Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | July 4, 2012

A Note on the Passing of Peter Gillquist

When I was in transition into Orthodoxy, the story of Fr. Peter resonated that this was not truly as foreign and weird a course of action as some in my family were convinced. Fr. Peter to me was a shield of normalcy… and do-ability, typical American can-do spirit… only chasing after the Holy Spirit rather than the almighty American buck. And I didn’t actually read his book until some years later, and by that point, it didn’t add quite as much as I’d hoped for… other than that it told a story I felt I knew… only his journey was much tougher and of course more significant. But that fact was that I had already been Orthodox for some time, and getting there means you’ve already solved many of the same problems… not always the same way, but heck… who cares about all the particulars? What matters is that we landed in a church that couldn’t be moved… The Church… and we were all moved with the deepest gratitude. That much… we all share.

But on the 20th anniversary of Fr. Peter’s leading his group of fellow EOC members into the Antiochian Archdiocese, I listened to the discussions recorded on Ancient Faith of the various investigations into the early church… and what they found. This resonated, this search for truth, and the surprise on finding it somewhere… somewhere real. And yes, it came with strings and often some unexpected things like, “I guess I’m gonna have to deal with ________”, but each time you went down that road, you found that not only you weren’t the first, but that somehow it seemed to make sense. Some folks clearly have a lot more time and interest to take these matters to a depth that the rest of us… well… our linchpins were elsewhere. ‘Course, fairly… I convinced no one to follow while Fr. Peter… hey… take a look. The official count of 2,000 scarcely scratches the surface at this point! But as his writings and speeches point out, much actually seemed to resonate as though we’d always believed it had to be that way…. the way they found it… only we couldn’t find anyone or anywhere where anyone else actually said more than, “Hmmmm.” And yet the Orthodox Church always seemed to say, “Yeah, we not only swing with that, but how about this, too…. we’re over here and if you subscribe to A… well, you’re gonna have to look at B, too.” And of course we had to follow up with that, too. I did… and for the most part, it wasn’t hard… or at least it wasn’t hard in time.

There is this thing that I think we all deal with… the zeal for the sense that “at last I’m getting some answers that make sense.” Well… to some they do. I’m not saying it’s what we always wanted to do… because the search for the truth… when you don’t find it or you find that it keeps moving simply puts off the journey that follows – the journey that begins when once you realize “This is it. Now I have to step up and do something about it.” Of course… the other side is that many along the way simply gave up looking and just got on with their lives. Picking up the thread again to them I guess seems… well… “Why bother?” and “Does it really make a difference?” or “That might work for YOU or, you seem to need that, huh?” And so there’s that sort of hard part. There is every sort of resistance and every which way that we’d rather go than go forward with this sort of change. And so we pause… often in some cases for quite a while. Truth takes a while to sink in… even a lifetime in which we hide from it as though we might profess we didn’t see it. And when you find it’s been there all the time… among folks with funny looking hats, long services and not a soul anyone knows… well… hmmmm. Again…. I’d observe there can be a long pause. Some even pause ’cause they think our faith… I’ve heard this, too…. is just too much, too over-the-top… just too intense. Makes me laugh! in a sense… ’cause clearly they don’t know how much of a struggle it’d been… and what a slacker most of some of our lives have been.

Well, for what it’s worth, my sense is that Fr. Peter never shirked… and never slacked. He gave up everything more than once and came in with absolutely nothing… in order to find absolutely everything. He started over. Many had and have done so many, many times before and since… but he turned that trickle into something more of a flood. Coming in as a group, the ground shook a bit. And it’s still shaking.

There was a time not so long ago as well when some fancied Fr. Peter’s story was just a bit of Disney, they’d grown tired of hearing it, and told one and many it was not just a bit worn, but swarmy… not really about Orthodoxy at all. These folks just didn’t measure up. And you wonder… just how ugly things can get. As my Godmother says, “Some folks are just too Orthodox to be Orthodox.” Or perhaps they just want folks to think that… dunno. Truth is that I don’t know much about that… ’cause for sure, I don’t measure up much myself, and certainly I’m in no position to measure someone else. What I do know is that Fr. Peter made the impossible seem not just do-able, but real… and I marveled at that in some measure. Maybe I was like some of those frat boys he liked to visit with and turn on to Christ… only we never crossed paths… but I respect his courage, his love, and I love his faith. All of us are richer for it. We don’t have to be Elders or anything more than the simple folks we are… and he showed us that, too. Most of all… I love his faith, and his love for those wandering and seeking just as he did.

For Fr. Peter…for all who wonder as they wander and find Christ’s church… however they find it… and who find it, enter it, become part of it, and open the door to others… Glory to God! Memory Eternal!


  1. Very nice tribute. He was always good to us and our group that converted under his guidance.

  2. I enjoyed reading your thoughts about Fr. Peter. I have listened more than once to his sermon called “Finish the Race” and I’m glad to know that he did that. It is encouraging to me. My husband and I have been Orthodox for about three years and I marvel about how hard it is to do all this. Much easier to be a brandX Protestant. You right – he made it look easy, but he also struggled I’m sure.

    • You’re right f’sure: He struggled. I think his line, “A sinner saved by Grace” says all that and more. That said, welcome to the Church! and thanks for visiting.

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