Note: I was asked recently by my Episcopal parish in Glasgow to write a few things about myself for The Koin, the monthly church bulletin, following more or less a prescribed set of questions. Since some of those who join my blog list might not know me so well, I decided to also copy the text here.
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I was born on St Andrew’s day of 1954, in Iasi, the second largest city of Romania. I grew up in a poor family, in a house that my father built with his own hands. I studied Economics and I worked for about ten years as an economist, making prices for new products in a plastic factory. In 1987 I lost my job at the pressure of the communist secret police, because I defended a friend who was imprisoned for smuggling Bibles. I then worked as an unqualified worker, making funeral monuments, until after the fall of Ceausescu regime.
In 1993 I came to the UK to finalise my theological studies at London School of Theology. In 1994 I got my MA in Biblical and Contemporary Hermeneutics and, after beginning my doctoral studies at the same school, I returned home and I started teaching theology in various universities in the Romania and abroad. In 2004 I have defended my PhD in Theology with a thesis on Eastern Orthodox Ecclesiology.
From 1999 to 2016 I worked as Director for Faith & Development for the Middle East & Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International, a Christian HGO working in community development, microcredit, and relief. I oversaw the design of strategies for Christian witness, church relations, spiritual formation and inter-faith, for ten countries in the Balkans, the Middle East and Central Asia.
I moved to Scotland two years ago, to be closer to my two children and five grandchildren (one girl and four boys, 20 to 14 years old). My son was for ten years a minister in the Church of Scotland and last year he made a career move, into psychotherapy, also his wife’s profession. My daughter, who moved here with her family about five years ago, is a nurse at Glasgow Royal Infirmary.
I am retired now and enjoy spending my time investing in my grandchildren, travelling, when I am allowed and if I can afford (one of my passions – I visited already about seventy countries), reading, watching movies, listening to music. I also spend time in mentoring virtually young people and in writing (mostly in the area of theology and religion, but I am also planning to start writing my memoirs). I have a blog where I write sometimes, in Romanian, French and now more in English. I work currently as editor of a second large volume of a collective book on Romanian Protestant communities (the first one, 800pp, came out in 2018).
I grew up in a little Brethren church, but when I was a teenager, I became disenchanted with the other-worldly kind of faith preached there and I became interested in Marxism. When I was close to eighteen, I went through a personal crisis and I realised Marxism could not be of much help, which brought about my conversion experience. I was then baptised, in 1972, and I joined a Baptist church, where I became soon the youth and student leader. My Christian activism (which also included some years the involvement in a dissident movement fighting for Christian rights) and my regular meetings with foreign believers brought me under the attention of the secret police until after the fall of communism. Their surveillance activities are recorded in about 2,000 pages of documents, to which I got access about twenty years ago and I published them in digital form on my blog (or course, in Romanian).
During my theological studies, especially through interaction with Orthodoxy I became more historically rooted, more liturgical and more sacramental then an evangelical could ever comfortably be and on June 21, 2009 I was confirmed by Bishop James Johnson in the Anglican Church of Resurrection in Bucharest, Romania. I was probably the only Anglican in my city, maybe besides some temporary expatriates. I worshiped quite rarely in Anglican churches, mostly when I travelled. Glasgow is the first place where I can be a member of an Episcopal parish and worship regularly in my church. I am theologically a post-conservative, post-evangelical (maybe even ex-vangelical) high church Eastern Anglican (‘Eastern’ because of the strong influence of Eastern Orthodoxy theology on my thinking). By the way, I was happy to see that Episcopalians here say the Creed without filioque, an important point of conviction for me, theologically.
I am passionate about Celtic spirituality, and Iona is my incredibly special ‘thin place’. I have asked my son and my oldest grandson that after I die, they spread my ashes on Dun I, the highest point on the island. In fact, it is on Iona, on my first visit there with my son, in 2001, that our Scottish pilgrimage began. I have been there five times and most of the people I brought to that sacred island came away changed and enlightened. I also love Lindisfarne, where I took my son, Daniel, on a little retreat, just before he was ordained.
For reasons too complex to explain here, leaving my job in World Vision was quite traumatic (and costly, more than financially). For some, until I got my pension, and after, I survived spiritually mostly by listening to the psalms, in the Audible Cambridge Liturgical Version, translated and red by my friend David Frost). This was then almost exclusively my Bible intake, outside of church. Psalm 71 was especially relevant for my sitution. I think I have listened to it at least one hundred times. In terms of prayer, Celtic ones speak most powerfully to me. I have created a Romanian version of this well-known blessing, which is sang now in some churches in Romania:
May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
May the rains fall soft upon your fields
And ‘til we meet again
May God hold you
In the hollow of His hand.
Church music is extremely important for me. As a high Anglican, I prefer the classic hymns, maybe in contemporary poetic rendering, rather than the poor quality worship music, let alone superficial, human-centred, therapeutic theology of the verses, sang in many churches today (another reason why I left evangelicalism and I seek often cathedral worship, Evensong being one of my favourite services). I wish we sang from the Church Himnary, but who am I to say. I am just a poor immigrant. 😊
Finally, I am passionate about the writings of Franciscan fr. Richard Rohr (whom I had the opportunity to meet once in Romania). His book Falling Upward. A Spirituality for the Second Half of Life I read countless times and I highly recommend it to everyone here.
Thanks for the opportunity to share with you all and thank you for receiving me in your church. I tend to be quite shy with people I do not know well. So, this may be one in a lifetime opportunity. God bless you all!