I’m an Orthodox Christian. I go to many churches, I don’t have the habit of going to one church only. Even in Năvodari, where are now three churches, I go to all three of them, although I do favor some. Well, this blog post is about the church I love the most – Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius.
The church is located in Bucharest, Romania, in the campus of the University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine – Bucharest (called “Agronomie”/”Agronomy”).
Where does the name came from? Saints Cyril and Methodius, according to Wikipedia, were two Byzantine Greek brothers born in Thessaloniki, Greece, in the 9th century. Through their work they influenced the cultural development of all Slavs, for which they received the title “Apostles to the Slavs”. They are credited with devising the Glagolitic alphabet, the first alphabet used to transcribe the Old Church Slavonic language.
What do I like about this church? Things are just the way they were supposed to be. If I expect a church to be in a way, this would be the way. I like it for the normality of it. Let me give you a quote (Luke 17:7-10, Bible, New International Version, ©2010):
7 “Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”
Well, in this case, doing the duty to the fullest makes this church extraordinary. And I’m loving it for this.
Now for some factual reasons of why this church is so important to me:
- I can understand the words of both the singers in the church and of the priest – this may seem minor, but it’s a very important criteria; in order for me to pay attention to the liturgy, I have to understand the words; in other parts, it’s more difficult;
- Kitsch can’t be seen anywhere: the icons are all painted instead of printed; the candles are made of wax, not paraffin; the flowers in church are all natural, not plastic; there are no neon lights; OK, outside the church there are some garden lights which imitate lanterns made of plastic, but it’s not actually in the church, and it’s a minor thing;
- Although candles are widely used, there are artificial lights also; but they aren’t made in form of candles, or using neon, or other things; no, actually they have modern appliances; they look fine as a necessary complement;
- There is a community center near the church; it’s bigger (in volume) than the church itself;
- There is a garden around the church and a garden space for children to play in (something like an open-air kindergarten); the space dedicated to children is bigger (in surface);
- The church itself is made of simple materials – wood, stones, bricks, mortar, nothing fancy, but with a nice air of tradition; there is a large wooden cross, there are wooden benches, as said above, most icons are painted; it all helps to build a more classic image; very good for a church;
- The use of white spaces – nothing in the church seems crowded, there are empty spaces, free spaces; it’s not minimalistic, yet it’s not very crowded either;
- The stats below show you activity on three Orthodox Yahoo! Groups; they have all been founded sooner than 2005; you see the activity per each month in 2010, the total number of messages in 2010, the number of members, and the ratio between the number of messages posted that year and the number of members (which shows how many messages per member where, in average, in 2010); one might say that the percentage reflects group activity; the third group is the Yahoo! group of the church I like so much;
Group # 1 2 3 Jan 70 247 44 Feb 47 217 123 Mar 90 228 93 Apr 87 206 68 May 95 244 80 Jun 160 220 102 Jul 155 246 68 Aug 61 192 45 Sep 55 233 92 Oct 104 367 31 Nov 252 202 124 Dec 199 195 87 Total messages 1375 2797 957 Members 437 783 109 Ratio 3.14 3.57 8.77
- The group activities– I will only mention:
- “The school of Jesus” (a series of weekly lessons on Orthodox Christianity);
- Agape – a friendly lunch; after the liturgy, in some Sundays you can sit with the participants to a lunch;
- “True love waits“ – an International project which promotes sexual abstinence outside of marriage for teenagers;
- Carol singing in students campuses;
- Handcrafting things – from painting to sculpting;
- Social events – movie nights, birthday celebration, special days in the life of the church;
- Karate Goju-Kai lessons;
- A part-time kindergarten;
(the above things I’ve only heard of, never actually it seen it in any other church, or if seen it, it was one of the items, not two or more of them)
- Both national and international pilgrimages and camps (even this is special – the participants go as a group, a community, not some unknown people who just happen to share the church they go to; this is a more common activity in churches, though);
As said above, the most impressive thing at the activities above is not one particular – sure, one might say, it’s not that much of a thing to organize a movies night; sure it isn’t; but add all those things together and you get a different result – who does all of those things? I know about no other church which does this;
- The priest who serves the church – father Victor MIHĂILĂ, the priest to which I confess – has some personal qualities himself – calm, not hurrying when saying prayers, not in a rush when talking to you; good knowledge of Theology; although it may seem different from the description above, the church does comes first; always seems to be happy; a model in a Christian life; very open to new (he went to Turkey to see a specially to see a meeting between an Orthodox Patriarch and the Pope);
- Father Claudiu MIHAI used to serve here, and I liked him a lot too;
- On technology– the church has:
- On the electronic means of communication I’ve seen more tolerance to things which are outside-of-the-box; so, if I say A = 2, but everybody thinks A = 4, I can say this and be tolerated for my different thinking; much less restrictions than in other parts;
- The program for the liturgies next week is always there at the church (and now on the Internet);
- Some thoughts about the community of participants:
- People come to the church mostly when they are students at the universities with campuses near the church – the University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, the Romanian-American University, the Academy of Economic Studies; but they also come after the studies are done; even if they don’t live near the church, they still come there;
- I know people coming from great distances to the church; so, even if they don’t live close, they still prefer this church to others;
- At almost any time of the day (and in the evenings), you can usually find some people, not living in the community center, but still there at the church; people come to the church and stay there;
- A lot of people are involved in voluntary activities;
- Some people bring their children, or other family members with them;
- Some members of the community celebrate their birthdays at the community center;
- There’s a mixture of traditional and modern with a common sense, which can only be considered of me as “wise” in most of the ways things are at the church; have a look at the “Contact” page of the web site; you’ve got everything – direct phone numbers, contact names, email addresses, exact address, postal code, interactive map of the church, photos (in interactive maps, actually!) with all the public transport to the church, and even a map with all the transportation in Bucharest; I don’t know too many web sites which have a better contact page; it’s not the page in itself – sure, you can read how to make one on the Internet; but their implementation proved some qualities; did I say it’s “wise”? It’s also with a heart, and doing a job (in this case, creating a contact page) with passion for a job well done; the contact page, in its actual form, took time & effort, and some thinking, and some heart; it has them all now; and it’s representative for the church, as a whole.
To conclude, these are the reasons which make me like this church so much.