Vacation From Church?

Is the summer meant to be a time of vacation from church?  It is a natural question to ask, since many people are, in fact, away, and church attendance is definitely way down during these hot summer months.  Most priests would answer “of course it is not!” and yes, I do not think that summer should be vacation from church.  But there is, as always, more to the story…

It is not just people who are away who are not coming to church.  Many take the summer off, for various reasons.  And this is to some extent understandable.  This may sound weird, but going to church at St. Spyridon can be very hard work, especially if you have children.  The church is crowded, everyone is talking to everyone after church, and a typical Sunday, even in the summer, often has lots of stuff happening.  Going to church can be stressful.  It is natural for people to seek a break from this.  The Cathedral also inadvertently encourages the vacation mentality.  Ministries like GOYA and Philoptochos largely go on hiatus during the summer months because they are so active that indeed a break is needed.  We also all sort of take for granted that “it is summer, everyone is away, etc.”, and don’t really blink an eye that attendance is down.

The flip side of this is that church is great during the summer.  It is more relaxed, and there is more of an opportunity, I think, to have a fulfilling spiritual experience than a typical raucous fall or spring Sunday at the Cathedral.  The weather is nice, so everyone is happy, and there are many cool saints and events celebrated – the blessing of the grapes on August 6, the saints we celebrated last week, the feast of the dormition which is many people’s favorite, and so forth.  Also, going to church is part of our normal life as Orthodox Christians.  Sunday liturgy is foundational to our lives, and to take off for 3 months is to equate church with school and work and other things that are not, perhaps, our favorite things.  Do we want to send the message that church is just something we do when we have to?  Will our children come to church when they are older if they see it is not a huge priority?

So, where to go from here?  If you generally skip church in the summer, try to come.  I always advise people who don’t go to church but want to to start coming once a month, invite family and friends, and make it a fun day with brunch after service.  If you normally come faithfully but take the summer off you can make it more than just once a month – I think you will find yourself pleasantly surprised at the service.  If you are away, seek out a local Orthodox church.  It is fun to go to a new place where you don’t know anyone and meet the locals.  Most places in the US will have a church nearby, and if you are in Greece, well, there you go.  Tomorrow is August 1, and we begin our services leading up to August 15.  A month after that is when things “start up again” at the church, with the feast of the Holy Cross.  Get a head start on coming back from vacation – start now!

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July 31st, 2011 by Fr. Greg

“The Doors, The Doors…”

If you have driven by St. Spyridon lately you will probably have noticed that work is being done on the front doors of the church.  These doors were donated when the Cathedral opened back in the day but were not always maintained properly.  They are absolutely beautiful but pretty weathered – they are exposed to rain and the sun hits them all day long.  When I turn from the altar to give a blessing I can actually see the cars driving by on Russell Street because the cracks in the center doors let in so much light.  The “Cocoanut Grove” doors on the side have been refinished, and the the two center doors await.  Here are some pictures that show you the contrast:

This is the left side door and the left center door.  The shadow is me, the photographer:

Here are details from the doors showing both the beauty of the wood work as well as the contrast in finish:

Thanks especially to George Economou, who has taken the initiative in making this happen, and the rest of the House Committee.

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July 23rd, 2011 by Fr. Greg


I am not much of a fan of Disney in its current incarnation, but I cannot deny a certain fascination with its history and influence on popular culture.  Walt Disney himself remains an interesting figure, and I cannot deny that I have good memories of going to Disneyworld and Epcot, watching Fantasia, etc.  This article on the origins of Disneyland in California, Disney’s vision and the contrast with old amusement parks, the struggle to get everything done correctly, and so forth is a great, great read.

If you have not watched Fantasia, by the way, make it your next movie to rent or watch on iTunes or Netflix or whatever.  It is like a classical music version of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine – great and varied animation with stunning music.

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July 6th, 2011 by Fr. Greg

Wait – Who Is The Intolerant One?

I have been looking for something to inspire me to start blogging again, and I am fired up after an incident, or non-incident, that happened this morning.  I rolled to the neighborhood hardware store and as I pulled into the parking lot I noticed a Prius whose rear was covered with about 10 or 12 bumper stickers and a Darwin fish with legs eating a Jesus fish (not just the Darwin fish with legs that you see sometimes).  I am into the Prius because a friend has one and I love it, so I notice them, but what drew my attention here was the Darwin fish.

Now, if you know me, you know I am pretty easygoing and live and let live.  I also see no conflict in believing in God as the Creator as well as believing in evolution or some other such scientific explanation for our development – Darwin himself believed God to be the origin of creation.  My thing about the Darwin fish is that instead of coming up with some other symbol, the people who have them take a Christian symbol – the Jesus fish – and use it to mock Christians.  The Darwin fish is not so much a statement of belief in science or whatever as it is a mocking of Christians.  It also betrays appalling ignorance of the many, many Christians like me who are believers in God and believe science is another gift from God.  I understand that the target of the Darwin fish is the Christian who believes in Intelligent Design and other such things (and can be guilty of intolerance or ignorance, as we all can be), but please…how about taking the high road, or at least coming up with a statement not so reliant on the Jesus fish, which is a cherished symbol to many of us?

In addition to the Darwin fish the car had a bunch of stickers.  Most were political and were sneering and rude (whatever happened to the New Civility?) to those on the other side of the spectrum.  Generally, when I see a car covered in political bumper stickers it throws up warning signs, but still…Some of the stickers said things like “Religion ruled the Dark Ages”.  So clearly, the driver had a problem with religious people, or at least certain types.  I will give him the benefit of the doubt – there are many people who have had bad experiences with churches, whether through abuse, unfriendliness, neglect, whatever.  Based on his political stickers, though, there seemed to at least be some sort of consistency to his thinking.

The hardware store is not big, and I figured I would see everyone from the six or so cars in the parking lot when I went in.  And I was in full priest-mode – black shirt, collar, everything.  I put a big (and genuine) smile on my face, went in, got what I needed, and got in the line near the register.  It was more a gathering than a line, so the handful of us there could all see each other.  I then engaged in a bit of stereotyping myself – I tried to figure out who was the driver of the car.  Everyone looked pretty much alike but the one whom I guessed to be the owner was indeed that person.  We ended up in the parking lot at the same time but he moved just a bit too quickly to his car for me to talk to him.  If I had had the chance I would have smiled and said “Most of us are decent people” or something like that, but whatever.  I have no idea if he even noticed me, but I would hope that anyone who feels so strongly about such matters would be open to meeting someone from the other side, as it were, and having an honest and friendly encounter.

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July 5th, 2011 by Fr. Greg