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Author Topic: Sick of seeing people leave Orthodox due to language barriers... *Rant*  (Read 6634 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: October 11, 2010, 12:57:27 PM »

Okay, I've encountered another Orthodox Christian who has left the Church for a Protestant denomination due to the fact that the person cannot understand anything in his respective Church due to that Church having the vast majority of services in another language. (and he is in a majority English speaking country)

Seriously, what are these Churches thinking? This has to be one of the greatest travesties in the Orthodox Church today.

The recent Census of the United States cites that most Greek Orthodox laypeople say the greatest problem in Orthodoxy (in America) today is the loss of young people and other faithful. Yet the same Census shows that the vast majority of those Parishes have most of their services in a language other than English.

Now, I'm just using that as an example, every jurisdiction has been guilty of this.

What in the world are we thinking? We cannot weep over the loss of our youth and other faithful and then refuse to change the language of our services. The two go hand-in-hand. If you wish to keep your youth, then for gosh sakes, change your services to English (if you are in a majority-English speaking country).

I'm sorry to be criticizing about this, Lord knows my spiritual life isn't good. But I'm absolutely sick and tired of seeing this.

We are destroying the souls of our faithful by refusing to change the language of our services... This is NOT the tradition of our Church. To claim that "to have the services in 'insert language' is tradition because of our ethnicity/ancestors" is absolute bull. This is something being used by Satan to draw away the faithful, and sadly, it's WORKING!

We need to wake up and open our eyes...

If we have ANY hope of converting the World to Orthodoxy, we need to clean house first and fix those things that are wrong in our own home first.

**Rant Over**

(I am not saying we need 100% of the service in English, but at the very least, 75% needs to be in English, and that 75% is not counting the Homily, which should be in English)
« Last Edit: October 11, 2010, 01:03:11 PM by 88Devin12 » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2010, 02:08:15 PM »

The recent Census of the United States cites that most Greek Orthodox laypeople say the greatest problem in Orthodoxy (in America) today is the loss of young people and other faithful. Yet the same Census shows that the vast majority of those Parishes have most of their services in a language other than English.

What numbers were you looking at?  According to Mr. Krindatch's material that he gave me, (I'm going to re-create this as a diagram-less chart):

Quote
Average proportion of Greek and Englished used in GOA parishes as the language of sermon, liturgy, and church choir:

Language of Sermon: 6% Greek, 94% English
Language of Liturgy: 30% Greek, 70% English
Language of Church Choir: 56% Greek, 44% English

Clearly, the majority of services & teaching is in English.  This matches my experience, and the experience of most of my peers that I have spoken to on this subject: the majority of US GOA parishes use English as the major language in the service, with Greek as a 2nd language (not the dominant one).  And, according to my experience, this is even more true in the South*.

*I don't intend to include Florida in that statement, but I know most Southerners don't consider Florida a southern state, so I didn't qualify it.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2010, 02:08:55 PM by Fr. George » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2010, 02:16:07 PM »

Okay, I've encountered another Orthodox Christian who has left the Church for a Protestant denomination due to the fact that the person cannot understand anything in his respective Church due to that Church having the vast majority of services in another language. (and he is in a majority English speaking country)

All it means is that the person you are referring to wasn't really an Orthodox Christian. He left for a Protestant denomination - not for Oriental Orthodox, Catholic, Old Catholic, Anglo-Catholic, etc. It speaks for itself.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2010, 02:22:40 PM by Michał » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2010, 02:37:51 PM »

Okay, I've encountered another Orthodox Christian who has left the Church for a Protestant denomination due to the fact that the person cannot understand anything in his respective Church due to that Church having the vast majority of services in another language. (and he is in a majority English speaking country)

All it means is that the person you are referring to wasn't really an Orthodox Christian. He left for a Protestant denomination - not for Oriental Orthodox, Catholic, Old Catholic, Anglo-Catholic, etc. It speaks for itself.

If he communed as an Orthodox Christian, he was an Orthodox Christian.  The sort of reasoning you use above, that he was not really Orthodox, is the same that many of my Protestant friends use to avoid the implications that falling away from the faith (Hebrews 6:4ff) has on the "once saved, always saved" doctrine of eternal security.
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« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2010, 02:40:17 PM »

I agree with Michal.  If one Orthodox parish didn't serve the Liturgy in English, the Orthodox one down the road does.  You just have to find the correct fit.

That's a cop out.

My parish serves mostly in Ukrainian, with some English.  If our priest notices many "unknown" faces, he will switch to more English, assuming these are English speaking guests.

However, as the greater majority of the parishioners speak Ukrainian, and love to hear Ukrainian, it would be unfair to dismiss them, for their English speaking brethren.

However, having said that, this past weekend my whole family attended the Divine Liturgy at a sister Ukrainian Parish, because His Grace Bishop Daniel was visiting them.  Everything was in English (although many thanks to His Grace, after the Lord's Prayer was sung in English, he recited it in Ukrainian....that was a special touch).  Many of the youngsters appreciated hearing the Liturgy they are accustomed to hearing in Ukrainian in English.  They got a "different" understanding.

My mother, who was with us, speaks broken English...and definitely prefers Ukrainian.  However, her comments afterwards were all positive.  She said she didn't care what language it was in, because it was still an Orthodox Liturgy...and even if she didn't understand the words being spoken she knew what they were because she "knows" the Liturgy and knew exactly what was occurring.  

On the other hand, the English speakers, who were listening to the Liturgy in English were busy paging through booklets and trying to find "where we are".  I can never get that.  I would think the books are beneficial for those who are new to the Liturgy, or who don't speak the language.

Why would those who can understand the language need to be paging through books the entire time?  They are so busy trying to find their place in the book, that they are simply missing the entire Liturgy.

Just my thoughts.

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« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2010, 02:42:35 PM »

If he communed as an Orthodox Christian, he was an Orthodox Christian.  The sort of reasoning you use above, that he was not really Orthodox, is the same that many of my Protestant friends use to avoid the implications that falling away from the faith (Hebrews 6:4ff) has on the "once saved, always saved" doctrine of eternal security.

Huh
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« Reply #6 on: October 11, 2010, 02:45:54 PM »

The recent Census of the United States cites that most Greek Orthodox laypeople say the greatest problem in Orthodoxy (in America) today is the loss of young people and other faithful. Yet the same Census shows that the vast majority of those Parishes have most of their services in a language other than English.

What numbers were you looking at?  According to Mr. Krindatch's material that he gave me, (I'm going to re-create this as a diagram-less chart):

Quote
Average proportion of Greek and Englished used in GOA parishes as the language of sermon, liturgy, and church choir:

Language of Sermon: 6% Greek, 94% English
Language of Liturgy: 30% Greek, 70% English
Language of Church Choir: 56% Greek, 44% English

Clearly, the majority of services & teaching is in English.  This matches my experience, and the experience of most of my peers that I have spoken to on this subject: the majority of US GOA parishes use English as the major language in the service, with Greek as a 2nd language (not the dominant one).  And, according to my experience, this is even more true in the South*.

*I don't intend to include Florida in that statement, but I know most Southerners don't consider Florida a southern state, so I didn't qualify it.

I've been to several GOA parishes all over Chicago over the years, but I've only been to one that used ANY English, and one which had an English (i.e. the kiddie) DL.  Unless there has been some drastic change in the past decade (I've only been a couple of times in the last couple years).
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« Reply #7 on: October 11, 2010, 02:48:58 PM »

I agree with Michal.  If one Orthodox parish didn't serve the Liturgy in English, the Orthodox one down the road does.  You just have to find the correct fit.

That's a cop out.

My parish serves mostly in Ukrainian, with some English.  If our priest notices many "unknown" faces, he will switch to more English, assuming these are English speaking guests.

However, as the greater majority of the parishioners speak Ukrainian, and love to hear Ukrainian, it would be unfair to dismiss them, for their English speaking brethren.

However, having said that, this past weekend my whole family attended the Divine Liturgy at a sister Ukrainian Parish, because His Grace Bishop Daniel was visiting them.  Everything was in English (although many thanks to His Grace, after the Lord's Prayer was sung in English, he recited it in Ukrainian....that was a special touch).  Many of the youngsters appreciated hearing the Liturgy they are accustomed to hearing in Ukrainian in English.  They got a "different" understanding.

My mother, who was with us, speaks broken English...and definitely prefers Ukrainian.  However, her comments afterwards were all positive.  She said she didn't care what language it was in, because it was still an Orthodox Liturgy...and even if she didn't understand the words being spoken she knew what they were because she "knows" the Liturgy and knew exactly what was occurring.  

On the other hand, the English speakers, who were listening to the Liturgy in English were busy paging through booklets and trying to find "where we are".  I can never get that.  I would think the books are beneficial for those who are new to the Liturgy, or who don't speak the language.

Why would those who can understand the language need to be paging through books the entire time?  They are so busy trying to find their place in the book, that they are simply missing the entire Liturgy.
Perhaps because they aren't used to it being in English.

I agree with you though. I hate booklets.
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« Reply #8 on: October 11, 2010, 02:50:11 PM »

Yes, not caring to serve the liturgy in an understandable language is a great sin of our modern situation.

However, I think it can definitely be recognized that an Orthodox Christian who left the Church simply because of that issue didn't have that deep of a faith anyway. If one is aware of the importance of the dogmatic tradition and the exclusive nature of the Church as a vehicle of redemption, then obviously not being able to understand the language is trumped in importance.
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« Reply #9 on: October 11, 2010, 03:01:16 PM »

If he communed as an Orthodox Christian, he was an Orthodox Christian.  The sort of reasoning you use above, that he was not really Orthodox, is the same that many of my Protestant friends use to avoid the implications that falling away from the faith (Hebrews 6:4ff) has on the "once saved, always saved" doctrine of eternal security.
Huh

I see that you live in Poland. You would probably have to know something about Protestantism in "Bible Belt" America to appreciate what I am trying to convey. I'll try a different approach...

Okay, I've encountered another Orthodox Christian who has left the Church for a Protestant denomination due to the fact that the person cannot understand anything in his respective Church due to that Church having the vast majority of services in another language. (and he is in a majority English speaking country)

All it means is that the person you are referring to wasn't really an Orthodox Christian. He left for a Protestant denomination - not for Oriental Orthodox, Catholic, Old Catholic, Anglo-Catholic, etc. It speaks for itself.

If the person was properly received into the Church and received the Eucharist as an Orthodox Christian, then the person was actually an Orthodox Christian who left the Church. To say that he was not truly an Orthodox Christian, based on his decision to leave the Church, is an error. That's all I am trying to say.
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« Reply #10 on: October 11, 2010, 03:08:08 PM »

If the person was properly received into the Church and received the Eucharist as an Orthodox Christian, then the person was actually an Orthodox Christian who left the Church.  To say that he was not truly an Orthodox Christian, based on his decision to leave the Church, is an error.  That's all I am trying to say.

I may have exaggerated a bit. I have no concerns regarding the person's canonical status as an Orthodox Christian (before he left the Church), only the deepness of his faith.
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« Reply #11 on: October 11, 2010, 03:10:36 PM »


I think what Michal is trying to say is that the person didn't fully appreciate the Faith, didn't embrace it, or understand it.  For if one does, one would never leave Orthodoxy.  Ever.

I have gone to Serbian, Romanian, OCA, Greek, Antiochian, etc.  Certainly I understood NOTHING in the Romanian church, and yet, I understood everything.

I would NEVER leave Orthodoxy.  The soul understands, even if the ears do not.

I would prefer to stand and participate in the Liturgy in a language I don't understand, then go and waste my time, my life, and jeopardize my soul, just because I can hear the "feel good" message that the preacher is spewing.

Orthodoxy or death! 
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« Reply #12 on: October 11, 2010, 03:20:05 PM »

Quote
I think what Michal is trying to say is that the person didn't fully appreciate the Faith, didn't embrace it, or understand it.  For if one does, one would never leave Orthodoxy.  Ever.

Not true.
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« Reply #13 on: October 11, 2010, 03:24:40 PM »


Why not?
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« Reply #14 on: October 11, 2010, 03:28:07 PM »

I appreciated the faith, I embraced it, I understood it, but I still left the Church.
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« Reply #15 on: October 11, 2010, 03:39:39 PM »


Was it because you couldn't understand the language?
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« Reply #16 on: October 11, 2010, 03:54:04 PM »

I've been to several GOA parishes all over Chicago over the years, but I've only been to one that used ANY English, and one which had an English (i.e. the kiddie) DL.  Unless there has been some drastic change in the past decade (I've only been a couple of times in the last couple years).

Yes, there are exceptions to the rule (Chicagoland, NYC, and a few FL and MA parishes); but the Greek-dominated Liturgies are in the minority in most Metropolises (I can attest to it for my travels in the Metropolises of Pit, Atl, Det, and Bos, and by second-hand accounts for Den and SF).  And no, by last I heard there have been no drastic changes in Chicago... (... in decades, lol.)
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« Reply #17 on: October 11, 2010, 04:18:46 PM »

Okay, I've encountered another Orthodox Christian who has left the Church for a Protestant denomination due to the fact that the person cannot understand anything in his respective Church due to that Church having the vast majority of services in another language. (and he is in a majority English speaking country)

All it means is that the person you are referring to wasn't really an Orthodox Christian. He left for a Protestant denomination - not for Oriental Orthodox, Catholic, Old Catholic, Anglo-Catholic, etc. It speaks for itself.

Agree.  Being dunked in water and painted with chrism does not make one Orthodox any more than falling off a building makes one a bird.  They are means of Grace, and necessary, but it is true belief that makes one Orthodox.  If one truely believes and then denies the Faith, they are an apostate.  If they leave because they never truely believed in the first place, then they were never truely Orthodox.  I have been Baptised and Chrismated, but if I continued to hold and teach Lutheran doctrine, would I be Orthodox?  No.  I would be a Lutheran that has been Baptised and Chrismated in an Orthodox Church.
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« Reply #18 on: October 11, 2010, 05:25:37 PM »

I think the reasons people leave are complicated and depend on the individual. There are just as many ignorant and spiritually hungry people still in the Church than have left it. The main problem is to try and reach and teach everyone. A lot of converts leave the Church, too, from English-using churches. I don't really see one singular thing that can solve the problem of the massive post-high school attrition rate. But I think it starts at home, both with the parents and with the parish. If all the spiritual education and prayer you're getting is at church, then I think one is already on the way to leaving. While the liturgical texts and services are full of theology, teaching, and prayer, teaching and instilling faith must, I think, primarily be done outside of church. Church services are for prayer--however one prays. Even with services in an intelligible language, there is still the perennial problem of keeping attention during prayer. I think, in many cases, the underlying problems of apostasy are lack of confession to a good, experienced spiritual father, lack of appropriate catechesis--together with the various temptations described in the Parable of the Sower.
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« Reply #19 on: October 11, 2010, 08:23:53 PM »

It's sad that people use language as an excuse not to go to church. I am fairly confident that 2nd, 3rd, and beyond generation Latino-American speak Spanish and the same goes for 2nd, 3rd generation Indian, Pakistani, ect. In every country I have been to in Europe, (Ukraine, Russia, Italy, Germany, France, and Spain) all the the children were fluent in a language other than their native tongue. However, here in America, many of us through marriage or personal choice lose command of their families native tongue. My grandparents were born in Ukraine, both my parents here in the US yet they taught me Ukrainian first as a youngster and then English. Nowadays my Ukrainian is nowhere near perfect and I do not speak it on a dialy basis, yet I still understand and speak it fairly well.

If someone wants to go to an English speaking orthodox church, I understand that the OCA churches do thier liturgies solely in English. I also believe that the OCA is the 2nd largest Orthodox church in the US by the numbers.

I believe if people want to go to church, they will. We have at our Ukrainian church a family of Romanians that attend every service. Now as we know, the Romanian language is nothing at all like Ukrainian as Romanian is a Romance, not Slavic language. Yet they attend regularly and always comment to me how beautiful our choir sings for singing the respones in Ukrainian.
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« Reply #20 on: October 11, 2010, 09:00:23 PM »

From my experience, I agree with the statement that people's reasons for leaving (or, additionally, for not joining) an Orthodox Church are rarely as simple as, "they do not speak my language," however it must be considered as a major contributing factor.  One can hardly get past the reality that language is an intimate subject for people, and in the culture that at least we US citizens exist in multilingualism is hardly promoted, or at least hardly for the right reasons.  Yes, millions of kids learn Spanish (and Chinese is gaining ground) in schools basically because they're told, "Well, everyone will be speaking this soon enough," but that's hardly a compelling reason for them to decide to personally maintain that second language (or adopt any third ones).  For those subjects most individualized in America (faith, politics), English is the only popularly acceptable option.

Even if this were a truly multilingual culture (as has been extolled in Europe where, for instance, it is less rare to find people who speak 3 and even 4+ languages fluently), when you ask people about their preferred language for worship, they'll likely name their native tongue, since it is the most easily understood cognitively (thus, requiring less processing and allowing for more spiritual connection) and is the one which elicits the strongest emotional connection (something that most people look for in their prayer/worship lives).  I am fairly confident that I could know and understand where I am at if I were in an all-Romanian liturgy (it's happened once, so this is experiential knowledge), and would make the appropriate connection with the Lord because in my heart I would say the same prayers in one of my native prayer tongues; but I would still prefer the service to be done in English or Greek, since I understand the prayers in those languages and they provide the easiest opportunity for me to feel spiritually connected with God. (Notice, I said "feel.")

Proclaiming the Liturgy in the dominant language of the area is no cure-all; God is encountered in spirit, not tongue, and if we don't lift our hearts up to Him, we'll never truly encounter Him regardless of the language spoken.  But it is a common courtesy for those who are there to be able to hear what is said, and respond in kind, so all reasonably controlled obstacles to true worship can be removed.
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« Reply #21 on: October 11, 2010, 09:33:32 PM »

Not everyone has a choice of Orthodox churches to attend.  In my state (Montana), which is a huge state,  there are 6 Orthodox missions/churches in the state, only 5 of which have priests.  You have a long way to go to attend services in one of the other Orthodox parishes (for instance, the next closest one to me would be two hours away--if the roads are good, which doesn't happen all that often in wintertime).  Maybe that isn't this person's reason, but please don't just assume that there is another Orthodox parish in town (or even a close distance away) that people who attend parishes that don't hold services in English (or not much English) can go to if they don't like it.

I can certainly understand a parish conducting services in a language other than English if they have a large number of recent immigrants who don't speak English.  But if this is not the case, why do services in a language that is not their primary language?  Believe it or not, Montana has quite a few Russians and people from other Slavic countries.  I've yet to meet one that has any problem with services being in English (which they are in the OCA and Serbian churches, and mostly in English in the Greek parishes). One gentleman said it made total sense that services are in English--after all, that is the language of the US.  I don't think I could expect services to be in English if I lived in or was visiting Russia (the only chance that I might have of that is if I attended the OCA representation Church--St. Catherine's in Moscow). 
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« Reply #22 on: October 11, 2010, 09:36:44 PM »

We used to have a lot of people who said they stayed away from church on Sunday mornings because they couldn't understand Classical Armenian.  So now we have a power point screen which translates every word of the liturgy into English and Modern Armenian.  The people who said they didn't come because of the language problem still don't come.  They just use a different excuse now.  I'm sorry, but I have no empathy for this.
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« Reply #23 on: October 11, 2010, 09:45:00 PM »

Being someone that attends a Greek Church with its liturgy mostly in Greek I can sympathize, but I also recognize most of the people that go to the church speak Greek and are of Greek ethnicity. If One wants an orthodox church with a mostly English speaking liturgy, one should go to that one instead, there's an antiochian one that is apparently closer to me than the Greek one I have been going to. I hope to go there on the 24th because the priest will not be there to perform liturgy and it apparently has most of it in English, but some in Arabic, also in the church I go tot he priest will give out a hand out explaining what is in the liturgy and what is being said so you will be able to understand it. For the most part. And if one really wants to understand the liturgy, they should read it in their spare time or bring a copy of it with them to the church, ultimately I don't think this is a major deal that hinders one joining or staying with the church (like me). So If one really was committed to orthodoxy they would find a way to solve it.
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« Reply #24 on: October 11, 2010, 09:55:43 PM »

We used to have a lot of people who said they stayed away from church on Sunday mornings because they couldn't understand Classical Armenian.  So now we have a power point screen which translates every word of the liturgy into English and Modern Armenian.  The people who said they didn't come because of the language problem still don't come.  They just use a different excuse now.  I'm sorry, but I have no empathy for this.

Agree.  I actually chose the church that has the services mostly in Slavonic (at least 50/50) and a large Russian / Ukrainian immigrant population over the English speaking church closest to my home.  If one has taken the time to study the Liturgy, even in a superficial manner, the language barrier is no real barrier.  In addition, there are resources on the web that will provide you with the Troparia, Kontakia, and Readings, as well as all the variable parts of the services in English.  These are available at no charge.  There is positively NO excuse not to know what is going on in a Church that uses the complete Liturgy and has not innovated too much.  The problem is with the "once a weekers" that want everything handed to them, or Churches that have innovated to the point that the service books are useless.
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« Reply #25 on: October 11, 2010, 10:38:37 PM »

I have to say, there are a number of assumptions going on here.

As to "they would find a way," I remember in the 90's reading a report on non-Orthodox Greeks (the person who was writing it was Greek, so it wasn't a hit piece), and the shocking thing he uncovered was the numbers of these Greeks who were active in their denominations, going well beyond Sunday services.  One was the local leader of the district (roughly the equivalent of our diocese) of the Jehovah's witnesses.

Like the jurisdictional mess, this isn't the source of all our problems. But it is a sympton and doesn't help.
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« Reply #26 on: October 12, 2010, 12:18:08 AM »

For the particular individual I encountered earlier today, he lives in the U.K. and apparently the Greek Orthodox Church he attended had everything in Greek, and so he wasn't able to understand anything. (though being "Greek" himself) So he started going to a Protestant denomination and now believes that we are all one Church anyway, and he probably won't go back because he won't understand anything anyway, and he feels he is getting more spiritual fulfillment from this Protestant Church.
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« Reply #27 on: October 12, 2010, 02:37:00 AM »

We used to have a lot of people who said they stayed away from church on Sunday mornings because they couldn't understand Classical Armenian.  So now we have a power point screen which translates every word of the liturgy into English and Modern Armenian.  The people who said they didn't come because of the language problem still don't come.  They just use a different excuse now.  I'm sorry, but I have no empathy for this.

Then there are people who go to church nonetheless and also complain about not understanding the language: they are more often actually serious about it.  Tongue
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« Reply #28 on: October 12, 2010, 02:57:40 AM »

For the particular individual I encountered earlier today, he lives in the U.K. and apparently the Greek Orthodox Church he attended had everything in Greek, and so he wasn't able to understand anything. (though being "Greek" himself) So he started going to a Protestant denomination and now believes that we are all one Church anyway, and he probably won't go back because he won't understand anything anyway, and he feels he is getting more spiritual fulfillment from this Protestant Church.
Seems to me he has more problems than just the language barrier.
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« Reply #29 on: October 12, 2010, 06:39:01 AM »

I use to go to A Genuine Greek Old Calendar Church here in Chicago, Before The Rouge Bishop Joined the New Calendar Greek Church sold the church and it was bulldozed for condominiums ,I looooved it, the Liturgy was all in Greek not one English word said... including the sermon ..I never Complained about it...
And I don't speak any Greek...It didn't Bother Me At All...

What did Bother Me was, When I went To a Slavic Ukrainian Othodox Church and they didn't use Old Church Slavonic in Holy Liturgy but Ukrainian Only....Since i Would of understood Old Church Slavonic since i was raised hearing it in the Serbian Church.......
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« Reply #30 on: October 12, 2010, 10:44:39 AM »

Okay, I've encountered another Orthodox Christian who has left the Church for a Protestant denomination due to the fact that the person cannot understand anything in his respective Church due to that Church having the vast majority of services in another language. (and he is in a majority English speaking country)

All it means is that the person you are referring to wasn't really an Orthodox Christian.

That seems to me to be, quite ironically, a very Protestant way of looking at the situation. It reminds me of the OSAS crowd that claims if a person "falls away" or "backslides" they never really were "saved" to begin with.

Quote
He left for a Protestant denomination - not for Oriental Orthodox, Catholic, Old Catholic, Anglo-Catholic, etc. It speaks for itself.

It doesn't  "speak for itself" to me. First many OO have the exact same problem Devin is refering to, often much worse. (though it just depends) Or maybe there was no OO Church anywhere near this person?  Byzantine Catholic Churches can be more ethnic than EO. Again it just depends. Some aren't. Some are. But then they would be Catholic. Perhaps the person didn't join the Catholic Church because he simply cannot buy into some of their dogmas about the Pope, the Virgin Mary or something else, who knows?

 Granted an Anglo-Catholic Church would be a pretty logical alternative, and would probably be my choice if I were not Orthodox, yet technically speaking they too are "Protestant". (though I personally don't think of High Church Anglicanism as "protestant", maybe that's how you are looking at it?)

However I don't think we should be judging whether someone was "truly" Orthodox. I also know people were have for the most part left Orthodoxy because they feel like the Church has basically failed them. We say the Church is a hospital for sinners, but many people, including converts often feel like the doctors and nurses are all permanently out to lunch. What good does it do to go to a hospital to get help if no help is available? (or if the help speaks a different language than you do and you cannot understand their instructions?) When I say language I mean much more than the spoken words, I mean cultural language as well. The way people look at the world etc. Many a times I've asked priests questions and they had no idea how to answer it. Not because they didn't know the answer but because they didn't even understand the question. It was not a part of their religious and cultural world view and it wasn't their fault. They just don't think the same way I do. But that is seriously one of the major, major problems with Orthodoxy in America. It's a complete disconnect from the culture and way of "being Christian". Even in parishes that use mostly English, if a former southern Baptist convert goes to their priest and asks, "how can I better follow James's advice  and control my tongue?" a priest who grew up say in Eastern Europe may not even understand that type of question. It's not that they are stupid, it's just that that is not how they grew up or were taught in Seminary.

A friend of mine at a Serbian Church once tried to get a "prayer group" going where they would study books like St. Theophan etc... and the priest just did not "get it". He didn't even comprehend the concept of why someone would want to have a prayer group when "we have the Liturgy". Not his fault. He's an awesome priest, a fun guy, and tries hard, but just cultural differences and the "languages of Christianity" are radically different.

Sometimes this is just too much for people to deal with and it is one of the big reasons you see a lot of intellectuals, and armchair theologians, or people who are interested in some historical aspect of Christianity convert to the Church, but you rarely see a parish full converts who are soy bean farmers, or mechanics, factory workers, loggers etc. Why is this?  I think, at least in part it is because we don't know how to "talk" to these people, and if the very lines of communicating the Christian message, and more importantly the instruction on how one is to live their Christian life from day to day simply break down what are these people supposed to do? It's not their fault.

Whatever I think of Protestantism, I have come to admit, begrudgingly, that I know many people who I could never try to convince to become Orthodox. Christ has changed their lives, and while I cannot stand some of my friends charismatic left behind obsession, I know that Orthodoxy just does not have the ability (in my part of the country) to equip them with the tools to live as  successful of a  Christian life as they do now. This pains me to say to the point of wanting to cry. But it is the reality. One person I know in particular is a radically different person than he was 15 years ago, but he doesn't care about theology, or history, or mystical theology, he cares about loving Christ and living the best life he can. I'm sorry to say that Orthodoxy has a long way to go to translate this into a "language" that most Americans can really sink their teeth into. Protestants are just better at that generally speaking.

It is sad, but it is a reality I think we as Orthodox Christians really need to deal with and not pretend it is not a problem. It is a problem, at least in some parts of the country, maybe not all. And in the end even if it isn't as a big of a problem as I think it is, isn't it enough that it's a problem for a few people like Devin knows? (or like the ones I know?) It's even a problem I've dealt with so I speak from experience as well. I do not begrudge someone going to a Church that helps them live better Christian lives if their Orthodox parish is simply not helping them. Yes I realize those people then don't have the Liturgy and the Eucharist, but the Eucharist is not magic. It doesn't automatically make someone a better Christian. If it did we'd be a Church full of Saints. Cheesy

For some people it's just better to go to a first year med student who's in the office than a full blown MD with 4 phD's who is out to lunch 6 days a week. That's how I try to think about it when I hear these stories, and I think that's how those who leave are thinking about it. I'm sure if the "language" issue were resolved they'd come back. It's not a decision most people take lightly. I sympathize with them deeply and it pains to know that I don't have an answer for them.

Anyways I've rambled enough . . . .

Not trying to argue just toss in my POV here.


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« Reply #31 on: October 12, 2010, 10:48:01 AM »

I agree with Michal.  If one Orthodox parish didn't serve the Liturgy in English, the Orthodox one down the road does.  You just have to find the correct fit.

That's a cop out.

Perhaps there was no other Orthodox parish "down the road?" There are plenty of places in the U.S. where one can drive 60, 70, even 150 miles before finding another Orthodox Church. Sometimes it's not that easy to find a Church at all.





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« Reply #32 on: October 12, 2010, 10:57:44 AM »

I've been to several GOA parishes all over Chicago over the years, but I've only been to one that used ANY English, and one which had an English (i.e. the kiddie) DL.  Unless there has been some drastic change in the past decade (I've only been a couple of times in the last couple years).

Yes, there are exceptions to the rule (Chicagoland, NYC, and a few FL and MA parishes); but the Greek-dominated Liturgies are in the minority in most Metropolises (I can attest to it for my travels in the Metropolises of Pit, Atl, Det, and Bos, and by second-hand accounts for Den and SF).  And no, by last I heard there have been no drastic changes in Chicago... (... in decades, lol.)

 I'm in the Chicago Metropolis, and while my parish is in the boonies of the Metropolis, it's is well known out here what is going on in Chicago. In fact there has been an attempt to push more Greek on the parishes that are in the boonies so if there is a change, it's actually for more Greek. (believe it or not) I agree with Isa though, this is only a symptom and the root of any problems. But it is a pretty big symptom for many people.
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« Reply #33 on: October 12, 2010, 11:00:46 AM »

First many OO have the exact same problem Devin is refering to, often much worse. (though it just depends) Or maybe there was no OO Church anywhere near this person?

There is the Birtish Orthodox Church in the UK which has all its services in English and offers a ministry (called the British Orthodox Fellowship) for those who don't have a British Orthodox parish near them.

Byzantine Catholic Churches can be more ethnic than EO. Again it just depends. Some aren't. Some are.

Agreed.

But then they would be Catholic. Perhaps the person didn't join the Catholic Church because he simply cannot buy into some of their dogmas about the Pope, the Virgin Mary or something else, who knows?

Is it better to reject almost entire Church Tradition (by becoming a Protestant), or to keep it with a few heterodox additions (by becoming a Catholic)?
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« Reply #34 on: October 12, 2010, 11:06:26 AM »

I actually heard a podcast the other day where a Priest talked about attending a Greek seminary in the U.S. (Holy Cross I guess maybe?) years ago. (take note, he WASN'T dissing the seminary, it was just kind of a funny quip in his speech)
He said that when he went to seminary, the seminarians, even during passing conversation about the Church & theology were not allowed to speak in a language other than Greek. (even though some spoke only English, or very little Greek)
Apparently that was a couple decades ago, but I really honestly hope that attitude doesn't exist in an American seminary anymore, otherwise we are just breeding Priests to be all about "just Greek" when it comes to the language of Church and it's services...

Michal, the British Orthodox Church isn't Chalcedonian.

Also Michal, I would be cautious when you choose to judge other people, especially based on their choices, we do not know their soul, nor their entire situation... This young person still occasionally attends his Greek Church, but since he cannot understand most of what is going on, he isn't getting spiritually fed/nourished.
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« Reply #35 on: October 12, 2010, 11:11:29 AM »

NorthernPines, just wanted to say that long post of yours above was very well-written and thoughtful and I truly enjoyed reading it - some excellent insights! Thank you!
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« Reply #36 on: October 12, 2010, 11:13:13 AM »

Michal, the British Orthodox Church isn't Chalcedonian.

1. Did I write it was? Roll Eyes
2. For an EO, is it better to become an OO, or a Protestant?

Also Michal, I would be cautious when you choose to judge other people, especially based on their choices, we do not know their soul, nor their entire situation...

I have already admitted that I might have exaggerated by writing that the person wasn't really Orthodox. But anyway, what you wrote ("So he started going to a Protestant denomination and now believes that we are all one Church anyway") confirms my (mitigated) judgement ("I have . . . concerns regarding . . . the deepness of his [former Orthodox] faith").
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« Reply #37 on: October 12, 2010, 11:47:57 AM »

NorthernPines, just wanted to say that long post of yours above was very well-written and thoughtful and I truly enjoyed reading it - some excellent insights! Thank you!

I agree, it was a very well-written post. 
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« Reply #38 on: October 12, 2010, 12:12:22 PM »

Okay, I've encountered another Orthodox Christian who has left the Church for a Protestant denomination due to the fact that the person cannot understand anything in his respective Church due to that Church having the vast majority of services in another language. (and he is in a majority English speaking country)

All it means is that the person you are referring to wasn't really an Orthodox Christian.

That seems to me to be, quite ironically, a very Protestant way of looking at the situation. It reminds me of the OSAS crowd that claims if a person "falls away" or "backslides" they never really were "saved" to begin with.

Thank you. This is what I was trying to say in reply #3.

Quote
Quote
He left for a Protestant denomination - not for Oriental Orthodox, Catholic, Old Catholic, Anglo-Catholic, etc. It speaks for itself.

It doesn't  "speak for itself" to me. First many OO have the exact same problem Devin is refering to, often much worse. (though it just depends) Or maybe there was no OO Church anywhere near this person?  Byzantine Catholic Churches can be more ethnic than EO. Again it just depends. Some aren't. Some are. But then they would be Catholic. Perhaps the person didn't join the Catholic Church because he simply cannot buy into some of their dogmas about the Pope, the Virgin Mary or something else, who knows?

 Granted an Anglo-Catholic Church would be a pretty logical alternative, and would probably be my choice if I were not Orthodox, yet technically speaking they too are "Protestant". (though I personally don't think of High Church Anglicanism as "protestant", maybe that's how you are looking at it?)

However I don't think we should be judging whether someone was "truly" Orthodox. I also know people were have for the most part left Orthodoxy because they feel like the Church has basically failed them. We say the Church is a hospital for sinners, but many people, including converts often feel like the doctors and nurses are all permanently out to lunch. What good does it do to go to a hospital to get help if no help is available? (or if the help speaks a different language than you do and you cannot understand their instructions?) When I say language I mean much more than the spoken words, I mean cultural language as well. The way people look at the world etc. Many a times I've asked priests questions and they had no idea how to answer it. Not because they didn't know the answer but because they didn't even understand the question. It was not a part of their religious and cultural world view and it wasn't their fault. They just don't think the same way I do. But that is seriously one of the major, major problems with Orthodoxy in America. It's a complete disconnect from the culture and way of "being Christian". Even in parishes that use mostly English, if a former southern Baptist convert goes to their priest and asks, "how can I better follow James's advice  and control my tongue?" a priest who grew up say in Eastern Europe may not even understand that type of question. It's not that they are stupid, it's just that that is not how they grew up or were taught in Seminary.

A friend of mine at a Serbian Church once tried to get a "prayer group" going where they would study books like St. Theophan etc... and the priest just did not "get it". He didn't even comprehend the concept of why someone would want to have a prayer group when "we have the Liturgy". Not his fault. He's an awesome priest, a fun guy, and tries hard, but just cultural differences and the "languages of Christianity" are radically different.

Sometimes this is just too much for people to deal with and it is one of the big reasons you see a lot of intellectuals, and armchair theologians, or people who are interested in some historical aspect of Christianity convert to the Church, but you rarely see a parish full converts who are soy bean farmers, or mechanics, factory workers, loggers etc. Why is this?  I think, at least in part it is because we don't know how to "talk" to these people, and if the very lines of communicating the Christian message, and more importantly the instruction on how one is to live their Christian life from day to day simply break down what are these people supposed to do? It's not their fault.

Whatever I think of Protestantism, I have come to admit, begrudgingly, that I know many people who I could never try to convince to become Orthodox. Christ has changed their lives, and while I cannot stand some of my friends charismatic left behind obsession, I know that Orthodoxy just does not have the ability (in my part of the country) to equip them with the tools to live as  successful of a  Christian life as they do now. This pains me to say to the point of wanting to cry. But it is the reality. One person I know in particular is a radically different person than he was 15 years ago, but he doesn't care about theology, or history, or mystical theology, he cares about loving Christ and living the best life he can. I'm sorry to say that Orthodoxy has a long way to go to translate this into a "language" that most Americans can really sink their teeth into. Protestants are just better at that generally speaking.

It is sad, but it is a reality I think we as Orthodox Christians really need to deal with and not pretend it is not a problem. It is a problem, at least in some parts of the country, maybe not all. And in the end even if it isn't as a big of a problem as I think it is, isn't it enough that it's a problem for a few people like Devin knows? (or like the ones I know?) It's even a problem I've dealt with so I speak from experience as well. I do not begrudge someone going to a Church that helps them live better Christian lives if their Orthodox parish is simply not helping them. Yes I realize those people then don't have the Liturgy and the Eucharist, but the Eucharist is not magic. It doesn't automatically make someone a better Christian. If it did we'd be a Church full of Saints. Cheesy

For some people it's just better to go to a first year med student who's in the office than a full blown MD with 4 phD's who is out to lunch 6 days a week. That's how I try to think about it when I hear these stories, and I think that's how those who leave are thinking about it. I'm sure if the "language" issue were resolved they'd come back. It's not a decision most people take lightly. I sympathize with them deeply and it pains to know that I don't have an answer for them.

Anyways I've rambled enough . . . .

Not trying to argue just toss in my POV here.

NP

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« Reply #39 on: October 12, 2010, 12:20:21 PM »

Okay, I've encountered another Orthodox Christian who has left the Church for a Protestant denomination due to the fact that the person cannot understand anything in his respective Church due to that Church having the vast majority of services in another language. (and he is in a majority English speaking country)

All it means is that the person you are referring to wasn't really an Orthodox Christian.

That seems to me to be, quite ironically, a very Protestant way of looking at the situation. It reminds me of the OSAS crowd that claims if a person "falls away" or "backslides" they never really were "saved" to begin with.

Thank you. This is what I was trying to say in reply #3.

Now I get it.
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« Reply #40 on: October 12, 2010, 12:20:50 PM »

For the particular individual I encountered earlier today, he lives in the U.K. and apparently the Greek Orthodox Church he attended had everything in Greek, and so he wasn't able to understand anything. (though being "Greek" himself) So he started going to a Protestant denomination and now believes that we are all one Church anyway, and he probably won't go back because he won't understand anything anyway, and he feels he is getting more spiritual fulfillment from this Protestant Church.
Seems to me he has more problems than just the language barrier.

Yes and no: I've met plenty of Orthodox who see Greek Orthodoxy for the Greeks, Russian Orthodoxy for the Russians, Antiochian Orthodoxy for the Arabs (though most who see this would rather they got Hellenized), Serbian Orthodoxy for the Serbs etc., as if there were "Orthodoxies." Such often see the Anglicans for the English. It doesn't take much to got from there to think that Anglicanism is for those who speak English and not Greek.
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« Reply #41 on: October 12, 2010, 12:48:46 PM »

I actually heard a podcast the other day where a Priest talked about attending a Greek seminary in the U.S. (Holy Cross I guess maybe?) years ago. (take note, he WASN'T dissing the seminary, it was just kind of a funny quip in his speech)
He said that when he went to seminary, the seminarians, even during passing conversation about the Church & theology were not allowed to speak in a language other than Greek. (even though some spoke only English, or very little Greek)
Apparently that was a couple decades ago, but I really honestly hope that attitude doesn't exist in an American seminary anymore, otherwise we are just breeding Priests to be all about "just Greek" when it comes to the language of Church and it's services...

That was, from our POV, a long while ago (3+ decades); classes were half and half when my dad was there in the 70's.  Now, the only classes you need to know much Greek for are... Greek and chant (and not all the chant classes, just half of them).
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« Reply #42 on: October 12, 2010, 01:57:26 PM »

I have to say that in my opinion, to dub someone leaving the Church because of the language a "cop out" isn't quite fair.  I think we can only speak for ourselves in saying that language isn't important enough to warrant leaving the church.  For some, it just may well be that important.  Though I speak Greek and some liturgical Greek and personally feel that it's not a good reason to leave the Church, I can't say that someone else should be able to experience the Liturgy in an equally fulfilling way in any language.  It's not magic.  It's prayer.  How, indeed, can we pray in a language that we don't understand?

It's funny how my own opinions on this topic have changed over the years.  If you talked to me when I was at the seminary, I would have told you that I thought 50% Greek 50% English was the perfect solution.  That way everyone is at least 50% happy.  But that is not at all how I feel today.

Having been in the parish a few years now, and teaching Sunday School, being a Metropolis youth coordinator and thus very involved in youth work, I have to say that I think language is a HUGE issue.  When I spoke with some of our campers last summer at the end of their camp week (mind you this was all four weeks of camp-- they all said the same thing, and not prompted by me), the kids said they loved the camp services because they could not only understand, but they could participate.  That's HUGE!

And I think my own experience a few weeks ago sums it up perfectly for me.  I was in the Divine Liturgy with my five year old nephew (who is my godson) whom I don't get to attend church with very often.  As the Liturgy was happening, he would ask me questions about what was going on, and I would explain everything step by step ("now Uncle [Fr.] Christos is going to come out of the altar and the big book he is carrying is the Bible.  It tells us the stories about Jesus' life").  Fr. Christos did almost 100% of the liturgy in English, which was great, so I could help Nicky understand what he was saying.  But the choir did almost 100% in Greek.  It's really hard for me to explain to Nicky what the words of the hymn mean and expect him to remember them when they're in a foreign language!  I'd say, "do you understand what Uncle (Fr.) Christos just said?"  He'd say "yes."  I'd say, "do you understand this hymn?" "No."  That clinched it for me.

What are we doing?  We're worshiping in a language we don't understand?  I look around our parish-- probably only 30-40% of the people speak any modern Greek.  Liturgical Greek?  I think my husband (the priest) and the chanter are the only two who understand (and I can understand enough to get through most of the Divine Liturgy).  So what are we doing and what are we teaching our kids?  By our refusal to pray in a language we can ALL understand (instead of just some of us), we're teaching them (from where I'm sitting) that the language is more important than what we're saying!  No wonder we're raising an entire generation of kids totally devoted to Greek dance, Greek language, and all things Greek who have NO CLUE about anything having to do with the faith!

When we used to have this argument at the seminary, people would respond with "what about the folks that don't speak English?"  Okay, that might be valid in downtown Chicago or Astoria, but please.  I think in our parish there may be four people who don't speak English.  But the other 99.9% of us speak English (some of us may speak Greek as well, but we almost all speak English).  And, as everyone always points out, the book does have the translation in Greek and English.  So why are we forcing the Greek? 

I also appreciate the point of view that says, "well if you don't understand the Greek, you can follow along in the book in English."  But here's the problem... I don't want to "follow along."  I want to participate!  I want to raise my voice in song and prayer, I want to do my part in the "work of the people."  I think this is why we have congregations full of people who just "follow along" as though they're reading the libretto to a play, rather than participating!

Now, will this all change next week?  No.  Even the people who don't speak liturgical Greek and even the ones who don't speak modern Greek will argue to "keep the Greek."  They've been conditioned that way.  And most of them, when you challenge it with something like "please translate the following...," they can't do it.  And only then does it dawn on them that we shouldn't be praying in a language we don't understand.  It takes time to change these things.  So when I get frustrated, I just have to remind myself to be patient and pray for progress.

Long story short (I know, too late), I guess my feeling is that it's not right, but we have to be patient while the changes happen.  We can't force such a huge change to happen in a matter of days or weeks.  It takes time.
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« Reply #43 on: October 12, 2010, 02:19:21 PM »

^^^I'll just add my cents of experience to the above excellent post: most of the OCA parishes I've been to were Slavic. What they did was have part of the service in Slavonic, but only part, but what parts were in Slavonic any given week changed: except for the Creed (the bishop's order: only in English). I recall arguing with the priest (who wanted to get rid of all Slavonic, gleefully talking about putting the stake through its heart. He was a Slav, btw), pointing out that I didn't have a drop of Slavic blood (that I know of), but the service was never totally in Slavonic, the books were always available, the Slavonic parts always alternated, so what was in Slavonic this week was English next week (Festal hymns like Pasha were either in English or when repeated, alternated), this was part of the heritage of the founders of the parish that they wanted to keep, and given how they did so, I thought they should keep it. Btw, I learned Slavonic, but that was my choice, and never a necessity.
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« Reply #44 on: October 12, 2010, 02:33:48 PM »

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