Visiting the UK
In September of 2015, our family left the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and moved to London for a stint abroad. During our six- month stay, we were blessed to find the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and St. Michael. One day, whilst looking for a nearby parish, I found the church’s website and contact information. We attended our first Divine Liturgy and immediately fell in love with the parish.
We received a very warm welcome from both the priest (Fr. Vasileios) and the parishioners. We were invited to participate in the liturgy–which was an entirely new experience for us; our daughters were given the task of reciting the Creed and The Lord’s Prayer in English. I was assigned the job of reading the Epistle. Our son–who had just turned 5–served in the altar. The older men of the church were so nice and patient and gentle with him.
On Saturdays, our children attended the church’s Greek School. From 9-1, they received language lessons and dance instruction. The highlight of their Greek School experience was performing in the Christmas yiorti.
I can honestly say we made friends during our stay. The Sunday School was wonderful. They organized a trip to the Monastery of St. John in Essex, which allowed us to experience the beautiful Jesus Prayer service. Though we are now back home in the United States, we still feel connected to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and St. Michael. We still consider it our home parish in London.
Love, The Ingram Family
Why I am an Orthodox Christian
I was brought up as a Christian but first encountered Orthodoxy in 1999 when a friend invited me to go with her to the Russian Cathedral in Ennismore gardens. The beautiful icons, meditative liturgy and countless candles burning stunned me. However, it took me until March 2011 to find the courage to ask to be received into the Orthodox Church. It was wonderful to be received by chrismation after having spent so long exploring the Orthodox church. The icons brought me to the Orthodox Church – they have a mystical quality and are a gateway into the heavenly realm. I love the rich liturgy, beautiful vestments and mosaics. Orthodox worship is so colourful – so ancient and yet always fresh and new. I feel that the saints have befriended me and that they accompany me through my journey in life. Since I became Orthodox I have had the joy of discovering some wonderful saints such as Mother Maria Skobstova and St Serapion of Pskov. Living in our secular society of today conversion to Orthodoxy seems an unusual choice. However, I know that the Orthodox Church is where God wants me to be and my conversion has brought me deep peace and joy. I hope that over time more and more people will come to appreciate the riches of Orthodoxy in the way I have done.
My family and I recently moved back home to Australia after 9 years in the UK. Sadly we left behind several friends and cherished experiences that will forever stay with us. Such experiences were enjoyed at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Cross and St Michael where we met lovely Christians who shared a passion and true devotion for Orthodoxy. During Sunday mass, our children interacted with the Sunday School and participated in several activities that enriched their faith. The Church organised day trips to monasteries and functions after Sunday mass, where children enjoyed activities; adding more fun to learning about our wonderful religion.
Father Vasileios, his staff and volunteers are most welcoming and friendly in assisting the parish and I enjoyed the fact that the Church is a tightly knit community where everyone is willing to help their fellow Christians. We will always hold with us fond memories of our son Andreas who would wear with pride, the alter boy’s uniform and assist the priest with carrying icons and crosses around the Church in procession for Holy Communion among other duties during the Liturgy.
We are also proud to have baptised our baby Stephanie at the Church and our children Andreas and Katherine both attended Saturday Greek school not far from the Church grounds and partook in celebrations such as the Independence of Greece on March 25th.
We miss our Sundays at the church and will always remember the years of service we enjoyed.
With love from all of us, Christos, Maria, Katherine & Stephanie Fragias
A Teenager’s Take on Christmas
Given the time of year, I thought it would be rather topical to write about Christmas. However, Christmas time, at least for me, is not simply a single day but an entire period that lasts for approximately two weeks. It is about giving, hope, love and happiness. In this short article I want to give an insight into what Christmas is like for a teenager in this day and age.
Let me start with a short story. It was the second week of December and exams were over. Pupils at school were on the metaphorical ‘home-straight’ that was the last week of school approaching ever closer to that metaphorical ‘finish-line’ that was the end of school and the start of the Christmas holidays. One English lesson, our teacher took us all into a school room full of elderly people. We were there to entertain our guests, and so, we began pairing up each pupil with his elderly counterpart and so began the introductions. I happen to fall upon an elderly lady, who I later learnt was 71 years old. It was not long before we began learning about one another. I soon discovered she was born in Burma, in 1940, during the 2nd World War to English parents. I replied by saying that I was 15 years old born in England to Cypriot parents. She then continued to tell me of her many visits to Cyprus in her youth, since her father was an officer in the army stationed for a while in Cyprus. After exchanging stories and anecdotes which, I have to admit, hers were rather better and far more interesting than mine, I asked her whether she was looking forward to Christmas. Her happy face dropped a little and she replied saying that she had no family, no brothers or sisters and, frankly, was most likely to spend Christmas alone. I, a little saddened as well as shocked, quickly brushed over this and we swiftly moved on to a game of bingo. However, this comment never left my mind and was further engraved as she thanked me whilst leaving at the end of the lesson saying that I had made her Christmas.
I have been told many times in life that Christmas is about family and consequently how lucky I am. However, I think that single thought-provoking comment from an old lady really made me appreciate just how lucky and privileged I am to have such a family. Perhaps I simply was not mature enough to appreciate this fact. Moreover, this really brought to light the fact that Christmas is not simply a time of presents and consequently of materialism but instead, a time of love, charity, family and giving, and above all, of hope in Jesus Christ. As a child I used to remember how I waited impatiently for Christmas so I could run downstairs on Christmas morning to find a plethora of presents under our Christmas tree and subsequently crying as I was told by my parents that only after we had returned from church would I be allowed to open them. This year my family and I decided to have a ‘Secret Santa’ – just for a little fun. Names were thrown into a hat and I drew my younger nine-year-old brother. To keep things fair between children and adults each of us was handed a ten pound note which represented the entirety of our budget. On Christmas morning my brother’s face lit up as he opened his present, signed by his Secret Santa, to find a Lego Lamborghini model. My brother is a huge fan of Lamborghini’s. He danced around with joy and I, as his Secret Santa, also felt warmth in my heart as he expressed his delight. Perhaps it was the first time that I realised this joy I felt for giving a present and what a truly special thing it was giving a present on Christmas day.
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