? What did you learn from the readings? What do these readings have in
Reconciliation is important because without it nothing can move forward, no one would
be able to move past the traumas and the sufferings. Reconciliation starts with forgiveness, if
you are unable to forgive or receive forgiveness then you cannot begin the process of healing.
Confrontation is important for reconciliation and peace-building because confrontation brings the
problem out into the open. A spotlight is put on the conflict, and the conflict cannot be ignored
anymore. I also like the point that Hauerwas made, that confrontation needs to be an act that
comes out of the recognition that we are all people who need to be and have been forgiven, not
that we have the power to forgive, but that we forgive because we have been forgive ourselves
over and over again. When we confront with that mind-set, then we are caring and loving in our
confrontations. Forgiveness is freeing someone of the debt they owe you because you are free of
the debts you owe. Forgiveness is loving someone regardless of whether you like them or not.
Forgiveness is letting the wrong-doer go free, giving them another chance, because you also are
free and have countless chances. Forgiveness is not excusing negative action or making
something wrong justifiable. Forgiveness is not making a deal with the wrong-doer, e.g. making
them pay for the debt that they owe you. That peace is not necessarily conflict-free. That peace
comes out of conflict sometimes. What these readings have taught me is that, in order for full
healing to happen, there has to be a moment of pain, honesty, and truth. The wrong has to be
drawn out into the light. Forgiveness and reconciliation cannot beat around the bush. You have
to dive into them headfirst. All of the readings rely on Trust, Truth, Honesty, and following
those, Forgiveness and Reconciliation. You cannot have the last two with out the first three.
There is also a common need for vulnerability in order for these things to take place. There is a
necessity for those involved in the conflict to be willing to let the others see their flaws and
faults. You need to be willing to talk about your flaws and recognize where you were wrong, on
both sides. There has to be a mutual understanding that neither party is perfect.

Writing Assignment:
A fellow member of my faith tradition approaches me about the
controversial topic, pro-life/pro-choice, and attacks me for being dogmatic. In
this scenario I have taken the pro-life position of the ELCA, which I am a part
of and most aligns with my faith walk as of now. In my understanding the
ELCA is pro-life, stating that God is the creator of life and as Christians we
are to protect any life given to the world, but also recognizing that there are
instances where abortion may be the only option due to health reasons (A
Social Statement on: Abortion, ELCA). Abortion is accepted as the last resort
Furthering this discussion toward my personal opinion on the Pro-life
position, I believe that a woman does have the right to choose what she
would like to do with her body, but I believe there are better alternatives to
for an unwanted pregnancy than abortion. I think that all life has value, even
if the life is not fully functional or fully developed yet. Abortion ceases a life
and is not something that should be the first resort in an unwanted
pregnancy. There are cases where a woman and childs life may be
endangered in the pregnancy, and in these cases I believe there is a place
where abortion may be the only resort.
My dialogue partner would consider my position dogmatic because it
sounds like I am simply following the Churchs teachings without
consideration for womans rights and her right to choose what she does with
her body. What I say to that is that I recognize pregnancy is a serious
commitment and if you are not in the right place in your life to be pregnant it
can be very trying and even damaging. But I think that adoption is an outlet
for women experiencing an unwanted pregnancy to use that allows the best
life for the woman and child in a situation where the woman does not want
the child.
My reaction and response to my dialogue partner is some confusion as
to why someone from my own faith tradition would support the pro-choice
position, when the Church clearly values life as precious and never a
mistake. I would agree that a woman should get to choose if and when they
want to be pregnant, but if conception were to happen mistakenly, it is
difficult for me to understand why someone would choose to decide that the
life inside of them should not have the potential to grow and make a
difference in the world. My response to my dialogue partner would be to
listen to their reasoning for their position in an attempt to fully understand
where they are coming from. My goal would be to find out why their position
is so important to them and what in their life has led them to believing in this
position. My reaction is not to be critical of the person or try to change their
mind, but to understand where the other person is coming from. My opinion
is that both sides of the discussion are important and valuable, and both
sides of the discussion make very valid and justifiable points.
In my adopted denomination, Greek Orthodox, the perspective is that
abortion is murder and a sin. The Church is therefore pro-life. There is no
other widely known opinion or teaching other than this, and that is because
abortion is an action that directly impacts family life. Someone from the
Greek Orthodox tradition would definitely have similar views as me in regard
to the ways in which I value life and believe that there are better alternatives
to an unwanted pregnancy than abortion. However, I think our opinions
would differ when it comes to understanding the other side of the discussion.
In my experience so far, the Greek Orthodox Church is very traditional and
conservative in their opinions on sexual relations, marriage, and family life.
Keeping in mind the very high value that the Greek Orthodox tradition places
on marriage and family, I believe that it would be difficult to dialogue with
others of differing viewpoints on this issue because abortion would be a
direct impact on the family structure. A Greek Orthodox approach to the
dialogue partner would also come from a place of trying to understand the
other persons point of view, but I think that the tradition and family model
might keep them from fully engaging in the dialogue. The Church is just so
wrapped up in the structure of marriage, family, and tradition that it is
difficult for me to imagine someone of the Orthodox faith setting down their
opinions and traditions to let anothers perspective be fully understood.
As I switch places with my dialogue partner I take on the position of
pro-choice. This position is also pro-life in that the position values life and
wants everyone to have a fulfilling life, but the position also recognizes that
there are instances where legally preventing abortion may not be the best
decision for promoting life. Pregnancy can inhibit a woman from a full life.
Bringing a baby into the scene may be dangerous and inhibiting for the child.
Why bring a child into the world if its not going to be wanted, and if adoption
may be hurtful to a child. Beyond the child, there should not be a law that
says a woman cannot make the choice of what to do with her own body. No
one should be told what he or she can and cannot do with his or her own
body. Life is precious and valuable, but this viewpoint comes from a place
where the belief is that sometimes the best choice for a woman is to choose
abortion based on the lifestyle that she would be bringing a baby into. If the
babys life would not be valued once born then what good comes from
restricting abortion. Choosing abortion may not always be the right thing to
do, but I do think that in some instances it is the only option that is the best
and healthiest for the woman and the fetus. I also think that creating a law
against abortion wouldnt stop abortions, it would just push women to get
abortions that are not safe and risk other health complications. Pro-choice is
a position that would allow abortions to happen in a controlled and safe
environment. This person would most likely feel a similar confusion, and be
unsure of why someone would think that there should be regulations that
monitor what a woman can do with her body, and defend womens rights.
However, I think that this dialogue partner would want to know the pro-life
point of view, not so that they can change it, but so that they can understand
the other side of the discussion better.
What this exercise and my reflections on the readings have taught me
about myself is that I am a big mix of many different faith traditions. I dont
know if I fully align with any particular denomination, but I have various
opinions that fall under the umbrellas of various traditions. I learned that I
am pretty good about seeing both sides of a discussion, and I am very willing
to dialogue with others because I want to understand where others are
coming from. I also learned that I do not like taking positions on social issues
because I think that both sides have valid viewpoints. I think that it is difficult
to fully disagree with someone if you do not know where they are coming
from and havent taken the time to get to know why they believe what they
I learned the Greek Orthodox tradition is very strict on their belief of
abortion. They are very blunt and upfront that abortion is murder. But I also
learned and understood that this is because they look at everything through
the lens of marriage and family. Sexual relations are meant to be inside of
marriage only, and because of this abortion is looked at as detrimental to
family life. There is no obvious acknowledgement about an unwanted
pregnancy outside of marriage because there is a firm teaching that sexual
relations do not happen outside of marriage. In the context of marriage it
makes sense why the Greek Orthodox Church is so firmly against abortion.
One thing I will take away from this exercise is that you learn so much
about what you personally believe and value when you hear the other side of
the discussion. I think that my opinions are stronger because I am willing to
hear other opinions that may conflict with my own. I think my opinions grow
stronger because I have been able to understand where another person is
coming from and decide what I believe based on all points of view. I think
that is something very valuable about this exercise; it doesnt let you stick
with on opinion, you need to look at all sides in order to fully see your own

Ignatian pedagogy

Coming into this class I was excited to learn about the different denominations of
Christianity and what the different beliefs are among Christians. I have always been curious
about this topic. I wonder about why are there so many different denominations, and how there
can be so many different perceptions that are all correct in one way or another. However I also
think about how religion and faith is not about being right or wrong. I think I am trying to figure
out how there is not a right or wrong.
My faith and beliefs have always been a very large part of my lifestyle, partially because
Church was just what my family did on Sundays growing up. As I got older, and got involved in
Young Life (a youth ministry program), I started pursuing faith because it is what I wanted to do.
Of course there was still an element of religion being something I was supposed to do, but I
began to choose it and figure out the personal relationship for myself.
I was brought up in the ELCA Church, with parents who lean more toward Missouri
Synod Lutheran. I attended the non-denominational youth group, Young Life, which shaped my
faith and encouraged my relationship with Christ to grow, and also introduced me to non-
denominational churches. I am also very involved with Catholicism in that I attend a Catholic
institution that has been very influential in my faith walk, and I have gone as far as leading a
high school summer camp for a week this summer that was based in Catholic Teachings. I am a
Student Assistant for University Ministry where I am surrounded by Catholic, Presbyterian, and
non-denominational ideals all day. I also lead a high school and middle school youth group at an
ELCA church. So you know, Im all over the place right now and still trying to figure out my
personal faith. I dont think that we ever fully figure out what we truly believe because I think
there is always something that happens in our lives that change what we believe. At the core
though, my belief is that Jesus loves me and that Jesus died for my sins so that I can live life to
the full not so that my sins would be controlled and managed, but so that I can live, so that my
life can be free and full.
I think attending public school, where religion was not always a popular topic, has also
shaped my faith journey. It was difficult to find the courage to talk to friends and family about
faith because it wasnt a conversation that was being supported or encouraged. Now, going to a
private Catholic University, I have multiple outlets for faith discussion. However, I think that
stereotypes and perceptions of what it means to be a Christian can cloud discussion.

The experiences that challenged me the most were the Church visits (at first) and the
large group discussions. Attending the Greek Orthodox Liturgy was like walking into a room
full of obstacles with a blindfold on. I had no idea what I was getting into. I had no prior
knowledge of the Church; therefore I feared the worst. I have a bit of social anxiety that made
both the church visits and class discussion difficult. With church visits I was anxious about the
interactions I would have with people, and what kind of questions they would have for me. With
class discussion I was anxious about portraying my denomination correctly, and about sharing
my opinions with the class.
The assignments all pushed me out of my comfort zone, and helped me overcome my
challenges. My goal was to approach each activity and assignment with an open mind, but if Im
being honest, I think I entered almost every single assignment with an idea of what the church
visit would look like or how the interview would go, etc. In class realized that all of my
classmates felt just as overwhelmed and as intrigued in the dialogue as I was. This helped me be
open minded in all aspects of the class. In my research I began by having a stereotypical view of
Greek Orthodox drowned in tradition and structure. I think I was expecting the denomination to
be absolutely weird and freaky (Im not really sure why that was my perception), but as I
continued to research I realized how similar the Greek Orthodox Church is to my other
I loved our class discussions. Meet my artifact and skeleton were class discussions where
I felt like the entire class was engaged and interested. We wanted to know more about each
other. We wanted to understand the quirks of each denomination. I think that the class
discussions have been one of the most special parts about this course. I also really enjoyed the
conversation we were having on the last day of class because it felt authentic and it was a
conversation that I think we all wanted to have. We were all so interested in each others
opinions that we didnt want the discussion to end. What I like most about this class was how
willing everyone was to listen and ask questions in order to understand one another.
The most difficult but most rewarding assignment was the legislative conference. Being
paired in groups that were intentionally made to cause conflict between denominations was a bit
frustrating and overwhelming to begin with. As the project continued it was rewarding to see the
commonalities between denominations that seem so different on the surface.
The class discussions were the most fruitful for my learning because we each recognized
our responsibility in sharing our denomination with the class. I think that this responsibility
inspired more in depth research and greater ecumenical dialogue. I came into this class
somewhat afraid of conversation that would challenge me to set aside my beliefs and opinions. I
was nervous to feel attacked because faith is something that is not secure. I mean, Im trusting in
unknowns and Im hoping for a life that exists beyond what is known on earth. This class was
able to address these conversations with an open-minded attitude that relieved these anxieties. I
am leaving this class with knowledge on how to have civil, respectful, and fruitful conversations
with people.

I would consider myself an active learner. I best learn through talking to other people
and engaging in conversation about a specific topic. Discussion as well as personal reflection
and writing allow me to process and get all of the thoughts and words in my head out into the
open or on to paper. Once I am able to get all of my thoughts out into the open, I am then able to
organize and structure my opinions and point of view. I learn from discussion with others
because the discussion offers opinions that may vary from my own. Discussion offers
perspective that may help me better understand my thoughts and opinions more fully. I also
know that in order to fully learn something I need actively participate in the process through
being pushed out of my comfort zone. My comfort zone is reading and getting caught up in
thoughts. So I learn when I am able to verbally process those things Im reading and
The best learning environment for me is one where there is an expectation on each person
participating in discussion equally. When this is the case I know that I do not have a choice of
whether to participate in the conversation or not. This expectation of participation creates an
environment of learning were I know that my opinion are valued and important to the discussion.
This expectation was helpful for me in this class because I was able to get comfortable with
voicing my opinion and this led to fuller discussion and further learning. Because I was
responsible for an entire portion of the course curriculum, I learned how to become comfortable
with sharing my opinions. I knew that my opinions would be valuable and important.
What hinders my learning is a lack of participation in class discussion and in assignments
that dont allow for reflection. I struggle with class discussion that doesnt allow me to process
through my thoughts with others because the Professor is in the middle of a lecture. I love
lectures because they get me thinking and I hear a lot of really important and interesting points,
but when there is not time to discuss and process the lecture with my classmates at the same time
I have a hard time retaining the information learned in lectures.
I am engaged in learning when I am able to have an actual conversation during the class
time. Conversation allows others and me to actively participate in what is immediately
challenging and interesting to us. I think that there are many readings that engage me and that I
find interesting, but I learn more from readings when the class is able to walk through a reading
and analyze it together. This can get challenging because most readings that I have in college
courses are so long and cover so many topics. When the reading is finally brought to the table to
be discussed in class there is a huge list of things that I want to talk about, but with only a short
period of time in the classroom, I realized that it is difficult to fully dive into the numerous
My experience of how I learned and engaged in immersion was through taking notes
during the liturgy and then taking ten minutes after I left the service to reflect on my experience.
How I learned through immersion was by observing and reflection on the experience. In
dialogue I learned by listening and paying attention to what my peers were saying. Then, by
asking questions and engaging in conversation I learned more about the other denominations as
well as my own. When I was speaking from the perspective of the Greek Orthodox tradition I
was having to put into practice what I had been researching and learning. In research I learned
through my writing and analysis of the information. I made comments on the information as I
was going and this contributed to how I learned through my analysis as well. I wrote every
single thing that came to mind, and then was able to narrow down my thoughts to create the best
From the specific methods of the class I learned a lot about ecumenical dialogue and was
affected because it began to impact my interactions with the world and others. In Immersion I
was stepping out of my comfort zone, which challenged me to understand the perspective and
practices of the Greek Orthodox Church. This affected me because it caused me to have an open
mind and to be ready for anything. Dialogue required me to communicate with my classmates in
a way that allowed me to recognize that we were all on the same page in terms of the challenge
this course presented. Through dialogue I was able to understand how to best communicate and
come to an understanding when there were clashing opinions. In research I learned that there are
way more resources for Greek Orthodox than I would have ever imagined. These resources
come from the 2000 years of the tradition. My eyes were opened to the incredible depth of the
Greek Orthodox faith. As a result I gained a greater appreciation for faith backgrounds that are
different from my own, and I am intrigued by the differences rather than anxious about them. In
my analysis I was able to use it to become aware of the reasons I believe what I believe. I
understand, to some extent, where my beliefs stem from and I am excited to talk about these
things with my family so that I can continue this analysis.
All of these methods worked together to facilitate an environment of communication,
questions, and understanding. I dont think it is possible to have one without the other. Without
the research you would risk the immersion experience being misunderstood. There would be no
context for the learning process without research. Without the research and immersion you
would not be able to have a fully engaged dialog because the information and experience allow
you to have a knowledgeable contribution to the conversation. Without dialogue you would not
be able to dive deeper into analysis because the dialogue allows you to ask and answer question
that are addressed in analysis. Without analysis you arent about to have the full experience of
the class. The reflection involved in this class is why the other parts of the class are in depth.
Analysis allows you to think of topics in a way you have not thought of it before.
Ecumenism is 1) is about reaching understanding, not about changing someone else so
that they believe what you believe, 2) requires a willingness to understand opposing points of
view, and 3) is rooted in history.
1) When you are in a situation where someone is trying to convert you or challenge your
belief system because they think you are wrong, a beneficial conversation doe not happen.
Ecumenism asks people to not react to opposition, but to try to understand the other person or
group. When you go into a conversation knowing that opinions and beliefs about a topic will be
different, and you are seeking understanding, you will open the door to conversation that leads to
understanding and respect for those who believe differently.
2) If you put aside your biases and your preconceived notions and focus on the present
moment, connecting with someone different from you will allow you to learn something about
the heart of that person. When we sit and listen to who a person is, not just the statement of faith
or the specific beliefs, we make a connection and grow in respect for that human being. In
ecumenism you have to be willing to get to know someone and listen to what is meaningful to
him or her. You have to be willing to share and be vulnerable with the other person. You have to
be willing to engage in the deeper level of conversation that can hit sore spots and push your
buttons. You have to go beyond surface level. I think this willingness also allows you to better
understand your personal beliefs.
3) Ecumenical dialogue is typically more common among denominations that come out
of the same history or share the same beliefs on social issues. From the Greek Orthodox
perspective, there are not many denominations that can relate to the rich and long history of the
Church; therefore the Church is not as eager to participate in relationships with other
denominations. This goes along with reaching understanding with one another. Denominations
who are on common ground because of their history will have an easier time relating and finding
understanding among different beliefs because their differences are easier to track. History is
what has shaped us, even if we dont want to repeat history, our history is important and gets at
the reason why we believe and do the things we do. The separation of the eastern and western
Churches is distinct because there is a clear difference in the way of explaining Christianity due
to history. When you take into account the context of history, you are able to move into a space
of good dialogue.
This material has affected me because I now understand why it is so important to dive
into research and into viewpoints that are different from my own. I understand that once you
understand another viewpoint more fully, your own opinion becomes stronger. I realized that the
only way to know what my true opinions are is to have somewhat difficult conversations about
what challenges those opinions and beliefs.
This material has related to the other things Im learning at Gonzaga because I think this
is the model that all of my professors (or at least most of them) are trying to put in place. I
noticed this in my Ethics class this semester because we had class discussions nearly every class
period. What was interesting (and something that I now notice in all conversations with others)
was that whenever someone spoke of something that was out-of-the-box or a voiced very strong
opinion, they always prefaced the statement or question by saying, this is just me, or, Im
giving this point of view, even though I dont believe it myself. I was so intrigued by these
statements because it suggests to me that people feel afraid that someone is going to judge them
for why they are going to say. The classroom is attempting to become a space of ecumenical
dialogue, but our culture gets in the way of it at times, because we arent used to being in a
conversation space where all opinions matter and are valued for the discussion.
I have grown in character, conversation, and understanding through this class. I am
leaving this class with a more open mind. I recognize the importance of going about your day
open to any and all kinds of conversations that can be had. This world and this campus are full
of all kinds of different people with varying opinions. I have grown in recognizing how
important those opinions are. More than ever, I recognize the importance of asking why.
Why gets to the core of the belief. Why helps you understand the other point of view and
helps opposing views find common ground. I dont know if I would say Im different because I
came into the course fairly open-minded and wanted to understand more about the different
denominations and their beliefs. However, I would say that this class has helped me fully realize
how important it is to talk about why there are differences and see where the differences stem
from. I think overall, the main thing I have learned is that there is so much more to belief
systems than just statements and positions on certain topics. There are specific and important
reasons for why a certain denomination believes the way they do.

I am someone who is good at seeing connections between ideas or opinions that may
seem completely opposite. This class helped me to realize this strength. I am good at
communicating and being a mediator between differences. I also think that I am very positive
and believe that a persons opinions are coming from a place where they just want to be heard
and understood. I think that everyone wants to feel connected to others through their opinions
and beliefs. In the world and in relationships with others I think that these strengths allow me to
engage in discussion with others that benefits the learning environment. I also think that being
able to identify difference and talk through them is a strength that I will be able to utilize in my
future careers and in relationships.
I am good at seeing both sides of a discussion and am very willing to dialogue with
others because I want to understand where they are coming from. I also learned that I do not like
taking positions on social issues because I think that both sides have valid viewpoints. I think
that it is difficult to disagree with someone if you do not know exactly where he or she is coming
from and havent taken the time to get to know why he or she believe what they do.
My life has been a bit of a roller coaster this semester. I am trying to figure out how to be
a fulltime student, have a social life, work to pay for college, eat, sleep, and engage in my faith
life. College is quite the experience. I am very involved in youth and campus ministry and
always have been. I work for University Ministry and interact with people daily in the office, so
I am known to be a part of a team of people who is minister Christ to this campus. Ministry has
always been a really important aspect of my life because I have always felt so drawn to have
conversations of life and faith. I have people in my life (through these jobs and through finding
the relationships over time) that are engaging me in this crazy rollercoaster of life. Michelle
Wheatley, in particular, has been someone this semester that has challenged me and encouraged
me to sit in the uncomfortable and face the deep wounds that I have continuously overlooked.
That is what I want in my relationships and experiences. I want people that challenge me to be a
better version of myself. I want people in my life who bring me fun, joy, and laughter, but I also
want those people to sit with me in the hard stuff. I want my relationships to hold the things in
my life that hurt, tell me Im good enough, and ride the rollercoaster with me.
I want those things in my life because I want to be able to give the same understanding
and peace to other people and other relationships. I will be a student minister in one of the first
year resident hall next year. In this role I will be pursuing relationships with residents that are
founded on faith. But I also know that there are many people who dont want to talk about faith.
So this class has helped me think about how to address the relationships with people who may
not be all that jazzed about having someone involved in ministry living next to them. This is
where I will just be a person to listen. I aspire to work in campus ministry in the future and this
class will be beneficial in that I will be able to go into a job knowing that there are so many
different backgrounds and points of view that a student is coming from. I will focus on the
underneath, not the surface level, because there is so much more going on deeper.
Honestly, Ecumenism makes me think about the recent presidential election. Our country
is divided, it always has been, and there is tension. And ecumenism prompts me to want to
understand the other points of view. We talk about how divided our country is and how we need
to be united. Uniting in the country we live in does not mean getting every single person to
agree on one idea or opinion. Uniting the country means compromising, it means coming to a
place of understanding among differing opinions. It means listening and keeping a positive
outlook regardless of what negativity is being throw around, but also being willing to call out the
I also think that the world would benefit from considering the pains of others when we
make our decisions. Can we put ourselves in the shoes of others? I think back to the Seeing
Through the Eyes of Another reflection and of the man who embraced the killer of his daughter.
Can we embrace those who have violated us? I cannot, not yet. But thinking about it makes me
more aware of what other human beings are feeling and going through. Thinking about it makes
me more considerate of other human beings who are struggling, yet they forgive, or at least go
along with this system that allows all of us to have so much more than them.

If I were to go back and do something differently I would have interviewed Fr. Stephen
first. He is one resource that would have been beneficial from the very beginning of this course.
He offered me many reading materials that helped with my understanding of Greek Orthodoxy.
It also would have been nice to have a church visit and an interview done before giving my
presentation, but my schedule just did not allow it.
I think I was able to offer a fairly genuine and educated voice of the Greek Orthodox
Church, but I wish there was some way to get further into the denomination. There just was not
enough time in the semester. What is difficult about the assignment of immersing yourself in a
denomination is that there is so much life experience and knowledge that comes with living in
the denomination that I was not able to tap into. At times I felt like I wasnt fully representing
the denomination because there is, as Fr. Stephen put it, a deep stream of spirituality that I just
barely began to experience. This is a class that I would want to spend an entire year on because
it is so interesting and engaging and there is always more to learn.
I think something that others could learn from me is that I realize there is always more to
learn. That is something this class has taught me. I came in thinking I knew a lot about certain
denominations, but quickly realized how much more there is to discover and learn. I want to
keep an open mind and be open to the fact that I will never know it all.
The one thing that I would change, or add to this course is more class discussion about
what is challenging and interesting about our experiences with immersing ourselves in a new
denomination. I think the class discussion would greatly benefit from what struggles each
person is having. I think there was good reflection for this, but I think, in the true nature of
ecumenical dialogue, we have to understand were each of us, outside of our denomination
appointment, is coming from. I think that the discussions we had on Blackboard were great for
this, but we never go a chance to fully debrief and converse about these topics in class. I think
that our class would have really enjoyed talking about our different experiences face to face. I
think we wouldve been able to go to a deeper level of dialogue with this classroom reflection.