World Religion Day

Date: 17/01/2024

It’s World Religion Day on Sunday January 21, a day set aside for people to celebrate the many faiths and religions in the world. At MKUH, our staff and volunteers follow a diverse number of religions and faith systems. Here consultant geriatrician Dr Maria Panourgia tells us a little bit more about being a member of the Christian Greek Orthodox church.

Maria was born in Athens. She did her medical training and worked in Italy before joining MKUH 10 years ago. Wherever she has been in the world she has found strength and support in her faith.

In Milton Keynes there is a very active Greek-Orthodox Community. The Community holds regular church services at the Greek-Orthodox Church of St. Ambrosios and St. Stylianos in Stony Stratford. The Community also manages the Swinfen Harris Church Hall, that is located next to the church and runs Greek language lessons for children and adults. Maria is also active with the Greek dance group, which has members of various nationalities.

‘Going to church is almost part of being Greek as so many feasts and celebrations revolve around the Orthodox calendar,’ says Maria, who is a member of her church leadership committee. ‘When I went to Italy to study, one of the first things I did was find a Greek Orthodox church and community and every time I moved cities, I did the same thing. Being part of the church gives me a sense of grounding and also keeps me rooted in my heritage. Sometimes, when life is challenging, I find prayer and worship very reassuring and supportive.’

Like the rest of the Christian church around the world, the Greek Orthodox tradition celebrates Christmas on December 25, but Easter is at a slightly later time. This year it falls on May 5.

‘The Easter services are some of my favourites. During Lent, we are vegan for 40 days with the exception of March 25th and Palm Sunday when we are allowed to add fish to the vegan diet. On March 25th we celebrate the Annunciation Day, which marks when Mary learnt she is going to be Jesus’ mother.

‘Easter itself is a fantastic and moving celebration that starts with special services during the whole Lent duration and culminates with the Holy week. During the Holy week there are daily services to prepare the congregation for the Resurrection. On Easter Sunday the Community celebrates with a big feast that includes traditional foods such as red-dyed boiled eggs and roast lamb, and of course with a lot of dancing!’