Friday, July 9, 2010

Another Sunday in Liverpool (Learning to Live in England, Part 13)

At last we made it - and on time, too! - to an Orthodox Divine Liturgy. It felt so good to be back where we belong.

It was virtually all in Greek.

Afterwards, we met the psaltis (cantor), an enthusiastic man about forty-something named Elias. He comes from Thessaloniki. In fact, he grew up in approximately the same neighborhood where we live when we are there.  He is also an avid student of theology, although he does not intend to pursue priesthood. So we had much in common and look forward to pursuing that relationship.

The only other person with whom we conversed was the priest, Fr. Iakovos, an elderly man with a nice smile and a short, snowy beard. He and Demetrios had been talking for two or three minutes already by time I joined them.  Demetrios introduced me and the priest asked, 'Einai dikia mas?' Is she one of our own?

Demetrios said yes, she's Orthodox, but that wasn't what Fr. Iakovos had in mind. No, no, he meant, is she Greek?

'No,' I said, in English. 'I'm American. But I'm Orthodox.'  I shrugged.  'Does that count? Eimai dikia sas? (Am I one of your own?)' flashing him my biggest smile.

'Well,' he replied, in English and obviously in some minor distress that I had understood him, 'In the case of mixed marriages, since you are married to him, yes, we still consider you one of us.'

'And if I were still Orthodox but not married to a Greek? What then?'

There was a moment of hand-wringing before he said, 'Well, certainly we never turn anyone away...'

So I smiled again, as broadly as I could, and said, 'Thank you! That makes me feel warm and good inside.' Which it did.  I'm in - more or less - should I care to be. 

Nobody else spoke to us.  Well, we didn't go there for social reasons, so we shan't mind.

We walked from the church to Liverpool Cathedral and had a little snack lunch in the cafe there before sitting through most of Evensong because Demetrios likes that service. We couldn't sit through all of it because it lasted until 4:00 and we had to be out of there by 3:30 to find the restaurant where we were to join in the birthday celebration dinner for James, Demetrios' godson.  He turns 29 later this week.

Walk to the ruins of St. Luke's, turn onto Seel street, ask the way. A man pointed to a white stucco building a block or so away and said, that's it. That's the Alma de Cuba Restaurant

The Alma de Cuba is in the a former Catholic Church. Above where the altar once was is still the inscription: Tu Es Petrus, Thou Art Peter. Of course, I thought to myself; what else? Then I remembered it used to be the Church of St. Peter.

There is a long bar now alongside the right side of the nave, with a kitchen behind it and lounge seating across on the left side of the nave. Up the chancel steps is another seating area for bar customers, and the alcove behind where the altar used to be is all mirrored. (What an interesting idea! Mirror behind the altar!)

An upstairs has been constructed, where we sat with David and Julia and James and Kim and the younger son, Nick.

There was live gospel music for the first hour, with renditions of O Happy Day and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot and such making conversation all but impossible. The food was good, though, and after the gospel choir had finished for the day, we were better able to enjoy one another.

David told the story about how he became 'Dr. Bate.' He isn't really a doctor; he's a business man. But way back when, in their youth, he was somewhere in Greece with Demetrios and began conversing with a waitress there, and made the mistake of mentioning that Demetrios was a doctor. The waitress thereupon began to unload on Demetrios her various medical problems. Demetrios listened until his patience ran out, but when she came to her female problems, he told her, 'This is really not my area of expertise. But this man,' glaring at David, 'is the leading gynecologist in Britain.' Then Demetrios stood up and disappeared into the men's room Gents while David listened to all the woman's intimate ailments.

'Well, I do know something about the inside of a woman,' David added, with a smile. Besides, he explained, he found he could never telephone Demetrios at work and get through unless he said he was 'Dr. Bate.' Then he'd get put through instantly. So he has been 'Dr. Bate' ever since.

Nick drove us home afterwards, and we were very tired and grateful to be there.


Chris Jones said...

It felt so good to be back where we belong.

Apparently there was some doubt in the priest's mind whether or not you really belonged. It is really very sad.

GretchenJoanna said...

I love your stories, and am glad you pressed the priest on the conditions of acceptance. :-)

Anonymous said...

rain before seven; fine before eleven.............................................................

Unknown said...

"We don't turn anyone away...", Translation: "but if they leave because we don't embrace them we won't be disappointed".... sigh.

Anonymous said...

Actions speak louder than words...................................................................

margaret said...

The first Greek priest I ever met asked my English friend if I was his sister and when my friend replied no, the priest said, "I knew that... such a beautiful girl... she must be Greek." :)

Anonymous said...