Unorthodox Move: Lebanese Loyalties Divided by New Church

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Charlottetown

For decades it has been home to Charlottetown's Lebanese and Syrian Orthodox Christians because there was no Orthodox church available.

Now, with the Christmas opening of Saints Peter and Paul Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church, the Orthodox members of St. Peter's Anglican Cathedral have a church of their own. It remains to be seen what this means for St. Peter's.

The Anglican hierarchy seems to be binding its time, letting uncertain parishioners make their own decision where they want to go to church. Orthodox authorities, on the other hand, are adamant: since their church is not in communion with the Anglican Church, followers must choose one denomination or another.

Established in 1869, the cathedral saw numbers of Lebanese and Syrian immigrants gravitate toward it for lack of their own church. Orthodox families, some of whom go back seven decades and several generations on the island, were ministered to regularly by the Anglican Church and by Orthodox priests who would visit a few times a year.

Some of the Orthodox families always hoped to have their own church, and with last year's arrival of Arabic-speaking Orthodox priest Rev. Boulos Khayat, their dream is realized.

George Bassett is one St. Peter's parishioner who hopes to maintain dual membership - with St. Peter's and the new Orthodox church.

He has been instrumental in getting the new church off the ground. A motel owner in the West Royalty area of Charlotte-town, he donated the land beside his hotel for the 40- by 70-metre church building.

Described by St. Peter's rector Rev. Peter Harris as an example of the good relations between the cathedral and the new Orthodox church, Mr. Bassett asked recently to continue to be included in St. Peter's sidesmen schedule and his son is an altar server.

"The purpose of establishing our (new) church was: we have an immigrant community here that doesn't speak English," says Mr. Bassett. "They weren't going (to church) anywhere. We brought them in to help them with their faith."

Also weighing on their decision, he says, were some changes made to the Anglican Church including women's ordination and perceived acceptance of homosexuality.

Mr. Bassett said the Orthodox congregation was ministered to for a time by the former rector of St. Peter's, Rev. Malcolm Westin, who left the Anglican church last year for the Orthodox church.

Although Fr. …