"Sow, sow everywhere, even on rock. You never know, it might come up.”
- Fr. Sophrony of Essex
When every life matters, how can the Church proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ where it counts: where people are? How can she reach the emerging generation? As the worthy work of wrestling with this question continues, perhaps in the meantime a mere presence might be worthwhile. Holy Theophany parish in Colorado Springs has created such a presence by transforming a cast-off structure into a stunning place of prayer that can be brought to people who would not otherwise step foot in an Orthodox Church.
In the mountains near Colorado Springs a tiny coffee kiosk on wheels had come to the end of its coffee shop life and was for sale on the side the highway. Holy Theophany’s Fr. Anthony Karbo noticed it was eight-sided, made of stone and timber, and had a copper roof. It reminded him of the roadside chapels in Greece, and therein imagined a new life for this little kiosk. He sought help from Silouan Alberts and artist Michael Greer, of Greer Studios. Together they tore down a coffee shop and after some hard work unveiled a mobile Orthodox chapel.
The idea to be present at public gatherings where Orthodoxy might be an exotic mystery to most passersby led to the creation of this “tiny-house” Orthodox temple on wheels. The chapel debuted in the public square over Memorial Day weekend, 2017, and it was quite the attraction. Priests and faithful of Holy Theophany stood amongst the throng at a huge street fair called “Territory Days” to interact with people and answer questions. The visual draw of the glistening gold dome set in the middle of Colorado Avenue could be seen from blocks away.
The oft repeated invitation, “You’re welcome to go inside and take a look!,” was for people of all ages to enter into the experience of God in Orthodox sacred space. Children, with their curiosity and fearlessness, ran right up the stairs, reminiscent of the Theotokos’ Entrance in the Temple centuries ago. Adults were more hesitant. Inside. visitors could venerate icons or light a candle. Many were content to simply experience the surroundings in silence while enjoying the pleasant smell of incense and the soft chant playing in the background. Many stopped to talk. Some asked questions. Several commented on the excellent workmanship. Although we may never know the spiritual impact, the inaugural appearance of the mobile chapel in the marketplace appeared to be a great success. May she continue to shine a light for faith, reverence, and the fear of God for many years.