Orthodox Church of the Holy Apostles, by Sheila Galligan
This morning I missed our usual Quaker Meeting as I’d been invited to accompany two friends, Anastasia and Dimitrios, to their Greek Orthodox Church in Leyland. It was part of my need to be ‘open to new light from whatever source’ and was an experience not to be missed.
The community, which includes lots of different nationalities, felt warm and welcoming – in other words a real faith family. I felt as if I was a valued visitor and enjoyed the hospitality and the discussion over tea and biscuits after the service. Some people had more to eat as they had fasted from midnight in order to receive communion.
Lots of the worship reminded me of the pre-Vatican 2 Mass I experienced as a child. The priest faced the altar and away from the congregation. I understood the reason for this – he was worshipping God as represented on the altar, and not the people. However, I found it difficult to hear everything he said as he was not facing me.
The whole service was sung – by two women and one man – and sometimes by the priest. There were no hymns as such. They believe, as Catholics do, in the real presence of Jesus in the eucharist and so I was unable to take communion (as a non-Orthodox believer) but received some simple blessed bread instead.
The importance of the icons in the church was obvious. People came in throughout the service, lit candles and kissed the icons which had particular meaning for them. The icons feature Jesus primarily, but there is always John the Baptist as well as the Mary the virgin mother, known as the Theotokos, and many other saints. The icons are so impressive and there are many of them which fills the space with gold and rich colours.
It is normal to stand for most of the service, but there are a few benches for older people and others who might need to sit down.
There was lot of incense in the service and it filled the room at times.
The church building has been converted over several years from a Methodist chapel into an Eastern Orthodox church and this has taken lots of hard work and lots of money and vision.
I feel very privileged to have shared this worship experience with Anastasia and Dimitrios and their church community and it has left me with many things to think about. There was certainly an abundance of ‘new light’.