The Byzantine rite is experiencing a resurgence in Nashville through the efforts of a local Romanian Greek Catholic priest who sees an opportunity to celebrate its distinctive liturgical tradition while uniting Western and Eastern Catholics in faith.
Father Calin Tamiian, the director for spiritual care and clinical pastoral education for Ascension Saint Thomas, will shepherd the Blessed Martyr Bishops Byzantine Catholic Church in Nashville.
The newly established Byzantine rite mission is being hosted by the Catholic Church of the Korean Martyrs with support from Deacon Justin Oelgoetz of the St. Nicholas Ukrainian Greek Catholic Mission.
“I think the goal is to create an awareness of the richness within our Catholic faith,” Father Tamiian said. “There is diversity and a unity of faith and, in that, we hope to allow people to experience what it means to be so different and still be exactly the same Church.”
The Byzantine rite traces its roots back to 330 A.D. when Constantine dedicated Byzantium, which is now Istanbul, as the new capital of the Roman Empire. It is both recognized by and in full communion with the pope and the Holy See.
While the new Byzantine community has only been meeting regularly since January, Father Tamiian said, the influx of people relocating to Middle Tennessee amid the COVID-19 pandemic has correlated with the group’s growing numbers.
“Nashville’s growth has brought people from different parts of the country for a better life,” he said.
Others, he added, have found a home in the Byzantine community based on the richness of the tradition they have encountered in different parts of their life, like being exposed to it in school.
Father Tamiian said people from as far north as Bowling Green, Kentucky, and as far south as Thompson’s Station, have been drawn to the Byzantine community. Church attendance, he said, averages about 30 people each week.
Before the establishment of Blessed Martyr Bishops Byzantine Catholic Church, there had been several attempts at establishing a long-term Byzantine church in Nashville by Melkite Greek Catholics and Ruthenian Byzantine Catholics, none of which lasted.
Father Tamiian is optimistic about the growing interest in the Byzantine community, but admitted it’s still too early to establish a long-term plan for the church.
“We’re still in the phase of being able to meet people and seeing what the support is,” he said.
The priest, who is a native of Romania, added an invitation to Latin rite Catholics to experience the Divine Liturgy, which is similar to the liturgical rite of the Eastern Orthodox Church, at Blessed Martyr Bishops Byzantine Catholic Church.
“It allows the faith to be better understood and see how it developed within certain cultures, experienced through prayer, and uniting us with those we might have never met otherwise.”
Celebrate the Divine Liturgy on Sundays at 8:15 a.m., and the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts on Fridays through Easter at 6:30 p.m., at the Catholic Church of the Korean Martyrs, 2319 Lebanon Pike, in Nashville.