The Pilgrim Essays


This is an account of the shaping of my faith. I tell it in terms of pilgrimage, for it has seemed to me that my growth in faith has been very much like a journey. All my faith travels have been within Christendom; therefore I have selected three geographical and historical locations around which to orient my account, each location associated in important ways to that particular Christian group.

The genesis of these particular essays began in mid-July 2000. During that summer I had just completed my first term at an Episcopal seminary and was very disillusioned about the Anglican church in which I had then made my home. I had just begun looking, somewhat seriously though not wholeheartedly, into the Orthodox Church. I began writing these essays because I wanted to make sense of my childhood and early adulthood in the Stone-Campbell churches and why I chose to be confirmed in the Episcopal Church, as well as to come to grips with why I was entertaining thoughts of becoming Orthodox. At first the essays were merely an attempt to provide positive assessments along with critical judgements about these churches, to the degree that I then understood them. As time went on, my dissatisfaction with the Episcopal Church grew and my seriousness of inquiry about the Orthodox Church grew with it. The further behind me the Episcopal Church fades the better I am able to see it and my involvement with it. Too, I better appreciate my heritage churches in light of the growth in understanding to which I’ve come about the Orthodox Church. And, similarly, my understanding about my early forays into Orthodoxy has grown as my seriousness about the Orthodox faith has pervaded more and more areas of my life.

This narrative is not merely a description of historical events. It is an account of the development of faith, thus it will be also an account of theological reasoning. I have devoted a large part of this extended essay to theological and doctrinal discussion (see the section “What I Have Learned“), but even so some account will have to be given in the relation of decisions and motivations for actions which I recount.

That being said, it is the most honest and straightforward narrative of the events of my life I can give. To the best of my knowledge every event I described is truthful and accurate. But my interpretation of various happenings may differ from those who experienced them with me. This is to be expected. I have, to the best of my ability, attempted to protect the privacy of most of those persons discussed in these pages. Members of my immediate family, grandparents, and near relatives, of course, are here told of in their given names. For the most part I have simply resorted to circumlocution to protect identities. In some instances I have given pseudonyms.

As I write this (summer 2007), the third stage of my journey, that of the road to Antioch, by the grace of God, is complete. I was received into the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Orthodox Church through the Sacrament of Chrismation on Pentecost 2007 (27 May). These essays, then, are merely the prologue to my life in the Orthodox Church.

Note: By clicking on the sub-page links below, one can work through the essays, “Starting from Cane Ridge,” “The Road to Canterbury,” and “The Journey to Antioch.”  Clicking back on the Pilgrim Essays tab will bring you back here from which you can select the next essay and ultimately the conclusion.

Clifton D. Healy

Evanston, Illinois

© 2004, 2007 Clifton D. Healy

[Note: As will be seen, these essays were written a handful of years ago, slightly revised and brought up to date a couple of years ago. I’m not sure I would tell the story in such detail now, nor, indeed, that I would be inclined to tell it at all. Having come into a parish made up of mostly former Protestants like myself, having been acquainted with many such persons whose journey is much like my own, I just no longer find this story all that unique or even all that interesting. I have less and less illusions that anyone else would find it so. Indeed, the more interesting details are what has happened afterwards. And yet here again a certain prudence yields a sort of restraint where such tales are best left to one’s father confessor’s ears. But, that said, there may still be an instructive quality to these essays that makes them useful. If the Lord allows, they will continue to serve a purpose of a sort. May the Lord confirm the wheat and consume the chaff. Of your charity, pray for me, a sinner. 5 October 2009]