Whatever it was that those people were in church for, it wasn't the same reason I was there. It was quite apparent to me at that moment that my church experiences from now on would take on a different meaning. It was even more obvious that if I continued to go to church in the way that I used to in the past, I would be seen as a θεούσα (the-OU-sa, commonly used to describe an 'overly-religious woman'). It was about this time that I also first heard the idea that " Οι Έλληνες στο εξωτερικό είναι πιο Έλληνες από τους Έλληνες στην Ελλάδα, " a belief often expressed by the diaspora communities, clearly lamenting the state of the Greek identity (bear in mind that this was way before the crisis), misguided by the thought that the Greek-something's expression of the Greek identity is somehow more intact, more genuine than the Greek Greek's. This is still often heard in connection with the (now global, not just Greek) crisis: Greeks need to start behaving like Greeks ...
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Unlike in the Greek diaspora, where there is usually one GO church that most Greeks living in a city attend, Greece is full of churches - every suburb of every town has a church, every village has one or two churches, there are even churches in fields and hilltops. We had to choose a church quickly, because it was past 9am and the service would be over by 10.30am at the latest (in NZ, the GO service would start and finish at more 'logical' hours for a restful Sunday morning). The village church was out - the locals would cotton on to the fact that we had mixed up the date for the memorial service. The local church was also out - we only went there for Easter. We finally decided on the main cathedral in the town centre, close to the picturesque touristy Venetian harbour of Hania, because an urban church would not make us feel out of place. The town attracts both locals and strangers - visitors are always welcome, and they never look conspicuous.
We were not attending a memorial service - we were simply there for the religious experience. I can tell you that it wasn't much different from my first one in Greece. A few disabled people, lots of old women, most of them wearing dark (not necessarily black) clothes. There were also a couple of tourists 'taking part' in the experience. (There was a sign in English at the candle stand, reminding people to 'insert coins in the slot'; most tourists still think of Greek churches as free museums.) The sermon was just like any other sermon I'd heard in my previous church-going experiences: be good Christians, the material world doesn't count, there's a better world waiting for you somewhere else, live your life with the aim of going there. That's exactly the kind of sermon I used to hear when I used to be a regular follower of the GO church in NZ. I wasn't disappointed. I got what I expected. I needn't fear that my kids will have any huge gaps in their religious upbringing despite not being raised as regular church-goers.
However, my children's relationship with the GO church is already quite different from my own. They have associated it with family duties - and koliva, which they were pleased to see being dished out at the end of the liturgy because there was in fact a memorial service being held there too (Greeks remember their dead through memorial services for at least a year after the death of a loved one). What would they say, as Greek-born Greeks, to the idea that the Greeks abroad are more Greek than the Greeks in Greece? This notion is bound to be perpetuated by my fellow compatriots, especially the nouveau-emigres. I haven't talked to them about this issue, but I expect that they will hear someone say this to them at some point in their lives. They will probably think the speaker is nuts.
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