I’ve been doom-scrolling too much and sleeping too little lately. The U.S. government has been hijacked by right-wing zealots. Women’s rights have been rolled back by 50 years. The South African government can’t provide basic services to its people and we face Stage 6 loadshedding tonight. The war in Ukraine grinds on. I’m struggling to cope with the world and I know I’m not alone.
I have a backlog of topics to blog about, but I can’t focus my brain enough to write more than a few hundred coherent words. So I’m going to say as little as possible and share photos from the biggest bright spot of last week — my visit to St. Nicholas of Japan Orthodox Church.
St. Nicholas of Japan
This tiny, white-washed church looks like it belongs in Mykonos but is actually one block from my house in Brixton. I’ve been yearning to look inside for years and I finally made contact with the parish priest, Father Elias Palmos, a couple of weeks ago. I asked Father Elias if I could take photos during the church’s Sunday service and he graciously agreed.
I don’t want to say too much about St. Nicholas yet — I’m hoping my friend Ang of Jozi.Rediscovered is going to write a longer post about it very soon. (Hint, hint, Ang.) But briefly: St. Nicholas, founded in 1987, is a multi-ethnic Orthodox church and its services are in English, which sets it apart from other Orthodox churches. St. Nicholas is a missionary church and its parishioners come from a variety of religious backgrounds — Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, and many other Christian faiths. I’ve never seen such a diverse crowd in a South African church before.
You might wonder how an Orthodox church in South Africa was named St. Nicholas of Japan. Here’s your answer: St. Nicholas was a 19th-century Russian Orthodox priest who worked as a missionary in Japan, eventually building a Japanese Orthodox Church with more than 33,000 members.
The St. Nicholas choir performs a cappella in four-part harmony. The choir director, Georgia Jammine, has been leading the choir since the church started 35 years ago.
Now I’ll shut up and show you the rest of the photos.
I’m not a religious person. But my visit to St. Nicholas reminded me why people go to church. The service cleared my head, if only an hour or two, and gave me space just to be: to see the beautiful paintings, hear the beautiful singing, and listen to Father Elias’ sermon, the gist of which was (forgive me for badly summarizing your words, Father Elias): The world is a pretty ugly place right now, but we must just hang on and remember that God is love, people are (mostly) love, and love is love. It was nice.
Thanks to the congregation at St. Nicholas of Japan for welcoming me into your community. I’m sure I’ll be back.
St. Nicholas of Japan is at 156 Fulham Road, Brixton. The Divine Liturgy (which I attended) takes place from about 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Sundays.