Cathedral of St. Andrew Patras Greece

CHOIR PILGRIMAGE From June 6 to 16, His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta traveled with a choir of 27 singers from the Atlanta Metropolis on a pilgrimage to Greece. The core of this group consisted of 16 choir members from the Dormition parish in Greensboro, NC, and 9 members from the Orthodox Youth Choir of Tampa Bay, Florida. Several other singers from around the Atlanta Metropolis also took part, including Dr. Michael Rallis, psaltis of St. Nicholas in Wilmington, NC, Mary Zervos, past president of the Southeastern Federation of Greek Orthodox Choirs and Musicians, Katherine Chapekis, Federation secretary, and Joanne Kambouris, choir director of Holy Trinity in Clearwater, FL, as well as the founder and director of the Orthodox Youth Choir of Tampa Bay.

The choir sang the Divine Liturgy with His Eminence presiding on Sunday, June 8, at the church of St. Andrew in Patras, His Eminence’s home town, and on Sunday, June 15, at the church of St. Panteleimon, where His Eminence had once served as a deacon. The liturgical settings, written by Kevin Lawrence and sung under his direction, were well received—the proestamenos in Patras told the congregation that he had not expected to hear music of such high quality, and the protopsaltis at St. Panteleimon told the choir that he was moved to tears by their singing. The June 8 liturgy was broadcast live by Patras television, which also aired an interview with His Eminence throughout the day.

Thanks to the efforts of His Eminence, the singers and their family members who joined in the pilgrimage had the opportunity to visit six monasteries, not as tourists, but as guests of the monastic communities. All were grateful for the warm welcome and the inspiring discourses from the monks and nuns. The highlight was at Meteora, where the superior of the Great Meteora monastery is a cousin of Metropolitan Alexios, and where His Eminence served a Divine Liturgy exquisitely sung by the nuns of St. Stephanos monastery.

The Metropolitan also brought the pilgrims to the diocesan center of Kalavrita, for a meal, a tour of the home for the elderly operated by the diocese, and a small performance for the diocesan staff. The group sang a trisagion both at the memorial of the Nazi massacre outside Kalavrita, and at the Garden of Heroes in Messolongi. Classical Greece was represented by trips to Olympia, ancient Corinth, Thermopylae and the Acropolis. On two occasions, family members of Metropolitan Alexios offered the hospitality of an evening meal to the entire group.

Throughout the trip the pilgrims were accompanied by His Eminence, whose engagement with each person fostered a deep bond. Rarely does a group of such diverse ages and backgrounds have the opportunity to share their thoughts and impressions so openly with their bishop. Several participants mentioned the depth of prayer and fellowship they enjoyed that made the trip a life transforming event for them. Certainly, for everyone who took part, this pilgrimage was an unforgettable experience.

Reprint from Metropolis of Atlanta Bulletin for July 16, 2008

Reprint from Metropolis of Atlanta Bulletin for July 16, 2008