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Pastor finds a home in Orthodox Christianity

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090228/NEWS10/902280340/-1/NEWS Article published February 28, 2009 Pastor finds a home in Orthodox
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      http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090228/NEWS10/902280340/-1/NEWS

      Article published February 28, 2009
      Pastor finds a home in Orthodox Christianity

      BLADE RELIGION EDITOR

      The Rev. Daniel Hackney, a self-professed "ecumenical mutt," has
      found a home in the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church.

      Father Daniel, 45, grew up in a Baptist family, was active in the
      evangelical Jesus movement, attended Assembly of God and Roman
      Catholic universities, and served as a pastor in the Lutheran
      Church-Missouri Synod for 10 years.

      On Sunday, he was ordained an Antiochian Orthodox priest by Bishop
      Mark Maymon, bishop of Toledo and the Midwest Diocese, in a ceremony
      at St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church in Sylvania.

      "One thing I've learned is you don't run from something, you run to
      something," Father Daniel said in an interview this week at St. Elias.

      A native of the downriver Detroit suburb of Melvindale, Mich., Father
      Daniel said Eastern Orthodox Christianity first drew his attention
      while he was in high school and read a book by Bishop Kallistos Ware
      titled The Orthodox Church.

      "That kind of whet my appetite but I didn't really do anything with
      it for years," he said.

      Then, after his ordination as a Lutheran minister, he was studying at
      Boston College and took a class at an Orthodox seminary on the early
      church fathers. He has continued to study church history on his own,
      and over the last few years began attending Orthodox churches.

      "As I was becoming more comfortable with the Orthodox approach to the
      Christian life, I and my family made the decision last year to come
      over," he said.

      With short gray hair and goatee, wearing black clerical garb and a
      silver cross, Father Daniel said he consulted many Orthodox priests
      and Bishop Mark - who converted from Roman Catholicism - and felt
      drawn by the history and continuity of Orthodox Christianity.

      "Most people come into contact with God through the worship services.
      Most people don't read their Bibles, really," he said. "And so I
      wanted to be a part of something whose worship transcends categories
      such as traditional and contemporary, something that remains the same
      so that I can have the assurance that my children and their children
      will be praying the same prayers, singing the same hymns, and
      worshipping in the same way."

      Father Daniel said his parents were Baptists who attended church with
      his older siblings but had lapsed after he was born.

      "The first time I stepped foot in a church was a Lutheran church when
      I was 10 years old for a wedding," he said.

      As a teenager, he started a chapter of the Fellowship of Christian
      Athletes at his public high school, then became involved in the Jesus
      movement, a counterculture revival that started in the 1960s and
      lasted into the 1980s.

      He enrolled at Southeastern College in Lakeland, Fla., which is run
      by the Pentecostal Assembly of God denomination, and majored in
      biblical studies with a minor in Greek and Hebrew.

      Father Daniel graduated from Concordia Lutheran Seminary in St. Louis
      in 1998 and served as a Lutheran pastor for 10 years at parishes in
      Mississippi, Florida, and Missouri.

      As a Lutheran pastor, he organized numerous mission trips, organized
      youth activities, and led a capital program to build a $1.5 million
      parish hall in Palm Bay, Fla.

      Yet there was a desire for something else, he said.

      "I found in the Orthodox Church a richness in their daily prayer
      lives," he said. "They had a structure. They had offices of prayer
      that are easy to follow. And by daily commemorating the saints that
      have gone before us, I am now connected with them in a way that has
      found its fullness in the Orthodox Church."

      He has been studying at St. Tikhon's Seminary in South Canaan, Pa.,
      since last summer, while his wife, Carole, and their three young boys
      live in Erie, Mich.

      The separation has been difficult, Father Daniel said, but it was a
      sacrifice he felt God called him to make. Another sacrifice was
      giving up his retirement and health care benefits from the Lutheran
      Church, and when he converted there was no guarantee that the
      Orthodox Church would ordain him as a priest.

      While in the Toledo area, he has been studying with the Rev. Basil
      Koory of St. George Orthodox Cathedral in Toledo and the Rev. Paul
      Albert of St. Elias. He will serve as an intern at both St. George
      and St. Elias this summer.

      "Father Paul has worked with teaching me and training me in the
      Byzantine liturgy, which is not something you just walk into and do.
      It takes many hours of training and apprenticeship. It's very
      intricate," Father Daniel said.

      Father Paul said it takes 5 to 10 years to learn the liturgy enough
      to feel comfortable, comparing the learning process to that of a jazz musician.

      "You take years of music theory, and then more years of practice
      time, and then years later, down the road, you begin to express
      creatively through discipline, theory, and practice," Father Paul said.

      "Even after 10, 20, 30 years of serving, we are just beginning,"
      Father Paul said.

      A new priest in the Orthodox Church can be "overwhelmed by the
      details," he said. But participating in the liturgy is "a foretaste
      of our life to come in the Kingdom, when we will be able to wrap our
      understanding around the fullness of God's glory."

      Father Daniel, a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, plans to apply
      this summer for active duty as a chaplain.

      "I'm committed to religious pluralism, and by that I mean everyone
      has a right to worship as they deem necessary according to their
      conscience," Father Daniel said. "This does not mean that we have to
      accept what everyone believes, we have the right to disagree."

      Military chaplains must "perform and provide," he said. They perform
      liturgical rites and sacraments in their own tradition, but will
      listen and talk with any soldier who asks and are committed to
      providing ministry for people of all faiths.

      "If a Jewish soldier needs ministry from a rabbi, for instance, I'm
      to ensure he receives that," Father Daniel said.

      Father Paul said there are more priests than assignments in the
      Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, which has 271 parishes in
      the United States and Canada.

      Father Daniel added that as an Army chaplain, "I am willing to serve
      wherever they send me."

      - David Yonke
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