Last Sunday on holiday, my son and I checked out a Greek Orthodox service- it was on the advice of my good friend and fellow evangelist Glyn Jones. He said, ‘it’s an experience!’ So with his commendation of a right ole’ adventure off we tootled on the bus down to the small town of the small Greek Island we were holiday on, my wife and the girls chickened out and stayed at home with a leisurely breakfast.
The first thing we encountered was that the packed bus was full of Church goers in their finest garb. There were people we recognised from the beech, local shop keepers as well as the elderly couple who had made me an Island hero sensation by telling everyone that I had saved their lives by rescuing them from drowning. (I had simply given them a hand up when a wave knocked them over on the shore!)
We followed the crowd and to our amazement the service had already started. Chanting was drifting through the walls of the brilliant white building and the doors were overflowing. It seemed to be a bit of a scramble to get in, so we pushed and squeezed into the building to the sound of chatting of the congregation and chanting of the bearded priest. My son said, ‘Dad, why are we here? This is a different religion isn’t it?’ I chuckled and tried to explain the differences and what people were doing, but to be honest I didn’t quite get what was going on, so I looked confident and followed the crowds towards the front of a huge Alter which carried huge golden images and a fancy golden cross. It was awesome to look at.
The chanting continued and we watched people around us kiss images and pictures of different scenes, some I recognised from the bible, and others I didn’t.
My son and I gave quizzical looks to each other. He squeezed my hand and said, ‘dad, what are they doing?’ ‘I think we follow everyone to the guy at the front who is giving people something.’ All around us people had big roll sized chunks of bread in their hands, hungry children were chomping away on them.
We finally got to the guy at the front, who I worked out was the Priest. He had a long beard and tall hat. His clothing was immaculate, cassock overlaid with golden garments. The woman before me spoke to me and pointed to the red cloth in the priests hands that was underneath a golden old cup he was holding. I didn’t know what to do and said, ‘what do I do?’ The Priset looked at me straight in the eye and shouted ‘Greek Orthodox?’ I was rather flustered and my son grabbed my arm and I said, ‘ummm, no.’ ‘Greek Orthodox?’ he firmly asked again. ‘I am a Christian’ I declared. The Priest then said equally as strongly as before, while shielding the cup with another hand as if I was just about to dip my finger in, ‘ONLY Greek Orthodox!’ I stood before him for a few painful seconds and said in an ‘English man on holiday/Oliver Twist’ type of way ‘what should I do? May I please have some bread?’ He pointed to the source of the chunks of bread behind us. We went over and my son happily grabbed some out of the huge basket. I politely took a chunk but it felt heavy in my hands and the thought crossed my mind that at the most convenient time I would hurl it away in protest. I walked down from the beautiful front feeling left out, a follower of Christ barred from communion.
After I had calmed down and we had observed some more I weighed up the experience. And humbly chewed on my bread from the basket for those who are not in the ‘know how or in.’ It tasted good.