Part of the power of Glendi is in its ability to bring youth to the parish, yet uphold tradition. My grandfather, who served as an Orthodox priest most of my life, guided a tiny parish in San Francisco, made up of seemingly no youth at all except for on holidays. This left the impression that perhaps Orthodoxy was struggling to regain relevancy.
Turns out it was more than just an inkling. Barbara had confirmed that Saint Seraphim Church once had dwindling numbers in youth. “When I first joined this parish, we were still in the little church which is on the property here. There were maybe five children here,” said Barbara. “Now, now we have a strong, youthful generation.”
Embracing the Community
The turning point for the parish was that first Glendi in 1989, which many of the parishioners agree serves a part in “opening up to the community.” As members of a parish, it’s plain to see: they are tight knit. They love each other and thrive in their company. So to bring in outsiders, many of them unacquainted with the Orthodox faith, was a huge milestone.
[Glendi is] an amazing introduction for people to something that’s totally unfamiliar. I know when I first came 42 years ago into the little church, it was something totally outside of my experience. I was not raised in Orthodoxy.
Several of the attendees of Glendi fall so much in love with the church and the people, they eventually become parishioners at the church. Considering the parishioners serve lunch every Sunday, perhaps some fell in love with the food as well.
Food + Education
The “amazing introduction” is suggestive of more than just an experience. It’s an education to a way of life, to beautiful, one-of-a-kind frescos, the church’s grand architecture, and to the colorful foods and people from Eastern Europe who all found their homes in Sonoma County. Not all parishioners are well-versed in traditional cooking, yet they take up the traditional cuisine as a way to commemorate their ancestors, to commune, and to bond.