You can see examples of this in this thread.
This whole thing about a "welcoming atmosphere" is incomprehensible to me.
When Americans go to a church, they are shopping.
In defense of some of the Americans church shopping, maybe they aren't really church shopping but its part of the intended path that Gods intends to use to bring them into Orthodoxy, and then there are those that are "Church Shopping"..................................
You can take a Honda and put Cadillac badges on it but it is still a Honda.
Here is one thing we were taught as Catholics growing up.
You went to the parish in your town. Period. You couldn't go register at one across town or in the next town simply because you didn't like it. You stayed in the parish you went to even if you didn't always agree with the priest. Sure you could be registered at parish A but go to the other town and go to parish b BUT the bishop, chancellor, priest wouldn't let you join parish b. This means at the end of the day you never could really be active on parish council or the other committees at parish b simply because you were registered nor allowed to be registered in parish b.
And guess what? We lived with it. And guess what? Some of those Catholic parishes have more members, more community outreach to the needy and elderly and imprisoned then some entire Orthodox jurisdictions do!
If everyone went to the Orthodox church that was closest to them and didn't drive past 4 others (while wasting gas and seeking to satisfy their quest for self-indulgence to find a parish that fits their criteria) we'd actually have stronger parishes that could grow and carry out the mission of Christ.
The truth hurts. Look an Orthodox Church is an Orthodox Church. If it has problems stay and build it up and seek to change from within. You can't imagine the fights I've seen at Orthodox Churches growing up. I come from a mixed family of Greek/Roman Catholics and Orthodox. But when the people at the Orthodox Church fight they leave for happier pastures. Then there are a few left holding the bag trying to fight for what needs to be done to save the parish. Then they get snuffed out and the parish is left with 20 members who see it as a place to hang out on Sunday mornings and fight over who's cousin is going to get the contract to pave parking lot while the church building is falling apart.
Hopefully with this new change we can work to make everything standard. One church, one bishop per area, shared resources. Just like the Catholics. Just like the Orthodox Churches do in say, Greece or Romania or Russia.
At best what has happened was from recently to 100 years ago many parishes left Greek Catholicism and founded Orthodox Churches up the street. The only difference is now THEY have the power, they own the building, they hire and fire priests at will. They treat him like an employee, a chaplain who they pay. It is congregationalism. So it becomes an Orthodox Church that hasn't fully moved into Orthodoxy, rather, it has moved in congregationalism. Sorry, I live it, I've had to deal with it for the better part of my life.
It isn't like the parishes ever really cared about Orthodox doctrine, Orthodox praxis, or being Orthodox because they sought to destroy the bonds that took their ancestors into Greek Catholicism in the first place. No, they squabbled over calenders and church property. They wanted control. Full control of EVERYTHING. From the priest down. And they will and have switched jurisdictions to find a priest or bishop they could bully around.
Wow, you're thinking, why am I so harsh? Because many of those reading this are not from the North East or areas which have had Orthodox churches for maybe 100 years or so. You never get to see what I am talking about. You are from mission areas with fresh missions and a fresh perspective.
However what I see is more examples of congregationalism taking place, just without it being attached to one's ancestral ethnic identity.
I can name plenty of newer Orthodox missions/churches that have gotten riled up, switched jurisdictions, set up rival missions next town over (taking 30 people splitting into two 15 groups of people trying to each support a priest and a mission). Over what? Power, who controls things, who owns the building. I've heard countless examples of missions running themselves with visiting priests. When they get a priest the people who felt they "ran" the mission leave and form new ones taking half the people with them.
What we need is to get rid of this mindset. We need to have the parish council function as it is intended to function. It should be a council that works with the priest and the hierarchy. We need standard rules and so forth for proper function so each church can function as one being and breathe Christ. For too long we have breathed "self, power, want, we own the church, the priest is our employee."
And we should be hopeful that this new agreement among our hierarchy AND the mother churches brings us closer to that reality. Those that are with us will stand with us and those that don't will be gone. Trouble parishes that tie up church resources and chew and spit out priests and put burden on everyone around them will be gone. Prayerfully may our churches return to the business of being churches and not social clubs or seen as property of the due paying members. I once had a parish council president tell me "I don't have time to come do that, I'm in 8 other social clubs including this one (the church)."
And really in the end we aren't pushing for anything new. Rather we are pushing for a return to how it should be. We we have in North America with all the jurisdictions and the current situation is new. We are simply returning to the old. And I for one can not wait until seekers, non-believers and other Christian communities and the public at large can see us all as ONE church.. not the Greek Church, not the Carpatho-Rusyn Church, not the Russian Church but as ONE. And if you can get excited about that just think how us believers and members of the Body of Christ, the Orthodox Church will feel when we truly are all one and everything is shared among us and we bring ourselves back to a proper order.
So when I see people on the internet asking "oh what should I look for in a parish" I think "here we go."
History repeats itself. Many of our parishes are blocks apart. Why? Because the people from Perechyn Ukraine couldn't go to church with those from L'viv so they built a church two blocks away.
It's a different sort of congregationalism but it is the same. It is trying to find a piece of paradise that fits a person's psyche. However, Christianity isn't about ME, it is about the community. No matter what the 700 club says, church isn't about feeling good and having Christ save you to give you a better job and a corvette. Church is hard, from fasting, to penance to staying in a parish and working together no matter if you don't like Bortiansky but the church up the street sings Valaam.. you stay in your local Christian community and battle it out. Christ is for all nations... and that includes all personalities and going to church that doesn't always sing music you like or doesn't have the best coffee hour.. and even if they pysanky at the church nearest to you and the other one 20 miles away feels more homey.. stay at the one close to you. Build it up. Bring it your talent, your prayer, your soul. Because when we put others first we just may start to see the church in our area grow and flourish. Because, remember what Christ said in Matthew 25.. and remember the apostles didn't have it easy, nor did the martyrs or those in former USSR. Neither do the Greeks have it easy in Turkey. The Serbs who died at the hands of oppression in Kosovo. Nor did the Armenians have it easy as well. The Orthodox in the Holy Land too.
But I read on the internet "oh should I go to this church down the street or the one 30 miles away, they don't have pews and sing better" Well, remember a lot of people died and are suffering to attempt to even practise their faith in this world, and self-interests of externals don't concern them. They plant their flag as best as they can and live out the message in their own communities.