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Author Topic: Converts and Language  (Read 16588 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: March 09, 2004, 07:09:04 PM »

How do other converts out there feel about liturgical languages?  Does a convert have a right to expect mostly English services?  Should a convert learn the language of whatever ethnicity dominates his parish?  

How do "ethnic" Orthodox feel to all of these questions?

What role should ethnicity play in American Orthodoxy?
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« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2004, 07:14:02 PM »

Church services should be done in the vernacular.  It should be at least 75% in English.  I'm a convert - since I was 12 in 1987 that is.  I shouldn't expect a service to be done in English if I visit Russia.  Same should go here.
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« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2004, 07:24:12 PM »

I am not sure about the EO and RC and sister Oriental Orthodox churches, but the Coptic Orthodox Diocese in the South under His Grace Bishop Youssef have adopted the position that liturgies on Saturdays and Sundays, where a large congregation attend and with the first and second generation attending and also the converts (all american), must be in mostly in English and in some parts in Copitc.
A liturgy held on a weekday, around noon, is dedicated to the older members who came from EGypt and are comfortable with Arabic more than English. Normally, no english speaking member is expected.

I think this is only fair.

What helps always is to explain to converts or if they do some research to know the rites and the spirituality of the liturgy and why it has been put together like this. I think this applies for all denominations.

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« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2004, 07:28:01 PM »

As far as ethnicity goes, we are proud of the Coptic heritage and we work hard to make the new generations born in America or EUrope also embrace the Coptic heritage,in addition to being good citizens in their countries. Part of this is the Coptic language. But while it used fairly in the liturgy, the liturgy where a large congregation with dominantly native language speaking members (whether in North AMerica or Europe) is ,say, 75 % in the native language of the country.


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« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2004, 08:07:32 PM »

Quote
Church services should be done in the vernacular.  It should be at least 75% in English.  I'm a convert - since I was 12 in 1987 that is.  I shouldn't expect a service to be done in English if I visit Russia.  Same should go here.

But America is different from other mission territory in that most Orhtodox people here are not converts, but immigrants.  At my parish there is a good number of people that speak English with a THICK accent and are barely understandable.  100% English would alienate them.  

I raise the question because I sense from talking to both converts and ethnics that both tend to lack sensitiivty towards the other side.  Saint Paisius Velichovsky handled it by having the chanting half Romanian half Slavonic in his monasteries.  

I also think SCOBA should get its act together and make a standard English transaltion for use at all SCOBA parishes.
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« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2004, 09:17:52 PM »

I think 50-75% English is good in parishes with a large ethnic population.

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« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2004, 09:40:29 PM »

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Elisha: I shouldn't expect a service to be done in English if I visit Russia.  Same should go here.

I agree.

If a local church membership is composed entirely of one particular nationality of immigrants, that is one thing.

I must drive over an hour to get to an Orthodox church where I can understand the liturgy and feel like a part of the parish.

Yet there is a nice little Greek church just 30 minutes up the road, where everything is in Greek and the atmosphere is that of an ethnic social club.

So, I drive the hour + .

I noticed the little Greek church is sparsely attended and rapidly graying, as well.

In another decade the Greeks will be gone and the building probably occupied by Pentecostals.
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« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2004, 10:11:26 PM »

[What role should ethnicity play in American Orthodoxy?]

NONE!!!!!

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« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2004, 10:12:52 PM »

[What role should ethnicity play in American Orthodoxy?]

NONE!!!!!

Orthodoc

Amen!

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« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2004, 10:16:49 PM »

Sometimes I've gone to Liturgies during the week and the priest has done more English than he would have otherwise because I was there.  I don't like that because I feel guilty for taking away from those who need Arabic to participate more.  I guess a fair amount of English is needed to make the Church accessible, but especially during the week I really think it should reflect what the needs of the people present are.  I heard someone say once that whatever languages you hear when people are having a meal together after the Liturgy are what should be used in the Liturgy, and I really like that way of thinking.  Of course some parts have to be kept in other languages for reasons, such as the prayer for the Gospel in Greek since Greek was the language of the world at the time of the spread of the Gospel to the world, so it represents that spreading, etc.
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« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2004, 11:06:39 PM »

If the Orthodox Churches are to be taken seriously, they must not be ethnic clubs.  To have liturgy in a non-English language completely shuts out potential converts from ever getting any insight into the goings-on of the Church.  Also, a rigidity on the language issue tends to display a deeper problem in overall attitude, usually that the church has little or no concern for the people in the wider community and is more interested in culture than religion.  If my response sounds a little strong, I've had some bad experiences with this.  The local Greek Orthodox Church in my area is a horrible witness.  I've specifically been asked the question "Are you Greek?" when I've been there, and as I'm not, I can't help but think I've been treated differently than if I were.  I'm very fortunate that I had already been to the Antiochian parish in my area, which was much more welcoming.  Really, if I had gone to the Greek Church first, I think it highly likely I would have written off Orthodox Christianity altogether.
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« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2004, 11:11:23 PM »

If the Orthodox Churches are to be taken seriously, they must not be ethnic clubs.  To have liturgy in a non-English language completely shuts out potential converts from ever getting any insight into the goings-on of the Church.  Also, a rigidity on the language issue tends to display a deeper problem in overall attitude, usually that the church has little or no concern for the people in the wider community and is more interested in culture than religion.  If my response sounds a little strong, I've had some bad experiences with this.  The local Greek Orthodox Church in my area is a horrible witness.  I've specifically been asked the question "Are you Greek?" when I've been there, and as I'm not, I can't help but think I've been treated differently than if I were.  I'm very fortunate that I had already been to the Antiochian parish in my area, which was much more welcoming.  Really, if I had gone to the Greek Church first, I think it highly likely I would have written off Orthodox Christianity altogether.

Exactly my experience, lellimore, although no one asked me if I am Greek.

I was blessed enough to have been to an ACROD church first, or I too might have written off Orthodoxy.
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« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2004, 12:42:45 AM »

Yeah, I think we can all agree the GOA is the worst. I went to vespers at the local Greek church for Sunday of Orthodoxy--a "pan-Orthodox" gathering, as it were-- and most of it was in Greek!
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« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2004, 12:53:40 PM »

While we are playing the jurisdiction superiority game and engaging in GOA bashing (even by non-Orthodox), I think I can share my experiences as a third-generation Hellenic-American. I have received identical cold-shouldered treatment just this past year in an Orthodox parish of a Slavic tradition which I choose not to name.
Regretably many Greek parishes are as described, but not all. It depends on the make-up of the Greeks in the parish- whether the majority are descended from the first early 1920s wave of immigrants, the second post-WWII wave, or convert make-up. I always must remember  that the Church was the only institution which preserved Greek identity along with Christianity during the 400 year Turkish occupation.
Today I know of Greek parishes which use nearly 100% Greek, those that are 50/50 Greek-English, and new ones that are 95/05 English to Greek(my sister's parish,for one, which is 75% converts). Priests respond to their current flock wishes and if they don't the bishop hears of it quickly.
ON THE OTHER HAND, you folks are missing the pleasures of being Greek and being asked if one is Greek while visiting another GOA parish. If one responds, Yes, then one is obliged to engage in their favorite third-degree "who are you" game: "Who eeez you pateras?" "Where in Greece he come from?" "Who eez you materas?" Where...etc...
This game can go on seemingly forever and protocol dictates that only they get to ask the questions. Apparently there is some pedigree criterion being applied that I don't understand but usually the questions stop once the questioners find some other Greek whom they know who knows "your people". And they always make a connection. You guys have it easy Wink

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« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2004, 01:01:58 PM »

I have nothing against Greeks, that's for sure!

My wife and I lived with an elderly Greek lady for about six months when we first came back to the States from Russia.

There are several Greek families in my parish, and they are the best. One of the Greek ladies - who has a handful of very beautiful kids - gave my wife and I quite a few gifts, including a car seat, when our daughter was born. She is a very sweet, saintly person and teaches the Greek school at our church.

I would attend that Greek church if they only had a service in English. The people were not unfriendly.
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« Reply #15 on: March 10, 2004, 01:25:16 PM »

I go to a church where the majority of the Liturgy is done in the vernacular of our people, and not the vernacular of the land (although some English is used).  I understand part of what's going on since I grew up with the language, but really don't understand much that is done in church, although I'm fine and fluent with the language in other settings.  I personally would prefer more in English, and have thoroughly enjoyed all English services when I've attended them.  I think a more liberal use of English is necessary; I've seen people go to other churches, RC and Protestant, precisely because they like to understand what they're doing and praying.  I think insisting on a foreign language sorta forces a parish to become an ethnic social club, if not now, then down the road.  It also doesn't encourage the spread of the Gospel unless it is to people who speak that language.  

On the other hand, I can sympathise with the side that would prefer the old language.  First, what about the people who don't understand English all that well?  It's easy to say that you want more English so you can understand more, but what about the guy who wants more of his own language because his English isn't the best when it comes to understanding stuff in church?  It's the same situation that I'm in, only in reverse.  Also, why would you want to cut out such an important part of what has been passed down to you?  Even today, most Liturgies in whatever language incorporate "Amen" and "Alleluia", two Hebrew words.  Unless you know Hebrew, we only know the meaning of these words because of translation, and yet we've been able to incorporate them into our prayer, both liturgical and private.  With a little effort and patience, the same can be done for other languages.  

Ideally, I envision a mix of the languages, with common and proper texts varying in language every so often.  Of course, I think that along with this, the parish should make available to all worshippers translations in their language of choice of the proper texts (my experience is that common texts can be had in any language used).
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« Reply #16 on: March 10, 2004, 03:36:05 PM »

Well, I can see a couple of scenarios....

1. If the convert has a choice between a parish that uses English verses an "ethnic" parish that uses a foriegn tongue. A convert may feel more comfortable attending a parish in a familiar language. However, if the convert feels 'at home' at the said ethnic parish. He/she should buck up and learn the language and not try to make a stink about using English. IMHO, the convert has a choice and has an opportunity to experience the liturgy in English.

2. The only option is an ethnic parish-  If there are enough converts to raise the issue (more than 5) of using English for liturgy. In this case, by all means talk to the priest. Don't expect it to happen and don't expect the rest of the parishioners to be happy with you. Enemies can easily be made here.  Some of the ethnic crowd view american converts as "thieves"  who want to "americanize the church" or "steal thier culture"  something that generations before them have worked tirelessly to preserve.
 
I'm sorry but as an "ethnic" I'm rather irritated by the bullish and sometimes whiney attitudes that some converts possess.    A church that has been doing the same thing for the past 100 years is probably NOT interested in building a preschool, a cry room, use english, musical instruments ..etc.. (insert other *thingy* they miss from thier protestant church)

I look at as if you redecorated your mother in laws house without her consent.  She wouldn't be happy with you, would she?

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« Reply #17 on: March 10, 2004, 03:38:46 PM »

Amen!



Keep on dreaming. Some of us want to preserve our culture and our heritage.

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« Reply #18 on: March 10, 2004, 04:08:12 PM »

Keep on dreaming. Some of us want to preserve our culture and our heritage.



And that's why social and cultural clubs should be established instead of utilizing the Church which should be centered around Christ and his teachings.

Go to any of these  ethnic  clubs that pass for churches and quiz the last two generations that grew up in them and see just how much they know of the faith  they are supposed to uphold!  Especially those  churches that serve in a either a foreign or obsolete language.  The younger generation doesn't even know when the proper times are to make the sign of the Cross upon themselves!  They stand with a bored look while the priest goes on in a language that neither they nor the entire congregation comprehends.

The churches that are vibrant and growing are the churches that serve in English and center their existence around Christ instead of putting him in the attic in favor of their 'culture' and 'heritage'  instead of their religion.

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« Reply #19 on: March 10, 2004, 04:15:42 PM »

Well, I can see a couple of scenarios....

1. If the convert has a choice between a parish that uses English verses an "ethnic" parish that uses a foriegn tongue. A convert may feel more comfortable attending a parish in a familiar language. However, if the convert feels 'at home' at the said ethnic parish. He/she should buck up and learn the language and not try to make a stink about using English. IMHO, the convert has a choice and has an opportunity to experience the liturgy in English.

2. The only option is an ethnic parish-  If there are enough converts to raise the issue (more than 5) of using English for liturgy. In this case, by all means talk to the priest. Don't expect it to happen and don't expect the rest of the parishioners to be happy with you. Enemies can easily be made here.  Some of the ethnic crowd view american converts as "thieves"  who want to "americanize the church" or "steal thier culture"  something that generations before them have worked tirelessly to preserve.
 
I'm sorry but as an "ethnic" I'm rather irritated by the bullish and sometimes whiney attitudes that some converts possess.    A church that has been doing the same thing for the past 100 years is probably NOT interested in building a preschool, a cry room, use english, musical instruments ..etc.. (insert other *thingy* they miss from thier protestant church)

I look at as if you redecorated your mother in laws house without her consent.  She wouldn't be happy with you, would she?

 

So, PhosZoe, should I expect to have to speak Greek (or whatever language) to you at your workplace to make you feel more comfortable?  Maybe I should change the language of all the documents that you work with as well?

If the Church is to fulfill the "Great Commission" so to speak, then it must use the language of the people it is evangelizing to.  Lumping in "english" with a crying room, instruments, etc. is a copout.  Your ethnic club is welcome to preserve the status quo and slowly die off - or it can do it's best to fulfill God's command and evengelize the native people.
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« Reply #20 on: March 10, 2004, 04:17:17 PM »

Again, PhosZoe, we don't mean to sound hostile, but the language is the far bigger complaint than culture.
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« Reply #21 on: March 10, 2004, 06:32:32 PM »

I think part of the problem is that there isn't a clear cut defintion of the mission of Orthodox parishes in America is.  Is it to minister primarily to immigrant from Orthodox lands with American converts as icing on the cake, as evangilization to Americans with the hopes of not alienating Orthodox immigrants, or an attempt to find a middle ground.  

Because most Orthodox in America are ethnic I don't 100% English in all parishes will ever be feasable.  There is A LOT of repitition in Orthodox liturgy, so there is plenty of room to use a fair amount of "the old language" and not actually loose anything if you don't understand it.  I guess I find that a rigid demand of 100% English is lacking sensitivity, just as people insisting on Enlgish not being used is lacking in sensitivity.  

Some observations though:

1)  I see a monastery fairly frequently that uses 100% Greek.  They have no lack of converts in attendance, and a number of monastics are converts.  Where real Orthodox piety is present language moves more to the backbunner.

2)  There are a great deal of protestant churches that offer Spanish services and bible studies.  They poach very easily Mexican immigrants with the bait of Spanish services in places where the RCC doesn't offer much for Spanish speakers.  If Orthodox Churches don't reach out ot immigrants they stand a good chance of loosing them.  

3) I have noticed in talking to other converts that many there is a certain amount of almost contempt for ethnic Orthodox.  "They don't even understand Church Greek anyway"  etc.  And also among some ethnics the feeling that they are GREEK first and that is what makes them Orthodox.  I think both attitudes are symptoms of the same underlying problem.

4)  There is an all English parish here that has no kids in it and is mostly elderly people.  I think that is an issue of poor leadership, not too much ethnicity.  

5) Too high a percentage of converts without guidance can easily go astray.  Look no further than all the jurisdiction hopping games and what not that happens in America.  Father Seraphim Rose's new biography touches on this subject indirectly throughout the whole work.  Father Seraphim was always sure to seek guidence from people who had lived thier whole lives immersed in Orthodoxy.  A parish that is a large blend of converts and ethnics is a good thing.  The expirence of being Orthodox for generations will help the converts and the zeal most converts bring will inspire the ethnics.  But this will never work in harmony if both sides are rigidly opposed to eachother.
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« Reply #22 on: March 10, 2004, 08:12:08 PM »

Church services should be done in the vernacular.   I shouldn't expect a service to be done in English if I visit Russia.  Same should go here.

i agree. worship has such a greater meaning if it's in a language one understands.  i grew up in greek orthodox churches in the northeast usa where greek was used primarily, and while my faith was very important to me, i never really understood it till i began worshipping in english.  i actually don't see any point in using a foreign language, aside from the sentimentality that some immigrants associate with it.  

kudos to the antiochians who (i think) took the lead in using english in orthodox worship in america!
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« Reply #23 on: March 10, 2004, 08:29:40 PM »

There is A LOT of repitition in Orthodox liturgy, so there is plenty of room to use a fair amount of "the old language" and not actually loose anything if you don't understand it.  I guess I find that a rigid demand of 100% English is lacking sensitivity, just as people insisting on Enlgish not being used is lacking in sensitivity.  
I myself find it rather antisocial that people move countries without learning the language to begin with, so I can't say I'm sympathetic to the bad English argument.  Other than refugees, people can stay home and not immigrate if they so desire.  If people aren't actually interested in getting into North America, why come to begin with?  Unless of course it's just a matter of economic greed...Heaven knows that people who come to NA only to form a culturo-linguistic clique (that their own children often can't understand...I personally know a guy who, although he is Greek, left the Greek Orthodox church precisely because he never understood what was going on, even though he speaks modern Greek) don't do any good for anyone here.  On the other hand, I sympathize with the cultural arguments, but ONLY for those who had to come to NA to flee persecution or something of the sort.  And in that case, as has been said, it shows wacky priorities to be sacrificing the best interests of the church to achieve that end.  With all this said, as in the quote above, some foreign language can be included without difficulty, but this should always be secondary to the integrity of the English liturgy.
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« Reply #24 on: March 10, 2004, 08:44:12 PM »

And that's why social and cultural clubs should be established instead of utilizing the Church which should be centered around Christ and his teachings.

Go to any of these  ethnic  clubs that pass for churches and quiz the last two generations that grew up in them and see just how much they know of the faith  they are supposed to uphold!  Especially those  churches that serve in a either a foreign or obsolete language.  The younger generation doesn't even know when the proper times are to make the sign of the Cross upon themselves!  They stand with a bored look while the priest goes on in a language that neither they nor the entire congregation comprehends.

The churches that are vibrant and growing are the churches that serve in English and center their existence around Christ instead of putting him in the attic in favor of their 'culture' and 'heritage'  instead of their religion.

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As I said in response to one of your previous posts, Orthodoc, AMEN!

Brother, do I ever agree with you.

The true Church is supposed to be One, Holy, Catholic (meaning for everybody), and Apostolic.

Those are the four marks of the Church.

Inserting a fifth mark -  i.e., the name of the ethnic group of your choice - is not an option.

When I was in Russia and attended Divine Liturgy there, I did not expect anyone to speak in English for me or the other Americans living in Moscow that I knew (and there were quite a few of us and some Brits, as well).

We "preserved our culture and heritage" on our own time, not the universal Church's.
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« Reply #25 on: March 11, 2004, 12:13:41 AM »

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I myself find it rather antisocial that people move countries without learning the language to begin with, so I can't say I'm sympathetic to the bad English argument.

Before we go off bashing immigrants, let's remember that if there were not immigrants from Orthodox lands there would be no Orthodoxy in America right now.  Even the English-mission oriented Antiochians started out as a bunch of Syrians...

As I understand it Saint John of San Francisco was not very proficient in English nor Saint Nikolai (who reposed at Saint Tikhon's monastery).  Both were advocates of English liturgy though.  I guess my main point is that converts and ethnics should be willing to meet eachother in the middle here and not demand the other to completely give up his side.  
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« Reply #26 on: March 11, 2004, 12:16:35 AM »

Perhaps we should all take Sts. Cyril and Methodius as our examples in this case.

We know they forced the Slavs to learn Greek.

Didn't they?  Wink
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« Reply #27 on: March 11, 2004, 12:26:01 AM »

Before we go off bashing immigrants, let's remember that if there were not immigrants from Orthodox lands there would be no Orthodoxy in America right now.  .  


and if there were no american converts, our churches would be totally empty!!!  take it from me, one who grew up Orthodox, i am the ONLY one in my family who attends liturgy and other divine services with any regularity.  my brother, who is very near to me in age, still refers to Pascha as "Greek Easter."  (there's little i can't stand more than when people call Pascha "Greek Easter" and Western Easter is "American Easter" -- as if Orthodoxy simply cannot ever be American......)

our prime mission here in America is missionary work, and we cannot do it without an English liturgy.  I actually don't think it's possible to be a strong Orthodox Christian and to not be evangelistic -- the two go hand in hand.  And look at the new parishes that the OCA and the Antiochians (and even the Greeks!) have opened up in the past decade -- how many of them are non-English speaking parishes?  probably none.  Even in Washington state, the GOA opened an English-speaking mission north of Seattle!
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« Reply #28 on: March 11, 2004, 12:42:51 AM »

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Perhaps we should all take Sts. Cyril and Methodius as our examples in this case.

We know they forced the Slavs to learn Greek.

Didn't they?  

That is apples to oranges though.  The great apostles to the slavs went to the Slavs as apostles, not to set up churches for Greeks living among the Slavs.  Whereas America has two groups in it to be ministered to.  That is why compromise is needed here, unless you want two seperate churches in America, one for converts and one for ethnics.  A small use of the old country language (about 25%) is not that big of a deal.  

I also agree with Gregory that 100% Greek is not the way to go for a parish.  Use enough Greek to keep Yiayia and Pappous happy but enough English for the kids.   There is a balance where (almost) everyone can be happy.
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« Reply #29 on: March 11, 2004, 01:01:20 AM »

That is apples to oranges though.  The great apostles to the slavs went to the Slavs as apostles, not to set up churches for Greeks living among the Slavs.  Whereas America has two groups in it to be ministered to.  That is why compromise is needed here, unless you want two seperate churches in America, one for converts and one for ethnics.  A small use of the old country language (about 25%) is not that big of a deal.  

I also agree with Gregory that 100% Greek is not the way to go for a parish.  Use enough Greek to keep Yiayia and Pappous happy but enough English for the kids.   There is a balance where (almost) everyone can be happy.    

You have a point, but, IMHO, a limited one.

What is the purpose of the Church if not the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20)?

I have nothing against an immigrant parish retaining the native language to some extent. But it seems to me they've got to let it go sometime if the Church is to reach the larger community.

Ironically, the use of the vernacular is one of the great things about the Orthodox Church, historically, at least.

When the Western Church was celebrating the Mass in Latin in places where few of the people could understand it, the Eastern Church was reaching the souls of her people with the word and worship of God in sounds they could comprehend and take to heart.

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« Reply #30 on: March 11, 2004, 01:19:44 AM »

What I meant to say didn't come out very clearly.  I think ethnic parishes should be in the works of transitioning to using more and more English.  But for things that are repeated three times (dismissal hymn at Orthros, the God is the Lord, Let every breath praise the Lord, etc. the many times the small litany is done) why not do it one out of two times in Greek/Slavonic and twice in English?  Do the Cherubic hymn in Greek and Megalynarion in English one Sunday, then rotate it next Sunday.  As the parish becomes mostly native English speakers slowly phase the Greek/Slavonic out.  

Also an issue possibly for another thread is English translations.... some are just plain ugly.  I am also a firm believer in a standard English text.  That way people can memorize prayers and take them home with them much more easily.  This could be a chance for SCOBA to step in and do something productive.
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« Reply #31 on: March 11, 2004, 03:26:41 AM »

Also an issue possibly for another thread is English translations.... some are just plain ugly.
I agree. What is needed is not translations into English, but for the prayers/hymns etc. to be rewritten in English by the original author, ie. the Holy Spirit. So what the church in America/UK/Australia really needs is saints, men and women striving for holiness, and God will bless His church by pouring out His gifts on these people.

John.
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« Reply #32 on: March 11, 2004, 10:14:22 AM »

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So what the church in America/UK/Australia really needs is saints, men and women striving for holiness, and God will bless His church by pouring out His gifts on these people.

And the monasticism offered by the Antiochians is a great place to find that!
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« Reply #33 on: March 11, 2004, 12:07:01 PM »

I myself find it rather antisocial that people move countries without learning the language to begin with, so I can't say I'm sympathetic to the bad English argument.  Other than refugees, people can stay home and not immigrate if they so desire.  If people aren't actually interested in getting into North America, why come to begin with?  

In our part of India, there is 100% literacy in three languages, including English, thanks to the educational system.  That is more than I can say for New York, where you may not always have that much literacy in even one language (believe me, I've done my time!).  It's very disconcerting when Americans think the only reason people prefer their own language to English in worship is because they don't want to learn English.  In at least one case, they already do know English, even if they never end up setting foot in America.

The Eastern liturgies are very deep and profound, both in the ideas expressed, and in the words used to express them.  When I hear them in English, I get a lot more out of them, precisely because I understand them better.  But if I hear the Liturgy in my own language, even though in more "secular" circumstances I can understand it fluently, I don't get as much out of it, because I can't figure out a lot of the words used, and so the meaning is lost.  The language is of a higher quality, and the words are more classical (some are derived from Sanskrit, if I'm not mistaken, a language I have no clue about), etc., and so I can't understand it, even if it is a "modern translation" (only thirty years old or so, IIRC), and I understand the modern language in non-ecclesiastical situations.  So I can understand if there are people in the parish who are fluent in English in non-ecclesiastical situations, but are more comfortable praying in their own language because they get the most out of it that way: we are both in the same situation, only in different ways.  

It's not a matter of immigrants not wanting to learn English.  Perhaps there are Orthodox immigrants who are like that, but not all are like that.
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« Reply #34 on: March 11, 2004, 04:35:27 PM »

I attend an all English U.O. mission. We are full of young adults
and young families and growing. If I were to visit Russia or Greece, I would seek out an English liturgy, if possible. If I were to immigrate to these countries, I think it would be my duty to learn the language of the land. I realize that, in charity, there must be accomodations for new or elderly immigrants, but it should not be the norm....ever. it is too destructive of growth
and the future life of Orthodoxy in the new world.  Philatism (spelling?) is a heresy.
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« Reply #35 on: March 11, 2004, 05:58:06 PM »

What I meant to say didn't come out very clearly.  I think ethnic parishes should be in the works of transitioning to using more and more English.  But for things that are repeated three times (dismissal hymn at Orthros, the God is the Lord, Let every breath praise the Lord, etc. the many times the small litany is done) why not do it one out of two times in Greek/Slavonic and twice in English?  Do the Cherubic hymn in Greek and Megalynarion in English one Sunday, then rotate it next Sunday.  As the parish becomes mostly native English speakers slowly phase the Greek/Slavonic out.  
I completely agree with this.  If you can work in some language considerations without sacrificing the quality of the English liturgy, then why not?
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« Reply #36 on: March 11, 2004, 06:03:56 PM »

Before we go off bashing immigrants, let's remember that if there were not immigrants from Orthodox lands there would be no Orthodoxy in America right now.  Even the English-mission oriented Antiochians started out as a bunch of Syrians...

As I understand it Saint John of San Francisco was not very proficient in English nor Saint Nikolai (who reposed at Saint Tikhon's monastery).  Both were advocates of English liturgy though.  I guess my main point is that converts and ethnics should be willing to meet eachother in the middle here and not demand the other to completely give up his side.  

I'm not bashing immigrants, just those particular immigrants who are provincial-minded and give no thought to the larger community and the integration of various believers in a new country (even among immigrants, if a Russian and a Greek live in the same place, why shouldn't they worship together?)  This type of narrow provincialism shows unspeakable contempt for one of two things.  Either it shows contempt for Orthodox Christianity itself, because if you truly think something is valuable, you'll be interested in spreading it, or it shows contempt for the members of the wider non-Orthodox community, because having something of value, these provincials show no concern for those who remain without it.
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« Reply #37 on: March 11, 2004, 06:08:25 PM »

In our part of India, there is 100% literacy in three languages, including English, thanks to the educational system.  That is more than I can say for New York, where you may not always have that much literacy in even one language (believe me, I've done my time!).  It's very disconcerting when Americans think the only reason people prefer their own language to English in worship is because they don't want to learn English.  In at least one case, they already do know English, even if they never end up setting foot in America.

The Eastern liturgies are very deep and profound, both in the ideas expressed, and in the words used to express them.  When I hear them in English, I get a lot more out of them, precisely because I understand them better.  But if I hear the Liturgy in my own language, even though in more "secular" circumstances I can understand it fluently, I don't get as much out of it, because I can't figure out a lot of the words used, and so the meaning is lost.  The language is of a higher quality, and the words are more classical (some are derived from Sanskrit, if I'm not mistaken, a language I have no clue about), etc., and so I can't understand it, even if it is a "modern translation" (only thirty years old or so, IIRC), and I understand the modern language in non-ecclesiastical situations.  So I can understand if there are people in the parish who are fluent in English in non-ecclesiastical situations, but are more comfortable praying in their own language because they get the most out of it that way: we are both in the same situation, only in different ways.  

It's not a matter of immigrants not wanting to learn English.  Perhaps there are Orthodox immigrants who are like that, but not all are like that.  
The "bad English" bit was only a response to one specific argument for old-language liturgy.  I wasn't saying that all Orthodox immigrants are uninterested in English; I was just saying that those who are shouldn't be used as an excuse to keep the liturgy incomprehensible for everyone else.  I think the old liturgies probably are very beautiful, but that's because they've had a while to develop.  Those who oppose English liturgy stand in the way of English developing its own tradition of beautiful liturgical writing.
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« Reply #38 on: March 11, 2004, 06:38:04 PM »

I think the old liturgies probably are very beautiful, but that's because they've had a while to develop.  Those who oppose English liturgy stand in the way of English developing its own tradition of beautiful liturgical writing.

Maybe I wasn't clear.  This is not what I was referring to in my earlier post.  It is not that the old liturgy is better because it is more developed, while the English is less so.  It is more that one understands things better in the language with which one prays.  For example, I, as an English speaker, understand what "consubstantial" means in English, but you give me that same word in Malayalam, and I won't have a clue.  Yet, that word is not in the liturgy just to take up space.  Liturgy is catechesis as well as prayer, and the whole thing is better understood by the individual in the language in which s/he prays.  But in mixed company, you cannot have only one or the other language, obviously.
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« Reply #39 on: March 12, 2004, 10:51:40 AM »

as my name implies I'm a newbie so this is just my thoughts:I attended a Pan Orthodox Sunday of Orthodoxy recently at a GO church & the service was at least 80% Greek. Now there were people of Serbian, Russian, Bulgarian, Arab, American & Greek heritage there. The only language we all had in common was ENGLISH.
(maybe we could ask the Lutherans how they handled it - the Lutheran church I belonged to had services, catechism & church council meetings in German until just before WWII. Then all their English-speaking children and grandchildren went away to attend a Lutheran church where the services were in English.) Fortunately or unfortunately it's a natural process of assimilation so IMHO we need to manage that process as gracefully and prayerfully as possible. Roll Eyes
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« Reply #40 on: March 16, 2004, 12:01:15 PM »

Hi everyone!
I just want to share this:  I attend a small "mission" church.  (Serbian).  While there are a few Serbs there, most of the people come from various backgrounds.  We have a few Russians, a Bulgarian man, one from France, two from England, one from Ireland (me), several Americans, one Dutch, two Germans, one Australian....
Our church is so mixed that everyone agrees that English is the best answer and our "common ground" between us.  One wonderful thing that has resulted from all this:
During Liturgy and Vespers, one never knows what language "Lord have mercy" will be in.  All of us have learned to say "Lord have mercy" in at least three or four languages.
Smiley
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« Reply #41 on: March 16, 2004, 12:55:59 PM »

I'm not bashing immigrants, just those particular immigrants who are provincial-minded and give no thought to the larger community and the integration of various believers in a new country (even among immigrants, if a Russian and a Greek live in the same place, why shouldn't they worship together?)  This type of narrow provincialism shows unspeakable contempt for one of two things.  Either it shows contempt for Orthodox Christianity itself, because if you truly think something is valuable, you'll be interested in spreading it, or it shows contempt for the members of the wider non-Orthodox community, because having something of value, these provincials show no concern for those who remain without it.

Narrow Provincialism, aye?  Perhaps you have never thought about why immigrant congregations are they way they are.  My grandparents all immigrated after WW2 (through Germany) to the States.  When they first came here, they had just been through a horrific experience, one grandfather in particular.  He'd spent 2 1/2 years in prisoner of war camps.  He survived only through God's mercy, which by some miricle didn't send him back to the USSR during prisoner swaps, though his number did come up.  He witnessed executions, beatings, starvation, all sorts of unimaginable human cruelty.  Before that, in the USSR, he was considered worse than a second-class citizen, decending from 2 enemy-of-the-people classes, the aristocracy (through his mother) and the priesthood (his father).  He was not allowed to persue an education, hold most jobs, etc.  While in the POW camp, he and 2 friends regained their faith in God, and vowed to build a church once they were free.  After a few years in DP (Displaced Persons) camps in Germany after the war, they all ended up immigrating to NYC.  They kept their vow, one going so far as becoming the parish priest there (Fr. Serafim Slabatskoy, author of "Law of God," btw).  
One of the main goals for them however when they started this church, where Church Slavonic is still used to this day, wasn't spreading Orthodoxy.  At that time, they, and most if not all Russian immigrants & their religious leaders wanted a place for all Russian Orthodox who had immigrated to have something they had not been able to have in their homeland, some for most, or all of their lives, a place to worship like their forefathers did.  At that time they were not thinking to spread Orthodoxy, they were thinking to preserve it as they knew it.  The immigrant clergy had to re-educate the Russian immigration, as some did not even know how to cross themselves, due to the immense supression of religion in the USSR.  Their focus was not on bringing light to the outside Americans, their focus was on rekindling the flame of faith inside themselves.  
Now times have changed granted, BUT please please please, be a little more understanding of those that built those churches to begin with, most of who are in their 70s now, and their children, who try to preserve their heritage.  Also, another food for thought... when new immigrants come here, they will be drawn most to a place where their own native language is spoken.  Here in DC its much to often the clubs rather than the church, but those who do come are extremely glad to go somewhere where they can here their faith professed in their own native tongue.  
So bottom line, be nice, most parishes try to compromise, and those who don't, will either eventually lose it's flock by default or have to depend heavily on incoming immigrants.  
Hope this rant semi-makes sense.
Ciao Ciao,
Ania
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« Reply #42 on: March 16, 2004, 10:39:41 PM »

I'm not Orthodox, but it seems to me that "ethnic Orthodox" are getting it a bit rough on this thread. In particular, lellimore's post reflected an American nationalism that is at least as obnoxious as anything one hears from the Greeks. All Americans are immigrants, after all, and all Americans except for the "Indians" were immigrants to a country inhabited by another ethnic group. Should we all learn Cherokee? Immigrant populations with a strong ethnic identity are part of what makes America the wonderful place it is. There is no official language in the United States, and I don't think there ought to be. Let the linguistic chaos flourish! And while it's true that an over-identification with ethnicity is the bane of Orthodoxy, a bland Anglocentric pop culture is the bane of America. I don't think there is a right or a wrong here. As with all such conflicts among Christians, the only answer is charity and humility on _all_ sides. It seems to me that this is a classic example of the sort of thing Paul frequently addresses in his epistles. Don't you think if he were writing to American Orthodox he'd be telling the converts to learn Greek in order to understand the immigrants, and the immigrants to use more English in order not to put a stumbling block before the converts? As a practical compromise, I think that the use of both languages is the best way to go. Admittedly, I'm speaking as someone fascinated by learning foreign languages, and seriously annoyed by the prevalent American attitude that no normal person should be expected to know more than one language. But I'm also speaking as someone who was very frustrated in visiting a GO parish last fall where the entire liturgy was in Greek and it was hard to find anyone at the coffee hour willing to talk to an English-speaking non-Orthodox visitor (they weren't hostile, just wrapped up in their own world). Even the sermon was in Greek, which was the one part that really annoyed me (I know both the Orthodox liturgy and ancient Greek well enough to follow most of it, but I don't know modern Greek and there was no way I could follow the sermon). But at the same time, I think that parishes that go completely English are losing something as well. The universality of the Church is in part expressed by the use of multiple languages.

Just my two cents, as a sympathetic non-Orthodox whose first encounter with Orthodoxy was in Romania, and who thus both appreciates the links between Orthodoxy and national culture and is quite aware of their spiritual dangers.

In Christ,

Edwin
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« Reply #43 on: March 16, 2004, 11:19:56 PM »

Thank you Ania for sharing the story about your Grandfather.  

Edwin you expressed the attitude that I was trying to express but couldn't.  IMO (alas not humble!) a healthy attitude for a convert is sympathy for ethnic Orthodoxy opposed to a masked (and sometimes not so masked) hostility towards the ethnic crowd.
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« Reply #44 on: March 17, 2004, 12:47:57 AM »

 In particular, lellimore's post reflected an American nationalism that is at least as obnoxious as anything one hears from the Greeks.
I'm actually not American, and the inspiration for my views is not nationalism, American or otherwise.  The reason English should be used is because it's the common language in America, and therefore has the best potential for wide range.  Perhaps the strength of my language in my earlier posts is being mistaken for an extreme pro-English position.  That is not the position I hold; I just find the extreme ethnic position deeply offensive.  As I said earlier, I think some ethnic language can be worked into the liturgy, and this is perfectly acceptable.  What it can't do is interfere with the integrity of the English liturgy.
As to Ania's post, it must be remembered that while some ethnic churches have the sort of background you described, many, perhaps the majority, don't.  My own personal experience with "ethnic churches" represents another common type of these, which are the type I described earlier.  The specific church I referred to is basically full of well-to-do Greek bigots.  As to those who are like the church you described rather than the one I did, I happily concede that that makes the situation more complex.  Still, an important point has to be kept in mind.  The salvation of souls is infinitely more important than any cultural goal.  If these are in conflict, the first must take priority.  Once again, as I said in an earlier post, I'm much more sympathetic with the ethnic goals of refugees than I am with those of wilful immigrants, and if the area in question is a heavily populated one (eg. NYC) there can be room for some ethnic churches, with English ones alongside.  Where it becomes a problem is when in a more sparsely populated area, no English church is available, thereby shutting out the vast majority of the population.  It is this type of ethnic church, the type that leaves English speakers completely out in the cold, that I am attacking.
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