Friday, September 21, 2012

Meeting Anglicans in Greece

John and Ella Coventry arrived here in Thessaloniki two days after we did. They are on a tour, or as they call it, a pilgrimage, with other Anglicans led by the Rev. Canon John Roberts. They are following the steps of St. Paul, who of course preached in this city. They spent 3 days in this vicinity and called us on Sunday night to come meet them at their hotel the following night.

“So what time are we meeting them?” I asked Demetrios, who had been asked to give the group a 10-15 minute rundown on the history of Thessaloniki.


“And how will we get there?”

“By bus.”

“Which bus?”

“The one that says, IKEA, because that’s where we change buses.”

“Where do we catch it?

“At the bus stop in front of our church, I think.”

“But you don’t know for sure?”


“When do we catch it?”

“Don’t know. It’ll come.”

“About how long will it take us to get there?”

“I don’t know. Why are you making all this so difficult?”

[Can you say, “Culture Clash”? I’m my father’s daughter, who once drew Demetrios a full-color, detailed, to-scale map of how to get to the subway station less than a mile away. And that was after having already gone over it with him carefully on a printed map. Maybe I’m not as extreme as my father was, but still the influence is strong and I’ve had too many bad experiences with the Greek approach.]

“I think, my sweet, I’ll stay home,” I said. “I’m just not up for this being dragged hither and yon, not knowing where to go or how to get there or when to start, hoping to find our way eventually, somehow, and probably arriving very late, if at all. I’m sorry, but as you know that sort of thing makes me very cross, and staying home will be much better than getting into a quarrel with you.”

“Oh, no, you must come. You must!”

“Then you must at least ring Thomai [our downstairs neighbor] and ask her where we catch the first bus. She will know.”

So he did and armed only with the knowledge that the stop in front of the church was indeed the correct starting point, we set out; found the bus that said IKEA, and by asking our way from there and by pure good luck, we managed the journey more or less painlessly. “You see, my precious?” said Demetrios. “No problem.”

At Ikea, where we had to change buses, I heard Demetrios and two ladies discussing which bus stopped at the Sand Bitch Hotel.


I decided I must have misheard; it must be “Sandwich”, a very odd name for a hotel. Anyway, we boarded the bus for the second leg of the journey. I insisted upon double-checking by asking the driver, who assured us that the Sand Bitch (not Sandwich) Hotel was in fact a stop on his route. (Sandwich! What a laughable name!) At quarter till eight, a miraculous half-hour early, we arrived. The sign in front of the building read, “Sun Beach Hotel”.

It was of course wonderful to see John and Ella Coventry again, and again to lift our glasses and say, “Good troughing!” John introduced us to the Rev. Canon So-and-so, who wanted to be called simply, “John”. Besides being quite personable, he is obviously very devout and very knowledgeable, too.

The reason I haven’t told you his full name is, he has made friends with several Muslims who have since converted to Christianity. I told him I thought that was the single biggest contribution one could make toward world peace.

So we chatted with him for a while before going to the conference room where the rest of the pilgrims were assembled.

I have only one word for Demetrios’ presentation: superb! He didn’t bore us with many dates and details; he just gave us an idea of what this city has experienced through the centuries, and under whom, and what life was like, with a good story or two thrown in for illustration. He came to a good stopping point at just about 15 minutes, when the good Canon interposed a question. And when that had been answered, he invited the audience to ask more questions, which a lot of them did.

They had been to Saint Sophia, downtown, that morning, arriving near the end of Divine Liturgy; and what had especially impressed and moved them, and what they most wanted to know about, was the bread they had been given. The priest had literally motioned them forward to receive it. What was it? Was it proper for them to have taken it?

So Demetrios explained all about the antidoron and the more he said, the more they wanted to know. Forget the History of Thessaloniki; they wanted to know about Orthodox Christianity. And as Demetrios was able to express it all very, very well, they were all quite charmed. Even about icons. They also wanted to know if we had the same anxiety they have about decreasing membership. He told them no, and this difference, next morning, became the topic we hashed through over breakfast; see my next post.

Ten o’clock was time for Compline and after that people shook our hands and thanked Demetrios and went to bed, to get ready for an early start the next morning. We said we hoped to see them again in England, as most of them were from right around Ormskirk. I hope we do meet again.

John went with us to the bus stop. The bus came within about 15 minutes or less, and we arrived back at our flat a scant hour and 20 minutes later, a much shorter time than we had taken getting to the hotel.

I’m so very glad I went.

I even said so.


Matushka Anna said...

Love the culture clash!