You might say that this newcomer is a familiar face within the St. George community. Many of you have seen her through the years buying up goodies at the annual Philoptochos bake sale. Now she can be found regularly at Sunday church services with her small brood of grandchildren.
Constance “Connie” Zena Eggleston, whose family name is Arboozis, started attending church services again in October, after a long hiatus. She and her husband, Bruce, live inPittsfield, just 10 minutes away from the church.
“I went as a kid to the church, but then left because my dad didn’t understand the sermons that were in Greek,” recalls Connie. So they started going to South Congregational Church onSouth Street. Connie was a teenager then.
The Arboozis family aren’t newcomers to Orthodoxy. Connie says her grandfather, Peter, helped start the first Greek Orthodox Church inAlbany. He also had a cafe there onState Street, and his wife had a beauty shop. While Connie’s father hails fromAlbany, her mother is fromPittsfieldand is from the Gianokakis clan. Connie says her uncle, Bill, built the altar here atPittsfield.
Fast-forward to last Sunday, as Connie relaxes for a bit in the church hall after service while three of her grandchildren practice with the other kids in the nave of the church for the upcoming holiday concert. The fourth grandchild, 2-year-old Miriah Barnes, is at home with her grandfather. The others at church are Ryan Aggleston, 10; Payton Barnes, 9; and Preston Barnes, 6. Connie has raised Ryan since he was 3 months old, and she more recently took custody of the other three children. She says both fathers have served time in prison, and the mothers aren’t capable of raising them. “I figured I had Ryan only, but there was an emergency suddenly and then I took the other three,” she says. Three of the children weren’t treated well by their mother, and so custody of them went to their father, Connie’s son, and then Connie took over because he still had a lot of court issues to deal with out of state, Connie says.
So she felt compelled to care for the little ones. As she has settled into her larger family, she realized that the children needed some structure to their lives. So she joined the church again. She hopes to have her 25-year-old son, Stephen, baptized in the Orthodox church, then have him baptize the little ones. Stephen lives in an apartment in the same house as his mom, and works in the operating room atBerkshireMedicalCenter.
“It feels good to be back in the church,” says Connie. “I really like the priest. I’ve never seen a priest so warm to children and families. And the children like going to church.” She not only feels like a new member, she also feels like she fits in. Connie knows some of the older ladies since she was a little girl. Her godmother is also Pauline Leonard, who also encouraged Connie to come to the church.