One of the things that I loved most about Russia was being able to pass any random church – usually a beautiful Baroque church – and know that it was an Orthodox church. And the fact that there was usually a service going on, which meant that I could go in, light a few candles and stand for a few minutes to enjoy the architecture and the singing before going on with my sightseeing. (There's no expectation that you'll arrive on time, or indeed stay till the end, as long as you know the points of the service during which you're not meant to leave.)
Back in Oxford, I'm really missing it. I would go to church much more if it could be this simple - if I could just pop in between the farmer's market and the cafe as part of my weekend routine. In the week and a half I was in Russia, I went to more church services than I've been to in years. (Not to mention wore a headscarf more than I ever have... it was a good chance to use all the scarves I have lying around.)
Really I shouldn't complain. I know there are places, like in the American South, where you have to drive for hours to get to an Orthodox church. I grew up in a town with one, and I've just discovered that we have four
here in Oxford, not two as I'd originally thought.
• the Greek Orthodox
one, the oldest Orthodox church in Oxford and the home of Kallistos Ware
, which is unfortunately a long walk from my house
• the other Russian Orthodox church
(Patriarchate of Moscow), which is also a bit of a hike
• a Romanian Orthodox church
• an Indian Orthodox church
(Malenkara Orthodox Syrian
Whether or not I manage to get off my couch within the next half an hour to go to church this morning, I must definitely plan to visit the latter two sometime - particularly the last, as I've never been to an Oriental Orthodox church before. We shall see...
ETA: I ended up going to the other Russian church, which I hadn't visited before in its new home, and turns out to be only 20 minutes walk. Not too bad.