Book Review: One Flew Over The Onion Dome
By Lee Kopulos
“An exciting new book about Orthodoxy Today—The New World of Converts, Retreads and Reverts.”
Right from the beginning, Fr. Joseph Huneycutt begins his must-read and exciting book with the story of Larry Nevell, a blind man. Only this story of a blind man is not like the one with Christ in Matthew 20:29-34, where two blind men confess Christ as Lord and Son of David. Larry Nevell is a blind man who tries to go it alone. And that, according to Orthodox practice, spells disaster for the new convert. Why? Because as Father says early in this superbly written and up-to-date piece:
“We’re supposed to work out our salvation in community – with godparents, priests, and fellow pilgrims struggling toward the Kingdom.”
He goes on to set the theme of this book in another light:
“The Church is not a club where we choose our leader, our companions, or even our priest.”
Yes, this is a story about what it takes to be an Orthodox when you were not raised one. But it is even more important for “cradle” (ethnic) Orthodox, for they must understand the love and excitement the seeker and newly-chrismated Orthodox has after finding the “Pearl of Great Price.” How the cradle Orthodox meets and loves the new convert is just as important to the workings of the Church.
What qualifies Father Joseph to speak on this subject is easy. He converted to Orthodoxy from the Episcopal Church after being raised a Baptist. He then spent 24 years working in the mission field of the South. Most of this effort was dealing with American converts and planting new missions. He knows what it means when seekers are instructed on how the Orthodox Church is the “fullness of the faith.” He knows what happens when the cradle Orthodox is found to not be fully aware of Orthodox doctrine, morality and/or pious teachings.
Just because “you’re a member of the Holy Orthodox Church doesn’t necessarily mean you are holy – let alone a judge!” We are all converts. When one understands this part of the book’s message one realizes that a life in Christ is a continual conversion from death to Life. This is what being Christ-like is all about.
The book goes on to explain in detail who is converting to Orthodoxy and why. It describes what new converts add to Orthodoxy, what they need in order to stay in Orthodoxy, and what extremes they may first go to in the faith, before acquiring the real elements of the Faith.
Father Joseph even covers the subject of the clergy and how they can respond favorably to seekers. Truly, the good pastor struggles with sin and the salvation of his family and his flock. Everyone must remember that bishops and priests are men with strengths, weaknesses and shortcomings. Yet, the chapter entitled “The Good of the Priesthood” is a proper one.
Finally, the book concludes as it started, with right thinking about Orthodox Christianity—we are all Family. God will judge our hearts, not our ethnicity, kookiness or position in life.
This is one of the top two books all Orthodox should read and put into practice. Our Faith is experiencing growth on a percentage basis far greater than any Christian body in America. It behooves us to put into practice the ideas and message of this book if we are going to have a formidable church in America, for as it says in the Gospel:
“Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4: 5-6)
The School of the Seventy provides a study guide to use along with this book. You can download it from the School of the Seventy Web site at www.70school.blogspot.com.
One Flew Over the Onion Dome by Father Joseph Huneycutt. 2006, Regina Orthodox Press. ISBN-13: 978-1928653271. Available from amazon.com.