During my studies in seminary, I was not Orthodox. I attended a seminary in a small town in Mennonite/Amish/Brethren country. I will not tell you which one, you will understand when I tell you the story below. But, I will tell you that it is a fully accredited seminary, whose studies will transfer to any university in the USA.
This summer, I will be returning to that seminary for one week. This will be the first time that I will be returning there for studies since the mid-1970s. Many many things have changed in my life, not the least is that of becoming Orthodox. I have been a missionary, etc., etc. But, it was time to return, for various reasons. I will be reacquainting myself with the people who were responsible for some of my early teachings, not only in theology but also in the idea that being non-violent was a way of life, that being pro-life embraced much more than being just anti-abortion. After all, if you call your brother a fool, you are worthy of punishment, according to the Gospels. Non-violence, and pro-life, mean that you protect the dignity of your brother or sister, you address them in respectful and God-honoring ways, and you are neighborly and help them out, whether it be a barn-raising or providing food during a difficult time.
I realized what the Brethren/Mennonites/Amish have created in that community when I made a reservation to stay for one week in seminary-sponsored housing, so that I could be there for that upcoming week. I wrote to the housing person and made a reservation. Then, a couple of days later, I wrote to her asking about paying a deposit, etc. This was her answer:
“Good morning. It is not necessary to pay a deposit. You can just pay when you come. You can either come pay me in my office or you can leave cash, check, or a credit card number in the envelope and leave it on the counter when you leave. When you arrive, there will be a key in an envelope hanging on or beside your door. You can just let yourself in. You can leave the key in the same envelope on the counter at your departure with your payment if you would like. Thank you so much and have a great weekend.”
I looked at that e-mail and knew that I still have so much to learn about what it means to be a Christian living in a Christian town. There is crime in that town, of course. There are college students who get drunk, etc. But, in comparison to that vast number of towns with college campuses, it is minimal. In that town, you can still leave the key by the door. In that town, you can just say leave your payment in cash on the counter, because no one will come in and steal it. In that town, trust and your word are sufficient. No contract is needed. No agreement is written. You are a Christian, your word is good enough. In one brief paragraph, that lady showed me just how far I have yet to go in my Christian life.
There is no doubt that I will not break her trust. I will pay the money. I will pay it early. I will go by her office. And, I will thank God every day that people like her are around and that towns like that are around. May God richly bless their Christian witness.