The Greek Festival, Columbus, OH
- Every Thursday, in The Columbus Dispatch (the only daily paper in cowtown),
there is a section called "The Weekender." It includes all the
arts/entertainment to be found.
This week, the "Weekender" showed a photograph of a Greek woman dancer
superimposed upon an image of the Theotokos, which rises in the apse above
the altar at the Greek cathedral, on High St.
"Here's to the Greeks!" the slogan says.
On page 2, there are quotes from various persons. One of the quotes is
attributed to Stacey Strathulis, who is the chairman of the festival. This
is his second year in that capacity.
He said: "It's important knowing about hte Greek culture and history. We've
been blessed with God's fellowhsip and strength." Mr. Strathulis goes on to
say: "Our community felt like it had something to share in terms of our
culture and ethnicity---and as a fund-raiser for the church."
About 30,000 persons will show up for the festival. The cathedral itself
seats a few more than 700. The paper says: "The cathedral serves about
1,000 families across a wide swath of central and southern Ohio, drawing
members from as far away as Zanesville and Athens."
Athens is about 75 miles; Zanesville is about 50 miles away.
I know from experience (having been someone who once was an Episcopal priest,
in Athens, OH, and occasionally served at the Episcopal church) that Greeks
serve as ushers and whatnot at The Episcopal Church of the Good Sherpherd, in
Athens. They even receive communion from the Episcopalians. The Greek
priest comes down, once a month.
From cathdral sources, I know they claim to have at least 4,400 parishioners.
Since the church can only seat 700, does that mean one family sends one
member, once in a while? On a rotating basis?
My favorite Greek (John Kefalos), a man who was my acolyte in Athens, for the
four years he was an engineering student at Ohio U., has told me: "Most of
what I know about the Orthodox Faith, I learned from you. Why didn't they
I answered: "The Greek church is not intended to teach Orthodoxy. It is
intended to be an Hellenic centre. That, it does very well. "
Mr. Stratulis said: "Our community felt (like) it had something to share in
terms of our culture and ethnicity. . . ."
What about the Faith? If auslanders came, how welcome would they feel?
Would the cuture be swallowed up in the ethnicity? Is our religion obscured
by that very Greek ethnicity?
And, if that is true of the Greeks, is it not also true of the Russians?
Are converts not treated, as one member of this list privately says: "like
dogs under the table"?
Why, yes, they are. It hardly matters what ethnic jurisdiction we are
discussing. As my old friend Shirley Schneirla once observed: "The Greeks
seem to think they are the ONLY Orthodox."
"Oh, really?!" I mockingly exclaimed.
"Well, don't they?" she asked.
"Of course, Shirley. How long long have known me? Thirty years?"
As I have (facetiously) said, when one beloved old priest periodically says
that only after one has been in ROCA for 25 years should one be allowed to
post to this List: "Only those of us who are the descendants of St.
Vladimir should be allowed any opinion, much less a posting on this List!"
Father Andrew (Laurence J. James, Ph.D., knyaz)
- I have a slightly different take on the Greek Festival in Columbus,
held every Labor Day weekend when the weather is really hot.
I don't remember in all the years I've attended this Festival
claiming to be a "Greek Orthodox Religious Festival." It's a fund
raiser and it makes no pretense to be anything else. It's heavy on
Greek, er Hellenic, culture. Well, that's "their thing" and they do
it well. Well enough to fund a $7,000,000.00 undersized replica of
Hagia Sophia. That's a lot of Baklava!
In spite of this openly secular agenda they somehow manage to bring a
few people into the Orthodox faith, such as myself and my wife Susan.
We didn't enter directly through the Greek Church as some of our
fellow parishioners did, but they opened the door for us. Once I
picked up a book called "An Anglican Orthodox Pilgrimage" (Or words
that effect). It struck a nerve. Within a year I was Orthodox and
quite happy to be away from the constant revisions and social agendas
that plague the Episcopal church.
Speaking as just another "dog under the table" I'd rather be where I
am than elsewhere.
This year the Festvial invited a couple of monks from the Monastic
Brotherhood of St. Theodore the Studite (Mansfield OH, about 50
minutes north of Cowtown). The monks spend their time at the
in what remains of the old church, now a small chapel and the church
Bookstore. In the evening they celebrate Vespers. The simplicity of
their work is quite inspiring. There are no egos in conflict, no
fights for center stage, and best of all NO ONE WAS SHOUTING AT GOD.
There was no spluttering, no impatience. It's the best spiritual
experience I've had since the last time I was at Jordanville. The
music was a vital part of the worship but it never once got in the
way. I wish we could do this.