By Jackie Morfesis
Jackie with Yiayia Virginia and Papou George at their Folly Beach house. Image courtesy of the author.
When I was a child, my grandmother, Virginia Manos, a devout Greek Orthodox Christian, used to frequently attend events and gatherings at the Baptist Church on Folly Beach. She also volunteered with different Christian organizations. She had an ecumenical spirit. And I mention this because, back in the day, this was unusual for traditional Greek Orthodox Christians.
I remember staying with her at our beach home in the summers of my childhood, continually amazed at all the friends she had, from all backgrounds, not just from the “Greek” community. It was as if her heart and soul were just bursting to not only befriend others but to share the “good news” with others. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).
Sharing the “good news” with others outside my denomination was something that sadly and sorely I was not taught within the Greek Orthodox Church. Please don’t misunderstand me. Growing up Greek Orthodox gave me a foundation of faith that is irreplaceable. The Church of the Apostles has a rich tradition with a depth many times unparalleled. But I suppose I have taken after my yiayia (grandmother) Virginia in more ways than one.
I, too, hunger, for God’s holy Word. “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3). I, too, know that when we gather in His name, He is with us. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). I, too, know that fellowship means fellowship with everyone, not just Orthodox Christians.
It took “stepping out” of my traditional faith walk to truly become a disciple of the Lord. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Disciples are those who step out into the world and are unafraid to shine their light for the Lord. Unafraid to testify to His glory. Unafraid to question, even challenge, our own parishes, ecclesiastical authorities and archdioceses.
I believe my yiayia would be proud of me today. She has passed into eternity like most of my family. Yet I know that there isn’t a special place in the heavenly realm designated for Orthodox Christians but that we will all be together praising and glorifying our Lord for all eternity. Which is exactly what we all should be doing, right now, on this earth. Inside and outside of our churches.
So, thank you, Grandmother Virginia, my evangelical and fiery yiayia, for teaching me a very wise and important life lesson. And thank you to my Lord and my God who knew that I had a greater purpose on this earth and in His kingdom than seeing the world through only an Orthodox and Hellenic lens, when the lens that I need to be looking through is the one that focuses on God, at all times, in all circumstances and with all people.
Jackie Morfesis is a creative, advocate and author. She holds a BFA in fine arts and an MA in liberal studies and is a former Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar to Greece. She is a Greek Orthodox Christian with an ecumenical spirit.