As a convert to Orthodoxy, I was delighted to hear about the new book: A Modern, American Orthodox Pastor: The Homilies of Father William Olnhausen, our dearly beloved parish priest. In addition to the joy of participating in the Divine Liturgy and church life since my Chrismation in 1999, I look forward each week to the inspiring sermons of Father Bill. Having spent nearly four decades like so many Americans today, outside of a spiritual tradition and practice, without the loving guidance and insights of a genuine spiritual leader or community, today I am grateful to be raising our daughter within the family of the Orthodox church, and to have Father Bill as our spiritual father. Like the editors, I am grateful to be able to share with others the love, wisdom and guidance offered by this very down-to-earth and very remarkable holy man.
Many say that Orthodox Christianity is the best-kept secret in America, and I agree. With this well-written, easy-to-read book, the secret is out. Within its pages are found insights into the workings of the original, indigenous Christian church, alive with the love of the Holy Spirit in the 21st century, unaltered and unbroken in its worship tradition since the very beginning. “Orthodox” means true, and the title of this book could not be more accurate, for revealed within its pages is a true, modern-day Orthodox pastor. Writing and speaking each week from the heart, Father Bill’s homilies share openly his own personal insights and experiences of his spiritual journey.
In my life before Orthodoxy, I knew few whom I could describe as genuinely spiritual people, who shrink their egos and allow the light of God to shine through them. Father Bill is just such a person. In 1998 the Holy Spirit spoke through him, touching my heart, when he explained how it is that we come to know God. At that point I was a typical “Baby Boomer,” college educated, secular, intellectually minded, non-church-attending, and harboring grievances against the “church” for its historical record of atrocities, malfeasance, and arrogance. In Introduction to Orthodoxy class, Father Bill explained that getting to know God is like getting to know your spouse. When first introduced, you don’t just jump right in and get intimate. You treat him with respect and get to know him gradually, a little at a time. You meet the family and hear stories about things he did in the past. You learn how and why other people love him. You eat, work, and play together, and get to know him yourself. Genuine friendship develops and you fall in love, not just your head or your body, but most importantly, with your heart. A heart that seeks God finds Him. And those who do find their lives transformed.
This book chronicles 20 years of such transformation, as Father Bill encounters the living God and His saints, both ancient and modern, as he guides his flock to deeper understanding of Orthodoxy and the Divine Liturgy, and as he comforts the bereaved. Trained as a scientist and continually reading and growing, Father reveals that intellect and skepticism play an important part in a genuine spiritual life. He shares how saints have and continue to intercede within his life and direct his path in ways both simple and profound. From his first encounter with our Holy Father Bishop Nicholas the Wonderworker, who founded our parish in Cedarburg, Wisconsin with Father Bill’s help (he basically just had to get out of the way so the saint could do his work) to the modern wonder-working St. Nectarios, who reposed in the early 20th century (Father has met and developed a relationship with the helpful saint over the course of a decade of prayers and annual trips to Greece), Father Bill reveals the living triune God, in relationship, as the Orthodox truly know Him.
In the act of worship in the Divine Liturgy each week, we are lifted up spiritually into communion with God and the angels, saints, and our loved ones in heaven, and when the Liturgy is finished, we take a piece of that heaven with us into the week. Through an active prayer life which we are gently and lovingly encouraged to undertake, at our own pace, we strive to be open to the transformation by the Holy Spirit, to undertake the process of theosis–to become like Christ Our God. The Orthodox church is both a home and a journey, a place and a path, a spiritual hospital that renews the shine of the light of God within our lives and our journey through the world. Father Bill’s grace-filled presence, guidance, and leadership is what an Orthodox priest should be: a true beacon, a guidepost, and a loving refuge along that journey.
A Modern, American Orthodox Pastor: The Homilies of Father William Olnhausen, reveals openly the “best kept secret” of Orthodox Christianity in America today. This book will stand the test of time, speaking to the hearts of readers for years to come. His sermons are inspiring to hear each Sunday, and thanks to the loving dedication of editors James Scarpaci and Michael Huber, now they are inspiring to read as well. May God grant Father William Olnhausen many more years of sharing his journey, his heart and his wisdom with us all.
A Modern, American Orthodox Pastor: The Homilies of Father William Olnhausen makes a wonderful gift, and is available online and through the parish treasurer, Suheil Acra. All proceeds benefit St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Cedarburg, Wisconsin. For ordering information, please download an order form from the church’s website, stnicholascedarburg.org, or email Suheil at firstname.lastname@example.org.