Wednesday, February 21, 2007

It's All Greek to Me!

It's all Greek to me . . . Really!

It was the Annual Greek Festival here in Nassau, held last weekend at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. Estela and I stopped by briefly on Saturday evening and then I went back for a bit longer on Sunday afternoon. We ate chicken pitas, enjoyed the Greek music, visited the exhibit booths, and even learned about the work that Greek Orthodox missionaries are doing around the world.

On Sunday afternoon, I was able to tour the sanctuary and talk with the newly installed priest Father Ted Bita, who just arrived in Nassau five months ago to replace the late Father Theophanis Kolyvas (1916 - 2006) who had served the congregation since 1953. Father Ted is a Romanian who comes to the Bahamas following twenty years of ministry in the United States. He explained how the Greek Orthodox Church is part of the broader tradition of Eastern Orthodoxy which separated from the Roman Catholic Church, in part, as a result of the Great Schism of 1054. (Actually, the story behind the East-West Schism is a whole lot more complicated than that, but I'll refrain from going into detail here.)

Greek sponge fishermen began arriving in the Bahamas in the 1880s and, by the 1920s, they controlled the buying, packing, and exporting of Bahamian sponges as well. Additionally, they had branched out into other business ventures that included restuarants, bakeries, fruit and vegatable retailing, and real estate. Though still a small minority, the Bahamian Greek community was large enough by 1932 to build their own church and even pay the salary of a priest brought in from Greece. Located on West Street, just north of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, the church has about seventy local families that attend regularly.

Another person who I had a chance to talk to is Eleni Maillis, a Greek American from Tennessee, who is currently working with her father-in-law Pericles Maillis to prepare a written history of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. Needless to say, I am very much looking forward to the completion of this project. Undoubtedly, some of the information from that research will eventually find its way into my lecture notes for the course that I teach on Bahamian religious history.

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At Saturday, February 24, 2007 at 8:54:00 PM EST , Blogger Michael Westmoreland-White said...

The Orthodox would say that the Roman Church separated from THEM in 1054, not the other way around. Although I am neither Catholic nor Orthodox, my reading of Medieval history tends to side with the East on who was responsible for the Schism.

At Sunday, February 25, 2007 at 6:58:00 PM EST , Blogger haitianministries said...

Oops! My mistake. Father Ted did make a big point of that in his presentation.


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