Tag Archives: church hopping

Clip: Chapel-Turned-Brewery Hopping

2 Aug


Burnside Writers Collective published my latest Church Hopping column.  In this edition of my ongoing column, I visit Brewery Vivant in Michigan. What’s now a trendy Grand Rapids beer hall used to be the Metcalf Funeral Chapel.  Writers Kim Gottschild and Larry Shallenberger join me.

You can read the full article here.


For the last time Burnside went Church Hopping during the Festival of Faith & Writing, check out: Calvin College Chapel with Fellow Burnside Writers.

For the time Burnside Writers Susan Isaacs and Donald Miller went Church Hopping in New York, check out: Calvary-St. George’s.

For another repurposed church, check out: Don Justo’s “Trash” Cathedral.


Road Trip Writing: On the Road and Through Painted Deserts

16 Jul

Donald Miller’s New York Times-bestselling book Blue Like Jazz recently was made into an indie film, and I had the opportunity to watch a screening in Times Square before the film was officially released on April 13.  I’ve had the immense pleasure of meeting and getting to know some of the “characters” in the book.  I was so proud of them!  Penny Carothers wrote a beautiful article about her experience going to the premier and seeing an actress play her on the silver screen.

The film was very different than the book.  I knew this going into it.  The story of this process of turning a collection of essays from Blue Like Jazz into an actual storyline is told in Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.  There’s a scene in A Million Miles when Don is told that he essentially needs to change his life story for the movie.  He says:

“You think they might be bored if we just show my life the way it is,” I clarified. I guess I was asking for reassurance that my life was okay.

From the perspective of a fellow memoirist, I found the process fascinating.   I think memoirists, particularly those who are in the process of turning their book into a movie, should consider reading Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and then watching the film, just to get a sense of process.

After watching the film Blue Like Jazz, I can’t help but wonder what will happen with the film On the Road.  After all, both are fictional portrayals of real life.  If Blue Like Jazz is any indication, On the Road will be very different than the book.  A guy I interned with years ago at the Bowery Poetry Club left a comment recently in response to one of my Facebook posts, saying that Kerouac wasn’t a good storyteller.  In a way, I kind of agree with him.  On the Road would seemingly make a lot more sense if it was just one big road trip across the United States.  Instead, the protagonist, Sal Paradise, barely hits the road before he turns back around.  There are multiple trips across the country, and the story can get a bit confusing because of that.  Maybe Jack Kerouac was trying too hard to stick to the truth to combine all the trips into one.  Then again, maybe he knew what he was doing.  There’s something so much more telling about Sal Paradise failing his first attempt at road tripping and then frenetically ping-ponging between his mother’s house and the open road than if it had all happened easily, perfectly.  Can the film capture that?  Will it try?  Will gaining cohesive action and a clear plot lessen the reality, the rawness, the beat-ness of life?

While I do recommend Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years for an honest look at not just the writing process but the process of living life, the Donald Miller book I’d actually recommend as an example of beautiful storytelling and craft is his first book, which was republished as Through Painted Deserts.  This is the book that pays more attention to the way words sound as they roll of the page.  It inspires because of its beauty and simplicity, and not because of grand, sweeping gestures and actions.

Through Painted Deserts is Donald Miller’s road trip book.  Here’s how the overview reads:

This classic road trip tale will inspire readers of all ages.

Fueled by the belief that something better exists than the mundane life they’ve been living, free spirits Don and Paul set off on an adventure-filled road trip in search of deeper meaning, beauty, and an explanation for life. Many young men dream of such a trip, but few are brave enough to actually attempt it. Fewer still have the writing skills of Donald Miller, who records the trip with wide-eyed honesty in achingly beautiful prose. In this completely revised edition, he discusses everything from the nature of friendship, the reason for pain, and the origins of beauty.

As they travel from Texas to Oregon in Paul’s cantankerous Volkswagen van, the two friends encounter a variety of fascinating people, witness the fullness of nature’s splendor, and learn unexpected lessons about themselves, each other, and even God.

Through Painted Deserts is the modern-day, Protestant version of On the Road.  It’s about a young man looking for truth out on the open roads of America.

PS::: You may also like:

my article on Church Hopping with Donald Miller

my article on Church Hopping with Penny Carothers

Happy Greek Independence Day!

25 Mar


I’m trapped inside, working on my book today so it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to make it to the Greek parade today.  It looks rather grey out, but at least it will be cool for all the people marching in the parade.  My favorite are all the children dressed up in traditional Greek costume.  Too cute!  You can see my photos from last year here.

What’s the Greek parade for, you ask?  To celebrate Greek Independence Day, of course!  March 25 is Greek Independence Day.  Here’s a little history in case you’re new to my blog and missed it last year:

Greece was a strong empire, impacting language and culture around the world for much of ancient history.  Even after Greece fell to Roman rule, Greek thought and influence remained strong.  However, in 1453 the Byzantine Empire fell to the Ottoman Empire.

On March 25, 1821, Metropolitan Germanos of Patras raised a revolutionary flag under a tree outside of Agia Lavra, a monastery in the Peloponnese.  This wasn’t the first clash between the Greeks and the Ottoman Empire in those 400 years.  The Turks had burned monastery, which was built in AD 961, to the ground in 1585.  The Greeks rebuilt it in 1600 but then the Ottoman Empire armies of Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt destroyed the church in 1715.  The Greeks rebuilt it again, and in 1821 Germanos gave an oath to the Greek fighters and raised the flag.  Pasha’s army destroyed Agia Lavra again in 1826.

The War for Independence lasted nine years.  Finally, on 1829, a small part of Greece was liberated.  Slowly, other parts of Greece were liberated.  On July 21, 1832, the Treaty of Constantinople, which put the Greek borders in writing, was signed, and on August 30, 1832, it was ratified.  Still, it wasn’t until after World War II that other Greek lands were returned to Greece.

You can read my full article on Agia Lavra, the church where the revolution began, in my Church Hopping column on Burnside Writers Collective.

Victory Hellas!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

17 Mar

Everyone’s Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day!  Actually, my mom and I often get mistaken for Irish.  It must be our fair Swedish skin and eyes.  I even once got a letter addressed to Nik O’Lopoulos.  Yep.

Here’s a couple of St. Patrick’s Day-related links for you:::

  • On my last trip to Ireland, I got to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.  Fun facts: Benjamin Guinness — yes, of beer fame — funded the reconstruction of the cathedral and Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver’s Travels) was dean here.  Find out more in my Church Hopping article.
  • Then, this summer I took a group Church Hopping to St. Patrick’s Cathedral here in New York City.  You can read about that fun experience here.
  • One of my colleagues at Burnside, wrote this interesting article about the meaning of hair when Sinéad O’Connor tweeted that she hated Ireland.
  • Here’s a review of Irish author Colum McCann’s Dancer, also from a colleague on Burnside.
  • You know how four-leaf clovers are supposed to be lucky?  Well, someone in Japan found a 56-leaf clover.
  • This is a pretty four-leaf clover necklace.
  • Have you ever heard this Irish blessing?  It’s so beautiful, and it always reminds me of the Rebecca St. James song “Abba Father.”
  • Going back to Guinness, the beer company is aiming to set a record for the world’s biggest St. Patrick’s Day party. Sounds fun!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!!

Clip: Church Hopping: St. Nicholas Church at the World Trade Center

3 Oct

As the debate rages on over whether the Muslim community center Park51, better known by the misnomer the “Ground Zero Mosque,” should be allowed to be constructed near the former cite of the World Trade Center, little media attention has gone to the one house of worship that actually was destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.  Established by immigrants, the small Greek Orthodox church had served the spiritual needs of Lower Manhattan since 1916, just shy of a hundred years.  St. Nicholas was destroyed indirectly when the South Tower fell on it during the attacks of 9/11.  With religion at the center of debates over whether a Muslim community center should be built so close to where the Islamic militant group Al-Qaeda attacked and whether there should be any sort of clergy prayer at the ten-year anniversary, why has the Greek Orthodox church’s destruction gone under-reported?  Why are people who profess themselves Christian more invested in keeping a Muslim community center at bay than in rebuilding and growing a Christian church?  Is Greek Orthodox not Christian enough?

You can read my full Church Hopping article on St. Nicholas Church at the World Trade Center on Burnside Writers Collective.

Clip: Church Hopping LIVE: Church of the Intercession

29 Sep

Did you know Audubon (yes, the bird guy) was one of the founders of a church up in Washington Heights?  If you weren’t able to make it to the live Church Hopping event, you can read about it here, on Burnside Writers Collective.

Clip: Church Hopping LIVE @ The Church of St. Anselm

30 Aug


Dario and Paco saved the Church Hopping tour at St. Anselm’s in the Bronx.  Burnside published the story here.

Clip: Church Hopping LIVE: St. Patrick’s Cathedral

9 Aug


Burnside posted the recap of Church Hopping LIVE: St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  Thanks so much for all who came out and to those who’ve been following along virtually!!  I hope to come to your city or town one day to view the beautiful churches in your neighborhood and meet you.

Here’s the St. Bart’s recap in case you missed it.

Clip: Church Hopping LIVE: St. Bart’s

1 Aug


Check out Burnside for a full recap on Church Hopping LIVE to St. Bart’s.  Part 2 to St. Patrick’s will post later this week so keep your eyes peeled!

And, don’t forget: the next Church Hopping LIVE event is August 20.  Details here.

Writing Wednesday: BWC Church Hopping Column Goes Live in NYC This Summer

29 Jun

While I tend to write a lot about my life as a Greek American here, for the past few years I’ve been writing about art and architecture and faith over at Burnside Writers Collective.  Three years ago, I began writing a column called Church Hopping, in which I visit — most of the time physically but occasionally virtually — churches throughout the world, and write about their incredible history and art.  The Church Hopping column is one of the writing projects I’m the most proud of, and of which the Burnside community has been incredibly supportive of.

That’s why I’m so happy to announce that I’m partnering with Burnside Writers Collective, City Grace Church, and Redeemer Presbyterian Church to create live Church Hopping events this summer!  That means that you can join in on the fun.  Read more about it here and register here.  Space is limited and it’s filling up fast so even though the first event is a month away, I suggest registering asap if you plan on attending.