On Culture and Tradition

Today we went to the Greek Festival held at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. The Greek Festival is an annual event, but this was our first visit. There were a few vendors, and several Greek food tents. I tried the souvlaki. It was good but not my favorite. They had a beer and wine booth, although we chose to not drink.

We walked through the inside of the church, and listened to a discussion on the history of the church. The smell of incense greeted us at the door reminding me how much I miss the Catholic Church. The church was less ‘catholic’ inside than I expected. I thought it would be more like a Roman Catholic Church, but instead of statuary, it had gold antique pictures of the saints. The area behind the altar had a huge Jesus painted on the wall. It was beautiful, but not what I expected from a church with such a traditional heritage. I suppose that’s a lesson learned that each tradition is different and special in its own rite.

After the church tour, we watched the kids perform traditional Greek dances. I was completely captivated by the dancing and the participation from the audience. The Orthodox Greeks know how to have a good time! There were three sets of performances starting with elementary age, junior high, and finally high school. All the kids were great, and they gave a fantastic performance.

While I was watching the dancers, I felt a bit jealous of what they had to share. They have a culture they can claim as their own. It includes a religion, a language, music and dance, and an outlook on life. I thought about my life and family, and realized I have no culture to speak of. I was raised by in a middle-class, white, protestant family that didn’t have any traditions. We celebrated Christmas and Thanksgiving together, cooked out on Memorial Day and Labor Day, and had cake on birthdays, but there is nothing that stands out as a tradition in my family. Thinking about it now I guess we used days on the calendar as an excuse to eat.

Having a culture with tradition is important to me, although I’m not sure why. I suppose it’s because I don’t have one. We always want what we don’t have. I’ve been missing church lately, and looking around the internet for welcoming and accepting churches in Nashville. I’ve found a few, more than I expected, but haven’t decided on any I want to visit yet. In the end, I will probably choose an Episcopal Church to stay in the universal Catholic Church. We visited St. Anne’s a few times this summer, but the folding chairs didn’t really fit into my definition of tradition.

In the end, I know I will always want to return to the Roman Catholic Church, but I won’t do that until the church is reformed and enters the 21st century. I will not attend a church where I have to hide being gay, and have to deny myself communion because I’m divorced. My desire for tradition is to be part of something bigger and older than myself. I cannot be a part of that if I have to remain in the pews while others are having communion, or have to go to confession for loving someone. Someday, and hopefully soon, I will find the right church that gives me the culture and tradition that I need, and accepts me for who I truly am. Until then, I will continue to watch youtube videos of mass.

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