Saturday, June 3, 2017

Good Friday in Raleigh Orthodox Church

My wife and I were in the United States during the passion week. For Good Friday, we had the opportunity to attend the church in Raleigh in North Carolina. Fr. M.K. Thomas is its vicar, and Fr. Tenny Thomas serves as the assistant vicar. Fr. M.K. Thomas, well-known as a very scholarly priest, is unable to perform his priestly duties due to his ill-health. Fr. Tenny Thomas, well-known in the Orthodox church in the US, is a scholar as well as a charismatic leader. I felt happy at some of the innovations I noticed there, which I like to share here.
In Raleigh Orthodox Church

1. Fr. Tenny Thomas, who led the worship, was very people-friendly. Toward the end people were supposed to come to the front to kneel down and kiss the cross. Before that he made an announcement that those who have back pain may wait till the end, when he would hold the cross up so that they can kiss the cross without kneeling down. I was really excited to hear this announcement. 

At the time of the procession, he announced that although it is customary to exit through the south door to begin the procession, as people have their shoes outside the west door, they may exit through the west door and wear their shoes and then come outside the south door. I was excited to hear this announcement as well.

Once the worship was over, we saw Fr. Tenny Thomas outside the church mingling with people as if he was one among them. Here is a priest who cares for the people. When people realize that the priest cares for them, they will care for the priest in return.

2. I noticed that Fr. Tenny Thomas was making a conscious effort to make the worship meaningful to the congregation. At the time of the cross celebration, I noticed that he took the freedom to elaborate some of the phrases to make them meaningful. For example, instead of saying “He whom the angels serve” he would say, “Let us also serve the one whom the angels serve”.

3. Fr. Thomas helped all people follow the worship by making arrangements to project the entire worship on the walls in the front. All the songs and prayers were projected in two places in the front wall, so that the congregation could conveniently read everything and participate in the worship. This could eliminate the need for using books by the participants. Someone was in charge of doing the projection, and he did an excellent job.

4.I also noticed that in order to accommodate those young people who can use only English, many of the songs and prayers were in English. As everything was projected on the wall, people could follow everything in spite of the difference in language. Songs and prayers in Malayalam were projected in Malayalam script as well as in its transliteration in English.

What I saw in the Orthodox church in Raleigh is an example that all priests everywhere may follow. Let the people feel joyful to be in the church! Let them know that they are cared for. Let them experience love and peace there, so that they can carry love and peace with them outside in their daily life! Let the worship be meaningful to the people! Let them experience God in the church!


Baboi George said...

\\o// St Gregorios Orthodox Church, London was fortunate when Fr Tenny Thomas was in Oxford and Fr Abraham Thomas was our Vicar - Malayalees Community(U.K.)
expresses our profond memories and wish these two eminent priests the very best to lead our younger generation... On behalf of our two children Tony & Tina... THEY BOTH HAVE INFLUENCED THEM IN THEIR OWN PERSONAL LIfE EXPERIENCE - May God Bless them and always remembered in our prayers - THANK YOU +

Joseph V. Thomas said...

I have read this interesting highlights of the Good Friday's service in Raleigh, N.C, USA, that was posted by Prof. John Kunnathu.

Normally our Vicars are strict in following the ancient tradition of "Syrian Orthodox Service" for Sundays and Holy week in its entirety. Undoubtedly, having all Vicars being little lenient toward their parishioners would make much sense in today's western society that is mingled with old traditional church practices for worshiping.

I find two particular things that other churches can perhaps adopt to make most practical; (a) not to kneel down when physically not possible by anyone, (b) scripts are projected on the wall. This would certainly help every one "young and old" to follow every step of the way in our long service, whether it is on a Sunday or any other auspicious occasions. Besides, in our books many things are not written in good order and Sometimes we have to flip pages to get to where we need to go.

Having one person in-charge of the projection/display in every parish their service participation can be more productive, similar to the practice in the church - in Raliegh, NC. We must give a lots of credits to Very Rev Dr. M.K. Thomas (one of the senior most Clergy in U.S) as well as the Assistant Vicar Fr. Tenny Thomas of the said parish. With this posting I am sure many people from both Dioceses (Northeastern US & Southwestern US) will be contacting this Parish for guidance in this pursuit.

Thank you for your posting.

Joseph V. Thomas
Bergenfield, NJ, USA

Varghese Mathai said...

Very practical and people-oiented mesures!! The life outside the church depends on the spiritual strength they recived inside and the amount of praise and glory they offered to the Lord God Almighty -- and not the church, the priests or the rituals!!!

Kuriakose Mathew said...

Very informative and exciting

Usha Koshy, Raleigh said...

Thank you for highlighting the activities in our church, which we, the members of Raleigh Orthodox church are so used to. Until you mentioned it, I didn't even think about those changes as innovations.

Johnson, Mumbai said...

Our church priest, Fr. Jijo, also does the same, He is very social, and try to translate happiness. Let us hope for the best.

Cheriyan James said...

Very nice thoughts and people oriented measures..
Hope our MOSC stores will be more helpful to Orthodoxites by keeping books related to Manglish

Mathew Samuel, New York said...

Tenny Achen is a blessing! May God guide his ministry always!

Unknown said...

Nice to see such good practices are followed in western countries. Similar activities are followed in Australia. It is just that this should be an eye opener for Indian churches in India where more focus is given on other activities than worship