It's been literally years since I've blogged about attending a Divine Service. I've posted a sermon here and there or some "Orthodox" thoughts but not my reaction to attending a service. Even though it is my practice to still attend, (When I can given I'm still an active Protestant) I guess I stopped my reaction blogs because I was starting to repeat myself. I mean, what else can I say about the glory and beauty of Orthodox Worship?
Well, this Corona virus has made attending a Divine Service a somewhat different experience and warrants a post. My Protestant Parish hasn't had an in-person service since the end of March so I haven't been to any Service (Protestant or Orthodox) for over four months! So I can tell you it was great to be in Church again, to see the Icons, to smell the incense and to light a candle. But it was different. As you can see from the picture below, we were together but apart. Yes, we practiced social distancing (I'm really beginning to hate that phrase!)
Fr. Gary leading us in prayer
But apparently I need some more training on how to properly practice social distancing. Given that there is so much space given for a person, while standing, I must have wandered into someone else's space because a lady turned around and motioned for me to get back. At first, I thought she was giving me a greeting but then I noticed the hand gestures. Boy, was I embarrassed! But it did serve to remind me that some people remember (even as I forget) just how serious this COVID-19 is. It is a deadly disease and some people have more reason than others to be afraid of catching it. Underlying conditions, can kill some people. I'm sure everyone knows someone (even if peripherally) who has died because of this thing. So I wandered back into my space and continued worship.
Speaking of worship, it was, as always, beautiful. But we had no service books so if you didn't "know the words" you had to just hum along. Thankfully, I've attended enough Vespers Services to hold my own when it came to participating. Also, when Fr. Gary incensed the Icons he did so from a respectful distance of other parishioners. And I did notice that no altar server kissed his hand when taking the censor.
Indeed, the lack of kissing - of each other, of Icons - seemed very unorthodox to me but that's just the way it is nowadays. I was especially sad, because I did see reader John and his wife Tami and she normally gives the triple Russian kiss (on the cheeks just in case some readers didn't know) but last night we only bowed to each other. But it was great to see them again and to catch up.
When I drove up before the service began I did notice a full parking lot - well, full by Saturday night Vespers Standards, a service that is not normally as well attended on a Sunday morning. But, since 'Rona has come to town, services are strictly monitored as to how many may attend. So many people who can't attend Sunday morning (due to space) show up on Saturday night since there is no room on Sunday morning. I commend Fr. Gary on how he handles "crowd control." You just can't walk into the service. For Sunday morning Divine Liturgy, it is "invitation only" and he sends out an email at the beginning of the week to selected Faithful. Of course, he rotates the roster so all of the members eventually have a chance to attend Sunday morning and, most importantly, receive the Body and Blood of the Lord in the Eucharist. For Vespers, it is "first come; first served" and you sign up on an online sign up sheet.
When I first walked into the nave, I saw an empty chair and headed for it. It wasn't until I was there a few minutes that I realized that each chair had a name (Yes, assigned seating) and I, by chance, happened to choose the right chair because when I turned around to put my hat down, I noticed my name! Sure glad I didn't take someone else's chair!
The Corona Virus has made going back to Church a little different but it is still a joy. To hear the hymns being sung, to smell the incense which bring to mind the prayers offered up to God in the book of Revelation, to listen to Fr. Gary encourage the Faithful- All of this makes going to Church worth it and, God willing, I'll be back again soon!
Stay safe out there people!
The Icon in the center of the Nave - No Kissing allowed!