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email: pater@christopherklitou.com 

TALK DURING FOURTH

ANNUAL DINNER
20th Jan 2011

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Iíd first like to thank you all for coming to our Fourth Annual Dinner. I especially like to welcome his Eminence the Bishop of Amathus Nicholaos and thank him for accepting my invitation to join us tonight. To have in our midst a Bishop of the Orthodox Church is a great blessing and it is a confirmation that we are not thought of as some breakaway English sect, but as faithful members of the whole body of the Orthodox Church. I have to say a few words in Greek to welcome his Eminence and then Iíll come straight back to English.
Θέλω να καλωσορίσω τον Θεοφιλέστατο επίσκοπο Αμαθούντος Νικόλαον  και να τον ευχαριστήσω που δέχτηκε την πρόσκληση μου να είσαι απόψε μαζί μας. Θεοφιλέστατε, το ακούεις πολλές φορές αλλά για μας είναι πράγματι μεγάλη ευλογία που σε έχουμε εδώ απόψε μαζί μας. Όταν λέμε στο κόσμο ότι κάνουμε Αγγλική Λειτουργία, η πρώτη τους αντίδραση είναι να ρωτήσουν αν είμαστε Ορθόδοξη. Για τους περισσότερους Ελληνοκύπριους η Ορθοδοξία έχει σύνορα και περιορίζεται μόνο στον Ελληνισμό και στην Ελληνική γλώσσα. Η παρουσία σου εδώ απόψε επιβεβαιώνει ότι η Ιερά Μητρόπολης Λεμεσού δεν συμμερίζεται με αυτή την άποψη, δεν βάλλει σύνορα στην Ορθοδοξία και αυτό είναι φανερό με το ότι σαν μια πρωτοποριακή Μητρόπολης ευλογεί να τελείται η Θεία Λειτουργία όχι μόνο στη Ελληνική γλώσσα αλλά και στην Αγγλική, Ρωσική, Ρουμανική και Αραβική. Η παρουσία σου λοιπόν είναι για μας μεγάλη ευλογία διότι δεν μας αναγνωρίζεις σαν πολλούς που μας θεωρούν μια αιρετική ομάδα, αλλά ως γνήσια και πιστά τεκνά της Ορθόδοξης Μητροπόλεως Λεμεσού. Βεβαίως θα μας έδινε ακόμη μεγαλύτερη χαρά να σε είχαμε μαζί μας και ένα Σάββατο πρωί στην Θεια Λειτουργία. Το ότι δεν μιλάς Αγγλικά δεν το δεχόμαστε ως δικαιολογία, μπορείς να πεις τα της Ιεροσύνης στα Ελληνικά και η χορωδία να απαντά στα Αγγλικά.                        
Iíd also like to say a special thank you for being here tonight to our other special guests the fathers who serve our parish of St. Andrewís and St. John the Baptist in Mesa Geitonia; Father Michael, Fr. Michael and our Deacon Father Georgios. They may not take part in our English Liturgy but that doesnít mean that they are not active in what we do. Each in his own way helps in the church preparations, and if we look at the overall picture, what we do is not something isolated that belongs only to us, but rather it is a part of what the parish offers or we can say we are a branch from the tree of life called the parish. Their presence here tonight therefore affirms that they recognize us and what we do as belonging to the same parish.
Every year we try to have at least two events where we can get together outside of the Liturgy for the sole purpose of getting to know each other on a more social level. Last year we had two such events, the first was in January in this very same hotel. This is our third year here and we hope to continue coming for many more years because 1) the food and service is excellent and 2) the Management Kypros and Chrysostomos give us a very good deal for which we thank them dearly. Our second get together last year was in June for a fish dinner during the fast of the Apostles. Sadly that venue didnít prove to be very good, in fact the service was terrible, the starters actually came after the fruit had been served. Most of you were very good about it and didnít complain for which I thank you. Needless to say we wonít be going back there this year.
Anyway this is our main annual dinner and as I say every year these get-togethers are very important for a Christian community. They help us to feel part of a wider family which is what a parish is. Sadly many of those who attend our English services isolate themselves, they donít try to mix in and prefer to keep themselves to themselves. As I said in the email that I sent out they come to Church and sit in the corner until the end of the service and then leave at the end without being noticed. They may feel that they have done their Christian duty by coming to church, but this is not Christianity. The true understanding of a Christian life is community life. Even in monasteries where men and women devote themselves to a life of prayer, they live as a community sharing common meals and services together: living in isolation is an extreme that is not encouraged. By living as a community we have the opportunity of practicing the one Christian virtue which is above all virtues: the virtue of love. It is easy to love our immediate family members, but we need to show love for all people and especially our neighbour and fellow Christian. Our large town and city societies do not allow us to practice love as preached in the gospels, but church parishes are like small villages where we are given the opportunity to get to know each other as a large extended family. The aim of every church dinner has this in mind; it is not just an event to have a good meal, it is a gathering of a family of loved ones: it is a gathering of the family of God.
There are people who when they hear of Church dinners are automatically scandalized because they assume that Christians shouldnít be involved in social events. This is a very puritan outlook and has nothing to do with the Christianity practiced and preached by Christ and the Apostles. They in fact resemble the Pharisees who were scandalized that Christ sat down to eat with publicans and sinners. By his way of life Christ showed us that he was a social person; he ate where he was invited, he attended weddings and most important he lived on a daily basis with a group of people that were not just his twelve disciples. The first Christian communities organized by the Apostles were again communities where everyone shared everything in common; their daily meals were large gatherings where, noble or peasant, rich or poor, sat together as a family bound together by Christian love. Granted they didnít have dinners at a hotel or restaurant, but life was very different then, the church had the resources to provide the daily meals because as we told in the Acts of the Apostles ďMany who had lands and houses sold them and brought the money and laid it down at the Apostlesí feet.Ē Today this just doesnít happen so we are forced to have just an annual dinner and everyone is asked to pay their own way.
These annual dinners can also act like a general meeting of the parish members and with this in mind it gives me the opportunity to inform you of what is happening with the talks and services. By Monday, when I had little response to tonightís annual dinner, I sent out a second email to all on the mailing list and sms messages to those who hadnít responded in any way. In the messages I came across a bit strong and demanding, but I was not threatening to stop the English services. Many of you thought this and sent messages saying you were sorry that I felt compelled to take such drastic action. Let me reassure you then that I donít intend on stopping either the English Liturgy or the Talks, what I intended was to give everyone an alarm call to wake up and not take things for granted.

We began the English Liturgy in November of 2006 as a new project on trial. Others before us tried similar projects but didnít last. The fact that we have been going for four years means that we have a success story and certainly the numbers I have who receive email and sms messages prove that both the Liturgy and talks are a necessary service. In spite of this the number of those who actually attend has been dropping over the past few months. Some of course have work or family obligations, others travel a great deal while others have moved to other areas. There are many reasons why people donít attend regularly, but with many this is not the case and their non attendance is a result of what we might call a spiritual illness. The initial enthusiasm dies out and spiritual laziness slowing takes over leading to a spiritual sleep. This happens to all of us at some stage and every now and then we need someone to give us a little push or an alarm call to wake us up. I personally thoroughly enjoy and look forward to our English services and wish we could have a more regular service or even a Sunday service, which would certainly be more accommodating to many who have to work on Saturdays, but this will never happen if the numbers who attend donít increase.

For my part I can tell you that when I see the numbers drop I become disheartened and maybe a little discouraged, but for a valid reason. I mentioned in the email that I don't offer these services for my benefit but for yours, but what I should have said was that the church allows us to have these services for your benefit and not mine. We have the services with the Bishopís blessing and he regularly inquires on how the services are progressing. If our numbers keep dropping then he might feel that there is no real need for the English services and ask us to stop.

If you remember last year in February and March I was transferred to another church and to be able to return to St. Andrewís I had to literally persuade the Bishop that a great many relied on the English services and that with my moving away there was a great danger of dissolving the English programme. Thankfully, during those two depressing months, Fr. Michael was more than understanding and continued to allow us the use of the Chapel and schoolhouse for our needs. I mentioned this to show you that nothing is forever permanent and we should not take what we have for granted. At any time I might again be asked to move to another parish and if this were to happen there is no guarantee that in a new parish I would be allowed to continue with the English programme. The only guarantee is to show those in authority that there is a great and real demand by continually increasing our numbers.
Anyway enough said on the subject, the alarm call certainly worked because on the same day I received a confirmation of about 20 bookings for the dinner and - Iím not a betting man, but I bet you anything that on Saturday we will have a lot more attending the Liturgy than during the last few services.
I think its time, as we say in England, to put a cork in it, but first I have to say a few thank yous. Firstly I like to thank the management of the Navarria hotel Ė Kypros and Chrysostomos. Every year they give us such a good deal that I feel a little embarrassed that Iím taking advantage of their good nature. Even to give us the private banqueting hall means that they have to hire extra hands to cater for us. I just want to reassure them that we truly appreciate what they offer us Ė thank you boys.
Next I like to thank Fr, Michael for all his support over the four years, but more especially for his support and love during those two difficult months that I mentioned.  Without any obligation he allowed us the use of the Chapel and understood that if the English Liturgy had moved to another location it would have seriously affected its survival. As Fr. Michael doesnít understand English Iím obliged to thank him in Greek so bear with me a little longer while I thank him using my best Greek which is not very good.
Θέλω να ευχαριστήσω τον Πατέρα Μιχαήλ για την υποστήριξην του κατά τα τέσσαρα χρόνια που προσφέρουμε την Αγγλική Λειτουργία. Ειδικά θέλω να τον Ευχαριστήσω για την υποστήριξη και αγάπη που έδειξε κατά τους περσινούς μήνες του Φεβρουαρίου και Μαρτίου όταν πήρα μετάθεση σε άλλην ενορία. Για μένα ήταν μια δύσκολη περίοδος και η μεγάλη μου έννοια ήταν τί θα γίνει με την Αγγλική Λειτουργία. Και ο ίδιος κατάλαβε ότι αν η Λειτουργία μετακομιζόταν σε άλλη ενορία, υπήρχε μεγάλος κίνδυνος να διαλυθεί και να χαθεί και χωρίς καμιά υποχρέωση μας έδωσε την ευλογίαν να συνεχίσουμε να την τελούμαι στο Παρεκκλήσι του Τιμίου Προδρόμου. Η υποστήριξη του είναι επίσης φανερή από το ότι περιλαμβάνει την Αγγλική Λειτουργία στο μηνιαίο πρόγραμμα της ενορίας που σημαίνει ότι βλέπει την Αγγλική Λειτουργία σαν ένα σοβαρό και μόνιμο λειτούργημα που προσφέρει η ενορία μας.
I would also like to thank our church warden Jannis for always preparing beforehand everything needed for the Liturgy and especially for making sure that we have a prosphoron, which without it we cannot perform the Liturgy. Sadly Jannis had a heart attack a couple of days ago and cannot be with us. Iím sure he knows that we are thinking of him and that he is in our prayers and we wish him a speedy recovery.

I would like to thank our choir, Olga, Jeanne, Antonia, Pamela, Niki and Evangelia who, even though they donít believe it themselves, have come a long long way and bless us with their wonderful voices. I donít know if I have told you before, but I get emails from America asking how have we managed to have an all English Liturgy in Cyprus when the Greek churches in the English speaking USA only offer the occasional English word hear and there from the priest, but definitely nothing from the choir.
Lastly Iíd like to thank all of you who, with your regular attendances have made the English Liturgy a success story.
Ok. Now as we are still in January and in the first month of the New Year itís only appropriate that we commemorate the New Year with the cutting of the New Year cake. Within the cake there are more than one coin and some other things. Those who find something in their piece will also win a small gift offered by members of our group. But before the blessing and cutting of the cake, I think his Eminence would like to say a few words in Greek.