The old ROCOR cathedral of the Joy of All Who Sorrow in San Francisco with St John Maximovich's bishop's mantle on analogion stand in center of church

A Grasp on Eternity: Petition for Reception into the Church

Often, doc­u­ments which by rights belong in a cli­mate-con­trolled archive will appear as if out of thin air, pre­served by God’s grace to open a win­dow onto his­to­ry in dan­ger of being for­got­ten. We offer one such record below — a peti­tion from one Lau­rence E. Camp­bell to Arch­bish­op John of West­ern Amer­i­ca and San Fran­cis­co (glo­ri­fied by the Church in 1994 as St John of Shang­hai and San Fran­cis­co) for recep­tion into the Ortho­dox Church. We have pre­served the author’s orig­i­nal text, despite some defi­cient translit­er­a­tions of Russ­ian names, and added foot­notes for con­text where appropriate.


San Fran­cis­co, California
June 8, 1966

The Very Emi­nent John
Arch­bish­op of West­ern Amer­i­ca and San Francisco
St Tikhon’s Home
598 – 15th Avenue
San Fran­cis­co, California

Your Emi­nence:

It is with much trep­i­da­tion – and hope – that I request your per­mis­sion for entrance into the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church.

At your sug­ges­tion I dis­cussed my desires in this mat­ter with Archi­man­drite Ambrosy. I trust that he will have com­mu­ni­cat­ed to you his impres­sions of me by the time you receive this letter.

My rea­sons for wish­ing to join the One, Holy, Catholic and Apos­tolic Church arise out of the fol­low­ing experiences:

I am reli­gious by nature, hav­ing been reared accord­ing to the teach­ings of Protes­tantism, specif­i­cal­ly the Methodist Church. Being of an inquis­i­tive nature, I exam­ined all oth­er vari­eties of reli­gious teach­ing with which I came in con­tact. This search­ing led me to affil­i­ate with the Mor­mon Church dur­ing my twen­ti­eth year. This asso­ci­a­tion seemed to fill my needs for sev­er­al years. Dur­ing my aca­d­e­m­ic career I began to study the philoso­phers; this in turn led me to con­clude that all of my reli­gious expe­ri­ence was invalid, i.e., super­sti­tion, fables, etc. I arrived at the con­clu­sion that Marx was basi­cal­ly cor­rect in his esti­mate of reli­gion. I began to live accord­ing to stan­dards of my own mak­ing, doing things which were sin­ful under the old, reject­ed stan­dards. But pur­pose­less liv­ing began to depress me, and the idea of pur­pose­less exis­tence drove me at times to despair.

One evening at dusk I fol­lowed an inten­tion which I had car­ried with me for a long time; I went to the Old Sobor on Ful­ton Street1 to see how the Rus­sians wor­shipped. I had stud­ied all reli­gions in the world, either super­fi­cial­ly or care­ful­ly, had attend­ed the wor­ship ser­vices of all the var­i­ous Chris­t­ian Church­es – Protes­tant, Roman Catholic, even the Greek Ortho­dox – and found lit­tle or noth­ing to com­mend them to my search­ing mind. I had, on one pre­vi­ous occa­sion, dropped in on the spur of the moment at the Green Street Sobor2 dur­ing a Sun­day Litur­gy and was pleas­ant­ly sur­prised at the beau­ty of the ser­vice and much puz­zled at all I did not under­stand. Through the tele­phone direc­to­ry I learned of the exis­tence of the Holy Vir­gin Cathe­dral and since it was near­er to where I lived I chose to go there. I was hard­ly pre­pared for what I found. When I entered the Church I entered the realm of time­less­ness. There in the light of flick­er­ing can­dles, in the pres­ence of God and His Moth­er and myr­i­ads of Saints por­trayed in the Icons, I saw Your Emi­nence and the oth­er Cler­gy (Father Ilia, Father Spiri­don, Father John, Father Nicholai, Father Met­riphon [sic], and Father Con­stan­tine) chant­i­ng the Ves­per Ser­vice. I felt that I was in the pres­ence of The Holy – I knew no oth­er way to express it at the time. This expe­ri­ence took place in Octo­ber 1964. I have been attend­ing your Church con­tin­u­ous­ly (though at first spo­rad­i­cal­ly) ever since. I dis­cov­ered the Ortho­dox Book Store on Geary Boule­vard not long after­ward. Through many and long dis­cus­sions with Eugene Rose and Gleb Pod­moshin­sky,3 through read­ing their mag­a­zine and many of their oth­er books and pam­phlets avail­able in Eng­lish on Ortho­dox Sub­jects, through care­ful study of the Ser­vice Books avail­able in Eng­lish, through grad­u­al­ly learn­ing how to pray and how to wor­ship (even though clum­si­ly) through being allowed to be present at all of the Beau­ti­ful Ser­vices, through being allowed to feel with my sin-blunt­ed sen­si­tiv­i­ties that I am asso­ci­at­ing with indi­vid­u­als like Your Emi­nence who seem to have a grasp on Eter­ni­ty and to know exact­ly what they are doing and where they are going, I have acquired a desire to join the fel­low­ship of Chris­tians, to par­tic­i­pate ful­ly in the life of the Church, to receive the indis­pens­able bless­ing of the Sacra­ments and their help in the bat­tle with sin. I am con­vinced, although my faith is very weak, that Ortho­doxy, as it has been lived and wit­nessed to by all of the Holy Fathers and the Saints and as it is present­ly wit­nessed to by God’s Appoint­ed Ser­vants, the Hier­ar­chs of the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Abroad and all oth­er tru­ly Ortho­dox peo­ple through­out the world, is that Church which Christ estab­lished Him­self when in the flesh, and that my sal­va­tion can come through no oth­er means.

On this basis, although acute­ly aware of my man­i­fold wicked­ness and weak­ness­es, I earnest­ly ask that you con­sid­er my request and grant me the bless­ing of your approval.

Respect­ful­ly yours,

Lau­rence E. Campbell
6340 Geary Blvd. #16

P.S. I can be con­tact­ed through Eugene Rose at the book­store, or by mail


Fr John Campbell's tonsure to the lesser schema.
Fr John Camp­bel­l’s ton­sure to the less­er schema.

Lau­rence Camp­bell was grant­ed his request and received Holy Bap­tism two days after com­pos­ing this let­ter. His spon­sor was Eugene Rose, the future Fr Seraphim. Even­tu­al­ly he embarked on the monas­tic path, being ton­sured into the rias­sa at Holy Trin­i­ty Monastery, in Jor­danville, in 1979. In 2012, just two years before his blessed repose, he was ton­sured into the less­er schema with the name John, in hon­or of the saint­ly bish­op with whose bless­ing he was received into the Church 46 years pri­or. Monk John reposed in the Lord on Novem­ber 3, 2014. He is remem­bered through­out the Eng­lish-speak­ing Ortho­dox world as a pro­lif­ic trans­la­tor of litur­gi­cal texts.