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Posts Tagged 'fr. peter jon gillquist'

Many years!

I hope that the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul finds all (both) of my readers well. In particular, I would like to wish a happy nameday to my friend Paul Bauer, my priest Fr. Peter Jon Gillquist, and most of all, to my wife Megan (“Petrina”) — my “little rock” indeed!

O foremost in the ranks of Apostles, and teachers of the world, Peter and Paul, intercede with the Master of all to grant safety to the world, and to our souls the Great Mercy. (Apolytikion, Ss. Peter and Paul, 4th authentic mode)

Many years!

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Sunday of Orthodoxy qua Orthodoxy in America

This last Sunday, being the first Sunday in Great Lent, was the so-called “Sunday of Orthodoxy,” commemorating the victory of iconodules over iconoclasm at the Seventh Ecumenical Council (“Nicea II — The Wrath of Arius”). In years past, there has been a Sunday evening Vespers in Indianapolis, participated in by all the area clergy and their parishes. This year, instead of Vespers, a morning Divine Liturgy was planned at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, who had just started worshiping in their new building in December.

All Saints’ participation was determined rather late in the game; being an hour and twenty minutes south, and with some of our parishioners commuting from as much as an hour away even further south, it took some figuring out. Ultimately our deacon stayed behind and served a Typika for those who weren’t going to Indianapolis, allowing Fr. Peter to concelebrate and a group of us from All Saints to attend.

The morning was stunning in several respects. For the occasion, a new icon was commissioned of All Saints of North America, which now includes Indiana-born St. Barnabas. The original was put out for us to venerate, and we were all given prints of it as well. I’ve jokingly called Holy Trinity’s new building the satellite campus of Hagia Sophia, but it really is frickin’ huge. As the pictures make clear, I think we had close to a thousand people in there, and people were still having to gather in the narthex. We had everybody, too (among the clergy as well as the people); Serbians, Greeks, Arabs, Bulgarians, Russians, Ukrainians, Romanians, American converts, and even a handful of Copts, Ethiopians, Eritreans and Indians. (Okay, I’m not sure we had any Finns or Estonians.) The communion of the faithful easily took half an hour, and that was with six chalices, I believe. Add another twenty minutes or so for the communion of the clergy.

Some general observations: Holy Trinity is an example of a church which I think would be too big for me to be comfortable in it as my home parish. It is a beautiful building, and it will only get more beautiful as they fresco it, marble the floors, put up the iconostasis, etc., but I’d rather see the design principles applied to a church maybe a quarter of the size. (This begs the question of why Holy Trinity, which I believe has something like 600 people, doesn’t plant some churches, but never mind that now.) I’ve heard it suggested that past 250 souls or so, you really overtax a priest’s ability to minister; I’ll throw out another possible metric, which is that you don’t want the building to be any larger than that in which the cantor can sing comfortably and be understood and heard without needing a microphone. (This assumes that churches are being built with attention to acoustics, which isn’t even necessarily the case with Holy Trinity, unfortunately — there were one or two odd decisions made on that front.) That said, I think it’s wonderful that a traditional-looking Byzantine temple now exists which is large enough to hold everybody in the metro area. I somewhat wonder if perhaps, with Detroit being, well, Detroit, there might not be talk behind the scenes of moving Metropolitan Nicholas’ throne to Indianapolis, hence the building being a size more appropriate to a cathedral than a parish church.

I wound up joining the choir; Max Murphy, my counterpart at Ss. Constantine and Elena, conducts the choir for these big combined services and I sing for him when I am able. The music was, more or less, OCA music with some simplified Byzantine things reworked for a large ensemble. My trouble is that the Orthodox musical heritage is so much richer than the utility music which tends to dominate services like this, but the reason why it dominates services like this is because it is easily scalable to huge ensembles (as well as makes congregational singing reasonably easy). Mark Bailey once told me that Kievan common chant is great because you can get 50 people singing the front page of the New York Times to it in fifteen minutes; on the other hand, he freely admitted, the downside of Kievan common chant is that you can get 50 people singing the front page of the New York Times to it in fifteen minutes. There wasn’t an overabundance of Kievan common chant at this service, but the principle was still largely the same. At any rate, it was, mostly, the music that virtually everybody in the Indianapolis area sings except Holy Trinity (and All Saints, for that matter), so it was familiar to Max, the majority of the choir, and a good chunk of the congregation.

There were some interesting moments during the procession of the icons; Fr. Taso (the pastor of Holy Trinity) originally asked the congregation to all sing the litany responses in their own languages, in the spirit of our coming together as a symbol of our unity as Orthodox Christians. This didn’t quite work the way he intended, so ultimately he led us in the Tone 4 threefold English “Lord, have mercy” common to Greek parishes (and Antiochian parishes during Holy Week if one is following Kazan). That worked just fine (although it was different from the responses the choir prepared — Max gave up when he realized that Fr. Taso was going off-script).

One always wonders what happens behind the scenes when that many clergy gather on another priest’s turf, particularly when the event functions something of a “coming out party” for said turf, but Fr. Peter made a point of bringing up that very question last night after the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. “It was very peaceful, as surprising as that sounds,” he said. “Fr. Taso called us all together and said, ‘Brothers, what do you want to do?’ To have the protos do something like that, particularly at a Greek church, is unheard of.” (When there were some inevitable uncomfortable chuckles, he said, “That’s not a swipe against the Greeks — they’d tell you the same thing!”)

Given events of the last few weeks, there have been conversations about what Orthodox unity in America means, if it can even happen at all now, if we’re looking a big step backwards, what’s the path from here, etc. etc. etc. I think that to some extent these nervous questions are a bit misguided; it’s not exactly like the AOCNA and OCA were preparing to announce an administrative merger next week and the news out of Damascus derailed it at the last second. However, I think we can look at events like this Sunday of Orthodoxy Divine Liturgy and make some informed guesses about what the practical side of jurisdictional unity might look like.

  • Somebody’s going to have to be the protos, as it were, and it’s probably going to be whoever has the resources to be so effectively, including the space to be a meeting ground for everybody. This was true in 1975 when Met. PHILIP and Met. MICHAEL unified the Antiochian churches in this country, and Met. MICHAEL stepped down; it will still be true going forward.
  • Along similar lines, there will be a group who is numerically dominant. There were ten or so parishes represented at Holy Trinity this last Sunday, and at least half of the congregation was Holy Trinity’s own people.
  • It will be up to the group who is numerically dominant and who functions as the “protos” to be a loving and welcoming brother in Christ. It will be up to the others to be receptive to that, and to return it in-kind.
  • It might be a bit of a cacophony for awhile until people figure things out. The job of the dominant group will be to help guide everybody into unity, and to do so in love.

Looking at these points, I’d argue this wouldn’t be a bad model for how things should be now, even, with or without unity on paper.

One other thought for the moment. That icon of All Saints of North America? A couple of them are American born; some of them were active in America. However, with the exception of St. Peter the Aleut (who was martyred young), none of those saints were both born here and active here. Let me suggest that before we have an indigenous church, we’re going to need indigenous saints. Some might argue that we should start with Fr. Seraphim Rose (which reminds me — I’m reading The Soul After Death right now); while recognizing he’s a controversial figure, I don’t really think that it’s in question that he is a native-born model of sanctity. I personally think he is a saint, and I believe he interceded to heal my mother from a heart issue a few years back, but I also think it will take time for the amen of American faithful to be uttered. I know a priest, and perhaps a bishop or two, who I believe might be glorified after their respective reposes. I have heard some suggest Lynette Hoppe; certainly this book seems designed to make that case. There are others I can think of, too.

My point is, until there are models of holiness who have been raised up out of “our people,” as it were, I’m not sure it makes any sense to be so neurotic and anxious about our earthly organization. Once we start producing saints, administrative questions will take care of themselves. The importance of saints who are local and recent, I have come to realize, is that they shine forth the light of Christ in a way that is immediate. What is more powerful, reading a story about somebody who supposedly did something fifteen hundred years ago, or hearing first-hand accounts of people who did those very things within the last few years? We run a great risk by holding ourselves at a distance from saints — they are less convicting that way, I suppose, meaning they’re more comfortable to be around, but they are also less compelling and convincing.

In other words — if we want a solution to the jurisdictional problem in this country, maybe what we need to do is, before we write a letter or join a lay activist organization or start a blog (all potentially worthy things to do, don’t get me wrong), we need to go out and be saints.

We will see.

Festival on Fairfax 2008

Something resembling a Greek or Middle Eastern festival is a staple of Orthodox parish life, it seems, and All Saints is no different — although we don’t call it a Greek or Middle Eastern festival, we just call it “The Festival on Fairfax” (Fairfax Road being where All Saints is located). Once a year, the community pulls together, throws open its doors to the world, and busts out the tsatsiki. Not to belabor a previously expressed point, but we legitimately have the best gyros in Bloomington, thanks to Johnny Ioannides (whose name I will continue to shout from the rooftops, since they’re just that good) — it’s just too bad it’s the only regularly scheduled day of the year they are publicly available.

Johnny Ioannides, the man who brings us the best gyros in Bloomington. Can we open this man a restaurant, please?

Johnny Ioannides, the man who brings us the best gyros in Bloomington. Can we open this man a restaurant, please?

(But it is not, emphatically not, a Greek festival. Or a Middle Eastern festival. Really. We also sell hot dogs. But no borscht.)

It’s always a good time, and in many respects, shows off the best sides of Bloomington’s little Orthodox church that could.

There are, truthfully, many things which differentiate what we do from the typical Greek festival. It’s not the mammoth fundraiser that many are; it’s not like Holy Trinity, where we charge admission in addition to food and merchandise, go all weekend and raise three quarters of the annual parish budget in the course of three days. Nope, we let you in free, we run one day only, and it pays for itself with a chunk left over but it’s hardly make-or-break for our day-to-day operations. More than one day, and we really hit a point of diminishing returns — particularly if we start having to pay staff rather than use volunteers. Getting bigger every year the way we do, we might have already hit this. Besides, Holy Trinity has the whole city of Indianapolis; we… uh, we don’t.

At any rate, the hope has been that eventually it would be more of a way of evangelizing, of being Christ to our community, rather than fundraising, but exactly how that will crystallize, precisely, remains to be seen. As with many things surrounding All Saints’ transition from being a small church community, only one or two steps removed from a mission, to being a mature parish, identity and defining characteristics are somewhat in flux for the moment. For one thing, much of Bloomington doesn’t even know (or care) we exist; in time, we hope to be more of a presence in the community. For the moment, the Festival on Fairfax is a fun way of at least holding an open house for our neighbors.

(Hey, there’s a thought. What about doing something that’s explicitly labeled and structured as an open house for the community?)

Anyway, here are some of the pictures I took throughout the day. Church tours are, of course, something we do, and there’s an information board we post relating the interior of an Orthodox church building to the interior of the Jewish temple. The big colorful image (blown up below) is, shall we say, a rather idealized digital model of a traditional Byzantine structure. I agree with my godson Lucas (who put the board together, and conducted the tours) that it would be nice if there were formal diocesan guidelines for building churches something along the lines of “come as close to this as you possibly can”; alas, much of Byzantine church architecture seems to assume the existence of an Emperor and his treasury, and the readiness of same to pay for things. Very tough for a smallish working class community to be able to come anywhere near this (as you can see from the acoustic tiles filling in for the dome).

The only Orthodox cemetery in Indiana

The only Orthodox cemetery in Indiana

On the other hand, we are making good use of the property we have (some 24 acres), and slowly but surely we are building something which we hope will still be there in a couple of centuries. For example, we’ve got the only Orthodox cemetery in the whole state (so far as we know, the next nearest is at Holy Dormition Monastery in Rives Junction, Michigan).

A hayride in the Grove

A hayride in the Grove

We’ve also got a large section of the property called the Grove which is intended to be a common area for public events once it’s finally done. It’s close to being done; flooding over the summer, as well as a few other issues, set us back a bit, but there’s a stage built, electricity wired, a pond dug, and other access points and landscaping are being worked on. Fish and a water pump will be added to the pond (both apparently in an attempt to help deal with mosquitoes), as well. Hopefully by next summer’s music festival it’ll be completely ready to go; I believe the plan is also to hold at least a good chunk of next year’s Festival down there. In the meantime, the hayrides conducted during the Festival go through there, at least.

The Big Tent

The Big Tent

The center of the action for this year’s Festival was the Big Tent — this was the eating area, it was where the music was performed (we never seem to quite pull of dancing, alas), and it was where the food was served.

The SmallTown Heroes

The SmallTown Heroes

I have to say, I enjoyed the SmallTown Heroes immensely — enough to buy their CD, which I’ve also really liked (enough to review here eventually, I think).

Fr. Athanasius Wilson, Fr. Peter Jon Gillquist’s predecessor, paid a visit to the Festival — always a joy to see him and Kh. Loretta. We don’t get to see him much anymore with his mission up in Greenwood. This community will always love him to pieces, and for very good reason. Without Fr. Athanasius, there would be no All Saints Orthodox Church right now, period. He was the right priest for the time, just as Fr. Peter is now (and hopefully will be for some time).

Fr. Athanasius Wilson and Fr. Peter Jon Gillquist

Fr. Athanasius Wilson and Fr. Peter Jon Gillquist

Besides tours of the nave, we also had the bake shop and silent auction inside the church. You want baklava? We’ve got baklava. Or, well, at least we did. You snooze, you lose. The parish bookstore was also open for business, and we had copies of Cappella Romana‘s The Divine Liturgy in English for sale and displayed prominently, natch.

Eric Leveque (left) trying to work off the freshman fifteen with Charles Coats

Eric Leveque (left) trying to work off the freshman fifteen with Charles Coats

Speaking of baklava, evidently a couple of folks ate a bit too much and found a novel way to try to work it off.

The Festival closed with Vespers. This is something for which we’re still figuring out the best approach — before last year, we just cancelled Saturday Vespers, but it occurred to us that it didn’t make any sense, if we wanted the Festival to be more about outreach and evangelism rather than fundraising, to not include a service. Reaction has been mixed — last year it worked very well, and this year… Well, the trouble is, many of the parishioners are still having to work the food booths and whatnot while Vespers is in progress, and there’s still very clearly Festival activity going on come 5pm, so there jisn’t really a compelling reason for people to go inside (particularly on a gorgeous day like last Saturday was), and there’s no large-scale movement of the parishioners to generate momentum, either. So, I’d say that this year, we had fewer people than we would have for a regular Saturday Vespers, with many of the people we’d normally see at that service being outside selling gyros, and almost none of the Festival visitors. Maybe one or two, if that.

And just like that, it’s six o’clock and it’s over until next year — 10 October 2009. Mark it on your calendar now. Best gyros in Bloomington, I tell you.


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