Converting questions

forgive me if this post is a little long. I think it prudent to introduce myself and explain where I am at before I get to the question. 
I was catholic than started having a lot of issues with the church and left it for a while. Than I got engaged and really started thinking about the Church again. I knew I did not want to return to the Catholic church so I started to do some research and came across Greek Orthodox. It was beautiful. The church was amazing, the liturgy beautiful. The only problem is the priest really did not make himself available to newbies. Never reached out to bring us in. I got a job in a different city and started to attend a wonderful Jerusalem orthodox church. It was all in arabic. Could not understand a like of it. I am German american, whiter than wonder bread. The thing was the priest there was amazing. He started giving us one and on one classes. All available. Than I got laid off there and had to move back to my home town for work. I tried to return to the catholic church but it was just wrong. Than a Lutheran friend of mine invited me to go to a Lutheran church. All was fine tell I had more time to start going to bible studies. That when issues started arriving. As we read the bible and the Pastor would explain it my mind would jump at some of the conclusions being made. It just felt illogical and at times trying to twist rather clear passages.
So this led me running back to read the church fathers and a lot of prayer. I am not in a position to leave my church right now. Oddly enough we got a big wedding happening there in may and we can not change the venue. Kinda too close to the date to have a major crisis with the Lutheran church.
So I wanted to run my plan by this group. I want to attend vespars at my local coptic church(only an hour drive away). Than after the wedding start attending the Divine Liturgy there. 
SO first question does that sound like a sane plan
Secound part of my question for any western converts how hard was it for you to convert. Did you feel out place there? Was the culture/language barrier hard to break. Also what is the process of conversion. Rebaptism? I was baptized catholic and soon to be wife was baptized lutheran. Well we have to remarry or just get our marriage blessed. Is there anything that some one thinking about converting should know. Anything you want to share about your experience?


  • Hi,

    I'm just curious, but if the Coptic Church is only 1 hour away, why not just do the wedding there? 

    We have a tremendous amount of affection towards the Catholic Church; but yes, there are things that may make people return to Orthodoxy. 

    I think no matter what Church you go to, so long as you are actively seeking Christ and His Guidance, it doesn't matter which Church you go to. However, if you've decided that you prefer the Orthodox Church, it would make more sense to get married in the Orthodox. This will save you a LOT of issues in the future.

    We are backward-compatible - not forward compatible. That means that if you are Coptic, you can have communion at the Catholic; but if you are Catholic, it may be a bit of a problem to have communion with us. Given you seem to travel a lot and move between churches, I recommend that you get married in the Coptic and then let God guide you afterwards.

    In terms of answering your 2nd question: 

    I am born Coptic, but I know a few cases intimately well where they converted or became Coptic. Indeed there was a barrier there - people tend to stick to their own kind. The Coptic Church isn't well known for integrating new comers. We have amazing liturgies, sermons, spiritual resources, but we have a culture in our Church that can be dismissive towards non-Copts or non Egyptian Christians. 

    The process of re-conversion / reBaptism depends on the Coptic Priest: some will make you be re-baptised, and some will acknowledge your Catholic Baptism. They won't ask you to be re-baptised. They will only perhaps give you the Chrismation (or Re-Confirmation again). This is done by using the Holy Mayroun oil. 

    Your case sounds very similar to mine.

  • Aschauer,
    I am not a convert but I can give you some information that may help. Depending on which Coptic Church you go to, you will find a mix of Coptic, Arabic and English. Many churches have all English liturgies (with about 10% Coptic) scheduled on different weeks. So don't be surprised if you end up on a week where there is an all Arabic liturgy. It is best to contact the priest first and let him know you're coming. 

    Second you may be able to attend an English Bible study in the Coptic Church. Most converts in my church start out this way. Then as they are more comfortable, they come to liturgy on Sundays and attend a catechumen class while others are in Sunday School.

    The process of conversion is a case by case basis. Some take 3 months, some take 6, some take over a year. It all depends on your conversations with the priest or bishop. Rebaptism is a controversial issue. Most churches will baptize Catholics but it is up to the diocesan bishop or the priest. There is a growing trend to simply charismate Catholics and not baptism. (By the way, there is no such things as rebaptism in the Orthodox Church.) Your wife will have to be baptized. I don't think you will not have to be remarried. This falls under the same controversial basis of rebaptism. Most converts I know convert before marriage. I have not seen any who converted after. But that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. I am not sure how the Church would handle the marriage. 

    Finally, your plan is more than just sane. It is what Christ calls us to do. "Walk in the light and not in the darkness." If you feel you are in darkness, you need to find your way to the light. 

    I hope you find what you are looking for. If you need anything else, let us know.
  • Hello Aschauer82!

    I just thought I would chime in, as someone who converted to the Orthodox Faith in a Coptic Church. 

    My experience is not unlike yours, having sought Orthodoxy after a period of crisis and then a study of patristics; with the exception that I was raised Protestant, not Roman Catholic. I was however was baptized as a baby in the Catholic Church.

    I have to agree with Remnkemi in that the most important thing to do is connect with the Priest of the Church you intend on attending and explain your intentions. He will be able to not only accommodate you and ease the transition, but will be able to offer all sorts of wonderful advice and instruction along the way.

    Regarding Baptism, Remnkemi explained it clearly; Orthodox Economy allows the Diocesan Bishop or parish Priest to apply their better judgement on the matter. 

    For example, in light of my Roman Catholic Baptism, I was received through Chrismation rather than baptism. However our parish has a convert who was baptized in another Coptic Church, though she was also baptized Roman Catholic. Your fiance should expect to be baptized.

    Unfortunately I can't offer much advice as to what to expect regarding your marriage, except to say that the answer to this question is one more reason to reach out to the Priest of the Church you hope to join.

    As for some of your questions related to the difficulty of conversion, I didn't personally find it difficult but I am particularly blessed in that regard. In fact the most difficult aspect of my conversion was getting up the courage to call the local Church and ask the Priest about visiting. I knew I was home after my first visit.

    One thing to keep in mind when joining the Coptic Church is that you're joining not just a Church, but also a community with a deep ethnic identity. I have found this community to be nothing but loving and welcoming, but don't be surprised when you experience a little bit of culture shock. 

    It passes and you'll find a lot to love in Egyptian culture. The food is fantastic :D.

    I did feel a little out of place at first, but some of that is my own personality. I'm a classic introvert and it took time for me to get to know people. I was particularly blessed as at the time my mother and I were the only non-Egyptians (with the exception of one woman who was married to an Egyptian) in the Church, so we received a lot of personal attention to ease our transition.

    Some of the other converts now in our parish have had a harder time adjusting, largely because they are having a hard time adjusting to the Liturgical Cycle or they acutely feel the language barrier that sometimes pops up. From speaking with them, even with the difficulties they are glad to be a part of the Church.

    At times there is a definite language barrier, as our Church receives plenty new comers straight from Egypt. I do not speak any Arabic, so it can be tricky to get to know people sometimes; though by God's grace I'm gaining a limited vocabulary :D.

    With that said, English is actually a big portion of the Liturgy of our Church as many of the Youth do not speak or read Arabic. The Sunday service is always a split between English, Coptic, & Arabic which can be confusing until you learn the shape of the Liturgy. During the week, there are liturgies held that are Arabic or English only to accommodate the needs of the community.

    I'm finding that this holds true even when we have priests from other parishes visiting. English seems to be becoming a more important part of the liturgy of the Coptic Church in the lands where English the primary language.

    One thing that may strike you as odd at first is the frank discussion of martyrdom and other seemingly "difficult" topics, even with the youth of the Church. Monasticism & Martyrdom have had a special influence on our Church and you will find their influence everywhere in our Church. The youth are treated like full members of the Church, though naturally accommodations are made to account for their age and level of maturity.

    As for my experience, it's been beautiful and I am truly blessed to not only be Orthodox, but Coptic Orthodox. I thank God that He brought me into a safe harbor.

    I hope I was able to offer some useful information. If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch and I'll do my best to assist.

    May God be with you during your journey home.
  • Thanks for the wonderful replies. It has been encouraging to say nothing the less.
    Sadly getting married in the coptic church is not posible. My fiancee and her family have put a lot of effort into the wedding and it would be too hard to change venue. Plus she would skin me if i even suggested it. She would love to go back to a orthodox church when it is over. She has the same issues when she is told she has new free will and other topics.
  • Aschauer,

    Please keep us informed of your journey regardless of where you find your home. Stories like blessedtobeawitness' have more effect on us cradle Coptic than what people might think.
  • aschauer, I had a very difficult time converting, but not because of anything other than my own self. I am a deeply flawed individual that still thinks he knows it all. So when I was living in Ethiopia I could not help but attack the church, which I seen as wrong. I felt that people worshipped pictures and the dead and that the liturgy was just a collection of man made traditions and rituals which were not beneficial to the soul. However, I could not deny the history, especially when it came to Oriental Orthodox. So I was experiencing an inner conflict, I KNOW this is true but I do not want to accept it. So first things first you must deny yourself BEFORE you can take up your cross. (Mt 16:24) If you do not deny yourself then you will be your own stumbling block.

    You see, I was not raised to believe in anything and therefore had no choice but to rely on my own self. 20 some years later I felt I did not give religion a fair shake and so I said "If there is a God, lead me to you no matter what." I essentially dedicated myself to truth and accepting it no matter what the cost, in spite of my own weak self. Converting is difficult for most but if you deny yourself and accept that which is true no matter what, you will be just fine.
  • thanks for the kind words I will update when i have some more experience on this.
  • aschauer, feel free to message me anytime with any question. No question is off limits.
  • So tonight was my first experience
    Tell you what going down there was a lot of nervous energy. I tend to suffer bouts of anxiety and this was bringing on a lot. Also being stuck in traffic in a down pour was not helping.
    I got to St Antonious orthodox church and sat in the back. Took in my surroundings as people filled. A cute little boy ran up and gave me a book. I assume it was a vesper book, but as I opened well I would say it was Greek to me, but in this case it was Arabic to me. It did not matter I was here. I am going to take this in.
    Than the Priest came in and tapped me on the shoulder and pointed towards the front. So I lost my comfy seat safely in the back and had to move into the danger of the front.
    well about the fourth seat back. 
    So it started. I was instantly drown in. The Arabic chants are so lively So up lifting. It instantly filled me with joy and brought my thoughts to god. Some one handed me a translation that was in english. The problem when you get a translation half through is you have no idea where you are. The gentlemen behind reached over my shoulder and started fliping through my book. Than he pointed to where we where. That helped a bunch.
    During the procession the priest said something to two young ladies and in a few short minutes up on a projector to my english loving eyes where the words. The ladies even used the mouse to show me where we are. It was great.
    It was a deeply moving experience. I felt deeply out of place before it started. I think that was just me. Not like any one pointed and side why is whitey here. So than as the chanting started and cymbals striking I was so absorbed in what was going on too even notice.
    Than sadly it came to an end. The priest came down the aisle. I kissed his hand, his cross, and I do not what that silver square thing was, but I kissed it.
    It was done with. people where hugging, breaking off into groups. Conversations started. I shock my foot to get circulation back into my toes. Bowed and stepped out. 
    The rain had not stopped.    
  • lovely story, thank you so much for sharing your personal experience with us.
    the silver square thing was the 'gospel book' (often the new testament and not just the gospels) which is put in a beautiful case and mainly used just for processions as these days churches have enough money for more than one Bible.
    but if all the Bibles were stolen or burnt, they could open the case and read from it.

    please let us know how it goes before you go back, i hope your fiancee will also be able to visit with you soon, so that you are on this journey together (even if at different speeds).

    (i am a white lady in uk, i have been orthodox 5 years. i know it feels a bit odd for any white / east asian / wrong shade of brown person when they go into a community where most people are from similar ethnic groups, but it is definitely worthwhile ignoring this feeling and finding out more about God.)
  • Speaking of fiancee we had a long talk about it last night and diacussed the "from two natures" and "in two natures". She wants to go, when the wedding done.
    Praise to god.
  • Yea the nature discussion is a tough one, I recommend reading St Cyrils tomes to Nestorius, they are quite amazing but I am fairly biased towards St Cyril.
  • Do you have a link to those?

    If you want it in print you can get it on amazon
  • Hi ASchauer82,

    You can find a web edition of that same book here, if you are interested:

    Also, congratulations on your first visit to the Church. I thank God it was a pleasant experience, and I'm even happier to hear your fiance is interested in making the journey with you.
  • edited March 2014

    I am so happy to hear your story as it is very uplifting for us naturally-born Coptics as well. Sometimes, I take advantage of the fact that I was born into this beautiful Church and I treat it as though it is sometimes just an everyday occurrence; something I'm just accustomed to. However, hearing stories such as yours reminds me how special my beloved Church is, and how dear it is to me. 

    I recently had the privilege of going to several places of worship because my fiance is taking a Sociology class (she is also Coptic), and she was scared to go to these places alone. I visited several churches/temples with her and in all I felt an uneasy feeling that I was in a place I did not belong. When we went back to Church for our usual Sunday Liturgy, I felt so relieved and assured of where my rightful place is, right in my humble Church, with these beautiful icons and Christ sitting on the altar for me.

    Sometimes it just takes missing something to realize how important it is in your life. When I miss a Sunday for whatever reason due to traveling, etc., I feel an intense amount of hurt that today is not a normal Sunday; today is a day I did not go home.

    As you learn and grow more in this path, you too will find that there is definitely no place like home, and I hope you finally find it with our beloved Church.

    To get an idea of what our Church is about, please listen to this song and you will understand who and what we are and represent: 

    I urge you to call this Priest and discuss with him further your intentions. Even if you do not make your place home here, you will have a much more educated understanding of your choices.

    I will pray for you and your fiance my friend, and I also urge you to read Jeremiah 29:13.

    May Christ lead you home, in his rightful bosom and loving arms.
  • Thanks for the links and i will read the tome as soon as i am free.
    Also rony thanks for sharing about your thoughts and love for your church. Great hymn.
  • aschauer82:

    I married a Coptic woman in 2011. I come from a strong, Roman Catholic Italian-American family. I converted not only for marriage, but because I had lost passion for the Roman church. I felt something was missing and the respect for certain traditions are overlooked for modernization and political correctness. I would love to help you as an American who converted to the Coptic church.

    Firstly, I am not sure if you being married in another church would be beneficial to you. I would suggest a judge marrying you before you consider a change in religion. This is something you must speak with to your future wife and have her come to liturgy with you and experience the church. When you get married in a Coptic church, as with all Orthodox churches, marriage is a true joining of two people into one. You will have to consider your future wife when if you consider joining the church. 

    Second, study up! The Coptic church is Oriental Orthodox which is different from the Greek church with different beliefs in the Nature of Christ (Which is a great book you can get at the Coptic Church). When I was preparing to join I wanted to learn about all of Orthodoxy and found that although we are all one family, the Coptic Church does have different views from various schisms. That is something you have to learn. 

    Finally, joining was not too difficult for me because I truly felt welcome in the church. I remember when I got my first communion with my red bow priest told me, "Our church loves you." That was very powerful. Also, the respect they have for the TRUE belief that it is the body and blood of Jesus Christ is a wonderful experience that makes taking communion every week a powerful experience. It took me about 6 months of not eating or drinking the night before and sitting through liturgy and seeing others receive communion to know that it was true respect for the church's beliefs.

    I was re baptized, but because I came from the Roman church, it was far more about learning, interacting and understanding the whole aspect of the church. The only thing you have to get used to is some of the Egyptian-specific aspects of their beliefs, which may seem alien to a person from the west, but when you learn more about the church you see much of it is our of respect for tradition. 

    It is a wonderful and difficult experience to join a Coptic church and there are a great number of people who will welcome you to this wonderful church. I would suggest you have your future wife come with you and perhaps speak with a priest, or a member who may have been born in the U.S. to help speak to you. I have been to many churches and have only found one to be a little too pushy about being involved in activities if you aren't ready to dive in, but if you say you wish only to dip your toe in the water they will be understanding. 

    Hopefully this helps you, I wanted to give you a basic answer to your question. 

  • thanks for sharing. i have heard of others start fasting before they started taking Holy Communion also.
    it's good to be as fully prepared as you can!

  • Thanks for sharing. It is very inspiring.
  • Two years later....
    Never joined. Now going through a divorce and bankruptcy so my life is in ruins. My faith really is in tatters. 
    We could not get through a ethnic barrier. We started to feel like tourists so we stopped going.  It was hard to always be the one standing out in the crowd. Are faith has suffered a lot as we've been to about 4 other churches in the last year. I read a lot more on the oriental theology. I can honestly say it is the only christology that makes sense. I am going to try to make a push to show up just at vespars and try to slowly get past the that barrier. 
  • Feel free to PM me whenever you need someone to talk to.
  • may God comfort you and give you peace.
    His love for you never fails.
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