So, here, I start my journey through religion. My goal: to provide an informed answer to the question, “what’s going on in there?” of every place of worship I visited. What pieces of divine wisdom would I gather along the way? What, if anything, would I get from these experiences that I’m not getting by staying firmly planted in a secular world?
Before going forward, I would have to tell my family what I was doing. I couldn’t just wake up Sunday mornings and leave the house without my husnand, Phil, wondering where I was headed. When I told him that, at least for a while, I would be gone for a portion of every Sunday he furrowed his brow and muttered “that sucks.”
I told my grandmother, my dad’s mom and my only living grandparent, over the phone. She is the most religious of my remaining family, although her association with the Greek Orthodox Church in Dallas has become mostly cultural: christenings, weddings, funerals. I told her I was going to stay in a monastery for a week and she cried, “They’ll rape you!” Her hearing is not so good, though it turns out she heard me just fine. I eased her into the idea over the course of several conversations.
My parents were the ones I was most nervous about. We had a family friend who became a born-again Christian when I was growing up and it was with a mixture of pity and sorrow that we spoke of her. She may have been reborn on the other side but she had died on our side. They took the news of my project stoically, though with a bit of confusion at first. It helped that I couched it as a “scientific study,” and that I was going to many places of worship and exploring several religions. How would they feel if I settled on a religion, became a member at a single place of worship? I had a feeling that would be much harder news to break.