I had agreed, along with 11 other people from my congregation, to attend a program on congregational discernment, but I was not looking forward to it. I was skeptical of the diocese’s ability to teach a nonbureaucratic method of reaching decisions, and I was also skeptical about our group’s ability to discern anything.
A speaker is talking to staff members about leadership and character. “The academy has been isolated and has drifted away from standard air force practice," he says. "If you see anything that doesn’t jibe with standard practice, please question it.” He is no doubt referring to indecent behavior by drunken cadets or incidents of sexual assault. The most recent controversy, however, has nothing to do with violence or drunkenness among cadets. It's about religion.
My first encounter with Christian fasting was in a Russian kitchen in the provincial city of Krasnodar in 1991. It was November and my host, a university professor, was preparing the evening meal at the beginning of the Orthodox fast called Little Lent, which is a bit like what Catholics and Protestants call Advent.
On the third day of Easter, I stood in front of the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine. With me was a prominent scholar of American religion who was visiting Eastern Europe for the first time. We were watching a priest and his flock process around the cathedral with icons, incense and crosses. “Have you heard that more Americans are becoming Orthodox?” she asked me, smirking slightly.