I’m Father Bill Olnhausen, Pastor Emeritus (i.e. retired) of Saint Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. I’m 83 now, happily married for over 54 years, with a daughter and a son, and three grandchildren, two of them in college now. I was raised in an Ohio country village (population 307), attended Bowling Green State University, have a degree in meteorology from University of Wisconsin, went to seminary in Evanston, Illinois and in Manhattan. I was raised Evangelical United Brethren, went Methodist, was an Episcopalian priest for 24 years, and now for 33 years have been an Orthodox priest. For the past 53 years I’ve lived in the far south end of one suburban Milwaukee county. However, I have been in 47 of the Great Fifty and 11 foreign countries. I love Wisconsin and Greece. I’ve had stability, and I’ve been around! God has been good.
And that’s too much about me.
Note: I am no professional theologian or scholar. I’m only a “popularizer”, trying to share Orthodoxy as I have been taught it and experienced it.
I began this Blog in 2017, wanting chiefly to tell you about my experiences with Saint Nicholas and Saint Nektarios, both in Greece and here at home. However, to my surprise, we’ve covered a whole lot more than that.
Why the subtitle “Orthodoxy from the Third Coast”? If you go directly to the Blog site (instead of just opening your e-mail, those of you who subscribe), this is what will pop up:
The Third Coast, for any who may not know, is the coast of the Great Lakes. Just for the record, the American Great Lakes coastline is longer than America’s Atlantic Coast, longer than the Pacific Coast of the lower 48. So there! And that’s ignoring a whole lot over on the Canadian side. The Third Coast I’m writing from is in the Upper Midwest. (Forgive me, you Easterners who border on Lakes Erie and Ontario, but most of the Third Coast is out here.)
map from Geology.com
But why “Orthodoxy from the Third Coast”?
Partly because I’ve seen some other Orthodox Blog titles which tell where they come from, and I think it’s cool.
Partly because we in the Midwest often feel ignored. Once many radio and TV programs came from here – especially Chicago. No more. News programs now originate entirely on the East and West coasts. Most movies and cable and TV dramas are set elsewhere. Hey, folks, we’re still here! And Orthodoxy is here too. In fact Chicago has the fourth largest number of Greek Orthodox of any city in the world – coming after only Athens, Melbourne and London.
But chiefly for this reason: Though Orthodoxy is always and everywhere the same in Faith and practice, it also reflects the “feel” of where it takes root. For example, Russian Orthodoxy and Greek Orthodoxy have the same Faith but each with a different ethos. American Orthodoxy, as it develops, will also take its own character – and since the United States is vast, it will also reflect our different regions. When we started Saint Nicholas Church, Cedarburg, Wisconsin, we said we wanted to be a “Midwestern ethnic Orthodox church”.
So what is Third Coast Midwestern American Orthodoxy? It’s hard to say for sure, since it’s still in process of “becoming”.
Certainly it will be “multi-ethnic”. Despite Chicago, in most places in the Midwest Orthodox are not numerous, so people, whatever their background, often go to the nearest friendly Orthodox church. Saint Nicholas, Cedarburg, for example, has usually had about 50% converts from many backgrounds, 25% second and third generation Greeks, 25% first and second generation Middle Easterners, with an occasional Slav or Romanian.
Orthodoxy here will pick up on the Midwest Third Coast character, which for one thing is not what those on the various other coasts often seem to suspect – that we are, well…somewhat less than sophisticated? No way. We still have lots of open space – farms and towns and lakes – but the population of the Third Coast is largely urban now. That’s why I chose that lead picture of the great Chicago skyline facing out on the vastness of Lake Michigan.
Orthodoxy here will surely reflect “Upper Midwest nice”. Most people here are mannerly, kindly, slow to quarrel, concerned about their neighbors, even about strangers. God knows, these nasty days we also have our issues and divisions. (For generations Wisconsin politicians “got along” and worked together. Not any more.) But most people here go out of their way to be friendly. Midwestern Orthodoxy will have that open ethos.
Reflecting that, in this Blog my intent has been to be both firmly Orthodox and also charitable, kindly, open. If I should mistakenly write anything un-Orthodox, uncharitable or nasty, please correct me.
I post this Blog once a week, almost always on Fridays. Since this is often a continuing narrative, Posts are numbered so you can find your way around more easily.
God bless you all.