TARPON SPRINGS, FL – The St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, FL was filled to capacity for the August 3 Sunday Liturgy. While other Greek Orthodox churches throughout the country see their numbers drop and the empty pews rise during the summer months, Tarpon’s parishioners do not take a respite from church service.
The typically-large crowd was even larger that day, as His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta attended and presided.
As one would expect, his sermon was replete with theological references, as well as reminders for the laity to support their priest, Father Anastasios Gounaris – new to the community and recently transferred from the Archdiocesan Cathedral in New York.
Alexios devoted much time, however, to teaching about a virtue not specific to Greek Orthodoxy, or to Christianity or even theism, for that matter: trusting your fellow human beings.
“If people do not trust each other,” Alexios said, they do not live in communities. They stray from each other and live alone. “And then, you are alone,” he continued, “and when you alone, you are like an animal. And when you are like an animal, you spread fear.” And that is precisely the type of world we live in today, Alexios warned. A world where people live like animals and spread fear, all because they have not learned to trust their fellow human beings.
Alexios message is particularly timely and compelling, given the current tensions throughout the world, not least of which the crisis in Ukraine and Gaza. That it is a message certainly consistent with Orthodox Christianity, but not one exclusive to it, it is one that is truly catholic (small “c”) and truly ecumenical small “e”): one that can be spread to and valued by people throughout the world.
Born Anthimos Panagiotopoulos on Christmas Day 1943 in Patras, Greece, Alexios was ordained in late 1965 and served numerous communities in Greece and the United States, including Astoria.
In 1999, Alexios was elected Bishop of the Diocese of Atlanta and in 2002, when the Diocese was elevated to a Metropolis, he was named Metropolitan. The Metropolis includes all of Florida as well as Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.