This morning, Jesse and I decided to drive an hour to Santa Maria to visit the OCA church there. Originally, our friend Heather had asked us to wait until she and Miro could visit with us (their old church in Georgia was also OCA), but this was a good weekend, all things considered.
In some ways, I really wish we hadn’t. I sorta fell in love.
Why? For starters, they have a brand new temple and parish hall, right next door to one another. They’re gorgeous– absolutely gorgeous. The main building was just completed a few months ago, so they don’t have iconography like St. Seraphim did (although they do have someone in mind).
Reason #2? The sermon was fantastic– at least, the part of it I got to hear. Gregory and I had to go “hang out” in the small bookstore room off the back (but it’s a room nonetheless!) where another loud kid and his father were hanging out. My favorite was a quote that the priest read from St. John Chrystostom: “Feed the poor, or feed the fires of Hell.”
Reason #3? This one was HUGE. Especially if you know me. The choir was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Flawless. Gorgeous. I had to stop myself from crying at least a dozen times. There were only 7-8 of them, but boy. It sounded like a host of angels. Jesse and I both agreed that it was the best Orthodox choir we’ve ever heard, by a LONG shot. And we are capital “P” Picky. I don’t think there was a less than perfectly in-tune note, the entire service!
I really liked that the music was so familiar. After being away from St. Seraphim’s for 2 months, hearing the Greek tones and chants instead, it was wonderful to sing stuff we are used to. Then again, it was also different. It was like they took every hymn of St. Seraphim’s and spiced it up. If I used a pejorative description, I would say that their music was like the AP version of what St. Seraphim’s does. Their Apostle’s Creed was OUT OF THIS WORLD gorgeous– I must must must get the sheet music and send it to Nick, my old choir director in Dallas.
The choir has practices every other week on Saturday nights. I sorta signed up to go this next Saturday…I couldn’t help myself. I miss singing in a real choir sooo much. I have to say though, I’m very intimidated. The first question that they asked was whether I sing soprano or alto– I explained that I’ve sung both, even switching to tenor when I’ve been needed. The choir director said that they are really really in need of altos — 3 out of the 4 female singers are sopranos. “Having another alto will really balance things out”. Wow. It sounded like perfection to me already!
In my opinion, the thing that makes this choir so good is the strong male presence. They had one tenor in particular who was amazingly talented. The choir director said that their awesome baritone was missing this week. Um, it gets better? I thought. And baritone? It’s unusual for a small church choir to have 3 male parts!
Reason #4: Very very friendly, once again. G got at least 4 pieces of fellowship bread from all the old ladies who just couldn’t get enough of him. It was announced that we were to be the first to partake of the after service meal, and we were chatted up by everyone the entire coffee hour. It was so good to talk with so many who knew and loved Archbishop Dmitri.
There are some major downsides to this parish, which is why I kinda wish we didn’t know about it. It’s an hour away– we were really enjoying our 20 minute commute to the Greek church in SLO. There also aren’t many young kids or families, at least not from what I saw (which is probably why they had the $ to buy a new church and parish hall!). Then again, it wasn’t as if the church seemed stagnant and “dying off”-like. Also, it’s OCA…and while political issues have calmed down some, we’re not the hugest fans ever…
Ah. Whatever will we do? I really wish the choir had been terrible. Then again, I really am thankful that they weren’t…