In the early days of the Archdiocese, especially as immigration increased, the majority of Church members chose to live near enough to the Church that they could even walk. This was practical not only since most did not own their own cars in those days, but because the Church was the center of their lives. It was where they could “be who they really were” in this foreign land. It was where they could learn from those who had arrived before them, the ways of the New World. It was much more than learning how to be Americans; it was where they could live as Greek Orthodox Christians. Most were at Church just about every day.
Times have changed for sure. Immigration has all but stopped in most communities in America, and just about everyone has a car. Suburban sprawl las sent parishioners to neighborhoods where the nearest Greek Orthodox Church might be a thirty-minute drive. In most communities, life has shifted to the point where “Sunday Only” has replaced daily as a description of how often people come to the Church.
Take a moment to consider just how that has affected the spiritual life of our Church Family? While nearly all of us have become Americans, the Greek Orthodox Christian way of life is still foreign, but we have no ability to help each other “be who we really are” any longer. When we limit our exposure to the Church, we no longer are able to learn from each other, how to live the Greek Orthodox way of life in a foreign world. It has taken its toll on our Church Family. Young people are leaving our Church Communities in droves, many simply because they see no relevant need for the Church because it has become a distant (literally in many cases) building we rarely enter.
Yet the early Christians gathered together in Church every day. Even Christ entered the Temple every day. How else was the Community supposed to hold itself together living under the Roman Empire’s pagan influence? Without the daily connection to God and each other, the early Christians would have faded into the background of the society, much like is happening today. Take this year’s Nativity Fast as a chance to rededicate your life to more communal connection to God and the Church. It will, as it always has, help you learn from each other and guide each other to live Greek Orthodoxy in a foreign land. It can’t be done with a Sunday only visit.