Lexington’s Greek Festival presents an annual opportunity this weekend to experience the European country’s culture. The three day event at the Red Mile Clubhouse is hosted by members of the Greek Orthodox Church. Many Kentuckians know relatively little about the Christian faith.
For 60 years, the Greek Orthodox Church just off Tates Creek road has been part of the Chevy Chase neighborhood. The highly decorative worship area includes painted segments that cover the front wall. Father George Wilson describes the scene.
“Well, as you are looking into the church, from the place where parishioners would be standing during worship..you’re looking at a wall…and in this church it’s a full wall….and on it are icons ..iconna,” said Wilson.
Images of Jesus, his mother Mary, and John the Baptist are among those depicted on the front wall.
Wilson says the term ‘Greek’ really refers to the Hellenistic period, in the first few centuries of the Common Era, when the Bible’s New Testament was written. The priest says their traditions and history are important aspects of their worship services.
A recorded message on the church’s answering machine refers to such a service. It states.
“On Monday the 29th of August, we commemorate the be-heading of John the Baptist with divine liturgy at nine am.”
“Because John gave his life for our Savior Jesus, we remember the event of his beheading. It’s a commemoration,” explains Father George.
Father George says it was gruesome, but is also an important historical event which has been recognized since Biblical times.
Lexington Dietician Tina Thompson has been a member at the Greek Orthodox Church for 26 years. Originally from San Francisco, Thompson was raised Greek Orthodox with both parents having a ties to Greece. Thompson says a service today at the Lexington church is very similar to services she attended as a child in California.
“It hasn’t changed. It’s been around for many many years and you would feel comfortable in any Greek Orthodox church anywhere in the world because the services are the same..the rituals the traditions are the same,” said Thompson.
Thompson’s 18 year old son Christopher will soon travel to a college in New England. He enjoys the rituals celebrated by his church. For millennia, he says they’ve been passed from generation to generation. Christopher says ‘it’s like art, almost.’ But, the Henry Clay high school grad admits it’s something some of his peers don’t understand.
“People don’t always know about it. I’ve been asked about. Cause they know I’m Greek, they ask about worshipping Zeus, and I tell them….things have changed since then,” said Christopher.
A Greek Orthodox Church service will likely include people who have roots in eastern European counties, such as Russia and Romania, and the middle east.
“You know, you hear people talking. We say the Lord’s prayer in four languages every week…five languages…and it’s great,” said Christopher.
Father George Wilson, who unlike Roman Catholic priests is married and has a family,adds some of the church service is spoken in Greek….it’s not unusual for the choir to sing hymns in Greek.
Tina Thompson estimates the Greek community in Lexington at about 60 to 70 families. But, the church population is growing and leaders are designing a new, larger church. Land along Tates Creek Road has already been secured. They hope to move there in about two years.