Faith and heritage are often so intertwined, few people can separate the two. In Charlotte, multiple congregations cater to visitors and believers of particular backgrounds. You might actually be visiting one this weekend — as Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral hosts its annual Yiasou Greek Festival, which begins Thursday.
But if you come there for their regular services, you’ll get a much different experience. The evidence is heard in the language of sermons or the smells of traditional incense.
Inside Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral
Members of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral keep coming back because the world needs to worship.
“(Being) spiritual generates positive vibes and feelings. Even the word means to connect with something. That’s why religion will never disappear,” Father Angelo Artemas said.
Father Artemas’s congregation may best be known for the annual Yiasou Greek Festival. But Father Artemas said there is more to the church.
“This community was founded in 1923. Those (immigrants) who had gone through Ellis Island were having a hard time with winters. People migrated south,” Artemas said.
Artemas said worshipping with people of the same background is comforting.
“First and foremost with immigrants, there is an ethnic comfort, identity and familiarity with the worship,” he said.
There’s also St. Sarkis Armenian Church
Locally, St. Sarkis Armenian Church is the faith home to 200 individuals and families and Father Samuel Rith-Najarian emphasizes the word family.
“We have a lot of young families,” he said. “I think in our particular community, people come for different reasons. Some people come because they have an attachment to it.”
Father Samuel said in Charlotte, attendees come to find a sense of belonging.
“Some people come because they have an attachment to it,” he said. “Biblically, it’s a faithful community of followers… First and foremost it’s a community established by Christ.”
He says today, more so than ever, people are turning to the church after the refugee crisis in Syria and Turkey.
He said many members of the church came to the United States after the genocide in 1915. Today, Father Samuel said Armenians are facing a similar situation.
“We have several families whose relatives are in the middle of the war in Syria,” he said. “We have one mother whose children are still (in the area).”
Father Samuel said the church works to educate the community on the Armenian Church and history. On May 7th they will host a festival with food, music and dancing.
Father Samuel says these issues cause church to maintain relevance in the world.
“Sharing in the body of Christ is always relevant,” he said.
Both congregations are committed to serving those in Charlotte, whether or not they are Greek or Armenian.
“It’s different than walking into a Methodist or a mega church but come in on Sunday, you are always welcome,” Father Samuel said.