Monday, November 25, 2013

My trip to Allentown

I have sadly fallen out of the habit of posting parish spotlights when I travel. Hopefully this post is the first in a recaptured tradition of parish visit postings. This weekend I visited Allentown (for gallons of honey of all things) and was able to make trips to two parishes: St. Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church of Emmaus and Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church (ACROD) in downtown Allentown, PA.

The church in better weather
The Pokrov parish is smack-dab in the middle of downtown Allentown in a converted synagogue. The night before the weather went from a reasonable thermometric range to something approaching the Arctic wastes so that our arrival in the morning was a hyperborean spectacle. What was more of a spectacle was the parking situation as it took some 15 minutes to find a reasonable place to park.

The architecture of the former owners worked quite well with the needs of an Orthodox church - so much so that if the stained glass windows weren't filled with patterns of stars of David and scales I might not have known it was not purpose built by the Carpatho-Rusyn people that use it now. I expected a diminished parish given the age and the Latino-ization of the area, but the Liturgy was actually quite well attended. The priest there, Protopresbyter Robert J. Rebeck, has served for fifty years and was happy to see our short-lived injection of numerous children. My middle daughter, always a boisterous singer, was greeted fondly by the older ladies of the parish as well.

Given that the parish is located where it is and has a rather good Sunday turn-out there is some hope that evangelizations efforts would help reintegrate the parish into the new melting pot neighborhood. We reintegrated ourselves with a stop at a local taqueria after Liturgy for chilaquiles verdes, tacos, pancakes, and horchata. Somehow we found room next to the honey container for pantry items like masa harina, manteca, tamarind, and "travel food" like chile-spiced mangoes, Jarritos drinks, etc.

The parking lot was under construction when I arrived
St. Paul's in Emmaus is a decidedly different story. It's in a suburban area with a new parking lot and an expansive church hall. It's also bursting at the seams with new and old members; a mix of recent Syrian immigrants and locals. I was blessed to attend a Baptism there and might still be full from the spread they put out afterward. I tried to take a picture of all the food, but even a fisheye lens would not have been able to capture it all. Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick is the pastor of the parish and didn't judge my second helping of kibbeh too harshly. He is also the new president of the Lehigh Valley Orthodox Clergy Brotherhood, which I'm told is making important strides in pan-Orthodox endeavors and efforts at bringing the youth together.

Hopefully my next trip to the area will be less darting from warm rabbit warren to rabbit warren and more taking in the local sites. Oh, and more tacos.

1 comment:

  1. FWIW, I would describe our mix in Emmaus more as "a small handful of Syrian immigrants, a larger handful of Syrian Americans, and a majority of folks from various other Orthodox traditions and converts." We're kind of a mixed bag, but Syrians are our largest minority. Most of ours are local-born, however.