So, we’ve been busy this weekend and the week before preparing for it. Bishop Joseph, the current bishop presiding over the western diocese of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, came to visit our church and spend time with the other Orthodox churches in the area. It was a great blessing.
On Thursday, we picked up “Sayidna” (Arabic for “master”) from the airport around noon. The following day, he spoke to a number of different groups in the area combining the three churches (Christ the Savior, St. John’s and St. Nicholas). This time was for Sayidna to be asked questions, and he would also talk to the different groups about specific things. He talked to the woman first in a luncheon at Christ the Savior with tea and a brunch. I went to that, but unfortunately I didn’t get to hear him talk, because I was baby-sitting for all the little kids. Later that evening Sayidna spoke with the teens. They prayed over a soup dinner and got to hear him speak for awhile about subjects apropos to being an Orthodox young adult in the world. A couple questions were asked and answered and Sayidna moved on to the more important group… my group!
The younger kids (13 and under) got to spend an hour with Sayidna before Akathist. He didn’t talk much but there were lots of interesting questions. I asked him if it was okay to pray for animals, even if they aren’t human beings. He told me that we should pray for and respect all creation. Referring to the rug that the bishop stands on during the service, one boy asked, “What does the eagle mean on your rug?”. Designed onto the rug is an eagle flying over a city. Sayidna told the boy it meant that the bishop was like the eagle, higher than all other clergy or people in the church and responsible for protecting them.
Early Saturday morning the family (minus Jordan who was at work) went to Christ the Savior for liturgy. Afterwards Sayidna talked on how we should not care about where people come from and focus less on a person’s outward life, but more about their inside. When a flight attendant asked him what accent he had, he explained to us that if you get to know a person, talk to them for a while you would find out. But you should learn more about the inside, instead of focusing on their outside. That night there was Great Vespers at St. John’s. He talked about how we should not shush the babies while we are in church. They have excuses: they are tired, they are excited, “whatever”. Because of this, we should never be angry at them. They are young and this too shall pass.
Sunday was a very big day. We celebrated a hierarchical liturgy and it was beautiful! Afterwards, the ladies of St. John’s provided a stunning feast of ethnic Arabic food and we kids provided some entertainment. We sang three songs: John 3:16, Walking in the Light of God and the favorite, Down in the River. Also, we presented a gift to Sayidna, a collage of pictures taken of the kids at St. John’s, all in the shape of a cross. Sayidna enjoyed the singing so much that he thought that we should make a CD! The choir sang as well, song composed by our own Rdr. Michael. It was beautiful.
Last but not least, people from Christ the Savior and St. John’s joined the parish of St. Nicholas in a vespers service on Sunday night. Fr. Barnard (pastor of St. Nicholas) was elevated to Archpriest and it was wonderful to spend time with their congergation. We said good-bye to Sayidna but hope it won’t be too long before we see him again…
(Title lyrics from "Down in the River" an old gospel song)