Posts Tagged 'St. George Orthodox Church Indianapolis'

A word about where we’ve wound up…

In January, we started attending Holy Apostles Greek Orthodox Church in Indianapolis. I had been there once before; they had hosted one of the Indianapolis-area Sunday Vespers services that occur during Lent two years ago, and I was invited to help chant by one of the people who helps coordinate those services. Everybody at the parish was very warm and welcoming, as well as seemingly appreciative of the chanting help, and I’ll tell you what, if the drive hadn’t been such a conceptual barrier at that point (and if Flesh of My Flesh hadn’t been in Germany for the year and therefore not able to participate in such decisions), I would have started going there regularly right there and then.

So, when it became clear that a change of air was inevitable and necessary, my first thought was Holy Apostles. It wasn’t the shortest drive (~1:10), but it also wasn’t the longest, and the memory of them being as nice to me as they had been had really stuck with me in the intervening year and a half. We decided to go after the New Year, on a more or less non-committal basis; however, it’s not stretching things too far to say that that first Sunday, they rather insistently adopted us, and we’ve been there ever since, missing only a Sunday in February when all three of us were sick as dogs.

This community has extended us a lot of hospitality, and has been such a wonderful counterexample to the trope of “unwelcoming cradle parishes”. These people have bent over backwards to make us feel welcome; they have fawned over Theodore, they have taken a lot of time to get to know us, they have opened their homes to us, and really have done more than I would have ever expected based on previous experiences to make us feel like part of the family. Some of the interactions with Theodore have been particularly touching; for example, a yiayia yesterday suddenly came up to him and said in Greek, “Come on, little one, come with me,” and just whisked him off to the front of the nave. “We’re going to see Christ,” she said, taking him up to the icon. “Kiss Christ,” she said, holding him up to it. “He loves you very much!”

As regards chanting, they talked to me about it our first Sunday there, and I was actually planning on just standing in the congregation with my wife and child for a month or so, but when we came back the second Sunday, let’s just say that I found myself unambiguously summoned. At any rate, I have been able to contribute what makes sense to me to contribute, and it has worked well. The other couple of cantors, a couple of Greek gentlemen who belong to the previous couple of generations, have been very generous and just as hospitable as everybody else; they want me to sing what I’ve been trained to sing, be it in Greek or English, and it seems to have been received well thus far. Others in the congregation have been very helpful in terms of helping Megan with Theodore, and that’s also been very much appreciated.

I also have to say, acoustically, it’s a nice little church in which to sing — that is to say, while it’s not a resonant cathedral, I also don’t feel like I have to push at 200% every time I open my mouth to be heard. It’s a favorable enough acoustic that it’s pleasant to sing and I can still talk at the end of the morning. Holy Apostles meets in the freestanding side chapel of a large Disciples of Christ congregation in central Indianapolis; it is a really lovely building, and they have been able to do a lot with it. While it’s not exactly spacious, it’s basically everything they need, and it works just fine for the most part. The cantors wind up standing in the sanctuary, but that’s a practice with ample historical precedent, I suppose, and it works well enough with the space considerations.

Right now, Holy Apostles only meets every other Sunday — as a small community getting established in a rented space, it’s what they feel is the most practical thing for them to do right now, plus they are only serving Divine Liturgy on the Sundays they do meet, not Orthros (another practical necessity, since the host congregation uses the chapel for an early morning service). That has its upsides and downsides for us — it’s meant we haven’t felt like we’ve missed much by commuting, certainly, and we have a relatively easy Sunday morning when we go, but it’s also been hard to feel like a rhythm has gotten established, and it underscores that, as wonderful and embracing as everybody has been, we’re at some distance from the community.

holy trinity frescoing2The lemonade-from-lemons that I’m trying to make from that is chanting at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church on Holy Apostles’ off-Sundays; that’s been harder, because while they do Orthros, it starts at 8:15, so I’ve got to leave here around 6:45am. There are a couple of other couples/families in our peer group who are also driving up there semi-regularly, so how we’re trying to work it for now is I go up for Orthros, while Megan and Theodore come up with one of the other families. Holy Trinity has also been very welcoming to us, and their protopsaltis has been extraordinarily gracious in letting me help, given the irregular basis that I’m there. They’ve also just completed the first major stage of frescoing their new building; iconographer Dr. George Kordis and his team were in residence for a few weeks, painting the dome, the cornices, and the sanctuary. When we were there last he had just finished, and he gave a fascinating talk about the work they had done; the talk alone was worth the drive for the morning.

So, that’s how things have shaken out for us for the time being. We’re members at Holy Apostles, while also floating to Holy Trinity semi-regularly on Holy Apostles’ off-Sundays. I may also float to St. George every so often after this summer; I’m doing an intensive first-year Arabic program, and while I have scholarly applications for that, I’m also doing it, at least in part, to gain some facility with it as a liturgical language. So, we’ll see.

If I may — twice-monthly service schedule aside, if you’re looking for an Orthodox parish in the Indianapolis area, Holy Apostles really is a lovely, warm, and welcoming group of people, and their priest, Fr. John Koen, is a very kind and soft-spoken man who’s got a lot to say of substance, but he won’t beat you over the head with it. By all means come visit, and please find me and say hi if you do. (You can find them on the web as well as on Facebook; in both cases the presence is still developing, but the core details are there.)


The Divine Liturgy of St. James: A recap

To answer the first question everybody asks: No, it wasn’t five hours long. Truth be told, we didn’t cut a blessed thing from Fr. Ephrem’s text and rubrics (perhaps the only service where we haven’t), and it was…

…drumroll please…

all of an hour and thirty-five minutes. I’m guessing the issue regarding length is a function of two things — 1) it is a recension which is itself abridged (Fr. Ephrem does note that there is an “extremely long commemoration of the Saints” that is missing), and 2) many of the priest’s “silent” prayers would have at one time been said aloud. At any rate, with the materials we have, it’s not really any longer than a Divine Liturgy of St. Basil; we may very well wind up doing it again for the Sunday after Christmas (the other traditional day for it, evidently).

Alas, nobody was there to take pictures. There are a couple of people in the parish who would normally function as “event photographers,” and neither of them could be there. If we do it again in a couple of months, we can rectify that then.

I will note that I made an earlier comment in error: the Liturgy does not begin with the entrance into the nave with the Gifts, but rather with the Gospel (roughly corresponding to the Little Entrance in St. Basil/St. John Chrysostom). This is the only “Entrance” in Fr. Ephrem’s rubrics, hence my confusion; “Let all mortal flesh keep silence” does accompany the deacon while he processes, by himself, into the sanctuary with the Gifts (presumably the idea is that this is the time when he would get them from the skevophylakion), but it’s not quite the same big to-do that it is in St. Basil’s or St. John Chrysostom’s Liturgy.

For a Liturgy perhaps one person there (Fr. Nabil from St. George) had seen before, everything hung together remarkably well; the choir kept it together very well on the music, there were no train wrecks, and everything proceeded smoothly in general for clergy, choir, and congregation alike. The makeshift ambo was quite a nice touch; the proclamation of the Word from the center of the people seemed to have an impact on some. When it was over, after we returned the church to normal and replaced the platforms in the choir area, there were a couple of people who expressed the sentiment, “Now that it’s gone, I sort of miss it.” Fr. Peter even suggested that it might not be out of the question to include a central ambo in the design of the permanent All Saints temple, hinting that it’s starting to be revived in other places.

We had a nice group of visitors; one inquirer brought his whole family, plus a contingent of folks from St. George, and a handful of people from the Bloomington Chamber Singers (who consulted us a bit regarding their upcoming performance of the Rachmaninoff Vigil).

I’m looking forward to the next time we do this. It’s a wonderful, prayerful Liturgy, and it would be nice for it to have a regular spot in the liturgical life of our parish.

Kickin’ it oldschool, ambo-style

“You say amvon, I say ambo…”

So, in going over the Divine Liturgy of St. James with our clergy Monday evening, something which became clear is that the rubrics assume that there’s something in the middle of the nave on which one may place things, from which one may read things, etc. — that is, an ambo in it’s original location.

Initial discussions had us placing the memorial table in the middle of the center aisle, but then Fr. Peter thought it would be nice to put it on a raised platform of some kind. There is a rank of platforms back in the choir area of All Saints on which the women stand, and we moved one of those out and placed the table on it. Realizing the platform segments were of staggered lengths, however, it hit me that we could place them on top of each other, giving us two steps leading up to the memorial table, making something of a makeshift ambo. The prokeimenon, epistle, and alleluia could be sung from the first step — remember that the prokeimenon corresponds to the “gradual” in Western practice, known as such because it was sung from the steps of the ambo — and the Gospel from the second step. (No steps leading down on the other side, but oh well.)

The only problem was that, since the church ran out of carpet while covering the tops of these platforms, there was a decent amount of bare plywood showing, and setting them up this way only exposed it. Really, Fr. Peter said, the only thing we could do to make it something other than a horrible eyesore would be to paint over the exposed plywood with something like a gunmetal grey. Lucas and I looked at each other — “What are you doing tomorrow evening after work?” I asked him. “I think I’m painting these platforms with you,” he said.

So, following a quick trip to the hardware store for a quart of paint and brushes, we headed to All Saints yesterday to do what was necessary. “How good of an idea is this,” I asked Lucas, “letting guys like you and me into the nave by ourselves with paint and brushes?”

“I’m just hoping nobody notices that we’ve had to take out chairs to make everything fit in the space,” he replied.

It didn’t take more than 45 minutes or so to actually do the painting; we then had to move the choir up to the front of the church in order to answer some other logistical concerns the ambo created. After doing that, and destroying taking all of the displaced chairs into the fellowship hall, the paint was dry, and we set it up as it will be for tonight.

Hagia Sophia it ain’t, and I’m not going to argue that it’s gorgeous (particularly with the power outlets on the sides), but it at least looks more or less intentional. (Alas, Fr. Peter is just going to use the prothesis table behind the iconostasis rather than use one of our outdoor shrines as a skevophylakion.) We’ll see how it goes tonight — it sounds like we will have some number of visiting clergy and interested people from the community and around the area, including a contingent of folks from St. George, the big Antiochian parish in Indianapolis. Hopefully somebody will be around who can take pictures. A colleague of my wife’s is coming tonight out of curiosity, and he has never been to an Orthodox service before. Given its length and the fact that this is the first time any of us have ever attempted to celebrate this particular Liturgy, I’m pretty sure that all I can tell him is, “God be with you.”

God be with us all — St. James, pray for us!

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