I grew up in the Greek Orthodox Church. I was baptized in my hometown as an infant. The church to this day is the center of a communitywide festival in Portland, Ore. It’s become a huge event.
But I moved away from the church as I became a teenager. Then I married the girl of my dreams in 1971 in a Presbyterian ceremony — and became a Presbyterian.
Sitting in Greek Orthodox sanctuaries in Nazareth, Israel, was one of the most personally moving moments of my trip through the Holy Land. Nazareth is now a mostly Muslim community, but it certainly honors its long-standing Christian tradition. The Church of the Annunciation is where Christian believe the angel Gabriel informed Mary that she would be the earthly mother to the Son of God. It is a beautiful church building in the middle of the old part of the city. Nazareth is not far from the Jordan River, or from Galilee.
But I so truly enjoyed sitting in these Orthodox sanctuaries, taking in the sight of the icons and the depictions of Jesus and Mary, and the apostles. I even could smell a bit of the incense, very similar to the aromas of the church I attended in Portland all those years ago.
For the first time on this extraordinary visit to this equally extraordinary place, I felt at home.