The Centurion

Souderton Church Brings International Flavors to Community

Zach Willits, Centurion Staff

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St. Philip Orthodox Church in Souderton drew a large crowd on Sept. 21 and 22 at its annual international food festival, including an array of foods and fun activities.

This community event featured food from many different countries, including Eritrea, Ethiopia, Greece, Lebanon, Romania, and Russia. To decide what foods were made, “native cooks who go to our parish decided based on what would be enjoyable for all, while also being authentic,” said Father Noah Bushelli, the priest at St. Philip.

With many people at the festival smiling and enjoying themselves quite a bit, it certainly seems the community outreach was a success this year. And while that is one of the reasons the church hosts the festival, Father Noah explained that “the primary reason for having this festival each year is to reach out to the community and to evangelize.”

This is why they include a church tour as part of the event. The walls of the worship area are covered in icons depicting various saints, biblical figures, and biblical events. “The icons are like windows into heaven,” said church volunteer Ken.

Iconography is an important tradition in the Orthodox faith. They are displayed and viewed with great respect, being venerated frequently at churches and homes. Outside of the worship area is another attraction– an iconographer at work. “They’re a way for us to communicate with God and saints,” explained the iconographer while working on her latest icon. “We use them to help us concentrate and help us ask for help.”

A large selection of icons were available for purchase in the great room, as well as an assortment of various trinkets and jewelry. A lot of the items were from historically and predominantly Orthodox Christian countries.

Great Vespers, the evening service, was held mid-day Saturday at the church. This service was special, as visitors from the community had their first experience of Orthodox Christian worship. These service traditions go back for centuries. “We’re the original church and we do things old school,” noted Father Noah. “Our tradition can be traced back to the original apostles.”

The service engages all five senses. There is an audience of icons all around the room with chants and singing throughout the whole service. Then, the priest proceeds all around the room with incense.
On whether this community event spoke to people on a deeper level, Father Noah believed: “Yes, absolutely. The events here are spiritual, and people will be moved by the peace and joy shown by the members of the church.

“We hope to have our eighth annual food festival at the end of September in 2019, probably the third weekend,” Father Noah said. “We invite you all to come and see our church. Vespers is at 6:00 p.m. on Saturdays, Divine Liturgy at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays. Our website is www.st-philip.net.”

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Souderton Church Brings International Flavors to Community