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Author Topic: Going to a Greek Orhtodox Church and I am not Greek  (Read 2391 times) Average Rating: 0
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jbm0117
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« on: April 20, 2010, 10:09:00 PM »

Hi,

Recently my wife and I have been going to GO chruch in the area. While we like it, but both have questions about going to a "Greek" church, it feels uneasy, but we are getting used to it. It is a real culture shock to my wife who is a ex-protestant and as a Eastern Catholic I am familiar with the liturgy. Perhaps, it is all in our heads and no one cares. Regardless it is a change going from a Latin church with a high Anglo % to the GO.

Any advice with this, besides keep going to church?
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Jake C
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« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2010, 10:35:18 PM »

Perhaps visiting other parishes (even other Greek parishes) would be of benefit to you. You may find another parish in town with a higher Anglo population that you and your wife can identify with a little better.

Here is the SCOBA parish directory. You can filter your results by jurisdiction.

http://www.scoba.us/directory.html

I pray that you and your wife find a wonderful home parish.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2010, 10:35:56 PM by Jake C » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2010, 10:51:21 PM »

The first thing we go to Church for is to pray to God and, if we can, partake of the Mysteries. Community is important too, but I think the important thing here is that the people are friendly and welcoming, whether their culture is like yours or not. Do you feel welcome at the Church? If so, then I wouldn't worry about the culture shock- you'll get used to that, and it does us all good to experience different cultures anyway. There is a general stereotype that Greek-American parishes tend to be insular and wary of non-Greeks. I'm sure the stereotype has basis in truth, but my personal experience has been the opposite. Anyways, good luck and may God guide you.
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« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2010, 09:42:28 AM »

You may want to PM Father Chris, one of our administrators who is a convert and a priest in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. He may be able to give you some good advice on this matter.

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« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2010, 10:11:46 AM »

Your wife may find the following article by Presbytera Frederica Matthews-Greene helpful:

"12 Things I Wish I’d Known…

First Visit to an Orthodox Church

Orthodox worship is different! Some of these differences are apparent, if perplexing, from the first moment you walk in a church. Others become noticeable only over time. Here is some information that may help you feel more at home in Orthodox worship—twelve things I wish I’d known before my first visit to an Orthodox church."

Read the rest at http://www.frederica.com/12-things/
« Last Edit: April 21, 2010, 10:16:35 AM by Second Chance » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2010, 10:16:00 AM »

Recently my wife and I have been going to GO chruch in the area. While we like it, but both have questions about going to a "Greek" church, it feels uneasy, but we are getting used to it. It is a real culture shock to my wife who is a ex-protestant and as a Eastern Catholic I am familiar with the liturgy. Perhaps, it is all in our heads and no one cares. Regardless it is a change going from a Latin church with a high Anglo % to the GO.

Any advice with this, besides keep going to church?

Assuming that most of the Liturgy is in English, then my advice is to do a bit of reading on why the culture and Liturgy are so different.  PM me if you are interested in some references!

Perhaps visiting other parishes (even other Greek parishes) would be of benefit to you. You may find another parish in town with a higher Anglo population that you and your wife can identify with a little better.  

It is most likely that, assuming language isn't an issue (i.e. the Liturgy is mostly intelligible to them), then going to a different Orthodox church will not help with the culture shock unless they went WR.  From speaking with those who have converted as adults, 90%+ of the culture shock is Liturgical, not linguistic.
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« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2010, 10:39:41 AM »

Dear jbm0117,

My wife Lesya and I are both Ukrainians. However, since there aren't any Ukrainian Orthodox parishes anywhere near where we live, we go to Fr. Chris's Greek Orthodox parish in Aberdeen, MS.

Our impression about this little mission parish is extremely positive. Not once were we asked, "what are you doing here as you are non-Greek?" Our co-parishioners include 100% ethnic Greeks, half-Greeks (children of mixed marriages), and non-Greeks, and we all get along very well!

The Divine Liturgy at our parish is mostly in English. Only occasionally, Fr. Chris chants some liturgical exclamations and prayers in Greek; but that does not bother us, non-Greek speakers, at all because we all have booklets with parallel Greek and English texts of the Divine Liturgy. To me, actually, it is even a peculiar pleasure to hear lines from the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostomos in the language it was originally written.

Sometimes, I hear from people who are usually of an Anglo- descent that Greeks aren't friendly to them when they come to a Greek church. I simply cannot relate to that. Again, my own impression was so positive that it is even hard for me to imagine, why would Greeks be un-friendly to someone who is not Greek.

Maybe it helps if you show interest in the Greek culture, language etc. When Lesya and I first showed up in our parish, we both asked some Greek parishioners about their place of birth (you know, Greeks just LOOOVE to talk about THEIR particular island! Smiley ), asked how to pronounce certain Greek words. I guess that made us rather likeable to the parishioners who are Greeks.
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« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2010, 10:47:16 AM »

Dear jbm0117,

My wife Lesya and I are both Ukrainians. However, since there aren't any Ukrainian Orthodox parishes anywhere near where we live, we go to Fr. Chris's Greek Orthodox parish in Aberdeen, MS.

Our impression about this little mission parish is extremely positive. Not once were we asked, "what are you doing here as you are non-Greek?" Our co-parishioners include 100% ethnic Greeks, half-Greeks (children of mixed marriages), and non-Greeks, and we all get along very well!

The Divine Liturgy at our parish is mostly in English. Only occasionally, Fr. Chris chants some liturgical exclamations and prayers in Greek; but that does not bother us, non-Greek speakers, at all because we all have booklets with parallel Greek and English texts of the Divine Liturgy. To me, actually, it is even a peculiar pleasure to hear lines from the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostomos in the language it was originally written.

Sometimes, I hear from people who are usually of an Anglo- descent that Greeks aren't friendly to them when they come to a Greek church. I simply cannot relate to that. Again, my own impression was so positive that it is even hard for me to imagine, why would Greeks be un-friendly to someone who is not Greek.

Maybe it helps if you show interest in the Greek culture, language etc. When Lesya and I first showed up in our parish, we both asked some Greek parishioners about their place of birth (you know, Greeks just LOOOVE to talk about THEIR particular island! Smiley ), asked how to pronounce certain Greek words. I guess that made us rather likeable to the parishioners who are Greeks.

I agree with George that I have always found my Greek brothers to be friendly and welcoming. It was through the efforts of the Greek community in New York and their then Archbishop Athenagoras, later Ecumenical Patriarch of Thrice-Blessed Memory that my family and the priests and people who left the Greek Catholic Church in the 1930's were received into Orthodoxy and ACROD was established under the Omophor of the Ecumenical Patriarch.
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« Reply #8 on: April 21, 2010, 11:06:38 AM »

Sometimes, I hear from people who are usually of an Anglo- descent that Greeks aren't friendly to them when they come to a Greek church. I simply cannot relate to that. Again, my own impression was so positive that it is even hard for me to imagine, why would Greeks be un-friendly to someone who is not Greek.


I agree. My first visit to an Orthodox Church was to a small Greek Orthodox mission parish. The Liturgy was mostly in English, and the people couldn't have been nicer or more welcoming. We were practically mobbed afterward by people wanting to greet us, welcome us and talk to us. We were invited to stay for coffee hour and for Sunday School. Several people stayed for a long time afterward to answer our questions. We were urged to join a Bible study in someone's home and to return next Sunday.
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« Reply #9 on: April 21, 2010, 11:30:23 AM »

Sometimes, I hear from people who are usually of an Anglo- descent that Greeks aren't friendly to them when they come to a Greek church. I simply cannot relate to that. Again, my own impression was so positive that it is even hard for me to imagine, why would Greeks be un-friendly to someone who is not Greek.


I agree. My first visit to an Orthodox Church was to a small Greek Orthodox mission parish. The Liturgy was mostly in English, and the people couldn't have been nicer or more welcoming. We were practically mobbed afterward by people wanting to greet us, welcome us and talk to us. We were invited to stay for coffee hour and for Sunday School. Several people stayed for a long time afterward to answer our questions. We were urged to join a Bible study in someone's home and to return next Sunday.

Another example of Greek hospitality occurred in the early 1980's in Buffalo, NY. A terrible fire destroyed my in-laws' ACROD parish church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin in South Buffalo. ( My late father was the first pastor of that parish, having served there from 1942 through 1947.) Everything was destroyed, all of the vestments, chalices - everything - a total loss. It was like losing a member of the family, we all wept.

The day of the fire, the pastor and parish council of the Hellenic Orthodox Church of the Annunciation in the Delaware Park section of Buffalo opened their hearts and home to the small, homeless community from St. Mary's and allowed them to use the Church and its facilities for Divine Liturgy and Holydays for the two and one half years it took to rebuild the new Church and center in Cheektowaga, NY. We will never forget the kindness and hospitality that they exended their brothers and sisters during a time of sadness and crisis.
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« Reply #10 on: April 21, 2010, 11:51:38 AM »

Christ is risen!
Hi,

Recently my wife and I have been going to GO chruch in the area. While we like it, but both have questions about going to a "Greek" church, it feels uneasy, but we are getting used to it. It is a real culture shock to my wife who is a ex-protestant and as a Eastern Catholic I am familiar with the liturgy. Perhaps, it is all in our heads and no one cares. Regardless it is a change going from a Latin church with a high Anglo % to the GO.

Any advice with this, besides keep going to church?

If you are not made unwelcome nor uncomfortable, why not get used to it?
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« Reply #11 on: April 21, 2010, 02:53:08 PM »

Perhaps visiting other parishes (even other Greek parishes) would be of benefit to you. You may find another parish in town with a higher Anglo population that you and your wife can identify with a little better.  

It is most likely that, assuming language isn't an issue (i.e. the Liturgy is mostly intelligible to them), then going to a different Orthodox church will not help with the culture shock unless they went WR.  From speaking with those who have converted as adults, 90%+ of the culture shock is Liturgical, not linguistic.

True. I had the same experience coming from an Evangelical background, and having led worship many times. I can understand the unease at transition from willy-nilly to liturgy.
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« Reply #12 on: April 21, 2010, 03:08:27 PM »

I've attended a Greek parish on a few occasions and have found the Greeks to be generally very extroverted and friendly people. When they discover you're Orthodox too, they welcome you very kindly. There have been a few bad experiences, but nowhere is it going to be perfect, I guess.
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« Reply #13 on: April 22, 2010, 01:44:50 PM »

Try to get to know people, and don't be discouraged if you need to make the first effort. Greek or even all convert, new parishes are often hard, at first, to integrate into since usually everyone already knows everyone else.
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« Reply #14 on: April 22, 2010, 08:16:32 PM »

I am a non-Greek who goes to a GO parish. This is the second GO parish I've attended (I moved to a different city and so I switched parishes).

All I can say is that it gets more familiar over time, and the people couldn't be more welcoming, friendly and nice. It's just a different culture in certain respects- there are also a good number of converts in my parish.

Just persevere, imho.  The things that were sticking points for me in Orthodoxy are now the things I cherish the most and can't believe how I ever could've had an "issue" with them. Time, exposure, consistency and faith are ultimately rewarded.
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« Reply #15 on: April 22, 2010, 08:52:19 PM »

I grew up in a Ukrainian Orthodox parish, but when I moved to Atlanta, the "closest" UOC parish was over 45 miles away from me, and there was a GO parish 4 miles from my home. With gas over $4.00 a gallon at the time, you can guess which direction I pointed my car!  laugh

It was the best decision I ever made!

The people were warm, welcoming, and I experienced tremendous spiritual growth there. I wouldn't be on this forum if it weren't for that parish!  Wink  Cheesy (GreekChef's husband, Fr. C told me about OC.net)

Even though I'm back in my "home" UOC parish in NJ, I miss that GOA parish every day, and think of them often.

You'll never hear a bad word come out of my mouth against the Greeks. I think they are wonderful people!
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« Reply #16 on: April 23, 2010, 09:30:27 AM »

It's just a different culture in certain respects.

As a Southern girl, I've found the Greek culture to be very familiar: faith, family and food! Only difference is, they use olive oil and we use lard!

 Wink
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« Reply #17 on: April 24, 2010, 01:34:03 AM »

It's just a different culture in certain respects.

As a Southern girl, I've found the Greek culture to be very familiar: faith, family and food! Only difference is, they use olive oil and we use lard!

 Wink

Now THAT is funny! Because it's so true, of course.
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« Reply #18 on: April 25, 2010, 10:51:08 AM »

We've been going to a GOA parish since we converted.  Although I don't like to be dogmatic about it, I think its the best idea to go to your "local" parish.  This one is the closest to us.  I think there might be a Serbian parish that is closer, but that is where I would make an exception - their entire service is in Slavonic, and it is extremely ethnic.

All that being said, you have to be comfortable becoming a little Greek (the small missions tend to be an exception - we have one about 40 miles away with a convert priest, and they are Greek in name only), as there is so much "Greek" stuff going on as part of the community.  Greek Festival, Greek Independence day, Greek dancing, etc.  With one exception, a woman who shows up maybe twice a year, we have always been very welcome - more than welcome - in the parish.  My oldest daughter has been declared to be Greek by one of her friends (and its now "Facebook" official), I help with chanting (in English) and with the bookmobile.

If anything, the struggle is usually coming from the other side.  I know people who are very "American" and are not comfortable with "Xeno" culture (in this case Greek), so they are not very comfortable in such a Greek environment.  If that is a struggle you're facing, then discuss it with your spiritual father (if you don't have one, start looking Smiley or priest.  It may be healthiest for you to find, say an OCA or Antiochian parish.  There is the language issue - for me most of the year we are >50% English, usually much greater.  The only difficult service is Pascha, where the old guard chanters come out of the woodwork and the Greek is >>50%.  Of course, I like to visit a couple of monasteries where everything is in Greek, so its not that strange for me.
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