The Sudden Influx into the Orthodox Church

I recently asked in a couple of Orthodox clergy groups on Facebook about whether they have seen what I have seen and heard about anecdotally — an unusual number of inquirers and catechumens showing up to the parish within the past year.

Of the 31 who responded so far, 28 said yes, while 3 said no. Outside of all being in the English-speaking world, the “yes” responses don’t seem to have any particular commonality among them — geographically, jurisdictionally, etc.

A number said that they noticed that the newcomers skew younger. Several said it’s more than they’ve ever had — in some cases, double. In the case of the parish where I continue to serve as an attached priest, it’s almost more than all 11 years of my own pastorate combined.

I am not aware of any major new Orthodox outreach initiative happening during this past year that could account for this — clergy, lay, official, unofficial, etc. Certainly one initiative, person or another might be the avenue by which someone became aware of the Orthodox faith, but there isn’t any new thing that has happened within the past year that would suddenly account for this kind of thing happening all over.

The only obvious “cause” that comes to mind is the pandemic, though we can only speculate as to exactly how that has affected people such that some subset decide to show up to the Orthodox Church for the first time. I also don’t know if other Christian groups are seeing this same effect, nor do I know if this is happening outside the Anglophone world.

Whatever the cause, it seems clear that God is bringing people to Himself right now in greater numbers, at least in the circles I am aware of.

We have a responsibility to pray for these people, to encourage them in their repentance by our own repentance, to show them what it means to be like Jesus Christ, to love them with kindness and self-sacrifice, and to show them that the Church is their true home. People coming in won’t be better off if they don’t get planted firmly in the garden and grow to be like Christ.

The world seems to be going insane around us (and in us!), and some people are even acting insane in the name of Jesus Christ, filled with hatred and mockery for fellow Christians based on all kinds of transient issues and grievances, so it is even more incumbent upon Christians to repent and be like Christ, to show ourselves to be the children of God.

Are our hearts and parishes ready to receive the people God is sending us? I know that I’ve got some work to do myself.

(NB: I am not making any statements here about overall growth (net or otherwise), the retention of converts or those raised in the Church, how long what is being observed anecdotally might last, etc. This post is about seeing an unusual uptick over the past year in inquirers and catechumens, not anything else.)


  1. Fr. Andrew, we have definitely seen the same thing at our OCA mission in Marietta, GA. A regular stream of new faces, all under 35 years old, most are single men.

  2. Our Carpatho-Rusyn parish in Greater Lafayette, Indiana has seen a surge, overwhelmingly (but not quite exclusively) young men. (One exception was a 47-year-old bachelor who looks much younger and hangs out with the young ones.)

    “The world seems to be going insane around us” has been my working hypothesis for cause of the surge.

  3. In my parish in Fargo, ND we have a very large (12 or more average attendance) men’s group which is mostly composed of inquirers and catechumens less than a year “old.” There are consistent visitors and guests, and we have baptismal and chrismation liturgies almost more often than regular liturgies.

    Several of them have found their way to the journey towards Orthodoxy via the well-trodden path of Jordan Peterson -> Jonathan Pageau -> Lord of Spirits Podcast. But not all of them, of course. It’s a very diverse bunch, for sure!

    1. I’m one of those Jordan Peterson followers you speak of. Starting my catechumenate next week. Who knows, the holy spirit might be using him as a recruitment tool…

  4. Hello Fr. Andrew
    Have you noticed any of the new members coming from the Roman Catholic church? I know several families who have left the Roman Catholic church and now attend a Ukranian Byzantine Catholic church. This happened during the second lockdown in Canada when the sacraments were denied to the parishioners. The Ukranian church stayed open and added additional liturgies to accommodate the influx of people. I have recently followed my fellow Catholic refugees to the Ukranian church. I know the Ukranian Byzantine Catholic church is still in union with Rome but some of us Catholics have to take small steps. The reason most of us have left is that we don’t like the direction the Catholic church is going so the situation with the covid thing has actual provided us with the opportunity to make the move.

  5. Had a Protestant patient in just after I read your piece, so I asked about an increase in new members at their church. They responded that attendance at services is down, but those watching live and the recorded streams on YouTube have increased. Just an observation to add to yours.

  6. Covid affected our Protestant church in 2020. My wife and I wanted to continue attending church, especially as Easter was coming up, and the local Anglo-Catholic and Orthodox parishes were still open as usual. We were chrismated Orthodox earlier this year.

  7. I became Orthodox 6 years ago and I have seen new converts in my parish. It has not been limited to young single men we have also had young families and married couples as well.

  8. While we had one new catechumen received on Lazarus Saturday, we have seen a decline. (OCA in NJ.) Majority of those who remain are “grey heads.” Families with children have indicated they have no interest in returning post-closure.

  9. Nearly every recent young convert I’ve met attributes their initial interest in Orthodoxy at least partially to Jordan Peterson. In fact, we have a church publication where new members give their stories, and JP was mentioned in the bio of every young person that converted this year. Granted, all of them have moved past Jordan Peterson at this point, but I think he really shattered a lot of people’s perceptions of what Christianity is, and generally sparked a lot of interest in the topic, so they dug deeper. The converts I know come from everything from Buddhism to paganism and protestantism, and especially atheism, but they all have JP in common.

  10. I would assume at least some are young men looking for a structured more “conservative” environment while the world pushes further and further in the other direction.

  11. Hi everyone.
    Father Andrew, I’m learning about the Orthodox Church right now via certain “liberty” circles. The common correlation from my angle is younger men and families who are witnessing evil being perpetrated by governments and corporations right now (due to a few big hot button topics we all know about) and are seeking spiritual answers and guidance (like me). I’ve been away from a church for over a decade. In this time I’ve been able to reflect and see how the U.S. has “fallen” (including myself) and I personally believe as more Americans have gotten away from God, they’ve allowed evil things to fill the voids. And now we are very much reaping what we’ve sown.
    I saw this article and just had to read it because I know my family aren’t the only ones trying to reconnect with the Lord in these tumultuous times.
    People, keep seeking truth and light. As Father Andrew says, we are coming together and something is drawing us all in like a magnet. It’s a beautiful thing.
    God Bless you all.

  12. Wondering how many are traditionally-minded Roman Catholics who seek refuge from their continuing liturgy wars, esp. since Pope Francis called for the suppression of the older latin rite in July.

    1. Last week I was at a social event at my son’s high school, which is RC and Opus Dei. In conversation with a traditional Latin rite gentleman, I mentioned I am Orthodox, and he immediately said, “We may be heading your way.”
      We Orthodox need to be ready.

      1. No doubt. The anguish of these folks is deep and profound; I hope we learn from their journey to never let weaken or give up the ownership of our liturgical patrimony, and indeed to treasure it all the more.

  13. I know why I’m drawn to Orthodoxy. It’s not exoticism or the aesthetics of the worship. It’s because I perceive that Orthodoxy is true Christianity. I also perceive that virtually all other forms of Christianity are dying: liberal Protestantism has collapsed, evangelical Protestantism is dying, Pentecostalism remains a fetish, Anglicanism is cracking apart, and even the Roman Catholic Church is being laid bare for all its many flaws. Orthodoxy is the last, best hope to preserve Christianity. Please open your hearts to newcomers, and please plant new churches in under-served areas.

  14. My wife and I were part of a group of 18 or so folks who were received as catechumens this past Sunday. In our case, we are former Roman Catholics who have spent the last three years praying and reading about Orthodoxy (COVID restrictions–which, to be fair, were handled very well by the RC diocese here–did not factor into our decision.)
    In sum, we believe Orthodoxy has maintained the faith of the Ancient Church, and we have found great holiness with her saints, both living and asleep in Christ.
    Her Divine Liturgy is the most wondrous thing we have ever seen.
    We can never give enough thanks for where we have been led.

  15. I’m a new Catechumin, and also came from the Jordan Peterson>Jonathan Pageau> Lord of Spirits path.

  16. I came into the Orthodox church this year due to my own apophatic prayer journey ( apophatic prayer has a strong presence in Orthodoxy )Jordan Peterson , a great Priest who’s now my spiritual father and the Lord of spirits podcast. I was seeking and found an ancient authentic tradition and the love of Christ . COVID definitely was a part of it. I got isolated and needed community. I’m also an older white guy and the Orthodox church embraced me with open arms. I can’t be imagine my life now without the divine liturgy.

  17. I agree with your observation for my church Fr. We too have seen a surge of young men from late teens to early thirties come to the church with many staying weeks later. It is truly a blessing and inspirational to see the work of the Holy Spirit.

  18. If it hadn’t been for Jordan Peterson I would never have become Orthodox.
    Peterson loosed the grip that Baptist fundamentalism had on me, then I started listening to Jonathan Pageau. I was received into the church at St. Tikhon’s Monastery just over a year ago.

  19. For myself I came across the Eastern Orthodox church in the last couple of years through reading the early church fathers. I think this is another avenue that will continue to bring people to the faith in future as many protestants when getting into theology sooner or later start to look at what the early church said about sola scriptura or faith alone and start seeing the discrepancy between the modern and ancient churches and how consistent the early church fathers theology happens to be (i.e. it truly was ONE holy CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC church)

  20. I am one of those who is interested in the Orthodox Church haha! Although I still feel too awkward to make a decisive move toward an actual local community.

    As for why, well it’s been 2 years of seeing how certain patterns in my life fit together, and recognizing the reality of that, and just being increasingly tired of pretending to be something I’m not, while avoiding hat I could be (but old habits are not easy to stop, either, lol.) I suppose the pandemic has also focused my thoughts more urgently on what is actually important to me, but it started before the pandemic. It is a little reassuring to hear I’m not alone in this!

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