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Wonders of the Small Church

The small church has incredible importance and value, although it may not carry the pomp of churches in Europe and elsewhere. I have one particular small church in mind: ours.

Mr. Michael L.P. LaPorte will be received into the saving Orthodox Faith on Sunday, June 5, 2022, by the grace-filled Sacrament of Holy Chrismation. Currently, Mike is employed as a clerk and works at the Connecticut Judicial Branch District of New London & Groton. He is also a graduate from the University of Connecticut (Class of 2018) with a degree in Political Science. Mike was gracious enough to submit to the following Q & A.

Q: Congrats & Many Years on your reception into the Orthodox Church. Tell us about your spiritual journey?

Michael: I was raised in the United Church of Christ. My father was Roman Catholic, my mother belonged to UCC, and my uncle was an Episcopal priest. So, you can say religion has always been a part of my life. What it means perhaps most of all is that my family and I we have always been Christians. That was always important. It was there that I discovered the political nature of those churches, but there is a purity in faith in the Orthodox Church that goes beyond that and where the emphasis is worship. After I met my Russian Orthodox fiancé Zhanna a few years ago, it opened up an entirely new world to me. Knowing what faith she is, led me to begin to explore Orthodoxy.

Q: What were your go-to web sites to explore more about the ancient Orthodox Church?

Michael: The Orthodox Church in America & Holy Trinity Orthodox Church (Willimantic, CT) are loaded with plenty of content and information, so in many respects that’s where my journey began. I began to read and chip away and decided that I must attend Divine Liturgy if I was serious about this continuing this exploration.

Q: … And?

Michael: I attended my first Liturgy at Holy Trinity in 2021, and fell in love with the Divine Liturgy from then on.

Q: Second thoughts?

Michael: Oh, no. Absolutely not. I haven’t looked back even for a single second. The Orthodox Church is where I belong. I’ve found my home.

Q: Some seekers find walking into an Orthodox Church for the first time can be a bit overstimulating. I mean, there is a lot going on here. It’s a lot different in appearance from the UCC, and even the Anglican Church. What were your first impressions of walking into Holy Trinity?

Michael: Well, by comparison the UCC is fairly plain. It doesn’t even show Christ on the Cross. How can that be, I wondered?

Q: Anything else?

Michael: Yes, there is. The preaching is different. There is much more content in the Orthodox Church’s Sunday readings then what I was used to. Orthodox clergy do not necessarily preach on current events as I was used to in other denominations. What I hear on Sunday at Holy Trinity allows me to apply the Lord’s teaching to every situation in my life. I like that; the gospel reading is personal to me. I’ve learned to best way to apply the gospel reading is to ask, “Who am I”?

Q: You speak about the practical application of the Gospel to yourself. The reading on the day of your Chrismation is from John 17:1-13 where Christ prays for his disciples. It’s an important prayer because it is one of only two occasions where the content of Christ’s prayer is recorded (the other being the Lord’s Prayer). Your thoughts? Who are you in this High Priestly Prayer recorded in John’s Gospel?

Michael: The ninth line in the verse sticks out to me (from the New International Version / NIV). “I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.” What matters to me is the people that are affected by events in their lives, both globally and personally. At the risk of getting too political, I do pray for all those affected in Eastern Europe by the events in Ukraine. Nothing can compare to the tragedy Ukrainian families are experiencing right now, but I also pray for Russians and Belarusians whose ordinary lives have been completely changed. I also pray for the people I see in my place of work every single day, who are affected by drug addiction, alcoholism, mental illness, and violence. Moreso than the litigants in those cases, I especially pray for the children who are affected by their parents and family members that cannot agree or break out of vicious cycles that they are trapped in.

Q: Any favorite saints whose intercessions before the Throne of God you pray to?

Michael: Tons. I am partial to Saint Nicholas. The first Divine Liturgy I ever attended was on the joyous celebration of Saint Nicholas Day. That’s kind of hard to forget. Saint Innocent, too. His many travels to spread the Gospel is quite amazing. I have a particular devotion Saint Yves (born 1253 in Brittany, France) who is the patron saint of legal workers and lawyers. He falls within the parameters of what I do each day at work.

Q: How do you live your faith and bear witness to Christ each day?

Michael: I have an icon of the Holy Trinity on my desk at work, and one of the Resurrection of the Lord which was placed by someone in my Pascha Basket this year. I’m always inspired to begin my day with the Trisagion Prayers. That was just another small gift from Holy Trinity to me that I treasure add which keeps me on a good and straight path.

Q: Lawyers, law clerks, and those who are incarcerated serve as a daily witness to you, I would think, given the work of your profession? How does knowing this impact you?

Michael: Whenever I see something bad that happens to someone, I offer a prayer. When someone is taken away in handcuffs, I always pray for them. I say, “May the Lord God have mercy on you, both now and forever.”

Q: Final thoughts?

Michael: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I want to thank the entire community at HTOC for making me feel so welcome from my first Liturgy all the way to today. This church entered my life at a time when I needed some serious help, having just lost a job and feeling very angry. It’s left a huge impact on me and has been a great part of not only my weekly routine but it’s helped me tremendously with my spiritual journey. I look forward to many months ahead attending HTOC.

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