Father Peter and the congregation of St Albans Orthodox Church in Chatham organised a Family and Friends Liturgy this past Sunday. The beginning of Great Lent seemed an appropriate opportunity to pause and consider the meaning of our Christian life both for ourselves and for those folk who we are in contact with. We sent out quite a few emails to people we have welcomed as occasional worshippers, or as enquirers, as well as members of our families, and I wrote some note cards to a few people, personally inviting them.
On Sunday the Church looked beautiful. Members of the congregation had been in early to make sure everything was clean, and to arrange fresh flowers and light the candles. As usual it is never known who would respond, but we had prayed and left our organisation and efforts in God’s hands, since the harvest belongs to the Lord.
By the time the Liturgy proper was underway we had 8 visitors, many of whom had never worshipped with us before. I made a point of greeting each one at the Kiss of Peace, and afterwards made sure that each received some of the anti-doran and a blessing. I had deliberately made use of the prospect of seeing some new faces to preach a sermon on fasting which considered its Biblical origins and its being part of the tradition of the Church from the very beginning.
Afterwards some of our congregation had prepared a buffet for us to share with our guests, and they all stayed for conversation and a light lunch with us. This is a useful means of inviting people to a fairly non-threatening situation, they are, after all, being categorised as Friends and Family. We will certainly be organising a similar event later in the year. We hope that some of the relationships we strengthened on Sunday will blossom into a greater desire to share our Orthodox Christian life.