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Author Topic: American Orthodoxy and American Culture: Are They Compatible?  (Read 19245 times) Average Rating: 0
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« Reply #90 on: February 27, 2007, 04:51:22 PM »

I think you guys are talking past each other for the most part.

Some of you need to come out west and actually experience some of theses multi-ethnic cradle + convert parishes that do thrive. 
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« Reply #91 on: February 27, 2007, 05:54:56 PM »

hehe and in parts of the west the Episcopal Church sure isn't a a bunch of wealthy people either at least not in places like Montana and Wyoming and such.  Wink

Ebor
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« Reply #92 on: February 27, 2007, 06:03:45 PM »

One of the most traditionalist Eastern Orthodox Churches is the one Anastasios belongs to. Ask him how St. Markella's Cathedral is decorated at Christmas.  Cheesy

I recall his mentioning that somewhere, yes.  It makes a nice counter to the "It's Western so you can't ever do that!" posts.

Quote
Great way of hiding your age! But seriously, I think you'll find that either they are new migrant to the diaspora who aren't accostomed to celebrating birthdays, or they are new converts to Orthodoxy with crazy ideas. In the modern Greek-Australian custom, you get presents on your birthday, and you give "favours" (a round of drinks, cakes, sweets etc) on your Name day.

Well, I have to say that I had noticed that it was often a person from one of the two groups you mention that would be, shall we say, giving a very vigourous declaration about such things not being EO in any way, shape or form and that they aren't allowed at all.  (sometimes with an overtone of anyone who does such things isn't Really EO).

I like the giving things on the name day.  It's like the Hobbits giving presents on their birthdays.  Wink

Quote
Economia is fine, but economia which doesn't take the Universal Church into consideration can be harmful. As stated, Thanksgiving is what we could call a "local" American Feast. This concept is by no means foreign to the Orthodox Church. The feast day of every Parish and Monastery (the Feast of their Patrion Saint) is considered a local feast. But if that feast day falls on a fasting day, the most that is permitted in the jurisdiction of that Parish Church or monastery is wine and oil. On March 25th, we celebrate one of the "Twelve Great Feasts" of the Church, the Annunciation., which falls during Great Lent. Yet even on this universally observed Feast of the Incarnation of Christ, the Church will not permit meat to be eaten. So if a local American feast is given more importance than even the Universal Feast Commemorating the Incarnation of God- what is that saying about the relationship of American Orthodox Christians to the rest of the Orthodox Church throughout the world? And if an American is living abroad on Thanksgiving day, he or she is under the jurisdiction of the local Bishop, should they alone among the local Church be permitted to eat meat on Thanksgiving simply because of their ethnicity?

As to this, I don't know, and not being EO it's not for me to make any declarations on it. I'm just posing questions to get information since I know that I don't know.  Smiley  Thank you for answering my question.

Ebor
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« Reply #93 on: February 27, 2007, 06:11:39 PM »

Cowboy:

The difference between the Episcopal and Orthodox churches in flava, is that the Episcopal Church is viewed as American. The Orthodox Church is not.  WE are the outsiders.

Forget the Episocpal church. In my neck of the woods you can find an evangelical church to match your social standing in society (Some are blue collar dominant, some are white collar) or your race. You can even find a Protestant church to match your sexual preference.

Haven't Christians of all confessions formed clubs?

You can argue until you are blue in the face about what we (Fill in the blank Orthodox or Christian) should be doing. I have never attended a truly "integrated" church.

If I am correct Martin Luther King had a saying. The most segregated hour of the week is 11AM on a Sunday morning. This can be applied to more than race.
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« Reply #94 on: February 27, 2007, 06:13:16 PM »

I think you guys are talking past each other for the most part.

Some of you need to come out west and actually experience some of theses multi-ethnic cradle + convert parishes that do thrive. 

You don't have to go out west to experience this. My parish in Cleveland, Ohio is half cradle and half convert. Every ethnic stripe is represented also. We have about 200 parishioners counting kids. We don't consider ourselves ethnic in any way, except for the ancestry of many members. We have no ethnic identifiers in our church name and all iconography in the church is in English as is EVERY WORD of EVERY SERVICE. We have had many more baptisms and chrismations than we have had funerals in the past 5 years. We are growing and thriving.

Our converts understand and embrace tithing, which many cradles do not. This makes our church's operating budget completely unreliant on fundraisers of any kind, and we don't have any besides the annual Ladies Guild Christmas Bake Sale, the proceeds of which are donated back to the church to be distributed with other Lenten Alms money collected to help feed the poor and homeless.

I firmly believe that if we put Russian in our name (we are OCA), the rate of parish growth would be greatly hindered. We have many Russian families but they all want to and do speak English. This is why I am so strident in calling for our churches to simply be called St. (fill in the blank) Orthodox Christian Church.

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« Reply #95 on: February 27, 2007, 06:13:43 PM »

I'm not trying to cause trouble here, but I have a question about one of your points for clarification

      3. Emphasize attendance at services as critical for salvation.

When you say emphasize would this mean something like what I'm told was an RC thing of missing a Sunday or major feast was a "mortal" sin and very serious?  (I've never been RC, so I have no first hand knowledge of this.  I'm told that it was that way when people my age were children.)  That there would be penalties, as it were, for missing a service?

The reason I'm asking is because I'm thinking of an article I read in a Montana paper last year about how the pastor in one of the small towns knows that if it snows on a Sunday in the late Winter/early Spring he knows that some people won't make it to church because they'll be out saving the new calves who've been born and couldn't survive in a blizzard.  Sometimes people have things that need to be done at the same time as a Church service; I don't mean frivolous things but serious important ones.

With Respect,

Ebor

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« Reply #96 on: February 27, 2007, 06:18:52 PM »

Cowboy:

You used the word "thriving" and many years to you and your parish. Frankly, though I think that that is the desire of all people who attend church or many at least. They want to be part of something that is thriving and growing. I think, to some extent, that this is very American. Everybody loves a winner, a success story.  But to grow and thrive do we become reductionist like many Protestant churches so as to appeal on the lowest common denominator to all the masses? This is rhetorical and it is a concern. What if the Russians in your parish wanted to have "Russian dinner" not necessarily to fund raise, just for nostalgia sake?
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« Reply #97 on: February 27, 2007, 06:41:52 PM »

I'm not trying to cause trouble here, but I have a question about one of your points for clarification

  Sometimes people have things that need to be done at the same time as a Church service; I don't mean frivolous things but serious important ones.

With Respect,

Ebor



Dear Ebor,

There are of course those unavoidable situations. But the Liturgy of St Basil, now being served in Lent, even has language to the effect of praying for those who are absent "for good cause". This implies that missing Liturgy for other than good cause is sinful. I guess I really mean by "emphasis" that every Orthodox Christian should have as a first priority in their lives the attendance at every service offered by the church, except if they have "good cause" not to attend. Is soccer/baseball/NFL football game priorities "good cause"? That is not for me to judge, but I can't help thinking that these excuses do not rise to the level of saving the lives of livestock.

What if the Russians in your parish wanted to have "Russian dinner" not necessarily to fund raise, just for nostalgia sake?

The whole parish would attend and enjoy the great food. My point is that this activity is fellowship, and God knows we need as many opportunities as possible for it, but it is not Orthodox Christianity. It is an activity around the church, but not central to it.

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« Reply #98 on: February 27, 2007, 10:30:11 PM »

There are of course those unavoidable situations. But the Liturgy of St Basil, now being served in Lent, even has language to the effect of praying for those who are absent "for good cause". This implies that missing Liturgy for other than good cause is sinful. I guess I really mean by "emphasis" that every Orthodox Christian should have as a first priority in their lives the attendance at every service offered by the church, except if they have "good cause" not to attend. Is soccer/baseball/NFL football game priorities "good cause"? That is not for me to judge, but I can't help thinking that these excuses do not rise to the level of saving the lives of livestock.

But you claimed that attendance of churches is a 'critical' element of soteriology...so do you believe people are damned to hell for skipping liturgy to watch a game?

Even if one wishes to go by the strictest canonical requirements, there are no penalties until one misses three weeks worth of liturgies in a row, all without good cause. This pharisaic concept of missing liturgies being some grave sin is absent from Orthodoxy.

I am also surprised to see that you cannot recognize the reductionistic nature of your arguments...you present Orthodoxy as though it is a set of rules and concepts to which society must conform. When, in fact, Orthodoxy and the societies from which she comes are inseparable, to speak about the flaws in these societies is to speak of flaws in the Church and to speak of the good in these societies is to speak of the good in the Church. The Church is and is preserved in people, not abstract ideas, and, as such, the Church is as ethnic and cultural as people are ethnic and cultural. To deny the Church its ethnic element is to deny the Church its human element, it is to claim that the Church is not a living organism but an abstract concept devoid of humanity...it's ecclesiastical monophysitism.
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« Reply #99 on: February 27, 2007, 11:10:24 PM »

greekchristian:

I like your post and am going to have to use it in my next tussle with a freshly minted converted all full of himself and smug in his new faith.
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« Reply #100 on: February 28, 2007, 04:41:42 AM »

Question 1
Define American Culture
Question 2
If we define American mainstream culture as rooted in secularism, humanistic/hedonistic tendencies, individualism and consumerism, then we must remove ourselves from those facets of modern western culture.
I am not saying become a monk, rather, to be responsible and be careful of what we participate in.
One of the key signatures of both Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy have always been that we are communal, we are individuals but as individuals we make the community whole.  One thing that has been noted is that we are loosing this sense of community in America in both Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy.  Traditionally individual members of our religious communities put others before themselves.  Spend sometime with Eastern Europeans and you will quickly notice this utter putting others before themselves, it is a trait, a standard we need to restore.  I am not saying we have lost this in our American culture, but it is fading.  We are falling into the trap of being more concerned with our individual needs than the communal needs.  Notice the increasing use of the word "I" and "me" in conversations, focused on personal feelings and needs.  We must return to putting others first. We need to pull together as a community and sacrifice our resources to support our brethren.  Christianity was founded on communities that banded together to support each other in all aspects of life.  They did not enjoy some social programmes we have today (food stamps, unemployment compensation, food for children, medical care and so on).  We need to return to the basic Christian principles set forth in Matthew 25.  So you ask is American Culture compatible with Orthodoxy? Yes and no.  What we can do is live according to the Gospels and set an example.  If we practice basic Christian values then they will become the benchmark for society.  If we curl up in a ball or ignore them or simply be "parishoners in good standing by merely paying membership fees and showing up for church" then we do not effect society, then we are not spreading the teachings of Christ.
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« Reply #101 on: February 28, 2007, 10:37:28 AM »

But you claimed that attendance of churches is a 'critical' element of soteriology...so do you believe people are damned to hell for skipping liturgy to watch a game?

Even if one wishes to go by the strictest canonical requirements, there are no penalties until one misses three weeks worth of liturgies in a row, all without good cause. This pharisaic concept of missing liturgies being some grave sin is absent from Orthodoxy.


Dear GIC,

I do not subscribe to the extreme position you you mention above. You are the one looking at this from the viewpoint of a Pharisee. Attendance at Liturgy (at a minimum--don't forget all the other services) is for the edification, renewal and spiritual strengthening of the Faithful. Attendance is for our benefit. Would your priest and bishop tell you that attendence at services is OPTIONAL? I think not. And there is good reason for this. Will people burn in hell for skipping services to watch a game on TV? I don't think so, but as I pointed out in my original post, I cannot judge this. What I do know is that such behavior is clearly not an example of following the "narrow path" described by our Lord and Savior.
I am also surprised to see that you cannot recognize the reductionistic nature of your arguments...you present Orthodoxy as though it is a set of rules and concepts to which society must conform. When, in fact, Orthodoxy and the societies from which she comes are inseparable, to speak about the flaws in these societies is to speak of flaws in the Church and to speak of the good in these societies is to speak of the good in the Church. The Church is and is preserved in people, not abstract ideas, and, as such, the Church is as ethnic and cultural as people are ethnic and cultural. To deny the Church its ethnic element is to deny the Church its human element, it is to claim that the Church is not a living organism but an abstract concept devoid of humanity...it's ecclesiastical monophysitism.

Again you are the one talking about rules, reducing Orthodoxy to them. Orthodox Christianity exists in society -yes. Does it embrace the flaws in society-no. I agree totally that the people are the body of the church. People have goodness and flaws, some are ethnic, some are not. The church is a living organism made up of its people.
I NEVER said that we should deny the Church its ethnic elements, only that this ethnicity is NOT CENTRAL to Orthodox Christianity and in fact has become a large barrier to our efforts at evangelization.

I guess for you ethnicity is the critical factor defining humanity.

Cowboy the Slav
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« Reply #102 on: February 28, 2007, 10:47:52 AM »

What we can do is live according to the Gospels and set an example.  If we practice basic Christian values then they will become the benchmark for society.  If we curl up in a ball or ignore them or simply be "parishoners in good standing by merely paying membership fees and showing up for church" then we do not effect society, then we are not spreading the teachings of Christ.


I agree with your sentiments in general here, especially effecting society by setting an example in behavior according to the Gospels. I view clinging to Russian, Greek, Arab, Serbian, etc. heritage as if it were part and parcel of Orthodox Christianity as "curling up in a ball".
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« Reply #103 on: February 28, 2007, 12:52:12 PM »

The parish I am in now is made of those who are relatively new to Orthodoxy. There are very tight bonds within this community due to marriage and godparent  ties. If someone has a baby or there is a death in the family a list is quickly put together of those who will provide dinners for the family. When there is a baptism, chrismation, wedding or funeral the whole parish is invited and attends. And most of these sacraments happen before Divine Liturgy on Sunday (not on Saturday as most ethnic parishes practice). There is one man who is recovering from a car accident and is unable to drive but several families take turns picking him up from the facility he lives in so he can attend Divine Liturgy.
People fast, attend the services, serve each other and give alms generously. The cycle of services are practiced each week, unlike some ethic parishes which do not even bother having them because no one will show up during mid-week. There is no organ to accompany the choir and chanters, unlike some ethnic parishes. There are no pews, unlike some ethnic parishes. In other words, the Orthodox Christian culture is very palable in this parish of newbies. All these things happen without the prescence of an Arab, Greek, Russian, etc. culture. Perhaps there is a culture of Orthodoxy that sits on top of the ethnic cultures that most of us cradles are just not aware of because it works with each of our respective folkways. For this reason, I  really get upset when some label a successful parish full of non-ethnic Orthodox 'Protestant' because they supposedly have no traditonal Orthodox culture to make them valid in certain people'e eyes. These new Orthodox parishes are living out the Christian life of praying, fasting and giving alms.
One other thought, if you are wondering what the American culture of Orthodoxy is just look at these new parishes for clues to the future. Their culture is based on unselfish devotion to one another, generosity to the church and to the poor, welcoming the inquirer to join the community, and a strong sense of community. I can't see any how any of these cultural traits work against Orthodoxy. In fact, I think they describe the church you will find in the book of Acts.
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« Reply #104 on: February 28, 2007, 01:00:14 PM »

Tamara,

Thank you for a very well written and insightful post. Many years to your parish! I agree with you that the future of Orthodox Christianity in America will look like your parish. Ethnicity is not validity.
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« Reply #105 on: February 28, 2007, 01:28:47 PM »

The zeal of the convert is admirable, but if not harnessed and guided, can lead to all kinds of problems.  That's why as much as we may like to point at all of the horrible things those ethnics do, they still have a lot to show and offer us.  They are in fact essential.

There are many good things that can come out of convert heavy communities, but lots of bad ones too.  Pride is one of the issues at the top of the list in my experience.
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« Reply #106 on: February 28, 2007, 02:05:46 PM »

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The cycle of services are practiced each week, unlike some ethic parishes which do not even bother having them because no one will show up during mid-week. There is no organ to accompany the choir and chanters, unlike some ethnic parishes. There are no pews, unlike some ethnic parishes.

There seems to me to be some judgmentalism wrapped up in these statements.  Consider however the traditionalist who might show up at the hypotethetical convert parish.  What would they say - Do the women cover their heads?  Can women read the epistle? Have they abandoned the traditional church calendar?  Have they instituted novel and shortened services for the feast days?  Do their priests look like western clerics or wear street clothes outside of the services?  Why are there no monastics?  So on and so forth.  These type of arguments can turn on one fairly easily, and the hypothetical traditionalist may very well ask "is this the future of Orthodoxy in this country"?
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« Reply #107 on: February 28, 2007, 02:41:17 PM »

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People fast, attend the services, serve each other and give alms generously. The cycle of services are practiced each week, unlike some ethic parishes which do not even bother having them because no one will show up during mid-week. There is no organ to accompany the choir and chanters, unlike some ethnic parishes. There are no pews, unlike some ethnic parishes. In other words, the Orthodox Christian culture is very palable in this parish of newbies.

You forget my sister that we Orthodox are a "community" of believers. We are only as strong as our weakeset link. Instead of judging you so called "ethic" brothers and sisters, pray for them.

If I sound mad I am. You forget your heritage and you forget your people!
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« Reply #108 on: February 28, 2007, 02:51:21 PM »

Andrew,

It seems have if the parishes full of converts are damned if they do and damned if they don't. On the one hand, people accuse these parishes of being Protestant because they don't have a traditional Orthodox ethnic culture. And then because they try to adhere to Orthodox cycle of services and other Orthodox traditions they are accused of being hyper-Orthodox. None of the people in my parish make an issue over any of these things (pews or no pews, organs or no organs, etc.) because that is not where the focus is. It is me, an Orthodox Christian of Arab heritage, making these observations because I am trying to point out that perhaps some of this Protestantizing of the faith is coming from some of our ethnic churches. Many ethnics only attend services once a week and do not have a tight community atomosphere. Many ethnics only drop a dollar in the plate as their tithe. Many never fast, go to confession, or even take Holy Communion. Don't get me wrong. I love the middle-eastern people I grew up with and I encourage them in their faith but I think the criticism of converts and their parishes is not healthy. I also get peeved when people think there is nothing redeeming about our American culture. I am sure the Judiazers felt the same way about the former idol worshipping gentiles joining their parishes and bringing with them their pagan cultural habits. They probably wondered how anything good from their pagan past could be melded into the faith of our Lord. LoL! Now in this case we aren't even dealing with pagans. We are dealing with people who for the most part have had a deep relationship with Christ their whole life joining Orthodoxy. And some wonder, if their hetereodox ways can be renewed by Orthodoxy. Some have such little faith in Orthodoxy that they believe converts must adopt an Orthodox culture as their own in order to be truly Orthodox. They must not have much faith to think this way.
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« Reply #109 on: February 28, 2007, 03:18:28 PM »

There seems to me to be some judgmentalism wrapped up in these statements.  Consider however the traditionalist who might show up at the hypotethetical convert parish.  What would they say - Do the women cover their heads?  Can women read the epistle? Have they abandoned the traditional church calendar?  Have they instituted novel and shortened services for the feast days?  Do their priests look like western clerics or wear street clothes outside of the services?  Why are there no monastics?  So on and so forth.  These type of arguments can turn on one fairly easily, and the hypothetical traditionalist may very well ask "is this the future of Orthodoxy in this country"?

Dear Wellkodox,

How can one be too zealous? Because they want to attend every service--as all Orthodox Christians should want to? Virtually none of the questions you pose here have much to do with Orthodox Christianity. I am not knocking ethnic people--I AM ONE--I am critical of the substitution of ethnic customs, traditions and the like for the dogmas of Orthodox Christianity. Head coverings? Calenders? Women readers? Priests without facial hair and 24 hour riassa? These are at best tangential to the Faith. The future of Orthodoxy in this country will brighten considerably when these types of questions stop being litmus tests for whether a "convert parish" is truly Orthodox Christian.

Cowboy the Slav
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« Reply #110 on: February 28, 2007, 03:22:04 PM »

Tamara

And you know these cradle Orthodox personally. You asked them or took a poll concerning their fasting practices or the amount of money that they drop in the plate. Is this any of your business? Take the log out of your eyes before you go taking the speck out of you brother's eyes.

Memory eternal for your Arab ancestors who struggled,saved and gave so that you and I could worship in beautiful temples today and invite in converts.
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« Reply #111 on: February 28, 2007, 03:38:58 PM »

You forget my sister that we Orthodox are a "community" of believers. We are only as strong as our weakeset link. Instead of judging you so called "ethic" brothers and sisters, pray for them.

If I sound mad I am. You forget your heritage and you forget your people!

Dear Aserb,

I was raised in a Carpatho-Russian church in Pittsburgh, so I have a similar background to you. I am Slovak. My parents were born here to poor immigrants right off the boat. But my "heritage" is America. I am disheartened to see you admonish Tamara for "forgetting your heritage and people". This is not Orthodox Christianity. I think we all, ethnic cradles and converts, have to stop circling each other with suspicion using standards of ethnicity or non-ethnicity. I think Tamara's posts beautifully define an Orthodox Christian and an Orthodox Christian Community and this should be the standard we all strive for.

Although I am embarrassed to say it, if not for the converts in our parish, any service in our church besides Sunday Liturgy would have 5 people in attendance instead of the usual 50 or so. Of course we usually average over 150 on Sunday and over 250 on Pascha night. I am so weary of the claims of piety by ethnic cradles.

And I totally concur with Tamara, that converts support the church financially much, much better than our ethnic cradles.

So if walking the "narrow way" means setting priorities in our everyday lives that give the highest priority to Orthodox Christianity--I'll take converts over ethnic cradles any day.

Cowboy the Ethnic Cradle
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« Reply #112 on: February 28, 2007, 05:08:46 PM »

Tamara,

Quote
It seems have if the parishes full of converts are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

No, I just don't think they are necessarily better than any other type of Orthodox Church.  Not all ethnic churches are just lackidaisical social clubs.  Not all convert churches are small tight knit communities doing nothing but positive things.  There's good and bad examples on both sides.  My only real issue is with the generalizations.

Quote
How can one be too zealous?

Many ways Cowboy.  Some people grow progressively more Orthodox.  Someone joins the Antiochians - but they're too liberal, so they join the ROCOR - but they have compromised on something, so they join XYZ church, etc.  One can be zealous in proclaiming how good their new found faith is and loudly proclaiming to all of their former church members how it is they need to immediately switch over.  I have talked to converts who can't stop talking about all the things wrong with their old church, or what it is "western Christians" do wrong.  Etc., etc., etc.  One can be wayyyyyy too zealous.

Quote
Virtually none of the questions you pose here have much to do with Orthodox Christianity.

Quote
Head coverings? Calenders? Women readers? Priests without facial hair and 24 hour riassa? These are at best tangential to the Faith. The future of Orthodoxy in this country will brighten considerably when these types of questions stop being litmus tests for whether a "convert parish" is truly Orthodox Christian.

To some people these are critical, because they view them as telltale signs of modernism; and what you may see as a healthy church they would see as a disaster waiting to befall Orthodoxy in this country because of the devaluation of traditional piety.  I bet there are some who frequent the board.
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« Reply #113 on: February 28, 2007, 05:22:46 PM »

Question 1
Define American Culture

I think that that was rather what I was asking about way up thread.  It's a complex and large area.

Quote
Question 2
If we define American mainstream culture as rooted in secularism, humanistic/hedonistic tendencies, individualism and consumerism, then we must remove ourselves from those facets of modern western culture.

That strikes me as in itself undefined, but merely a set of labels or adjectives that would seem to be meant at perjorative. What do those words mean in relation to culture and how would they likely apply to many countries and cultures not just the United States?

So if we do not define the American mainstream culture in your way, then where does the discussion go?

Quote
We need to pull together as a community and sacrifice our resources to support our brethren. 

From things I've read on this forum and elsewhere, it might be good to start within ones own group and support the priests and their families more.  The reports that have sometimes come out do not read as though there is more concern of others then self when it comes the clergy. 

I'm sorry, I was looking through some old posts here and found a thread about priest or their widows being in great poverty.  Sad


With respect,

Ebor

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« Reply #114 on: February 28, 2007, 05:26:38 PM »

Many ways Cowboy.  Some people grow progressively more Orthodox.  Someone joins the Antiochians - but they're too liberal, so they join the ROCOR - but they have compromised on something, so they join XYZ church, etc.  One can be zealous in proclaiming how good their new found faith is and loudly proclaiming to all of their former church members how it is they need to immediately switch over.  I have talked to converts who can't stop talking about all the things wrong with their old church, or what it is "western Christians" do wrong.  Etc., etc., etc.  One can be wayyyyyy too zealous.

I've seen that too, Welkodox. Many times over in something like 17 years of reading 'net religion. I've seen it happen with RC and others also.   It's like watching a ghastly rerun with the names changed at times and it's sad and depressing.

 Sad

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« Reply #115 on: February 28, 2007, 06:03:42 PM »

'net religion.
Virtual religion.....
"What kind of reality is that with a 15 amp plug on the end of it?"- Edina Monsoon.
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« Reply #116 on: February 28, 2007, 06:12:36 PM »

And you know these cradle Orthodox personally. You asked them or took a poll concerning their fasting practices or the amount of money that they drop in the plate. Is this any of your business?
How about because she IS one, cares about her parish and has observed what she is talking about.  I audit the books every year of my parish, so I can vouch for some of the things Tamara says on a general basis.

Take the log out of your eyes before you go taking the speck out of you brother's eyes.
There is "removing the log out of your own eye" and there is being completely naieve about what is going on.  Here, you are taking scripture and turning it into empty platitudes in order to avoid the issue.
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« Reply #117 on: February 28, 2007, 06:14:02 PM »

Virtual religion.....
"What kind of reality is that with a 15 amp plug on the end of it?"- Edina Monsoon.

 Cheesy That's a good quote, OzGeorge, I'll have to remember that one.  

I am very clear about 'net/virtual religion. That's also why it's sad to see the same sort of thing happen again and again without any RL religion.  Sigh.

Ebor
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« Reply #118 on: February 28, 2007, 06:31:03 PM »



Many ways Cowboy.  Some people grow progressively more Orthodox.  Someone joins the Antiochians - but they're too liberal, so they join the ROCOR - but they have compromised on something, so they join XYZ church, etc.  One can be zealous in proclaiming how good their new found faith is and loudly proclaiming to all of their former church members how it is they need to immediately switch over.  I have talked to converts who can't stop talking about all the things wrong with their old church, or what it is "western Christians" do wrong.  Etc., etc., etc.  One can be wayyyyyy too zealous.



Dear Wellkodox,

I must admit that I have experienced this as well. Last year in our parish our priest informed a catechumen that he was "not ready" for chrismation. This individual related to me that he had "issues" with going to confession. Despite the best efforts of everyone around this individual to help him understand the importance of confession in Orthodox Christianity, he left our parish, went to another Orthodox parish in our town (3 weeks before Holy Saturday) and was Chrismated WITHOUT CONFESSION there on Holy Saturday. He and his wife have gone way out of their way ever since to bad-mouth and belittle our parish and parish priest. This may be an example of reverse zeal now that I think about it.

But I kinda feel that the zeal you describe is more like the zeal of the Pharisees and this is not true Orthodox Christian behavior.


To some people these are critical, because they view them as telltale signs of modernism; and what you may see as a healthy church they would see as a disaster waiting to befall Orthodoxy in this country because of the devaluation of traditional piety.  I bet there are some who frequent the board.

The devaluation of traditional piety. This is a tough phrase. I guess you are arguing that these traditional pieties are central dogmas of Orthodox Christianity, and if not engaged in, indicate spiritual sickness rather than spiritual health in an Orthodox Christian community. I find this very difficult to accept. Tamara's parish description sounds like an "ideal" Orthodox Christian parish, which IMHO, all our parishes should strive to emulate.

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« Reply #119 on: February 28, 2007, 08:18:15 PM »

Tamara

And you know these cradle Orthodox personally. You asked them or took a poll concerning their fasting practices or the amount of money that they drop in the plate. Is this any of your business? Take the log out of your eyes before you go taking the speck out of you brother's eyes.

Memory eternal for your Arab ancestors who struggled,saved and gave so that you and I could worship in beautiful temples today and invite in converts.

Yes, I know them personally because I am one of them, grew up with them, and still personally struggle with the various issues I am bringing up. Even the bishop agrees with me because he once told me we must evangelize the Orthodox when we were discussing a problem we were having in regard to getting cradle Orthodox to attend services and retreats. One ethnic parish I know has 150 families and they can barely pay their bills. My parish has only 80 families and they enough money to help other struggling immigrant parishes and to give a significant amount of money to charity. These aren't judgements on my part. These are the numerical facts.
There are many pious Arab Christians who attend but there are many more who haven't a clue as to why they come to church. For many, Sunday coffee hour is their chance to socialize with other Arabs. Many do not show up until the Liturgy is half over. Their middle-eastern Christian culture is not saving them because they have left Christ out of the equation.
This problem can happen in any church regardless of the culture, including churches with a high convert population. We cannot rely on our culture to save us. It can be used as a tool for our salvation but if we leave Christ out then our ethnic cultures will lead us to our damnation.
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« Reply #120 on: February 28, 2007, 08:59:05 PM »


The devaluation of traditional piety. This is a tough phrase. I guess you are arguing that these traditional pieties are central dogmas of Orthodox Christianity, and if not engaged in, indicate spiritual sickness rather than spiritual health in an Orthodox Christian community. I find this very difficult to accept. Tamara's parish description sounds like an "ideal" Orthodox Christian parish, which IMHO, all our parishes should strive to emulate.

Cowboy

Dear Cowboy,

My parish had an extreme struggle with the ultra-Orthodox priest who brought them into the church. When they were finally able to have him removed by the bishop, they breathed a huge collective sigh of relief but they also had learned what not to do. They then went about nurturing an Orthodox church atomosphere which is traditional (in the right way, not in a cultic way) so you never feel like you are being judged by anyone. The priest encourages us to keep learning more about our faith, to fast, give alms and pray. Warm hospitality is what awaits the newcomers whether they be cradle Orthodox immigrants or American-born inquirers. Everything they do or any goals they set are based on what Christ commanded us to do. The church isn't perfect by any means but the people in the parish are seriously trying to work out their salvation in humility.
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« Reply #121 on: February 28, 2007, 10:14:52 PM »

But I kinda feel that the zeal you describe is more like the zeal of the Pharisees and this is not true Orthodox Christian behavior.

In the one nearly convert exclusive environment I have been in, I heard a lot of it.

Quote
The devaluation of traditional piety. This is a tough phrase. I guess you are arguing that these traditional pieties are central dogmas of Orthodox Christianity, and if not engaged in, indicate spiritual sickness rather than spiritual health in an Orthodox Christian community. I find this very difficult to accept. Tamara's parish description sounds like an "ideal" Orthodox Christian parish, which IMHO, all our parishes should strive to emulate.

I am not arguing those things are true, I'm saying there are people who would, and not all of their arguments are without merit.
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« Reply #122 on: March 01, 2007, 03:27:10 AM »

The parish I am in now is made of those who are relatively new to Orthodoxy. There are very tight bonds within this community due to marriage and godparent  ties. If someone has a baby or there is a death in the family a list is quickly put together of those who will provide dinners for the family. When there is a baptism, chrismation, wedding or funeral the whole parish is invited and attends. And most of these sacraments happen before Divine Liturgy on Sunday (not on Saturday as most ethnic parishes practice). There is one man who is recovering from a car accident and is unable to drive but several families take turns picking him up from the facility he lives in so he can attend Divine Liturgy.
People fast, attend the services, serve each other and give alms generously. The cycle of services are practiced each week, unlike some ethic parishes which do not even bother having them because no one will show up during mid-week. There is no organ to accompany the choir and chanters, unlike some ethnic parishes. There are no pews, unlike some ethnic parishes. In other words, the Orthodox Christian culture is very palable in this parish of newbies. All these things happen without the prescence of an Arab, Greek, Russian, etc. culture. Perhaps there is a culture of Orthodoxy that sits on top of the ethnic cultures that most of us cradles are just not aware of because it works with each of our respective folkways. For this reason, I  really get upset when some label a successful parish full of non-ethnic Orthodox 'Protestant' because they supposedly have no traditonal Orthodox culture to make them valid in certain people'e eyes. These new Orthodox parishes are living out the Christian life of praying, fasting and giving alms.
One other thought, if you are wondering what the American culture of Orthodoxy is just look at these new parishes for clues to the future. Their culture is based on unselfish devotion to one another, generosity to the church and to the poor, welcoming the inquirer to join the community, and a strong sense of community. I can't see any how any of these cultural traits work against Orthodoxy. In fact, I think they describe the church you will find in the book of Acts.


Some good points, but rather a broad and stereotyping narrow picture of what you claim as ethnic.   Every parish has ethnic components.  If you are using Byzantine Chant then you are following an Arab/Greek ethnic tradition.  If you substitute it for Russian four part, then you are using Russian ethnic traditions.  If you change that for prostopinije than you are changing to a sub-Carpathian tradition.  There is no blank slate to turn to.  Small traditions developed over time in the various parts of the world.  There is no non-ethnic music, there are no non-ethnic small traditions in any Orthodox church.   Yes it is a delicate balance and one that is very hard to pin-down and define.  Perhaps what we will see more commonly in the near future is the tradition of respecting every ethnic group in a diverse parish.  But as far as erasing everything people claim as "ethnic" there is simply nothing to replace it with that isn't ethnic. 
Another thing, the parishes that consist of people you claim as "ethnic" fast, have tight nit communities and do all the things you say the converts do at your parish.  There is an anti-cradle attitude that exists and it is rather rude. 
It is forgotten that long before the converts came the cradles kept the church running fine and dandy and practiced their faith.  One more facet I must mention.  When my family came here from the Carpathian mountains the church was their life.  Everyone continued to live as they did in the old country more or less.  They had social gatherings at the church, they supported the church and their community, they worshipped together.  Being Greek Catholic/Orthodox was their national identity.  It was who they were.  It was a whole different concept than what we were raised with. 
I probably just made a ton of people mad at me, but I felt I had to get this off my chest! 
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« Reply #123 on: March 01, 2007, 09:36:21 AM »


Another thing, the parishes that consist of people you claim as "ethnic" fast, have tight nit communities and do all the things you say the converts do at your parish.  There is an anti-cradle attitude that exists and it is rather rude. 
It is forgotten that long before the converts came the cradles kept the church running fine and dandy and practiced their faith.  One more facet I must mention.  When my family came here from the Carpathian mountains the church was their life.  Everyone continued to live as they did in the old country more or less.  They had social gatherings at the church, they supported the church and their community, they worshipped together.  Being Greek Catholic/Orthodox was their national identity.  It was who they were.  It was a whole different concept than what we were raised with. 

Dear Username,

To say that the cradles you refer to "kept the church running fine and dandy and practiced their faith" seemingly also means that spreading the Gospels and evangelism
was not part of their faith. This closed door attitude is not Orthodox Christianity--it is , as you describe, a social club based on being able to live just as they did in the old country. They supported their completely closed to outsiders way of life.

Sometimes I think the anti-cradle attitude is caused by cradles who are arrogant, without having much understanding of their own Faith, who act like they have a birthright to Orthodox Christianity. They come late to services, leave for the social hall right after communion to get a jump on coffee hour, never volunteeer time, talent, or money to help the poor, give minimally (buck a week) to the church or if they give substantially expect to have veto power over all church decisions.

Converts see this and well...what would you think?

Cowboy
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« Reply #124 on: March 01, 2007, 09:57:08 AM »

I am cheering for Username and would expect that ckind of reply from you Cowboy. (I am now waiting for Tamara to chime in -- the Greek chorus). Your post was full of broad generalizations. You are missing the point. Our (since you are a cradle) ancestors brought the faith of Orthodoxy to this country, established the faith, built the temples, seminaries, monastaries, etc. You need to make peace with your ancestors and cherish and appreciate what they did so that - today - we can spread the faith. I am for evangelism but not arrogance.

Evangelism. My grandparents barely spoke English. Were viewed with suspicion outside of their ethnic ghetto. Worked 12 hour days in factories and mines. Gave of their meager earnings and bought an old Episcopal church and turned it into a beautiful Orthodox church.

You know when you plant a tree when its young you cannot pollinate it right away it takes time. I agree the Orthodox tree planted by the immigrants is now ready for pollination.

As an aside I belong to a mostly cradle parish. Many are older people on fixed incomes who worked hard all their life and supported the church in their youth with volunteerism and their cash. We just had a stewardship drive - - The first ever! The board was worried that many people, especially, the older would not participate. That said when all was done the participation rate exceeded their highest estimates.

So converts don't have a lock on participation. I welcome them and contrary to what you may beleive always have. Our church  motto is. Come once you're a visitor. After that you're family. My wife is not Orthodox and feels very at home in my church. She's not a theologian and when she does convert it will be because of the love she gets from many of the cradles, especially the babas
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« Reply #125 on: March 01, 2007, 10:17:44 AM »

You know when you plant a tree when its young you cannot pollinate it right away it takes time. I agree the Orthodox tree planted by the immigrants is now ready for pollination.
Beautiful imagery there aserb! And I agree.
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« Reply #126 on: March 01, 2007, 10:25:24 AM »

I like that, too.
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« Reply #127 on: March 01, 2007, 11:45:12 AM »

Dear Aserb,

I too think that you expressed a beautiful sentiment and I can completely identify with your experience. Further up this thread you and I agreed that our childhood parishes did not do a very good job of teaching Orthodox Christianity to us and our generation. This is why you and I fell away from the Church for many years. My grandparents barely spoke English too. And with their meager earnings in the steel mills of Homestead, Pa built a beautiful temple which is a marvel to this day(St. Nicholas--ACROD). My grandparents and parents were founders. Looking back however, the church was really as much about keeping alive the language, customs and traditions of the Carpatho Mountains from which most had come as it was about Orthodoxy.

I love and am at peace with my heritage. I view with bitter sadness the missed opportunity of Orthodox Christianity in America for the last 50 years. Fifty years is a long time to wait for pollination. I sense that many parishes that have remained fairly isolationist over the years are now ready to "reach out" because it might be the only way to avoid extinction.

Aserb, I really have no argument with you. The past is past. My primary point is that going forward we must emphasize Orthodox Christianity and not ethnicity. Our forebearers do deserve honor. They took it as far as they could.
What worked for them in the past won't work in the future, for them or anyone else.

I love the old Babas in our church. They are held in high esteem by me and all. But we must bring the light of Christ to those around us, and we shouldn't put barriers of ethnicity in their way.

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« Reply #128 on: March 01, 2007, 01:06:49 PM »

Cowboy:

You know what, I couldn't agree with you more. That was a beautiful reply.

Frankly my friend it was a shock to my system to remember a fairly ethnic parish of my youth and then to enter a mostly convert environment. I initially enjoyed it, all was in English, I learned a lot about my faith and met people from varied backgrounds. However as time went on the constant whining and at times antagonism toward any shows of ethnicity, save Pascha baskets, got old and wearying. Some converts bashed not only their former Protestant faith, but the faith of other Orthodox (namely cradles) that at best they considered sub-par and at worst apostate.  It was a real turn off bordering on rudeness and insulting to have my heritage bashed and SOC churches for being "ethnic."

I have found a home in a nearby ACROD parish, who like me, is made up of second as well as first generation cradles with a handful of Orthodox. THe SOC parish is 45 minutes from my home and is made up of recent Serbian immigrants. It meets their needs, I have no arguement with that.

That is not to say that there are thriving mixed parishes, such as your own, which I am sure I would enjoy being a member. (Or at least visiting, however, I have no reason to go to Cleveland.) Remember the old commercial that ended with the saying "... this is not your father's Oldsmobile."  It wasn't even my father's Ford.

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« Reply #129 on: March 01, 2007, 01:11:25 PM »


Some good points, but rather a broad and stereotyping narrow picture of what you claim as ethnic.   Every parish has ethnic components.  If you are using Byzantine Chant then you are following an Arab/Greek ethnic tradition.  If you substitute it for Russian four part, then you are using Russian ethnic traditions.  If you change that for prostopinije than you are changing to a sub-Carpathian tradition.  There is no blank slate to turn to.  Small traditions developed over time in the various parts of the world.  There is no non-ethnic music, there are no non-ethnic small traditions in any Orthodox church.   Yes it is a delicate balance and one that is very hard to pin-down and define.  Perhaps what we will see more commonly in the near future is the tradition of respecting every ethnic group in a diverse parish.  But as far as erasing everything people claim as "ethnic" there is simply nothing to replace it with that isn't ethnic. 
Another thing, the parishes that consist of people you claim as "ethnic" fast, have tight nit communities and do all the things you say the converts do at your parish.  There is an anti-cradle attitude that exists and it is rather rude. 
It is forgotten that long before the converts came the cradles kept the church running fine and dandy and practiced their faith.  One more facet I must mention.  When my family came here from the Carpathian mountains the church was their life.  Everyone continued to live as they did in the old country more or less.  They had social gatherings at the church, they supported the church and their community, they worshipped together.  Being Greek Catholic/Orthodox was their national identity.  It was who they were.  It was a whole different concept than what we were raised with. 
I probably just made a ton of people mad at me, but I felt I had to get this off my chest! 

We use all types of music in my church and some ethnic customs (Pascha baskets, red eggs) have become a part of the tradition of our church. And for the record, I am not saying we need to eliminate anything. What I was trying to explain is there is an overriding Orthodox culture that rises above the various ethnic manifestations of culture so that any ethnic group in the world can become Orthodox without having to become Greek, Russian or middle-eastern. If this wasn't the case then we would all be celebrating Jewish/Christian customs. Earlier on in this thread I wrote that my guess is Orthodox parishes in the future will adopt a variety of customs which will evolve over time until they become a part of an American tradition. I also said as American saints are recognized small customs will develop to celebrate their feast days.

And just for the record, I am not anti-ethnic. I love my Syrian Orthodox heritage and I have respect for my ancestors but I also am a realist. My grandmother never wanted to return to the Syrian village of her birth because her childhood was hellish. She was grateful to come to this country and live a good life. The pastoral, peaceful, Orthodox village is a myth. Our ancestors lived hard, brutal lives in the countries of their origin. Many of them were persecuted. They came to this country to start a new life and they brought their faith with them. They did a great job of planting the churches as you say but they didn't always do a great job of catechizing their children. Millions of Orthodox Christians came over to North America in the late nineteenth and early 20th century. According to the Krindatch study there are approximately 2,000,000 Orthodox Christians total in the United States. Some of our jurisdictions are in decline. I have read of Orthodox parishes closing in the mid-west. In the bay area two Serbian churches had to combine into one because of membership loss. As a teenager I attending a Russian Orthodox church near Sacramento that was made up of the elderly. We have to accept these facts and figure out why we have lost so many of our Orthodox siblings, cousins and friends to other faiths or secularism. Many of them were raised in tight ethnic communities by devout babas, yiayias, and sitoos but that didn't seem to keep them in the church. Perhaps it was the lack of English in the services. Maybe in some cases, too much emphasis was placed on ethnicity/nationalism and not enough emphasis placed in Christ. I don't think our grandparents fully understood how much influence assimilation and inter-marriage would have on their children so they were not prepared.
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« Reply #130 on: March 01, 2007, 02:03:29 PM »

Tamara

I couldn't agree with you more. I do not think that our grandparents had to foresight to understand the impact that American culture would have on their children. I remember my father telling me that they (his generation) wanted to be American in every way. Dress, walk, talk, live and sought to distance or least put their customs in a box to brought out on Sunday's and feast days only. They were a minority. Then it got carried into religion. An entire branch of my family in the second generation became Episcopalians and not because there were no Orthodox churches around. Because they wanted to.

Maybe the converts are overzealous, but it is zeal without knowledge at times. They're experience in Orthodoxy is a world, literally, apart from our forefathers and mothers.

I pray sometimes with tears in hopes that my grandparents can see that I have come home to the  faith. I know they thought they all but lost me. It does trouble me that I have met many cradles who are apathetic towards so rich as Christian heritage as Orthodoxy.

Maybe we are not that different you and I. I know I both admire and at times have a distaste for some converts, but it does depend on the person. Not all converts have been churlish in my prescense.

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« Reply #131 on: March 01, 2007, 02:38:56 PM »

Dan, I think we have alot in common. All of my Orthodox cousins have left the church and now belong to other churches. I am sure your grandparents can sense your prayers for them. Who knows...perhaps they were praying for your return? I was never angry with you or anyone on this thread. If I have offended you please forgive me. 

I feel the same way as you do when I meet baptized Orthodox Christians who have left the faith. One time I had a conversation with a young Greek-American evangelical. When she found out I was Orthodox she tried to find out if I was born again because in her mind Orthodoxy was dead religion. How did she come to that conclusion? Another time, I met a Lebanese-American couple who were members of an Episcopalian church. When we found out we shared the same ethnic heritage they asked me what church I belonged to. After I told them I was Antiochian Orthodox they replied,"Oh, our grandmother belongs to that church." Their reply inspired me to write an article called, "My grandmother's church." I asked my priest (at that time I still belonged to the ethnic church of my childhood) to publish the article in the church newsletter. There were many young immigrant families in this parish and I wanted to warn them about losing their children to other churches or to secularism. The older Lebanese priest would not publish it. He said,"Tumra, we do not want to upset OUR people." How's that for sticking one's head in the sand? Boy, was I frustrated. I was only trying to get the young parents to think about the future.

You seem to really have had some run-ins with many ultra-Orthodox converts. I probably wouldn't enjoy their company either. Most of my experiences with those who are new to the faith have been very rewarding. My friends have open minds and hearts. They do not have any anti-ethnic prejudices. In fact, they hold the ethnics up in high regard and would like to see more of them join our church.
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« Reply #132 on: March 01, 2007, 02:48:58 PM »

I'm just thinking out loud here, so please bear with me.

I'm not sure I totally buy the idea that our forebears were not aware of how "Americanization" can affect the propagation of the faith.  My wife's maternal great-grandfather, Pietro Sartori, immigrated to the US in 1909 and spent the rest of his life being immensely proud of being an American and a Roman Catholic.  Her paternal great-grandfather, Julian Balakier, did much the same in 1906.  They were both very Italian and Polish, respectively, but they managed to assimilate their strong ethnic pride into a great American pride and managed to pass their faith along to their progeny.  Out of their descendants, which number over 100, I can probably count on one hand the number who don't go to church at all, and on both hands those who don't go every Sunday but still identify themselves as Catholics.

Both families managed to maintain strong ethnic traditions and practices, yet also remained fully American.  I think this is one area in which the Catholic Church trumps the Orthodox time and time again.  While there are exceptions (most notably the bruhaha of the closing of an historically Polish parish in Mt. Lebanon, PA (google it) a couple years ago), historically ethnic Catholic parishes evolve more organically and with far less consternation than the Orthodox ones I've seen.  

Take, for example, the recent immigration of thousands of Filipino families into Baltimore over the past 50 years.  In recent years, an historically Polish parish has taken to celebrating Santa Nino festivals due to the large number of Filipino immigrants that now attend that particular parish, yet it still has not lost its Polish character at all and you'll find Filipinos at the area Polish Festival polkaing alongside the Poles, thanks in large part to the welcome these immigrants found at their church and among the Polish-Americans, many of whom had immigrant parents themselves.

As I said, there are exceptions, but, on the whole, one does not find these ethnic squabbles amongst Ethnic-American Catholic parishes when the demographics change.  

I'm not trying to be triumphalist, but rather making an observation and putting it out for discussion.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2007, 02:53:33 PM by Schultz » Logged

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« Reply #133 on: March 01, 2007, 02:50:37 PM »

Aserb and Tamara,

I am the only one in my entire extended family that belongs to the Orthodox Church. Let us together mourn these losses and look to much brighter futures of common understanding. May God help us all to do so!

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« Reply #134 on: March 01, 2007, 03:11:25 PM »

Schultz:

I agree that there are always exceptions and I did not mean to paint all immigrants with a broad brush. I think some immigrants were aware and sought to inculcate pride of culture as well as faith. You can still find in Orthodox churches one, two and three generations in tact practicing the faith. It always warms my heart to see that.

Cowboy. I am also the last of the Mohicans in my family.

Tamara, I was never offended by you.

My daughter is baptized Orthodox. I so pray that she keep the faith.
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