Monday, March 27, 2006


Cyprus is, primarily, a Greek Orthodox country. As with any state religion, this can be a problem: there are many Cypriots who only nominally belong to the Church, and there are also those who spend a great deal of time on the rituals without understanding what Christianity is about. There are, of course, real Christians within some of the Orthodox Churches, but they tend to view most Protestants (like us) with suspicion.

This is partly due to false teaching: one of Daniel's friends was taught in school RE that Protestants believe in the Bible, but not in God. When Dan's friend challenged this, the teacher insisted it was true. But then, students in Cypriot schools are not supposed to challenge their teachers. Some Protestants have not helped, either; many who convert from Orthodoxy to Protestantism here become quite antagonistic towards the Orthodox church, and some ex-pats arrive here certain that the Greek Orthodox Church is entirely heretical - and are determined to convert them. No wonder that we're seen as little better than Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons.

Whatever the rights and wrongs, the Orthodox Church dominates the country, the government, and the education system. But as all their services are in Greek (ancient Greek, too, so even the Cypriots often don't understand them) and are in a style totally unfamiliar to us, we haven't actually attended any of them. We've visited and admired the buildings when empty - they're usually extremely ornate - but when we happen to be outside during a service, it sounds very alien to us.

There are Protestant churches here, with English services, but not many. In our town there's an Anglican church, a Community church, a Baptist church, a charismatic New Frontiers church, a Reformed Presbyterian church, and a bilingual Reformed charismatic church. Oh, and a large Arabic/English Reformed Presbyterian church too. When we arrived here we decided we'd try them all, but within a few weeks the boys (then 11 and 9) had become involved in the excellent children's work at the Community church - the first one we visited - and so we stayed. As with all churches, it had good points and bad ones, but we liked the people, and I liked having somewhere to attend regularly on a Sunday morning. The boys joined the music group, I started to teach Sunday school and do a few other small roles, Richard enjoyed the coffee and chat afterwards. Every so often he's visited the charismatic church and considered visiting some of the others, but has usually returned to the Community church. He's not a fan of organised church in general, but felt there was less wrong with it than with most of the others!

But, alas, our church has become more and more structured in the past year, and is currently using an American 'campaign' called 'The Purpose Driven Life'. I've written about this in more detail elsewhere - suffice it to say here that it feels like the last straw. Particularly for Richard, who was asked to do the PA (ie lend the equipment and run the system) for the duration of the course. Officially 40 days but in reality 8 weeks since it began with an introductory video, and ends with a 'celebration' on Palm Sunday.

There have been several visitors to the course, who seem to like it. But several families have stopped coming, and others like us are very unhappy about it. Yesterday some of us got together at our house - only 18 in all, including seven children, but all have had significant roles to play in the Community church in recent years. We had a wonderful potluck-style lunch, generally chatted, and somewhat discussed what we might do in future. Some of them have been visiting other churches, some enjoying the freedom of not going somewhere regularly on a Sunday. We tried not to moan and complain - there's no point being judgemental. We said we'd like to meet again, from time to time, but not start anything new and structured.

So we don't know what the future holds, as far as church goes. If we were in the UK, we could probably find somewhere else, but none of the other churches in Larnaka seem right. But we don't want to travel to another town; after all, one of the points of 'church' is for local believers to gather together for worship, and to form a community. Can one have community without formal church services? I hope so. What does God want? We've no idea.


Sarah said...

Sounds really interesting, Sue, will look forward to reading more in due course.

If there's one thing I've learned over the past few years it's that things don't ever fit into the boxes I thought they did, in all areas of life, church being no exception!

Hope the 'journey' is/carries on being an exciting one!

Steve Hayes said...

Concerning churches: I have encountered some Protestants who give the impression that they believe in God, Father Son and Holy Bible. Many Protestants vehemently attack Holy Traditon, which to Orthodox Christians sounds like a denial of the reality of the Holy Spirit in the church.

It's a misunderstanding, but a misunderstanding from both sides, which makes dialogue difficult, because it ends up with caricature talking to caricature, rather than people talking to people.

Lora said...

Funny, I had been under the impression that Richard was a minister. I guess I should check more into his site.

I'm sure if the group of you express your displeasure with the course of things they will be less likely to be repeated. After all it is YOUR church.

I've been attending a Unitarian church when my schedule allows. The funny thing is that is Bible Thumping Texas that's really labeling yourself as a heretic.