After many hours of travel, from Tucson to LA (where I had to walk all my bags by hand down about a quarter mile of outdoor terminal sidewalk) to New York (where I had to get patted down at security for the third time in a row) to Istanbul (with a five hour layover and a Popeye’s chicken), I finally arrived at Tbilisi this morning at around 3:30. There were other TLG participants there as well, and T, who’s in charge of our training this week, was waiting for us — we got our stuff in a van, and were nicely stowed at our hotel by around 5.
Rather than sleeping (which would have been lovely), I was out again a bit after 6 on on a church finding quest. I had been given directions to one that’s fairly close, but missed it, so I kept going to the enormous Holy Trinity Cathedral, about a 25 minute walk from where I’m staying. This cathedral is so impressive, it has a lovely and rather sizable basement church, complete with high balconies and basement church balcony chapels, which apparently function as separate churches (who comes up with this stuff?). Because I came early, and followed the people who were coming in at the same time, I ended up attending Liturgy in the underground church. It seemed to be mostly youth and twenty-somethings; there were perhaps 60-80 people, and many young adult alter servers. Most of the people were standing in a semi-circle around the steps that come out from the alter, and nearly all received Communion — this all seemed very good: a bunch of young adults early on a Sunday morning standing attentively near the front of the church, partaking of Holy Communion together. There were five of so women chanters, and they chanted beautifully. Part way through Communion the priest stopped for a minute to chastise them about something before continuing. He gave a homily at the end, and I probably should have left at that point, since he gave it in Georgian, of which I speak not a word (yet).
When service was out I went upstairs through the main church, and there was another service that was, I think, in the middle of the little entrance when I came in. They had an excellent male choir that could be heard from a block away, and a lot of clergy I couldn’t quite identify (there was a bishop, I think, blessing with a triple candle, and perhaps five priests with different fancy domed hats). The arrangement of the cathedral seemed unusual, at least compared with American and Syrian churches, because the bishop’s throne is in the middle of the church (not under the dome, but right in the middle of the nave), so that the people stand around the edges of a kind of oblong clergy space, looking in. The service was very beautiful, and looked like it was going to be an ornate hierarchical Liturgy, but I left early so that I could get back to the hotel on time; training starts in an hour and a half. I walked back along that same obnoxious and rather dangerous road, but at least I was on the river side this time, with a nice pathway, large shady oaks, and fewer crossings.