Another wonderful part of the trip has been the social aspect. I've gotten to meet people from all over the world, including foreigners who are living right here in Romania. It has been fun getting to hear the various stories of why individuals have an interest in Romania, and it's been great to delve into religious discussions with some of these people. Many of our field trip destinations involved a church of some sort, so there is always ample opportunity for religious discussion. It has also been fun for me to see the religious history of Romania and to think more deeply about Christianity from the standpoint of catholicity rather than from my small sphere of exposure.
I've posted about a few experiences on Facebook and will post those below the pictures.
I have returned to Romania for the month of July in order to take a Romanian language and culture class. It's been a lot of fun so far, and very productive. It's normally difficult to be immersed in the language because many Romanians speak English and don't let you struggle through discussion for very long. Their English is so much better, it's just easier (and more merciful) for them to speak in English. I get it, but it makes it hard to practice. But at this language course, everyone else is trying to learn as well, so almost all of the discussion is in Romanian. Beyond that, it's also great because we're taking excursions each Friday and Saturday. We get to see beautiful, historic parts of Romania, and eat traditional food.
Another great aspect of this course is that I am getting to meet people from all over the world. Naturally, they're interested in discussion, which always leads to asking why I'm in Romania. That has brought about some good dialogue. Yesterday I sat next to a Spaniard and we talked about distinctions between the Orthodox/Catholic/and Protestant churches. He talked about how in Spain, most people are irreligious. I had a similar conversation with a Greek lady today as well. I usually approach the question of distinction by saying that while we all have different traditions and emphases, our core message is the same. That, of course, begs the question as to what that message is and usually provides me with the opportunity to explain. I never thought I'd be sharing the gospel in Romanian with a Spaniard.
I thought I'd post today because we went to an Orthodox church located in a very small village. You can see the inside of the church in the 360 picture linked below, and you can see the outside of another Orthodox church in the picture with the geese. As you can see, Orthodox churches are very ornate. A lot of thought goes into the meaning of their churches and the message the paintings and architecture convey to those who see it. Before we left the church, our guide said something that I thought was a cool little saying that taught a lot in a short space. He said, "My hope is the Father, my escape the Son, and my coverage the Spirit." There would be a lot to unpack there, and explaining the stronger emphasis the Orthodox have on the hope of becoming like the father (called theosis or deification) would be a task in and of itself. I'll just leave you with the saying to sift through as you prepare for worship tomorrow.
I'm about half way through with my language course. It's been very interesting getting to see some of Romania's Orthodox history. I've also enjoyed getting to converse with people in the class. Today I spoke with an Italian a bit about religion. According to him, Italy is bucking the trend of the rest of Europe who seems to be throwing off religion. While the current state of affairs in most of Europe is not optimistic, I do find the history of the church and the intention behind ancient architecture and structure very beautiful. Hopefully these very things can be used to help us as we worship God, and hopefully they can help convey the message of God's glory, beauty, and community to others.