A Bishop, husband, father and student Dorsey seems like the kind of person you can talk to for hours and about anything. This might be due to his job that as he explains gives him the opportunity to be close to ordinary people and hear about their problems, struggles and tragedies, but it might also be thanks to his charming personality that inspires comfort and makes you feel at ease.
Dorsey has been a Bishop in the Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh, USA, for about 9 years. He is responsible for 36 parishes, 70 priests, deacons and their families as well as 2 institutions. “My responsibilities are the welfare of all these congregations. I visit a different one every Sunday and I’ll preach and I will teach and I will make sure everybody is ok and hear about problems that come up and there are always problems of course.”
Just a short conversation is enough to understand that Dorsey genuinely cares. He cares about social justice, he cares about people and the state of our societies, he cares about the well-being of everybody. And he cares in a humbling and honest fashion that is simultaneously inspiring and eye opening. A true example to follow.
“Right now in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd there is a great deal of upheaval so we are trying to come up with a common strategy with the leaders of Churches to help neihgborhoods and also try to make some progress around the issue of social justice. So my job is a very complicated job. I worry about everything but I also pray, and whenever I pray I worry less.”
Dorsey does not belong in the category of Greek LOL students who learn the language because of their Greek background or for family reasons. His encounter and connection with Greek is a professional one and rather permeated with theological layers. “For many years I studied written Greek, and the more I read particularly the letters of St Paul, the more I became convinced that they are better understood as speech rather than text. So, although modern Greek is different to the Greek of the New Testament, it is still very close. This fascinated me and I thought that if I could speak it and hear it the way it is spoken today I would be able to understand the letters in a complete different way. That was the beginning of it and then I just fell in love with Greece.”
Our conversation shifts to his love for the Greek culture and while he does of course mention food, there is also a surprising cultural aspect that feels special to him. “The thing that really got me interested in Greek culture is when I first heard “Rebetika.” There is just something so powerful about it.”
Dorsey even remembers the exact moment this started.
“It was during the refugee crisis which was right after the economic crisis in Greece. Everything had collapsed and suddenly there were also tens of thousands of refugees coming. Other countries shut their borders and the Greeks opened their arms. The Orthodox Church actually set aside land for muslim cemeteries and I found that so moving. And I said to a friend I am glad American values are alive somewhere because this is the kind of thing we should have been doing.”
This is the moment Dorsey started learning more about the Greek refugees of 1922 and as he says this is what got him to Rebetika, a genre of Greek popular music that defined that era of uprooting and forced migration.
This brings us to the importance of community for Greek people, especially in times of tragedy, and we quickly realize that this sense of community is something Dorsey experiences every day. “I know all of my priests and because I visit each congregation I get to know the ordinary people so there is a very close sense of community. If there is a tragedy, I get to hear about it. The people have a sense that their bishop is very close to them and that means the world to me.”
We end our interesting discussion with a hope to meet in Greece soon and why not continue our talk in Greek. Besides Dorsey feels safe practising his Greek around native Greeks, he says:
“Greeks are so grateful and pleased when you try to speak the language. My teacher, Christina, is so gentle and encouraging. Whenever I make a mistake she makes me feel relieved rather than embarrassed. I am looking forward to going back to Greece and getting to speak with more people there.”
Thank you Dorsey for our interesting talk and for being part of our online Greek community.