It is an island of English in a sea of Romanian and was completely unexpected.
I was raised in a family where the expectation was that everyone would attend church on Sunday, a tradition I have kept up long after having shed parental control. My children see that as a bit legalistic, but I have good reasons for church attendance (ask me about those another time if you are really interested). Even on vacation I try to attend, though I am the first to admit I don’t always get much spiritual benefit out of whatever the local church is that I am visiting.
Sunday in Bucharest I was not prepared to attend the nearest church. It looked architecturally interesting, definitely Orthodox, but I don’t speak Romanian and that could have been a problem when it came to correctly navigating the liturgy. I have visited Orthodox churches, but really not spent enough time in them to be able to know what to do and when unless I have someone coaching me.
Bucharest however is a capital city. I figured there must be an International Church with English language services. A quick internet check revealed that there is. But I was feeling lazy, or maybe a little unsure of my ability to navigate the Bucharest subway (I’ll save that for our next visit). And Google gave me another option, an Anglican church just around the corner from where we were staying.
Location helped, but it was the church website that drew me in, although I have since discovered it was an older version that came up first on my search. I was hooked by the printed instructions to give your cab driver if you wanted to visit the church, in phonetic Romanian since it is highly unlikely that any taxi driver in Bucharest would know what an Anglican church is. Such a visitor-friendly approach impressed me. (For some reason the current version of the website doesn’t have those directions, or at least I couldn’t find them.)
Church of the Resurrection looks like a typical brick Anglican church from the outside, which to me makes it stand out in Bucharest as the city does not have an overabundance of English architecture. The interior was at the same time similar to and different from other Anglican churches I have visited.
The difference was not only the crucifix at the front, as I know some Anglo-Catholic churches have that feature. However I don’t remember seeing icons on the walls of an Anglican church before. On reflection that made sense. Romania is very much an Orthodox country, and having a church decorated to some extent like an Orthodox church makes it friendlier for those visiting for the first time.
The worship service itself was pleasant enough, the congregation small (about 25 people in attendance) and welcoming. It still felt very much like other Anglican churches I have visited. We were invited to stay for refreshments afterward, and asked if we wanted to be on the church email list, but explained that we were tourists and would not be regular attenders.
Churches spring up in the most unlikely places. This English-language Anglican outpost in Bucharest has been around since the middle of the 19th century, with the current building completed in 1922. Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Marie, who was married to Crown Prince Ferdinand of Romania, was a regular worshipper during the 1920s despite having “converted” to Orthodoxy upon marriage.
From what I could see, Church of the Resurrection knows and understands its role: to provide community to the English-speakers in Bucharest while at the same time reaching out to the larger Romanian-speaking community around it. It’s always nice to find a place like that.