Tuesday, November 29, 2016

McKenzie Kielman on Church Service at the Orthodox Greek Cathedral

            I would be lying if I said My Big Fat Greek Wedding wasn’t tucked in the back of mind as I entered the church that fateful Sunday morning.  As I walked out, my mind was filled with the many similarities of this visit to the others this semester to the Hindu temple, the Catholic mass exclusively in Spanish, and the Jewish synagogue. 
            When entering where the service was held, there was a beautiful dome with iconic scenes painted on the ceiling.  At the front were figures of prominent persons, but the largest image in the whole place was surprisingly Mother Mary.  Once putting a little more thought into it, it seemed logical.  With Greece being in Europe, the saints and Mary in particular hold a much larger role than for other Christian communities.  The statues and even murals were comparable to the deities in the Hindu temple.
            The mass, true to its origin, was in both English and Greek.  We had earlier in the semester gone to a Catholic mass in Spanish alone, but this service was actually harder to follow along with.  They would go for full sections, pages in the book we tried to use to follow along with, and then circle back to do it in English.  A kind woman, Eileen, sat in front of us and helped us along.  An interesting aspect of the service with the constant music.  Even at the end of spoken readings, they would do the last sentences singing.  The choir did a beautiful job and the dome created excellent acoustics. 
            Lastly was the sense of community.  After the two-hour service, the congregation joined together for coffee and food.  It was fun to see the families co-mingling.  Our new friend, Eileen, explained that most of the congregation does have a familial connection with Greece.  Much of the regulars in attendance do speak Greek, and that made me think of the community of the Jewish synagogue.  Both have a non-required, but suggested, heritage; this creates a unique dynamic within the church.  I loved being able to be a part of it for a day. 
            I wasn’t expecting to find so many connections to my other experiences, but it was fun to see ways in which these religions or circumstances related, especially considering how diverse they seemed.  We spent some of our Denver semester talking about inter-faith initiatives, and I think this helps show that there is much common ground that maybe isn’t considered.  I feel more equipped with knowledge as I encounter more persons of diverse religious backgrounds. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Carly Kinning Reflects Through Poetry on Greek Orthodox Church Experience

“A Reassuring Congregation”
I was nervous when entering this new congregation,
But a kind man gave me a welcome package.
I didn’t know where I could sit,
But friendly members guided us to the pews.
It was hard to follow along in the service,
But a gracious woman named Elaine guided me along.
I couldn’t understand the language,
But the singing was beautiful.
I knew little about Greek culture,
But Elaine and her daughter spoke with me about their lives.
I didn’t know if I should stay for coffee and Greek foods,
But I was personally invited to join.
I was nervous to try the different Greek foods,
But Elaine’s daughter assured me the Koliva was delicious.
I was nervous when entering this new congregation,
But I am thankful for the experience I have had. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Breyanna Primous On Shorter A.M.E. Church and Hometown Experiences

Are most predominantly black churches the same? I have found in my lifetime that they are in fact the same in quite a few aspects—aspects that some churches that do not have predominantly black congregation may not even incorporate into their services. These are the aspects that I have witnessed in my lifetime.
There are many similarities that I want to talk about and the most important one to me would be the ways that they support the community or bring awareness to certain issues in the community. Issues near and dear to my heart such as injustices against blacks and breast cancer awareness and how prominent it is in the black community. My mother, aunt, grandmother’s cousin, some of my mother’s friends and my best friend’s grandmother have all been affected by breast cancer. Because of all these women in my life, breast cancer awareness is something that is very important to me; and to be able to attend a church service dedicated to this, made my heart swell.
Besides the awareness that the church talked about, there were a few other similarities between Shorter Community African Methodist Episcopal Church (Shorter A.M.E.) and the Black Baptist Church that I attend back home. Most importantly, one of the biggest similarities that I have noticed would be the acceptance of the people in the church. The people of Shorter A.M.E. were welcoming and even asked us to write down our info so that they could acknowledge us during the visitor time in the service. Even walking into the church, we were greeted by an elder of the community and she was the first to start the conversation when we arrived. Going to any other church, I have experienced people talking to me after they realize that I blatantly say that I am a visitor or after I initiate the conversation.
Lastly, another aspect that I noticed was similar but very different for my classmates, was the length and involvement of the church. I am completely used to having to sit in those pews for a minimum of two hours, but my classmates have expressed that they have not had to experience that unless it is for a special service or something of that nature. Sami and I warned them that the service would be long, but I do not think that they thought that it would actually be that long. Along with the length, the liveliness, involvement and loudness of the church is just like back home. During the singing, and especially during the pastor’s sermon, the congregation were very lively, meaning they were shouting and out of their pews. Even though this was happening, it was actually quite tame compared to the services back home, and I go to a smaller church than Shorter.
While at the service, we got the chance to speak to Corlissa Boulden, who was the elder of the church that I spoke about earlier. When we arrived to the church she was the first one to talk to us and to engage in conversation with us. This made the church feel more welcoming, having someone who is a part of the church come to us and speak first instead of the other way around. We engaged in a conversation with her about her time at the church and how she feels about the issues of churches and injustices. Miss Boulden told us that she was originally from Kansas City and moved here a little over twenty years ago, and she has been a member of Shorter A.M.E. for about twenty years. She was very insightful about how she feels about the church. She talked about how she believes if the youth are not involved in the church at all, that the church will ultimately not thrive. She also talked about how she does not approve of some of the teaching styles and the way that the youth sometimes dress for service, but she felt that it was more about the worshiping and not what they were wearing.
Out of all of the worship sites and services that we have attended, this has made me the most comfortable. Usually when we have to talk to people at a worship site I tend to be a little nervous about how to approach them and what to say. Shorter A.M.E. was the exact opposite. I felt very comfortable talking to the people that I did talk to. Like I stated before, this service was extremely similar to the services that I attend back home, and I believe that is why I was so comfortable there. I felt like I was transported back to Saint Louis, sitting next to my mother, in our church.