Of Bells and Chants

On Sunday morning, Michael and I took the tram to the  Bosphorous and then grabbed a ferry to cross the Strait, placing us on the Asian side of Turkey….that’s right, one country, two continents!!!

We stepped on land, took a photo and said “Welcome to Asia”!!!


We were met there by a contact name Nick who is from the US but is studying in Istanbul and involved with the local Presbyterian Church.  We also met a group of students who were spending the summer in Bulgaria but had come for a visit as well.

Once we were all there, we walked about 15 minutes and arrived at  “All Saints Moda Kilisesi”DSC04632

This small church was built in 1878 ….DSC04613

and had beautiful stained glass windows in the front.DSC04616It was a small church, with just 11 rows of pews that would hold about 90 people.

We had wondered if the service would be entirely in Turkish and these two items were hints that we might not understand much…..DSC04617

However, the pastor (Turgay) worked hard to help us understand the gist of what was being sung and said.   As the hymns were sung, he would walk down the center aisle toward the back where the “American’s” were sitting and would begin singing the songs in English.  

The service began promptly at 11:00am with the chiming of the church bell and  chanting  by a young man with a wonderful voice. 

It continued with haunting singing, some of which had a “Gypsy” feel to it.  Several of the songs started out slowly but then got faster and faster as they repeated the verses.  There was a lot of swaying and holding up of hands.

The lyrics were shown in the Order of Worship and were actually easy to follow, but they sang too fast for us to really keep up.  Interestingly, we found that pronunciations’ basically followed the spelling so that it was easy to follow.

When Turgay preached, he would switch to English every so often to catch us up!!!  He also paced up and down the aisle as he spoke and made eye contact with everyone in the congregation….no sleeping allowed here!!!

At the end of the service, they did a special recognition of all of the Father’s in the congregation…..including Michael.  In this photo, Michael is receiving a red rose from a little girl (maybe 4 years old)……



After the service was over, we walked down the road and found a place to eat lunch.    The restaurant had an Western feel to it, but not in the same manner as the touristy joints closer to our hotel.  Instead, it seemed to have been westernized for the Turks to enjoy.   We both had Kabobs with some of the best French Fries that we have had in a long, long time…..DSC04622

We were supposed to be back at the church at 2:00 and had some extra time so we walked past the church and on down to the seaside and found just what we wanted…..a coffee/tea cafe.  And, even better, it was outdoors and we could enjoy the bay views……DSC04631

We returned to the church at the appointed time and listened while Turgay talked to the other group and told them about the history of the church and the ministries that they were involved with.DSC04651

While we were listening we were brought delicious cups of Turkish tea and sipped happily as we listened.   At one point, a big cat wandered in thru the side door and  slowly made his way around the pews.  I lost sight of him and was startled when he rubbed up against my foot!!!

Turgay wanted us to learn about the Muslim faith and understand the differences between it and Christianity so he organized a question and answer time with the Imam from the neighboring Mosque.

Once again, we entered a serene, beautifully adorned building….. DSC04655

We were told that the women did not have to wear head coverings, but I did anyway. 

The first thing that they did was to read two related passages from the Bible and from the Quran.  The Imam had to dress in his special attire  and retrieve the Quran from a special place before he could read the text to us…..


He told us that the Quran is written in a poetic style which makes it easier to memorize.  When it is read, it is in a sing-song chant format.

He also told us that he had attended an “Imam High School” where he received training as a Muslim leader.  He did not attend seminary, but the younger Imam’s were receiving additional education now.

It was obvious as they talked that the Imam and Turgay were good friends and each had a respect for the other one.DSC04660

I asked him a question about the “Call to Prayer”  and he told me that the same words are said each time…..

“Allahu Akbar”    (Allah is Most Great)  – recited FOUR times.
“Ash-hadu an la ilaha ill-Allah”  (I bear witness that there is none worthy of being worshipped except Allah)  – recited TWO times.
“Ash-hadu Anna Muhammad-ar-Rasoolullah” (I bear witness that Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah) – recited TWO times.
“Hayya ‘alas-Salah”  (Come to prayer) – recited TWO times.
“Hayya ‘alal-falah”  (Come to success)  – recited TWO times.
“Allahu Akbar”  (Allah is Most Great)  – recited TWO times.

In the Morning  Prayers the following phrase is added:
“As-salatu khairum minannaum” –  (Prayer is better than sleep)  recited Two times.

He also told us that the cadence  and tune is set, however you can hear that everyone has their own embellishments!!!    He told us that either the Imam or the Imam’s helper is the one to make the call to prayer.  He then demonstrated….


Sets of prayer beads were scattered around the mosque.  The Imam told us that there were 99 beads in the set, one for each name of Allah.  I had seen shorter sets that had 33 beads on them so I guess that you go around 3 times…..


I thought that this window was beautiful…..DSC04665 Before we left,   Turgay and the Imam called for a group photo…..DSC04670

We walked back to the bay and caught the ferry back to the European side of Istanbul.  As we were traveling we could hear the 5:30 call to prayer from the many mosques all over the city……DSC04678 

We returned to the hotel and did a little bit of “Terrace Time”.  Another wonderful day!!!!

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