Greetings from Mwanza on this feast of the Holy Apostle John. It's a sunny September, the trees on my hillside are in blossom, and the lake is very blue.
I recently had business in Kenya, and returned to Mwanza on the seventeenth of September- the very date that I first moved to this city, one year ago. Time does fly.
It's been a good year. The learning curve has been every bit as steep as expected, and of course it will take a lifetime to adjust fully. But I'm happy to be where I am.
In about ten days, we plan to receive a medical team from OCMC. The team will be conducting clinics in rural and urban areas around Mwanza Region. Logistics are every bit as complex as you might imagine, and I'm grateful to be working together with my missionary colleagues Maria Roeber, Felice Stewart and Michael Pagedas as we prepare to care for the visitors.
Time flies indeed. My first term of service as an OCMC missionary will conclude early next year, and so I am working on plans to visit North America- I'd likely be on the continent from the beginning of February until just after Pascha.
And I want to see you! Yes, each of you- or at least as many folks as I can in ten short weeks. My goal in visiting will of course be to spend a little time at home in Gainesville with family and friends, and also to touch base with as many people in my support network as is possible. I'd like to see you in person, catch up on your life, (meet your new babies!!) and talk with you face-to-face about the work that God is doing in Western Tanzania thanks to your prayers, encouragement, and generosity.
So, if you'd like me to visit, please be in touch. When I met many of you in the fall of 2009 and spring of 2010, I was inspired and instructed by the way that you and your communities are bearing witness to the Resurrection and proclaiming the glory of God in your local context. I look forward very much to coming back and getting another glimpse.
It is obvious to me that your prayers are with me, as God sustains me here. The challenges are good and healthy, but they are challenges indeed, and I am borne through them by strength that is not my own. Thank you.
Thank you also for your encouraging communication, and for your consistent generosity. I am here because of you.
By your prayers in Christ,
James Hargrave Orthodox Church in Tanzania Holy Archdiocese of Mwanza PO Box 1113 Mwanza, Tanzania
Image from here. Not sure what it has to do with learning Korean...
I just realized that it is almost three weeks since Fr. James or I posted anything here. I realize that is too long.
Just kidding. Actually, we have both been extremely busy. Between his job, family, duties as a priest, course work in History, etc.
My job, family, St. Stephen's residency, course work in History, etc.
We have both just been swamped and have had little time to make an posts.
I promise that neither of us has dropped from the face of the earth. I am also not quite egotistical enought to think that everyone has just been checking the blog every hour to see if we have finally posted something. Still, many of us have built some sort of online relationship with one another, and I figured it was the nice thing to do to let you know that we will eventually get more stuff posted.
Wherever bishops travel, churches plan lavish banquets and other solemn tributes to honor their hierarchs.
Visitations by Archbishop Dmitri Royster of the Orthodox Church in America were different, since the faithful in the 14-state Diocese of the South knew that one memorable event would take care of itself. All they had to do was take their leader to a children's Sunday-school class and let him answer questions.
During a 1999 visit to Knoxville, Tenn., the lanky Texan folded down onto a kid-sized chair and faced a circle of preschool and elementary children. With his long white hair and flowing white beard, he resembled an icon of St. Nicholas -- as in St. Nicholas, the monk and fourth-century bishop of Myra.
As snacks were served, a child asked if Dmitri liked his doughnuts plain or with sprinkles. With a straight face, the scholarly archbishop explained that he had theological reasons -- based on centuries of church tradition -- for preferring doughnuts with icing and sprinkles.
A parent in the back of the room whispered: "Here we go." Some of the children giggled, amused at the sight of the bemused bishop holding up a colorful pastry as if he were performing a ritual.
"In Orthodoxy, there are seasons in which we fast from many of the foods we love," he said. "When we fast, we should fast. But when we feast, we should truly feast and be thankful." Thus, he reasoned, with a smile, that doughnuts with sprinkles and icing were "more Orthodox" than plain doughnuts.
Dmitri made that Knoxville trip to ordain yet another priest in his diocese, which grew from a dozen parishes to 70 during his three decades. The 87-year-old missionary died last Sunday (Aug. 28) in Dallas, in his simple bungalow -- complete with leaky kitchen roof -- next to Saint Seraphim Cathedral, the parish he founded in 1954.
Parishioners were worried the upstairs floor might buckle under the weight of those praying around his deathbed.
The future archbishop was raised Southern Baptist in the town of Teague, Texas, before moving to Dallas. As teens, Royster and his sister became intrigued with the history of the major Christian holidays and began visiting a variety of churches, including an Orthodox parish. The services were completely in Greek, but they joined anyway -- decades before evangelical-to-Orthodox conversions became common.
During World War II, the young Texan learned Japanese in order to interrogate prisoners of war, while serving on Gen. Douglas MacArthur's staff. A gifted linguist, he later taught Greek and Spanish classes on the campus of Southern Methodist University. While training to serve in the OCA, which has Russian roots, he learned Old Russian and some modern Russian.
Early in his priesthood, the Dallas parish was so small that Dmitri helped his sister operate a restaurant to support the ministry, thus becoming a skilled chef who was become famous for his hospitality and love of cooking for his flocks. During his years as a missionary bishop, driving back and forth from Dallas to Miami, monks in New Orleans saved him packages of his favorite chicory coffee and Hispanic parishioners offered bottles of homemade hot sauce, which he stashed in special compartments in his Byzantine mitre's traveling case.
A pivotal moment in his career came just before the creation of the Diocese of the South. In 1970, then-Bishop Dmitri was elected -- in a landslide -- as the OCA metropolitan, to lead the national hierarchy in Syosset, N.Y. But the ethnic Slavic core in the synod of bishops ignored the clergy vote and appointed one of its own.
Decades later, the Orthodox theologian Father Thomas Hopko described the impact of that election this way: "One could have gone to Syosset and become a metropolitan, or go to Dallas and become a saint."
The priest ordained in Tennessee on that Sunday back in 1999 shared this judgment, when reacting to the death of "Vladika" (in English, "master") Dmitri.
"There are a number of saints within Orthodox history who are given the title 'Equal to the Apostles,' " noted Father J. Stephen Freeman of Oak Ridge. "I cannot rush beyond the church and declare a saint where the church has not done so, but I can think of no better description of the life and ministry of Vladika Dmitri here in the South than 'Equal to the Apostles.' "
(Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. Contact him at tmattingly(at)cccu.org or http://www.tmatt.net.)
High above the modern Turkish city of Antakya (Antioch) lays a relic of a former age. The Church of St Peter, now a pilgrimage site with a clear trail marking the way, was once a hidden centre of early Christian worship.
Composed of just a one-room cave about 13 meters wide, this sanctuary was crucial to developments in the history of Near Eastern Christianity, and is old enough to be mentioned in the Bible itself. It is here, according to legend, that followers of the newly emerging religion first called themselves Christians.
Though the church now serves as a heritage site and museum operated by the Turkish state, a hike down the mountain and into the city below leads visitors to a number of churches that have active congregations and daily services.
Official studies of the population of Turkey estimate the number of non-Muslim citizens to be less than .02%. In this corner of the country, however, the religious and ethnic diversity is much higher and, significantly, religious conflict nearly absent.
"There are no problems here," the head priest of the Catholic Church of Antioch, Domineco Bertogli, explains. "We live openly, we worship openly."
Indeed, the Italian priest's church is located next-door to a large mosque, and prominent plaques point the way.
Adalet, a young woman who works in the church with Bertogli, grew up in Antakya and takes pride in the city's level of tolerance and multiculturalism. She points to a poster hanging on a bulletin board that also displays church announcements and service hours.
"Do you see that?" Adalet asks, smiling. "Antakya was chosen as one of UNESCO's cities of peace."
Also on display are pictures of Bertogli shaking hands with President Abdullah Gul and standing next to the Pope. Sent to Turkey initially in 1966, Bertogli spent years working in a church in Izmir before coming to Antakya. Over the course of the 45 years Bertogli has worked here, the priest has assimilated, learning the language fluently and, he says, being happy to serve the church.
The Catholic community of Antakya is not the largest Christian population in the region. Many more Orthodox Christians, whose traditions separated from those of Catholic Rome during centuries of Byzantine rule, live and worship here. The Orthodox Church of Antakya underscores the presence of this community, with its elaborate iron gates and large courtyard open to the public.
Antakya is the largest city in the province of Hatay, and, like many urban areas, has developed as a centre of diversity. Farther away from the city, however, active Christian communities still prosper.
Near the Syrian border in the Altinozu district, two almost exclusively Christian villages remain, Sarilar and Tokacli. Villagers are nearly all Orthodox, with perhaps a handful of Catholic families.
Emin Mizikacioglu, an Orthodox Christian who runs a small market in Sarilar, expresses a mixture of tolerance and pride regarding religious differences.
"We live together like brothers, all of us," he says, then breaking off his sentence to tease the Muslim bus driver about how slowly the vehicle is moving.
A few minutes later, when Sarilar becomes visible over a ridge in the hilly landscape, he softens his voice and says with some excitement, "This is my village. You won't find a single Muslim family here. Not even one."
This dual perspective -- that Muslims and Christians and Jews are all siblings, but that a Christian village is still something to be treasured -- may be part of what enables these varied communities to maintain their own identities while engaging peacefully and productively with other groups.
Bertogli, perhaps drawing on his experiences while working elsewhere in Turkey, emphasises that while Antakya and its environs may truly be cities of peace, they are not necessarily indicative of the situation elsewhere.
"There isn't just one Turkey," he says. "There are many Turkeys."