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Author Topic: Having and Raising a family in an Ethic Parish, how is it???  (Read 2380 times) Average Rating: 0
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Irenaeus07
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« on: July 05, 2008, 08:21:25 AM »

Greetings,

  I am a catechumen at a Greek Orthodox Church.  I realize that Greeks are really to themselves, and they tend to place culture (ethnicity) before religion. That's fine, whatever works for them.  Its fine if I don't have any friends at the Greek Parish, I didn't come there for friends.  I am joining the Orthodox church because in theory based on the books that I've read, I will be able attain direct knowledge from God.  But I was pondering over this issue this week.  I don't have the calibre to become a monk, and will have to attain my theosis through the sacrement of marriage.  And because of the culture of the Greeks, more than likely I will have to look for a spouse outside my Greek Parish, and I am wondering how my future wife will feel being in an ethic parish, without friends and what about my future children.  How will they feel?  I don't want to be so selfish to my future wife and children.  Because the Greek Orthodox Church is the only Orthodox Church in my city, it looks like I will have to move if I want to have a family.  The problem is, I will like the city where I live.

Any thoughts or comments.
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« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2008, 12:40:06 PM »

It seems like you have many assumptions ingrained in your mind.  There is no essential difference between you and any "Greek".  Drop the stereotypes and you'll be in a better state of mind to be a friend to the people you meet in your parish.
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« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2008, 12:57:14 PM »

Dear Ireneaus,

I come from an Arab ethnic parish and tried to raise my children there with a non-Orthodox spouse. I think what you are planning to do will be quite difficult and very frustrating for you, your future wife, and any children you may be blessed with.

The first thing to consider is that becoming Orthodox is not something that works well if one comes in with the mind-set that he or she is going to be on their own and not a part of the parish community. Living the Orthodox faith will be all about finding salvation within the community. A person cannot be a bystander and live an Orthodox life. We Orthodox believe we are saved as a community and go to hell as individuals.

Second, my husband never felt a part of the Arab Orthodox parish we attended for the first ten years of our marriage. He always felt like an outsider and never considered becoming Orthodox until we started attending our new parish (non-ethnic). I would say that this did put a strain on our marriage and became more difficult after we had children. As the children grew up they couldn't understand why daddy didn't take Holy Communion with us. And even though my children are of part Syrian heritage, they never felt like they fit in with the other children at the ethnic parish. Values and interests were just too different. My sister's family still belongs to this ethnic parish and I see my teenaged nephews struggling to fit in. They prefer to hang out with the teenagers at my family's parish. It has never been a problem to get my children to attend church services or functions at the new parish because they feel like they belong. But I know my sister has had problems getting my nephews to attend church.

Perhaps folks out there have a differing point of view or other thoughts about your situation.

sincerely, Tamara
« Last Edit: July 05, 2008, 01:02:05 PM by Tamara » Logged
drewmeister2
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« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2008, 01:03:05 PM »

First off, I wouldn't rule out monasticism just yet.  Who knows, God may change your mind about monasticism in a few years Wink.  If you haven't already, definitely visit a monastery if you are or have been in the past interested in monasticism at all.    

Secondly, I wouldn't worry so much about this kind of stuff yet.  Unless you have found someone you are really serious about, then just wait to see what happens.  Who knows, the woman you fall in love with and want to marry may be from another city and will want to live there, maybe she will even have a situation which will necessitate that she live there (ie, family issues, etc), and then you can go to another Orthodox Church and then you will have been worrying for nothing.  I think, though, that as the people at your parish get to see you around more and more, they will become friendlier, so that if you end up finding someone from your own city, you and your wife and family will feel comfortable there.  Try to make friends with a few people at your parish and then when that happens you will get to know your new friends' friends, etc, and then you will start to feel more at home in your parish I think.  Who knows, you may even end up meeting a Greek girl your age at your own parish Smiley.      

Ultimately, for right now, don't worry so much, and do what you can to make friends at your parish, even if its only a few people that you get to know for now Smiley.  
« Last Edit: July 05, 2008, 01:18:23 PM by drewmeister2 » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2008, 09:25:18 AM »

My family converted to Orthodoxy in an Ethnic Greek parish in West Texas, when we approached the priest about becoming Orthodox his response was "Why would you ever want to become Orthodox, you aren't Greek!" After we convinced him we were genuine, he was a great catechist who taught us the faith.  His advice was for us to learn Greek culture to fit in with the parish.  The "yia yias" started teaching our girls to cook Greek Food , "After all, you want to cook a nice Greek meal for your mother-in-law, don't you". We felt that we were always a little on the outside, even though we both taught Sunday School and I sang in the Choir with my eldest daughter. The Greeks were welcoming but cautious with us. We found that the more effort we made, the more effort they made to include us. After about 5 years I moved to get a better job and over the last 20 years we have since changed our home city twice and have  been in a ROCOR parish and now for the last 8 years have been in an Antiochian parish. What I learned from this experience is that as an American Convert without  traditional Orthodox national identity, I had to looked at each of these wonderful traditions as an international experience. I took from each rich traditions and customs that my wife and I incorporated into our family's practice of Orthodoxy.  It is not just the food, the language, the dance, but from each we took their special spritual practices that have greatly enriched my life and that of my wife, children and now grandchildren.  I hope that you likewise will be able to embrace what is good and leave the rest behind.

Thomas
« Last Edit: July 08, 2008, 09:28:21 AM by Thomas » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2008, 09:33:17 AM »

My parish is more American covert than any particular ethnicity, but there are several Ukrainian families.  They also tended to be stand-offish until I made an effort to talk to and understand them and they suddenly became the warmest, most friendly people you'll ever meet.  There are a couple of ladies with whom I can barely communicate, but they greet me with a kiss every time I see them and you can see in their eyes the love they have for everyone in the parish.  It may take some time, but I imagine your parish will be the same.  I like to think of the parish as one big family... sometimes families are cautious about outsiders coming into the family, but once they get to know you they'll welcome you with open arms.
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« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2008, 06:52:00 AM »

I realize that Greeks are really to themselves, and they tend to place culture (ethnicity) before religion. That's fine, whatever works for them.
Have you ever stopped to consider the possibility that it may be your own stereotyping of others which puts up walls?
« Last Edit: July 09, 2008, 06:53:14 AM by ozgeorge » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2008, 07:13:12 AM »

I know of many "mixed" marriages that seem to work just fine. Perhaps I'm an incurable romantic, but I firmly believe that Virgil was right about one thing; "Love conquers all". And most of the pious people I know are Greeks who enjoy their culture. I don't mean to be offensive, but I love the relaxed way in which most cradle Orthodox can live their faith without all the angst that we converts seem to get involved in.
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« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2008, 03:17:01 PM »

I have split this topic into the two  branches of discussion it was taking.  The original branch "Having and Raising a family in an Ethic Parish, how is it???" and the new branch  topic " Layperson- Marriage or celibate" are both  great topics and remain in the Convert Issues forum for the time. They were seperated for more clarity  and focus in the discussion.

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« Last Edit: July 09, 2008, 03:17:21 PM by Thomas » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2008, 08:46:13 PM »

I live in an area with -5- parishes of 300 to 600 financially contributing members and one small mission within the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOAA).  All of these communities are welcoming to converts, nearly all of whom are spouses.  Of the parishes and the mission, one of the parishes remains rather ethnically based; services are substantially in Greek.  The others are substantially in English, 60%-70% on a typical Sunday.  In my parish, the converts, all spouses of cradle Orthodox, are among the most very active parishioners.  I've imagined that the ethnic parish still exists, but I'm surprised you would feel it's so segregated that you would feel it unlikely that you'd be able to bring a convert spouse, into the parish community.  You may be right, but I'm still rather surprised.  Converting to Orthodoxy is far more complex than being welcomed to the parish.  It isn't uncommon, that non-Orthodox spouses may attend, periodically, but not convert. I think mixed marriages constitute 70% of GOAA marriages in recent years, with only New York and Chicago, keeping the non-mixed marriages at the level it is.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2008, 08:53:08 PM by Basil 320 » Logged

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« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2008, 10:49:47 PM »

Anyway, thanks for all your replies.

Also I want to apologize to all the Greeks here, who may have been offended by what I said. I deeply apologize.  Perhaps I am the problem.  And our Lord knows best.
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« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2008, 01:56:38 AM »

I know of many "mixed" marriages that seem to work just fine. Perhaps I'm an incurable romantic, but I firmly believe that Virgil was right about one thing; "Love conquers all". And most of the pious people I know are Greeks who enjoy their culture. I don't mean to be offensive, but I love the relaxed way in which most cradle Orthodox can live their faith without all the angst that we converts seem to get involved in.

There is a married couple I know very, very well. Both were baptised Orthodox, the woman is of Greek ancestry, though there may well be some Slavic and Venetian/Italian in there somewhere; the man is of Russian and Romanian stock on his mother's side, Latvian and Swedish on his father's. Is there a problem with this marriage? No, not at all. If anything, their exposure to the Greek and Russian "flavours" of Orthodoxy has been very healthy, making them less susceptible to blinkered fanaticism with regards to the faith. As for maintaining their "ethnic" culture, this has never been a problem. Both of them have acquired elements of each other's ancestral cultures without discord.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2008, 04:59:27 AM by LBK » Logged
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« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2008, 02:13:58 AM »

There is a married couple I know very, very well. Both were baptised Orthodox, the woman is of Greek ancestry, though there may well be some Slavic and Venetian/Italian in there somewhere; the man is of Russian and Romanian stock on his mother's side, Latvian and Swedish on his father's. Is there a problem with this marriage? No, not at all. If anything, their exposure to the Greek and Russian "flavours" of Orthodoxy has been very healthy, making them less susceptible to blinkered fanaticism with regards to the faith. As for maintaining their "ethnic" culture, this has never been a problem. Both of them have acquited elements of each other's ancestral cultures without discord.

I honestly believe that the kind of diversity you are referring to here can be very interesting and exciting. Even within my own fairly narrow background of English/Welsh, I find there is so much to appreciate and explore. And then when one looks out to other cultures in friendships, or as children and grandchildren marry, a whole world of appreciation and understanding opens up to us; if we just desire to greet differences with an open heart and mind. Of course, there has to be reciprocity involved on all sides, but very few people respond unfavourably to a genuine interest in their lives and culture.
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