Sts. Mary Magdalene and Markella Greek Orthodox Church in Darlington will host its first drive-thru Greek food festival on Saturday and Sunday, the church announced.
Traditional Greek food like souvlaki and spanakopita, along with an assortment of desserts and more, will be available for pickup at the church’s 3714 Dublin Road location. The festival is open from 3 to 8 p.m. on Saturday and 12:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. The menu is available online to schedule pickup, and pre-orders are open. Pre-ordering helps the church better prepare its inventory.
The Rev. Elefterios Plevrakis said there is more to the festival than just good food; it is about celebrating Greek culture and preserving the faith while reconnecting with congregants.
The church was closed from March 8 until June 7 because of the coronavirus pandemic, he said, which was hard on the congregation, missing several important religious milestones including Easter.
"People got scattered — we sort of lost connection with people — and as a church, that is a problem,” he said. “You do not want people being alone out there.”
Typically, the church holds an annual Greek festival in June at the John Carroll School in Bel Air, which also includes music, dancing and a silent auction, among other activities. The drive-through festival is not a true replacement of it, but rather an extension of previous events the church is trying out since the June festival could not be held this year, Plevrakis said.
“It is something kind of different, unique," he said.
The annual festival is hugely important to the church — both culturally and monetarily, Plevrakis said. Greek Orthodoxy as a religion is inextricable from the act of prayer in a physical place like a church, he said, and the proceeds from the festival traditionally help sustain the church through the summer months.
"It is not a faith that can exist outside the church. We have an ecclesiastical identity,” he said. “Without the people gathering in the physical church … then our faith kind of dissolves.”
Past festivals have attracted thousands of people per weekend, Plevrakis estimated, and though he believes the turnout for the drive-through may be smaller this year, he believes a few hundred will still come out. He said the area is overall supportive, and that responses from the community have been encouraging.
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“It is not merely about entertainment, but the preservation of identity," he said. “And it is essential.”