The Kingdom & the Flea Market


There was a death in our parish not long ago. An old woman named Helen, who lived alone, died after a brief illness. When I first heard that she was in the hospital and then that she had died I was surprised. I’d given her Communion only a few weeks before. Helen was very close to a little girl, Grace, who loved sitting next to her, sometimes on her lap. Grace is the youngest of four sisters, and it occurred to me that this would probably be the first death she had experienced. At the funeral home she put a small photo of herself under Helen’s hands. I know that Grace’s love for her was very important to Helen, as Helen’s love for her was for Grace.

Sometimes the value of the church in the life of its people seems to have little to do with religion as we ordinarily think of it. Quite apart from any particular Christian teaching or sacrament, it is clear that without her involvement in the church Helen would have been deprived of something she plainly enjoyed and benefited from, and the same is true of Grace. A young Korean told me that many of the young immigrant families he knew in our part of Queens joined one of the many Korean Christian congregations so that they could be part of a larger community, and not be so alone in a new country. This was certainly true of a number of Albanians who began to come to services at the parish I served for ten years; the increase in attendance was dramatic after the fall...

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About the Author

John Garvey is an Orthodox priest and columnist for Commonweal. His most recent book is Seeds of the Word: Orthodox Thinking on Other Religions.