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Author Topic: Sick of seeing people leave Orthodox due to language barriers... *Rant*  (Read 6203 times) Average Rating: 0
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GreekChef
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« Reply #90 on: October 14, 2010, 10:53:45 AM »

^^^Boy that was a long post.  Sorry 'bout that!
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« Reply #91 on: October 14, 2010, 11:18:02 AM »

oh, and yes, the sign outside does say Ukrainian Orthodox.  If anyone is too scared to come to the church because there's a nationality attached to it, than they aren't serious about finding Orthodoxy. 
Okay this time I'm going to try to say it a different way to avoid miss-communicating.  Here goes...
I don't feel that I would be able to make that assumption about anyone, not knowing their heart.  I feel that it's perfectly possible that a person is quite serious about finding Orthodoxy and is having trouble doing so because of the ethnic barriers and language barriers...She feels like an outsider.  She freely admits that people have welcomed her with open arms, but she is still uncomfortable.  Further, she has a very, very hard time in the liturgy because of the language...Now, she's serious about finding Orthodoxy and has stuck around and is making it work, despite her feelings of discomfort and her misgivings.  But if she left for all these reasons, I couldn't blame her.  I feel personally that she would be blameless, and that it is us who would carry the responsibility.  Because in that case, we would not have done our jobs. 
Quote
They might be a bit uncomfortable, but, it shouldn't stop them. 
No, it shouldn't.  But it does.  And I think we just differ in our opinions on whose responsibility that is.  You see it as their responsibility for leaving.  I don't agree (respectfully).  I feel that we can't hold them up to the standards and faith of Orthodoxy and say they are abandoning it when they haven't even come to know it yet.  And even if they are Orthodox and leave because of the language, I still feel that the responsibility lies with the parish, with the Church, with the priest and the people.  Doesn't Christ tell us to go and get the one who leaves the flock?  We're supposed to keep the sheep, as you said.  If they leave because of a language barrier, then I feel that's on us.

These are very important points, IMHO. After all, doesn't Scripture talk about not placing stumbling blocks in another's way?

The first Divine Liturgy that I attended was at a Greek Orthodox mission parish. It was mostly in English and I was actually able to participate! I'm not sure, and I'm not proud of it, believe me, that had the service been entirely in Greek and thus incomprehensible to me, if I would have continued in my journey. If the Liturgy had been in a foreign language, it would only have confirmed my sad suspicions that Orthodoxy was primarily a closed ethnic club and no outsiders were welcome.
(I should say at this point, that the parishioners were terrific! They welcomed us with open arms, invited us to coffee hour, to Sunday School, to Bible study, stayed for an hour afterward to answer our questions etc.)
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« Reply #92 on: October 14, 2010, 11:26:17 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...

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).

All of the Orthodox seminaries used to teach many, sometimes most, of their courses in the language of their patrimony. That started changing in the 50s. As mentioned in his recent interview, when Met. Philip attended Holy Cross in 56, students were supposed to immerse themselves in Greek, speaking it all the time. That might sound extreme, but it turned out to be a smart pedagogical move: As graduates from that era have told me, the priests in that generation really did need to speak fluent, preferably educated, Greek, and that's simply not possible without immersion, especially for Americans. Back then, there was basically no Orthodox literature in English and far more church goers who spoke little or no English. Greek was a pastoral and pedagogical necessity. Keep in mind, this was before the time of SVS Press, Holy Cross Press, most certainly before Conciliar Press, even before the existence of an introductory text like Ware's The Orthodox Church. You couldn't study Orthodoxy in English. Some still wonder if you can, considering the differences between Orthodox publications in English and those in Russian, Greek, et al.!

St. Vlad's started using lots of English under Fr. Florovsky, who was able to read everything in the original Greek, Latin, Russian, Serbian, Church Slavonic, Armenian, Syriac, Coptic, Hebrew, German, and French, and give lectures based on the sources in English (not that all of his students could follow, since most of the references only existed in foreign, often ancient, languages). St. Tikhon's had professors who only taught in Russian into the mid 60s. And, nowadays, there are still several required courses taught exclusively in Russian, Ukrainian, and Serbian at the ROCOR, Ukrainian (South Bound Brook), and Serbian seminaries respectively.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2010, 11:41:38 AM by pensateomnia » Logged

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katherine 2001
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« Reply #93 on: October 14, 2010, 10:46:28 PM »


What is more important than language, is teaching the people the meaning behind the Liturgy. 

I don't mean this to sound snippy, but what language will be used to teach the people the meaning behind the Liturgy? Will English-only speakers be taught the meaning of the Liturgy in Greek, Ukrainian, Romanian etc.? How, exactly, can that be done?

Of course, it is possible to be moved by the Liturgy whether one speaks the language or not, but is anyone here seriously saying that it is a good thing for a person not to be able to understand the Epistle or the Gospel or the hymns? Forgive me, but does that really make sense?

(Once upon a time, I was HR manager for a large commercial bakery. Our employees spoke many different languages. I made it a point to honor everyone's cultural and ethnic heritage, but the only language that we had in common was English. In order to get the work done safely, we all had to use English to communicate.)



Again, I agree with you.  I learn so much from really listening to the words of the hymns and the readings and the prayers being chanted.  What would I learn from them if they are in a language that I don't understand?  Is the Liturgy just supposed to sound beautiful, or are we actually supposed to get spiritually nourished from it (which taking all those hymns, readings and prayers into myself does for me)?  Even if you speak or know another language fluently, it is going to be hard to take  all of it in, because you have to think about what is being said--in other words, translate it in your own head, which would cause you to miss a lot. 
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« Reply #94 on: October 14, 2010, 11:04:12 PM »


Very, very well put.  It has been my experience that teaching of the Liturgy (or any other form of adult education) is seriously lacking in many Churches.  If this were corrected, the issues with language would take care of themselves.  I would see one of two things happening – either people would learn what is going on in the language the Liturgy is being served, or the interaction between the Priest and the congregation during the classes would point out to the priest that transition to the vernacular was desirable. 


This I agree with.  My husband and I both are constantly hammering home the importance of learning about the services constantly.  We teach about it in all our classes, my husband preaches about it, it is frequently the theme for our youth events...  the sad fact of the matter is that the majority of the people don't understand no matter what the language.  My own personal experience has been that when they do learn, they then want it to be in the vernacular because once they understand, they WANT to participate!

On another forum that I participate, there is an older priest (he's in his 60's), who vividly remembers the first time he heard the liturgy in English.  He describes it vividly even all these years later.  For the first time, he could really understand what was going on in the liturgy because it was in his native language (he is of slavic descent, but English is his native language). 

I am not sure that I can agree that we can truly take what was in a liturgy in a language we don't understand a word of into our souls.  Our souls and bodies are interconnected.  I personally question how much we can take into our soul if we don't understand it.  If  they are in English, I can take it in and then meditate on it later and/or talk to my priest about it.  If I don't have any idea what the priest said or what the chanter chanted, or the choir sang, how can I meditate on it later? 
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« Reply #95 on: October 15, 2010, 02:49:00 AM »

Precisely why the serves need to be in the language that the congregation understands.  We are in agreement.
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« Reply #96 on: October 17, 2010, 03:53:02 PM »


Very, very well put.  It has been my experience that teaching of the Liturgy (or any other form of adult education) is seriously lacking in many Churches.  If this were corrected, the issues with language would take care of themselves.  I would see one of two things happening – either people would learn what is going on in the language the Liturgy is being served, or the interaction between the Priest and the congregation during the classes would point out to the priest that transition to the vernacular was desirable. 


This I agree with.  My husband and I both are constantly hammering home the importance of learning about the services constantly.  We teach about it in all our classes, my husband preaches about it, it is frequently the theme for our youth events...  the sad fact of the matter is that the majority of the people don't understand no matter what the language.  My own personal experience has been that when they do learn, they then want it to be in the vernacular because once they understand, they WANT to participate!

On another forum that I participate, there is an older priest (he's in his 60's), who vividly remembers the first time he heard the liturgy in English.  He describes it vividly even all these years later.  For the first time, he could really understand what was going on in the liturgy because it was in his native language (he is of slavic descent, but English is his native language). 

I am not sure that I can agree that we can truly take what was in a liturgy in a language we don't understand a word of into our souls.  Our souls and bodies are interconnected.  I personally question how much we can take into our soul if we don't understand it.  If  they are in English, I can take it in and then meditate on it later and/or talk to my priest about it.  If I don't have any idea what the priest said or what the chanter chanted, or the choir sang, how can I meditate on it later? 

This is an interesting thread.  This exactly mirrors a story my former priest told about the first time he heard the liturgy in English.  He grew up in a US parish where the liturgy was only in Arabic and he never understood it.  He said that when he was in college he almost left the church to become a Catholic.  I also know a lady in my parish who grew up in a Russian community in Germany.  She hated going to church because she never understood what was going on.  She said it was only immigrating to the US and hearing the liturgy in English (which was a language she actually speaks regularly) that was directly responsible for renewing her faith.  It was the first time she could understand what was going on!  Then there's this one girl on one forum I go to who is from a Russian family who left to become Catholic due to many issues, but language was a big one.

Think about all the potential converts who never give Orthodoxy a second look because they automatically assume it is all about culture and language.  The number one question?  Will it be in English?  If the answer is no, I think people will have to answer for that one day.

I think it is an absolute sin if there are people coming to any parish who can't understand at least 60-70% of what is being said.  Even scripture agrees.  Read the book of Acts if you doubt it.  How many people have I spoken to in my parish who have told me that even though they love their Greek, Arabic, Russian, whatever heritage- they love going to a parish where they can understand the liturgy in a language they actually speak?  Loads.  They might know a few phrases and songs in the language of the old country, but many second and especially third generation folks don't speak anything other than English.  Shocking thing in a country that is English speaking and all, I know, but whatcha gonna do? 
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« Reply #97 on: October 17, 2010, 06:11:02 PM »

Their ancestors usually couldn't understand it in the old country either, as it was an archaic form of the language pretty unfamiliar to them.

The difference is that in America, there is an open market on religion, and folks know if they want to be Christians at all (which aren't many these days), then they can take their business and shop elsewhere if they aren't getting what they want out of the deal.

This set of "options" wasn't available to their ancestors. It was the local Orthodox temple or nothing. In fact, their ancestors likely couldn't even conceive of having options on the religious front. This might explain the low attendance rate back in the old lands (which through polls is usually like 10% of those that claim to be Orthodox). Out of that 10%, how many actually know what is going on?
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