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Author Topic: Faith Crisis Due to Language Issues  (Read 4300 times) Average Rating: 0
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Ioannes
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« on: October 17, 2010, 02:49:38 AM »

I read over on the dreadful Indiana List something about 5 years being the average 'lifespan' of a convert.  I don't have any anecdotal evidence on this so don't know if it's true or not. 

If it's true, I wonder what happens.  Convert burnout? 



I am a convert and I am experiencing trouble. Here is some of the problems, culture and language are the main things. Converts are expected to adapt to a culture completely foreign to them, and its nearly impossible. Many times we are kept out of the loop or are not really part of the clique so to speak. The language thing is absurd, but why the hell is it MUST to speak the native tongue of that particular Orthodox religion as opposed to the native tongue of the nation it is in? I have yet to understand this. My church uses three languages and I cannot keep up and I am a Deacon! It is confusing and turns people off, its absolutely rediculous that the clergy is too dense to make this simple observation!

There are so many hurdles for converts to begin with and the clergy seems to think it necessary to put up more road blocks. I do not feel as if I belong in my church. Many of the people have done great things for my family and I, but as a whole I do not feel comfortable there. I suggest things that we can do and nobody listens. Its basically a bunch of lazy ass people who go there because its their culture, not for salvation, with some very good pious people mixed in.

I can see why people leave, its frustrating and not very organized, we dont even have our own bishop to go to, our overseer is H.H. Pope Shenouda, good luck getting in contact with him. We are not capable of handling converts, despite the several suggestions I have made nobody seems to care, so you develop that "why the hell should I care" attitude, because nobody else seems to.

Thats just my take on it. Sometimes I just want to give up.
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« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2010, 01:25:50 PM »

Ionnes,

I am the catechumen director and a subdeacon  in my parish. I have learned that I am part of the solution, we established a class called Orthopraxis to help them with thier adjustment to the orthodox culture---as I am a Chaledon Orthodox Christian that means I teach Antiochian,  Slavic, and Greek traditions, explain variations in thir services and recommend readings and direct them to appropriate service translations. What many need is someone to go to if they are confused---sometimes the priest is too busy so it falls to me.

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« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2010, 01:36:29 PM »

Ioannes, it's a pity you are not in the UK where there is the English-speaking convert-friendly BOC. I guess your energy would be very much appreciated there.
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« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2010, 02:38:00 PM »

Ioannes, it's a pity you are not in the UK where there is the English-speaking convert-friendly BOC. I guess your energy would be very much appreciated there.

To be honest, I cannot imagine that my energy would be appreciated anywhere lol. I am getting fed up with the things that go on, and it is nothing bad, but just unable to handle converts. When we get people interested they dont know what to do or say, I have offered to help them, as I am a convert but they dont seem to care, as if I can offer nothing. I have pleaded several times to pick a language, and at this point I dont even care what it is, preferrably english, but it is frustrating as a deacon to have to just stand there because I do not know arabic and cannot sing. So I am left out of the liturgy, AS A DEACON!

I feel if I leave that I will fall apart though. I know Orthodoxy is the truth, where would I go from there? Talking to some of these people is like talking to a brick wall. Today I did not participate in Liturgy and I did not even speak with the priest, I am upset at some things he said to me a week ago. I am not a saint or a genius, but I wish I was taken a bit more serious.
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« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2010, 03:06:50 PM »

Ioannes, it's a pity you are not in the UK where there is the English-speaking convert-friendly BOC. I guess your energy would be very much appreciated there.

To be honest, I cannot imagine that my energy would be appreciated anywhere lol. I am getting fed up with the things that go on, and it is nothing bad, but just unable to handle converts. When we get people interested they dont know what to do or say, I have offered to help them, as I am a convert but they dont seem to care, as if I can offer nothing. I have pleaded several times to pick a language, and at this point I dont even care what it is, preferrably english, but it is frustrating as a deacon to have to just stand there because I do not know arabic and cannot sing. So I am left out of the liturgy, AS A DEACON!

I feel if I leave that I will fall apart though. I know Orthodoxy is the truth, where would I go from there? Talking to some of these people is like talking to a brick wall. Today I did not participate in Liturgy and I did not even speak with the priest, I am upset at some things he said to me a week ago. I am not a saint or a genius, but I wish I was taken a bit more serious.

I'm confused. How did you get this far as a deacon without the frustration? Were those issues not ironed out before your ordination?

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« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2010, 05:25:37 PM »

I am a convert and I am experiencing trouble. Here is some of the problems, culture and language are the main things. Converts are expected to adapt to a culture completely foreign to them, and its nearly impossible. Many times we are kept out of the loop or are not really part of the clique so to speak. The language thing is absurd, but why the hell is it MUST to speak the native tongue of that particular Orthodox religion as opposed to the native tongue of the nation it is in? I have yet to understand this. My church uses three languages and I cannot keep up and I am a Deacon!

Ioannes,

You need to realize that just as Arabic and Coptic are hard for you, English is hard for the new immigrants who attend your parish (I assume there are immigrants there.)  Just as Coptic culture is foreign to you, American culture is foreign to them.  You need to be understanding about this.  

It's a very difficult and alienating process to immigrate to the US.  Monday through Saturday, the newcomers to our country are dealing with American culture and English at the work place and society in general.  They struggle with it, get frustrated and tired trying to learn it, and I'll bet you that they deal with a certain amount of unkind treatment, if not outright discrimination, due to their not fitting into our culture.

Sundays are the only days when they can go to a place that is familiar to them: their Church from the Old Country.  After struggling with a foreign culture and language the other six days of the week, they should not have to struggle with a foreign culture and language when they come to Church to worship God.  They need to be able to relax and be able to pray freely in a language they understand, and in the context of a culture where they fit in.

Of course that creates a problem for not only the converts, but also the more Americanized second and third generation ethnic members of the Church.  It's a problem that most Orthodox parishes in the diaspora (OO and EO) are dealing with right now.  Quite frankly, I think the Coptic Church's attempt to deal with it by having the liturgy in three languages (English, Coptic and Arabic) is a reasonable accommodation.   Imagine how alienated you would feel if the liturgy were entirely in Coptic or Arabic.  That is how the newcomers would feel if it were entirely in English.  

You only have to struggle one day a week with a foreign language and culture, and even then it is not as much of a struggle as it would be if everything were entirely in Arabic or Coptic.  The others are struggling six days a week with a new culture and language.  Try thinking of it from their perspective.  It may help you understand the situation better.  
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« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2010, 06:16:43 PM »

Some of these issues seemed to be working themselves out. We were using predominantly english, then we got our priest, finally, and we started to backslide. I have been working really hard at trying to change a few things to better suit us for converts and people who are inquiring about the faith, but I have failed miserably. I am not one to give up, but I am tired.

As for understanding, what is there to understand? There is an arabic liturgy specifically for those people. They can have a liturgy completely in arabic, but not one completely in English? No, I will not understand. Why build a church here if your not prepared to handle converts. Why come here if you dont plan on learning English? I am NOT going to adapt to that culture, nor should I have to, I will NOT learn arabic. I LOVE Coptic but we should not use it so people can understand, thats it, end of discussion! I have TOO many hurdles as a convert why should I add more to the list because some immigrants need to understand a liturgy they should know inside and out regardless of what language its in.
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« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2010, 11:29:21 PM »

Ioannes,

You need to realize that just as Arabic and Coptic are hard for you, English is hard for the new immigrants who attend your parish (I assume there are immigrants there.)  Just as Coptic culture is foreign to you, American culture is foreign to them.  You need to be understanding about this.  

It's a very difficult and alienating process to immigrate to the US.  Monday through Saturday, the newcomers to our country are dealing with American culture and English at the work place and society in general.  They struggle with it, get frustrated and tired trying to learn it, and I'll bet you that they deal with a certain amount of unkind treatment, if not outright discrimination, due to their not fitting into our culture.

Sundays are the only days when they can go to a place that is familiar to them: their Church from the Old Country.  After struggling with a foreign culture and language the other six days of the week, they should not have to struggle with a foreign culture and language when they come to Church to worship God.  They need to be able to relax and be able to pray freely in a language they understand, and in the context of a culture where they fit in.

Of course that creates a problem for not only the converts, but also the more Americanized second and third generation ethnic members of the Church.  It's a problem that most Orthodox parishes in the diaspora (OO and EO) are dealing with right now.  Quite frankly, I think the Coptic Church's attempt to deal with it by having the liturgy in three languages (English, Coptic and Arabic) is a reasonable accommodation.   Imagine how alienated you would feel if the liturgy were entirely in Coptic or Arabic.  That is how the newcomers would feel if it were entirely in English.  

You only have to struggle one day a week with a foreign language and culture, and even then it is not as much of a struggle as it would be if everything were entirely in Arabic or Coptic.  The others are struggling six days a week with a new culture and language.  Try thinking of it from their perspective.  It may help you understand the situation better.  

What if the tables were turned. If you went to Egypt to work, would you expect them to supply a liturgy in English?
(playing devil's advocate)
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« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2010, 12:50:14 AM »

Azurestone, no. I lived in Ethiopia and never once did I expect anyone to make any concessions for me, when and if they did, I was very grateful. I do not understand the point of coming to this country to "evangelize" and not use the countries native tongue. Can someone point that out to me?

Because of this issue, and some others, I find myself in like some crisis or something. I dont even think anyone actually cares either, thats what makes me care even less about going to church.
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« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2010, 12:55:37 AM »

Azurestone, no. I lived in Ethiopia and never once did I expect anyone to make any concessions for me, when and if they did, I was very grateful. I do not understand the point of coming to this country to "evangelize" and not use the countries native tongue. Can someone point that out to me?

Because of this issue, and some others, I find myself in like some crisis or something. I dont even think anyone actually cares either, thats what makes me care even less about going to church.

I can't help you, I agree with you. I'm just trying to provide perspective for others.
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« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2010, 12:59:44 AM »

Yea, I am kinda lost when it comes to what I should do. Oh well, another convert lost.

ya know, I can kind of understand Tertullian when he criticized the Church before leaving it saying that it was a church of bishops. Nobody does anything and Tertullian, although extreme at times, was a man of action. So I can understand now, but why he went to montanism is a mystery to me.
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« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2010, 01:33:38 AM »

What if the tables were turned. If you went to Egypt to work, would you expect them to supply a liturgy in English?
(playing devil's advocate)

I and other Americans were not the ones who brought the Coptic liturgy to Egypt.   Smiley  If the Coptic liturgy were developed by Americans it would be entirely different.

If I am understanding Ioannes correctly, he is not just opposed to Coptic and Arabic language being used.  He's also objecting to the Coptic culture being the prevalent culture at his parish.  If I understand him correctly, he wants the Copts to replace Coptic culture with American culture.

I guess I need him to explain what he means by that, especially in light of his recent objections to what he called Protestant influences working their way into the Coptic Church:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,30535.msg482594.html#msg482594

American culture is in essence Protestant.  America was founded by Protestants, has for her entire history been made up mostly of Protestants (although that may be changing now,) and her culture has been widely shaped by Protestantism.  It's hard to separate American culture from Protestantism.  And yet Ioannes, who is understandably critical of Protestant influences seeping into the Coptic Church, seems to want her to abandon her Coptic culture and replace it with an American one.  

I don't get it.

I know second and third generation American Armenians who believe the Armenian Church here in the US should be Americanized.  That includes not only English liturgies, but also female priests.  In American culture, after all, roles are gender neutral.  The concept of a male-only priesthood is culturally very, very Un-American.  

Americanizing the Armenian Church would also include services that are exactly an hour long, in which the priest/priestess is facing the congregation; with less ritual and sacraments; and more attention during the services on the needs and talents of the congregation.  These are all things that are very necessary in making the Church American.  In American culture events should not last too long, so the liturgy should be cut.  American culture is extremely self-absorbed and anti-ritual, so more attention needs to be on the congregation, and ritual and sacraments should be kept to a minimum.

I'm not kidding.  I know people who want that.  Fortunately most of my fellow American Armenians do not feel this way, but I do see a growing trend.  There are plenty here who believe that since we are Americans now, we should Americanize the Church to make it relevant to American Armenians.  Otherwise, they argue, people will leave.  

Oh, and by the way, they also want bands with contemporary music, mixed in with the traditional hymns.  The Armenian hymns are so Old-Country.

Does any of this sound familiar?  This is how you Americanize a Church.  The above is all American culture.  Does it sound Protestant?  That's not a coincidence, since American culture is essentially Protestant.

So I guess I can't understand how someone can say he wants to rid the Coptic Church of Coptic culture and replace it with American culture, but then object to a Coptic Church in Los Angeles having a band playing Protestant type praise hymns.  That's how you Americanize a Church.  The parish in L.A. that he is talking about is probably trying to do exactly what he is advocating in this thread.  (By the way, I visited that parish many years ago, and they had a liturgy entirely in English.)

Now it could be that I am reading Ioannes wrong.  He probably means something entirely different than what I described when he said he wants the Coptic Church to be American and not Coptic.

I have to say, however, that I can't imagine any Church being Americanized without the changes I outlined above, and which are advocated by at least some people I know who want to Americanize the Armenian Church.  

I guess what I am saying is that you can't completely separate a Church from the culture it developed in for centuries.  Nor can you separate a culture from the Church that developed it.  Coptic culture was shaped and developed by the Coptic Orthodox faith.  Armenian culture was shaped and developed by the Armenian Orthodox faith.  American culture was shaped by the Protestant faith.  You can't completely separate a Church from the culture it was embedded in for centuries without in some way changing the Church.

You want a male-only priesthood, and a lengthy liturgy with ritual, sacraments and a celebrant who focuses on God and not you?  That's not American.  That's Armenian, Coptic, Russian and Greek.  You want ancient hymns instead of contemporary praise band music?  Well, the ancient hymns are not by any means American.

People need to make up their minds.  Converts need to realize that when they come into a Church that developed in a particular culture, they will have to pick up a certain amount of that culture.  It's not reasonable to ask a Church to completely change itself to suit your own particular tastes.  That would be Protestant.


Now the language is a more subtle issue, but Ioannes is not just talking about language;  he's talking about both language and culture.  At least that is how I am reading him.  Actually, I think he is on to something, in that language and culture can be very connected to each other.  A while back, there was an "English liturgy" movement among the American Armenians here.  Now I am not strictly speaking opposed to a liturgy in English.  However, I opposed the movement because most of the people I knew who supported it were also into the "reforms" I outlined above.  

Of course it is possible to have English liturgies without changing the Faith and culture of a Church.  However, it should be a slow process, partially to guard against the danger of changing the Faith along with the language.  For reasons I explained above, I get nervous when people say they want to Americanize the Church along with translating the liturgy into English.  

And I don't think we should just brush aside the needs of the recent immigrants who need to hear the liturgy in their own language.  Me traveling to Egypt is not the same thing.  It was the Copts who brought the Coptic Church here to the US; the Armenians who brought the Armenian Church here, etc.  It just seems downright rude to say to them:  "Well now that you brought your beautiful Church and liturgy here, we are going to change it to something you can't recognize, understand, or feel comfortable with.  It's ours now.  Good-bye."

Again, I am probably not understanding Ioannes correctly, and it is not my intention to attribute motives to him that are not there.  Perhaps if he explains himself a little more, that would help.  Perhaps he can tell us what he means when he talks about changing the culture.  I can't imagine him wanting the same things as the American Armenians I described above.  However, I feel I have to point that situation out as a very possible outcome to wanting to completely throw out the old and replace it with American culture.

Ioannes,
I hope you can understand where I am coming from.  I realize that I also have to make an effort to understand you.  Forgive me if I have misrepresented you.  I realize you probably want something different from what I described above.  Perhaps it would help if you explained more specifically the changes you would like to see at your parish.
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« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2010, 01:52:56 AM »

Americanizing the Armenian Church would also include services that are exactly an hour long, in which the priest/priestess is facing the congregation; with less ritual and sacraments; and more attention during the services on the needs and talents of the congregation.  These are all things that are very necessary in making the Church American.  In American culture events should not last too long, so the liturgy should be cut.  American culture is extremely self-absorbed and anti-ritual, so more attention needs to be on the congregation, and ritual and sacraments should be kept to a minimum.

I'm not kidding.  I know people who want that.  Fortunately most of my fellow American Armenians do not feel this way, but I do see a growing trend.  There are plenty here who believe that since we are Americans now, we should Americanize the Church to make it relevant to American Armenians.  Otherwise, they argue, people will leave. 

Oh, and by the way, they also want bands with contemporary music, mixed in with the traditional hymns.  The Armenian hymns are so Old-Country.

Does any of this sound familiar?  This is how you Americanize a Church.  The above is all American culture.  Does it sound Protestant?  That's not a coincidence, since American culture is essentially Protestant.

You generalize Protestants far to generally. What pops into mind when you think of Protestants may be Christian Rock and movie theater seats, but this does not at all portray "Protestants". Some do, don't get me wrong, but not all. Some are very liturgical, English hymns, and prayer.

I only point this out because it seemed to me that you think making things more American necessitates those qualities. And it doesn't. For example, English language hymns in a western musical chant fitting to the language and ear of the west is still "American". It doesn't have to be a carbon copy from the host country to be authentic and appropriate.
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« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2010, 02:05:16 AM »

I'm only repeating what I hear from some of my fellow American Armenians who want to Americanize the Church.  
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« Reply #14 on: October 18, 2010, 02:18:51 AM »

Perhaps the ideal is what they have in Great Britain, with the British Orthodox Church.  The BOC has managed to keep the faith and tradition of the Coptic Church while developing an English liturgy and a Church in which non-Copts can feel comfortable.  Also, the BOC did not supplant the Coptic Church.  There is also a Coptic Church in Great Britain, with Coptic and Arabic liturgies, where ethnic Copts can feel comfortable and worship in their own language and culture.  The Copts and BOC managed to accommodate converts while at the same time serving the needs of the immigrants and preserving the traditions and language of the Mother Church. 
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« Reply #15 on: October 18, 2010, 07:44:00 AM »

Perhaps the ideal is what they have in Great Britain, with the British Orthodox Church.  The BOC has managed to keep the faith and tradition of the Coptic Church while developing an English liturgy and a Church in which non-Copts can feel comfortable.  Also, the BOC did not supplant the Coptic Church.  There is also a Coptic Church in Great Britain, with Coptic and Arabic liturgies, where ethnic Copts can feel comfortable and worship in their own language and culture.  The Copts and BOC managed to accommodate converts while at the same time serving the needs of the immigrants and preserving the traditions and language of the Mother Church. 


That does sound more ideal.
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« Reply #16 on: October 18, 2010, 09:26:55 AM »

Culture should not be involved in church, maybe to a certain extent as many things would be impossible to remove, thats fine. The main problem is the language. There is no possible way to evangelize in a nation that speaks english when using a language foreign to most americans. Its not fair to those seeking the true church. I feel that I am very good in adapting to each person and am able to speak with them on their level and in the manner in which they speak, yet I am constantly told that I need to do this or that so I dont push them away. How hypocritical is that? I am struggling just to stay in the church and they are telling me how to evangelize when they clearly havent the slightest clue what the convert needs and wants. It is maddening, utterly maddening.
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« Reply #17 on: October 18, 2010, 10:49:29 AM »

Culture should not be involved in church...

Fortunately or unfortunately, human culture doesn't work this way. Culture and religion are inextricable from one another.

This really reinforces my notion that American "culture" is essentially an anti-culture, one which absorbs everything distinct into a bland stew (melting pot anyone?). Also, this notion that church and culture can be separated buys into the very American notion that "church" is one thing, "state" is another thing, etc. The "church" becomes an aspect of some peoples' lives rather than a unifying factor in all lives. How did we get here?
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« Reply #18 on: October 18, 2010, 11:38:57 AM »

Culture should not be involved in church...

Fortunately or unfortunately, human culture doesn't work this way. Culture and religion are inextricable from one another.

This really reinforces my notion that American "culture" is essentially an anti-culture, one which absorbs everything distinct into a bland stew (melting pot anyone?). Also, this notion that church and culture can be separated buys into the very American notion that "church" is one thing, "state" is another thing, etc. The "church" becomes an aspect of some peoples' lives rather than a unifying factor in all lives. How did we get here?

True, culture and religion do interlink, but is that necessarily a good thing? I would submit that the Word of God does not support an affirmative answer. Indeed, Apostle Paul strongly maintained that "..there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him." (Romans 10:12)

And, from a Christian perspective, why is a particular culture better than any other? It is true that that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and thus every baby, no matter how ugly, is simply the apex of God's creation to the mother. How is that in any way objectively true?

Finally, your question regarding the separation of state and church, "How did we get here?," may be answered very simply. Folks used their God-given intellect to learn from history, which shows that past alliances between church and state have not produced the best results--either for the state or for the church. On the other hand, it would be logical to ask instead "why was the United States Supreme Court allowed to legislate from the bench to pervert the plain meaning of the First Amendment?"
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« Reply #19 on: October 18, 2010, 02:09:46 PM »

Culture should not be involved in church...

Fortunately or unfortunately, human culture doesn't work this way. Culture and religion are inextricable from one another.

This really reinforces my notion that American "culture" is essentially an anti-culture, one which absorbs everything distinct into a bland stew (melting pot anyone?). Also, this notion that church and culture can be separated buys into the very American notion that "church" is one thing, "state" is another thing, etc. The "church" becomes an aspect of some peoples' lives rather than a unifying factor in all lives. How did we get here?

Well I specifically stated its not so much the culture, certain aspect yes. I am speaking of the language so do not start going down a rabbit hole in your false perception of what I said, if indeed you are directing your comments towards me. If we converts can understand what is going on then who cares about culture, although many aspects of it can be difficult. I believe I stated previously that my wife is Ethiopian and I have no problem in their culture, in fact I lived there, so I am very familiar with this similar culture in the Coptic church. LANGUAGE!
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« Reply #20 on: October 18, 2010, 04:11:05 PM »

I read over on the dreadful Indiana List something about 5 years being the average 'lifespan' of a convert.  I don't have any anecdotal evidence on this so don't know if it's true or not. 

If it's true, I wonder what happens.  Convert burnout? 



I am a convert and I am experiencing trouble. Here is some of the problems, culture and language are the main things. Converts are expected to adapt to a culture completely foreign to them, and its nearly impossible. Many times we are kept out of the loop or are not really part of the clique so to speak. The language thing is absurd, but why the hell is it MUST to speak the native tongue of that particular Orthodox religion as opposed to the native tongue of the nation it is in? I have yet to understand this. My church uses three languages and I cannot keep up and I am a Deacon! It is confusing and turns people off, its absolutely rediculous that the clergy is too dense to make this simple observation!

There are so many hurdles for converts to begin with and the clergy seems to think it necessary to put up more road blocks. I do not feel as if I belong in my church. Many of the people have done great things for my family and I, but as a whole I do not feel comfortable there. I suggest things that we can do and nobody listens. Its basically a bunch of lazy ass people who go there because its their culture, not for salvation, with some very good pious people mixed in.

I can see why people leave, its frustrating and not very organized, we dont even have our own bishop to go to, our overseer is H.H. Pope Shenouda, good luck getting in contact with him. We are not capable of handling converts, despite the several suggestions I have made nobody seems to care, so you develop that "why the hell should I care" attitude, because nobody else seems to.

Thats just my take on it. Sometimes I just want to give up.

I very much sympathize with you.

In case you haven't figured it out yet, I am in the process of converting to OOy (because of rejecting Chalcedon as a heretical council).

When I was a Chalcedonian, I felt enough like the ethnocentricism and language issue was bothering me. Now I am exploring the Oriental churches and it turns out that it's about twice as bad. So, I had major issues with this when I was first starting out (several months to a year ago).

But I think that there is room for hope. I've been going primarily to two congregations, one Armenian, and one Coptic. I am right now spending more time at the latter. When I was going to the Armenian church, the people were sufficiently friendly and welcoming to outsiders, but they were really not that mission oriented, and had no intention of at all toning down the Armenianness of the service or atmosphere to cater to outsiders.

Some of the Copts are the same way. Individually they are more insular. However, they are significantly more mission minded. Particularly in the past month there have been really strong mission efforts developing with the church. Now the Priest is even talking about doing an all-English liturgy once a month, and perhaps eventually even more than that. It may or may not be helpful, but perhaps I could try to get this Priest to talk to your own?
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« Reply #21 on: October 18, 2010, 04:45:52 PM »

I appreciate the comment and support, and its nice to see someone openly reject Chalcedon for once. I think because our church is 7 or 8 years old it lacks alot of what it really needs. I have been trying like hell to start something but everyone is too busy and it drives me nuts. I love COy, but nobody is around, EVER, to help me spiritually. So I am at a standstill right now, I dont know what to do.
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« Reply #22 on: October 20, 2010, 09:17:15 PM »

But I think that there is room for hope. I've been going primarily to two congregations, one Armenian, and one Coptic. I am right now spending more time at the latter. When I was going to the Armenian church, the people were sufficiently friendly and welcoming to outsiders, but they were really not that mission oriented, and had no intention of at all toning down the Armenianness of the service or atmosphere to cater to outsiders.

I know you are very sincere, but I think some Armenians would be very offended by your comments in bold above.
We must never forget what the poor Armenians have suffered throughout their history including the Aremnian genicide by the Turks in the early 20th century.  The amazing thing about the Areminas is that you can find them almost all over the world.  They have maintained their faith and culture.  The two go together.  I am sure some Aremnians would ask you why on earth they should "cater to outsiders"?  They could do that at the risk of loosing their own people.  The Armenian Orthodox Church provides the sacraments, worship and comfort for generations of Aremnians who have suffered only because they wanted to remain Armenian.

You on the other hand can join the OCA or a western-rite Orthodox Church or the Antiochian Orthodox Church which uses English.
So please lets show the Armenians some respect for surviving and remaining faithful to their church.
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« Reply #23 on: October 20, 2010, 09:55:30 PM »

Thank you, Orest; you seem to understand the situation perfectly. 

I'm not at all offended by what Deusvertasest said.  I can understand the frustration of trying to get involved in an ethnic Church.  However, what everyone needs to understand is that the Armenian Church has been central to the survival of the Armenian people.  It's a major part of the Armenian identity and held the people together when everyone was scattered all over the world after the Genocide.

Of course there are downsides to an ethnic Church.  We all know what those downsides are since they are discussed extensively on this forum.  However, having the national identity tied to the Church has helped the Armenians survive as a Christian nation, through some of the fiercest persecution suffered by Christians in the twentieth century.

I think something similar can be said of the Coptic and other ethnic Orthodox Churches, which is why I would ask those dealing with the ethnicity issue to try to be a little understanding of the ethnic congregants and their needs.   

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« Reply #24 on: October 20, 2010, 10:33:59 PM »

We must never forget what the poor Armenians have suffered throughout their history including the Aremnian genicide by the Turks in the early 20th century.

How does that justify being an essentially ethnic church which is not concerned with evangelizing those outside of their ethnic group?

They have maintained their faith and culture.  The two go together.

If the Armenians truly share the same faith with the Orthodox Copts, Syrians, Ethiopians, Eritreans, and Malayali, then obviously their culture cannot be so necessary to their faith as you are portraying it.

I am sure some Aremnians would ask you why on earth they should "cater to outsiders"?

And that would only reveal their own failings.

The Armenian Orthodox Church provides the sacraments, worship and comfort for generations of Aremnians who have suffered only because they wanted to remain Armenian.

I'm sure it could do that while reaching out to outsiders.

You on the other hand can join the OCA or a western-rite Orthodox Church or the Antiochian Orthodox Church which uses English.

No, I cannot. Those churches are not part of the Orthodox Church.

So please lets show the Armenians some respect for surviving and remaining faithful to their church.

I do, but that is not the issue at hand.
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« Reply #25 on: October 20, 2010, 10:38:55 PM »

However, what everyone needs to understand is that the Armenian Church has been central to the survival of the Armenian people.

I am not interested in doing away with the Armenian church, so I don't think you should be concerned. I'm just concerned with the mission of the Armenian church being beyond Armenians, a theme which a visiting Priest at Saint Vartan's in between the last rector and the current actually chose to preach on.

I think something similar can be said of the Coptic and other ethnic Orthodox Churches, which is why I would ask those dealing with the ethnicity issue to try to be a little understanding of the ethnic congregants and their needs.

I am being understanding. This is precisely why I am sympathetic to the Coptic church I was speaking of being moderate in its mission efforts instead of just charging forth at full speed with them. The Armenian church, OTOH, simply seemed totally uninterested in mission at all. And I think this is only worsened by an often heterodox ecumenism (I told the Coptic Priest about the serving an Anglican Communion and he was horrified).
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« Reply #26 on: October 20, 2010, 11:25:12 PM »

Ninety-five years ago the Armenians and their Church were almost wiped out.  I'm not saying that as an expression, or a hyperbole.  The existence of the people and, especially, the Church was nearly terminated.  You know the story:  In 1915, well over ninety percent of all Armenian priests on the planet were slaughtered; about fifty percent of the lay population was slaughtered and the rest sent homeless and penniless into diaspora. 

As if that wasn't bad enough, a few years later what was left of the Armenian homeland was taken over by the Soviet Union and put under an atheist dictatorship which further repressed the Church and kept it from rebuilding itself for more than seventy years.  During those seventy years there was a severe shortage of priests, not only in Armenia, but in the diaspora.  Typically, there would be one priest to serve the needs of literally several thousands of people.  The fact that the Armenian Church survives today is nothing short of a miracle. 

When Communism finally fell, the Armenian Church was faced with the monumental task of not only rebuilding itself after this devastation, but also re-evangelizing several million Armenians in Armenia and all over the world.

To give you an idea of what things were like, read the anecdote I give in reply number five here:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,16742.msg240896.html#msg240896

Things have gotten a little better in the past twenty years, but there are still a lot of Armenians whom the Church still needs to reach.  There are still a lot of Armenians who know next to nothing about the Faith and who are easily pulled into heretical sects.

In other words, the Armenian Church still has not finished the task of reaching out to and re-evangelizing its own people.  To ask it to start doing outreach to others is really not reasonable under the circumstances.  Let the Church first save its own sheep who have wandered off, before going after the sheep of another pasture (Non-Armenian Catholics, Protestants and EO's.)

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« Reply #27 on: October 20, 2010, 11:40:31 PM »

They have maintained their faith and culture.  The two go together.

If the Armenians truly share the same faith with the Orthodox Copts, Syrians, Ethiopians, Eritreans, and Malayali, then obviously their culture cannot be so necessary to their faith as you are portraying it.

As odd as it sounds, connecting the Armenian Church with the Armenian culture and national identity has done much to preserve both the Church and the Armenian people.

Looking at reply two of the above linked thread shows one way in which linking the Church with the national identity helped preserve the Church during the days of Communism:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,16742.msg240861.html#msg240861

It's hard to explain, but the national and ethnic identity of the Armenians are just very strongly connected to the Church.  That is why during times of persecution and slaughter by the Turks, any Armenian who saved his mortal life by converting to Islam would no longer be considered Armenian.  That is why there is no group today which identifies itself as "Muslim Armenian."  Such a group just can't exist.

Also, after the Genocide, when everyone was in diaspora, it was the Church that connected everyone and kept everyone together.  As devastated as the Church was, and as decimated as its priesthood was, the Church was the institution which held the nation together in diaspora.  You see an example of this in a post I made about how a cousin of mine found her sister through the Church after the Genocide:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,5844.msg75439.html#msg75439
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« Reply #28 on: October 21, 2010, 12:01:03 AM »

I can say, boldly I might add, that as I convert I am tired of being an outsider. I am tired of making concession after concession for just for them to be comfortable in Church. I am tired of speaking and not being heard, not being taken seriously, and basically told that what I say is not true. Therefore Orthodoxy has lost another because the people cannot seem to get passed themselves and their culture, let alone their language. I was baptized and left to fend for myself. I am not asking for much.

I am done...completely.
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« Reply #29 on: October 21, 2010, 01:16:39 AM »

I guess I'm trying to understand why you are still attending the church you are attending.  It seems that there is more there that you dislike than like, and that it is making you unhappy.  I don't mean to be flippant, but it could be you need a different church.

Is there another church in your area that you can try?

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« Reply #30 on: October 21, 2010, 02:11:51 AM »

I guess I'm trying to understand why you are still attending the church you are attending.  It seems that there is more there that you dislike than like, and that it is making you unhappy.  I don't mean to be flippant, but it could be you need a different church.

Is there another church in your area that you can try?



I am not attending that church. There are no other OO in the area, I have to drive an hour or more and maybe I will do that eventually. Right now I am just not really in a good mood. I am angry and frustrated. The problem I encounter is that the same mentality seems to exist in all the Orthodox churches I have been to. They are good people and all, just not prepared for this culture and certainly not prepared to make concessions for it or even adopt a language everyone can understand. It is like I cannot get someone to care about this convert issue, let alone what I am going through now. I dont know, I dont think people raised Orthodox have the capacity to understand what converts face and therein lies the problem.
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« Reply #31 on: October 21, 2010, 02:21:51 AM »

Your profile says you are in Toledo.  Isn't there an Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Toledo?  They normally have English liturgies and are very convert friendly.  You might want to visit it and maybe just pray there, even if you can't commune there.

Now I'm not one to normally tell OO's to start attending EO churches, and I know you believe Chalcedon to be a false council.  However, visiting and praying at the Antiochain Cathedral can't hurt, at least for a while as you try to figure things out.

It's just a thought.  I understand your reasons for not attending the Coptic parish right now, but I don't think you should completely shut yourself off from going to any church.
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« Reply #32 on: October 21, 2010, 02:32:55 AM »

I can say, boldly I might add, that as I convert I am tired of being an outsider. I am tired of making concession after concession for just for them to be comfortable in Church. I am tired of speaking and not being heard, not being taken seriously, and basically told that what I say is not true. Therefore Orthodoxy has lost another because the people cannot seem to get passed themselves and their culture, let alone their language. I was baptized and left to fend for myself. I am not asking for much.

I am done...completely.

Please do not let pastoral inadequacies lead you away from the Church of Christ.
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« Reply #33 on: October 21, 2010, 04:56:40 AM »

I can say, boldly I might add, that as I convert I am tired of being an outsider. I am tired of making concession after concession for just for them to be comfortable in Church. I am tired of speaking and not being heard, not being taken seriously, and basically told that what I say is not true. Therefore Orthodoxy has lost another because the people cannot seem to get passed themselves and their culture, let alone their language. I was baptized and left to fend for myself. I am not asking for much.

I am done...completely.


Dear Ioannes,
I totally understand your situation, and I believe it's really hard to endure the pain that you are facing.
IMHO, The Coptic church is not into evangelizing and out reaching others. Maybe that wasn't the case back in the history, but considering that Evangelizing is forbidden in Egypt and is considered a punishable crime, this forced the church to adopt another approach which is as simple as being a witness to the Lord by actions and by being a good example of a true Christian. And this works in Egypt, yes Muslims do not convert in general, but they know that Christians are honest, they don't lie or swear, and they are generally peaceful.
So, when the church extended to the diaspora it inherited the same approach, but given the freedom in the west, this approach is moving slowly towards reaching out and evangelizing. It might be that your church has more older Copts than younger ones, but usually the young generation is more open minded and I think you can find a good place among them.
I just beg you: do not let go of your church, it's a war against the evil, and you have to fight it, do not give up, or otherwise you would give Satan a good opportunity to manipulate more issues in your faith.
I'll remember you in my prayers,
Be blessed,
George   
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« Reply #34 on: October 21, 2010, 05:05:25 AM »

Ioannes,

I wonder if you need perhaps to stop trying to save the world for God.

I mean that I also used to have great plans (and good/holy ones too I mean), but I had to learn that God did not work according to my schedule. I had to learn that God did not need my service, and could raise up any number of people who were more faithful than I, more holy than I, more understanding of God's will than I.

I have had to learn to be patient, and prayerful, and seek above all to become more Christian in myself. All of my great ideas have had to be laid at the feet of our Lord. I have had to accept that in my life I might not achieve anything at all of note or importance, and this has been a great liberation.

The harvest belongs to the Lord. It is He who will determine when it will be brought in, not I. It is He who will organise the workers in the fields, not I.

Yet, perhaps, He will use even me in some small way in doing His will. But it will be a small way, a hidden way, a humble way.

Let me counsel you to try a little less hard to do God's will for Him. Learn to wait and wait and persevere in prayer. Prayer changes things. It is not something we do to fill in time. Pray for your priest, pray for each member of your congregation by name, especially those you have problems with, pray that the Lord will open a way to reach the non-Orthodox around you and integrate them into His Church. Seek to become more holy and grace-filled yourself as a matter of the greatest importance and urgency.

I have had to wait many years to start to see a lasting harvest of souls. In the past 6 months I have baptised 3 adult catechumens, which has been a great joy for me. But I have had to abandon all of my own plans before God has begun to work out His own.

May the Lord bless you, you are always prayed for at the altar.

Father Peter
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« Reply #35 on: October 21, 2010, 05:21:32 AM »

Ioannes,

I wonder if you need perhaps to stop trying to save the world for God.

I mean that I also used to have great plans (and good/holy ones too I mean), but I had to learn that God did not work according to my schedule. I had to learn that God did not need my service, and could raise up any number of people who were more faithful than I, more holy than I, more understanding of God's will than I.

I have had to learn to be patient, and prayerful, and seek above all to become more Christian in myself. All of my great ideas have had to be laid at the feet of our Lord. I have had to accept that in my life I might not achieve anything at all of note or importance, and this has been a great liberation.

The harvest belongs to the Lord. It is He who will determine when it will be brought in, not I. It is He who will organise the workers in the fields, not I.

Yet, perhaps, He will use even me in some small way in doing His will. But it will be a small way, a hidden way, a humble way.

Let me counsel you to try a little less hard to do God's will for Him. Learn to wait and wait and persevere in prayer. Prayer changes things. It is not something we do to fill in time. Pray for your priest, pray for each member of your congregation by name, especially those you have problems with, pray that the Lord will open a way to reach the non-Orthodox around you and integrate them into His Church. Seek to become more holy and grace-filled yourself as a matter of the greatest importance and urgency.

I have had to wait many years to start to see a lasting harvest of souls. In the past 6 months I have baptised 3 adult catechumens, which has been a great joy for me. But I have had to abandon all of my own plans before God has begun to work out His own.

May the Lord bless you, you are always prayed for at the altar.

Father Peter


Father bless,

Thank you for that excellent wisdom. As I read it, I felt as if you were addressing it directly to me! Please remember me too at the altar.

Selam
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« Reply #36 on: October 21, 2010, 11:19:38 AM »

We must never forget what the poor Armenians have suffered throughout their history including the Aremnian genicide by the Turks in the early 20th century.

How does that justify being an essentially ethnic church which is not concerned with evangelizing those outside of their ethnic group?



You on the other hand can join the OCA or a western-rite Orthodox Church or the Antiochian Orthodox Church which uses English.

No, I cannot. Those churches are not part of the Orthodox Church.

[quote
[/quote]

There is nothing wrong with being an ethnic church.  This is where the Armenians work out their salavation.  You want to assimilate them and destroy what they have cherished and protected .  They take their church with them wherever they settle.  There is a difference between ethnicity & citizenship.  The Armenians lived in both Romania and Ukraine for centuries.  They preserved their church and built their own schools.  They did not assimilate to the host culture and church. This is the way the HOly Spirit has guided them.

Have you ever thought that maybe God is trying to tell you something and that maybe you should move on?  To the OCA or the Antiochian Church?
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« Reply #37 on: October 21, 2010, 12:01:58 PM »

Hi Ioannes,

I am sorry to hear about the difficulties you are experiencing.  I am an American who converted to Coptic Orthodoxy about 10 years ago and I have experienced some of the same difficulties and frustrations.

There have been many times over the years when I went home after a liturgy and would have to just sit down and catch my breath.  Then I would remember what originally led me to the Church, which was not people but my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I find that as long as I focus on Him I seem to have an easier time with being an outsider in my own Church.

I also have noticed that God continually sends me one or two people in the Church that will reach out to me when I am the most down and give me hope, in my tremendous weakness, that things will get better.

Thank you to Fr Peter, I have been reading your words on various forums for the last few years and even communicated with you a couple of years ago.  I always find your posts filled with wisdom and very helpful for me.

Please pray for me in my many weaknesses,

Eric
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« Reply #38 on: October 21, 2010, 12:20:14 PM »

I guess I'm trying to understand why you are still attending the church you are attending.  It seems that there is more there that you dislike than like, and that it is making you unhappy.  I don't mean to be flippant, but it could be you need a different church.

Is there another church in your area that you can try?



I am not attending that church. There are no other OO in the area, I have to drive an hour or more and maybe I will do that eventually. Right now I am just not really in a good mood. I am angry and frustrated. The problem I encounter is that the same mentality seems to exist in all the Orthodox churches I have been to. They are good people and all, just not prepared for this culture and certainly not prepared to make concessions for it or even adopt a language everyone can understand. It is like I cannot get someone to care about this convert issue, let alone what I am going through now. I dont know, I dont think people raised Orthodox have the capacity to understand what converts face and therein lies the problem.

Ioannes, if you will permit me to be blunt, what you are experiencing is a temptation of Satan. How many times have you so far vented against other people, their actions and attitudes? I understand your frustrations as a convert myself, but might I suggest that the solution for you lies not in other people, but in yourself. If you turn to the inner life of your soul and cultivate your spiritual life, including fighting against this frustration with patience, I think that things will be better for you. You have a lot of things going on. Try to calm your soul and not give in to frustration.
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« Reply #39 on: October 21, 2010, 01:38:44 PM »

Fr. Peter, thank you for your kind a wise advice. I agree, I am weak in prayer and at times I do try and do too much. However it is really the small things that are upsetting me. I have been trying for a long while to get the church to use English only, to no avail. I think they may have done more English for about 6 months or so, then backslid. One of the main reasons for this push is that my dad left and decided not to be baptized Orthodox because he could not understand the liturgy, and in some small way I know that he felt left out, as I also did, because it was in arabic. So I think alot of animosity stems from this, and the fact that I let people walk all over me.

Also I want you to understand, as I am sure you know where I am coming from, that I was baptized and left to fend for myself. I had to find the books and sources to help better my faith. I honestly received no spiritual help from the people at church, which I desperately need and desire. I do not mean to sound judgmental but how am I supposed to feel? There are no kind of classes set up for converts or just people who want to strengthen their faith, I have to do it myself and I hate this. I hate it because I am scared I may misinterpret scripture or the early church fathers, so I refrain from reading scripture unless I have the proper interpretation. So its not just for the simple fact that I do too much, but there are other factors and people at fault as well. I have made my needs known to those in the clergy, and they have been ignored.
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« Reply #40 on: October 21, 2010, 02:29:44 PM »

Fr. Peter, thank you for your kind a wise advice. I agree, I am weak in prayer and at times I do try and do too much. However it is really the small things that are upsetting me. I have been trying for a long while to get the church to use English only, to no avail. I think they may have done more English for about 6 months or so, then backslid. One of the main reasons for this push is that my dad left and decided not to be baptized Orthodox because he could not understand the liturgy, and in some small way I know that he felt left out, as I also did, because it was in arabic. So I think alot of animosity stems from this, and the fact that I let people walk all over me.

Also I want you to understand, as I am sure you know where I am coming from, that I was baptized and left to fend for myself. I had to find the books and sources to help better my faith. I honestly received no spiritual help from the people at church, which I desperately need and desire. I do not mean to sound judgmental but how am I supposed to feel? There are no kind of classes set up for converts or just people who want to strengthen their faith, I have to do it myself and I hate this. I hate it because I am scared I may misinterpret scripture or the early church fathers, so I refrain from reading scripture unless I have the proper interpretation. So its not just for the simple fact that I do too much, but there are other factors and people at fault as well. I have made my needs known to those in the clergy, and they have been ignored.

Are there any OO monasteries in America? I ask because, for me at least, visiting a monastery has been a big help for spiritual life. Also, having correspondence with an experienced spiritual father is essential, whether the person is near or far away. But, I agree, even with correspondence and books, there is no substitute for frequent face-to-face spiritual converse and relationship. Also, for anyone to feel like he doesn't belong is a great burden, but for a clergyman to feel that, it is a heavy cross.

What can I say? The spiritual state of the world is bad and that of the churches is weak and influenced by worldliness. People come to faith, and sadly leave hungry. Such is the state of affairs today. I don't know what to say in response to this, except that we know Who is the purpose of our faith, and that, even if we may not have everything understood perfectly (who is perfect but Christ?), clinging to Him and His Church is essential, even the one thing needful, no matter our weakness or others' unhelpfulness.

The Holy Fathers in ancient times said frequently that the Christians at the end times will be very weak spiritually. They will not be miracle workers or great theologians. They will not be ascetics or people of great, deep prayer. But, in spite of these shortcomings, they will be greater than the saints of old times because they will cling to the faith in spite of many and great temptations. Remember the Lord said, "In your patience, ye will gain your souls" and "he who endures to the end shall be saved." The end we have to endure until is our death, which comes at the moment appointed by God, when we shall go to meet Him and give an account for our lives. We know, however, that our Judge is also our Savior, that He is biased towards us because He wills to save us. Maybe He has not given us much (faith, prayer, spiritual support, material sustenance), but He has given us enough for His purpose. To you, He has given a thirst for Him and spiritual life. You are blessed with this, to thirst for the Living God, even if your thirst cannot be quenched. It will never be quenched in this life, or even in the next. Give thanks for what God has given you. Give thanks at all times--there's so much, even though you recognize a need for more. God will supply the need in time. Keep struggling with patience. Fight against complaining and judging. Commend yourself and everyone else to God's will, for it is good.
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« Reply #41 on: October 21, 2010, 02:36:59 PM »

I sympathise with Ioannes here and I feel he has a valid point.

Ethnic churches have their reasons to remain ethnic but after a generation or two those reasons will be invalid when the new generations become part of the surrounding culture. The gospel must be spread.

Metropolitan Kallistos (then Timothy Ware) said that the strength of the Orthodox church lay in its ability to put the liturgy into the language of the country where it existed. That's patently untrue amongst the Chalcedonian churches in my country (England). My church incorporates a lot of English but some churches have the liturgy entirely in Greek or whatever. I must praise the Coptic church,however who have regular liturgies in English, seemingly inspired by some members of the congregation.

Lastly, the British Orthodox Church may be a good model but it is still miniscule. When it spreads it may be a model for others.
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« Reply #42 on: October 21, 2010, 03:10:25 PM »

I can say, boldly I might add, that as I convert I am tired of being an outsider. I am tired of making concession after concession for just for them to be comfortable in Church. I am tired of speaking and not being heard, not being taken seriously, and basically told that what I say is not true. Therefore Orthodoxy has lost another because the people cannot seem to get passed themselves and their culture, let alone their language. I was baptized and left to fend for myself. I am not asking for much.

I am done...completely.


Dear Ioannes,
I totally understand your situation, and I believe it's really hard to endure the pain that you are facing.
IMHO, The Coptic church is not into evangelizing and out reaching others. Maybe that wasn't the case back in the history, but considering that Evangelizing is forbidden in Egypt and is considered a punishable crime, this forced the church to adopt another approach which is as simple as being a witness to the Lord by actions and by being a good example of a true Christian. And this works in Egypt, yes Muslims do not convert in general, but they know that Christians are honest, they don't lie or swear, and they are generally peaceful.
So, when the church extended to the diaspora it inherited the same approach, but given the freedom in the west, this approach is moving slowly towards reaching out and evangelizing. It might be that your church has more older Copts than younger ones, but usually the young generation is more open minded and I think you can find a good place among them.
I just beg you: do not let go of your church, it's a war against the evil, and you have to fight it, do not give up, or otherwise you would give Satan a good opportunity to manipulate more issues in your faith.
I'll remember you in my prayers,
Be blessed,
George   

I honestly believe that the Coptic church in the diaspora is moving rather quickly back towards an evangelical mindset, particularly in North America. As a matter of fact, HH recently appointed His Grace Bishop Suriel as the administrator of missionary activities in North America. And, as I already mentioned, the local Coptic church is becoming rather serious about missionary efforts in the locality.
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« Reply #43 on: October 21, 2010, 03:14:19 PM »

Have you ever thought that maybe God is trying to tell you something and that maybe you should move on?  To the OCA or the Antiochian Church?

I already answered that question. The "Antiochian church" and the OCA are not part of the Orthodox Church and therefore they are not an option.
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« Reply #44 on: October 21, 2010, 03:16:30 PM »

There is nothing wrong with being an ethnic church.  This is where the Armenians work out their salavation.  You want to assimilate them and destroy what they have cherished and protected .  They take their church with them wherever they settle.  There is a difference between ethnicity & citizenship.  The Armenians lived in both Romania and Ukraine for centuries.  They preserved their church and built their own schools.  They did not assimilate to the host culture and church. This is the way the HOly Spirit has guided them.

I already said that I am not interested in totally de-Armenianizing the Armenian church. All I said was that I think they need to be willing to compromise enough to make non-Armenians comfortable to fulfill their Apostolic calling.
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« Reply #45 on: October 21, 2010, 03:20:05 PM »

Are there any OO monasteries in America?

I know only of one in Southern California:

http://www.stantonymonastery.org/
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« Reply #46 on: October 21, 2010, 04:01:00 PM »


I completely understand the whole "language" issue.

However, I also see the other side.

Using my own experience as an example - we have many new immigrants.  Mind you these people come to the Ukrainian Church because as mentioned above they are comfortable and know the language.

Converts are more than welcome.  English is peppered in between the Ukrainian.

However, these new immigrants are not only new to the U.S....they are new to Orthodoxy, as well.  Remember, during soviet Communism, God "did not exist"....and if you thought He did, you were exterminated.  Therefore, these people come with a craving to learn their ancestor's Faith!  They don't know the meanings behind the various services, nor why certain things are done. 

They DO know the customs.  Here's where you seem to be having an issue.  There should be no issue.  The customs are minute.  For example, besides the use of the Ukrainian language how would you know you were in a Ukrainian church?  Well, we have embroidered clothes draped over some icons.  Hmmm.....thinking....thinking....that's about it inside the church.  The service is the same.

Of course outside the services we serve varenyki (pierogies) and borshch, and we make pysanki (decorated eggs) for Pascha. 

But, that is beyond the Church and the services.

All converts are welcome!  They might actually enjoy our food and customs.

I for one, vote to embrace the American convert, and yet not alienate the ethnic individuals either.

Not only do they need ministering to, as well, it is their forefathers who escaped to this land where they could freely believe in God, pray to Him in their own tongue, etc.  ...and now while still alive that freedom is being yanked from them....and they are being told Ukrainian shouldn't be used...only English.

I see both sides...and yet, I pray for a compromise.  I would definitely miss the Ukrainian language in my church. 


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« Reply #47 on: October 21, 2010, 05:41:15 PM »

Liza
       I understand your point. What maybe they should do is either have liturgy on two separate days, one in Ukrainian, or whatever language the church is, and the other English. If not, then the immigrants can follow the English liturgy with a Ukrainian translation. This would actually help them integrate into OUR culture as well as help them learn English. EVERYONE needs to understand the Liturgy and I am assuming if an immigrant comes here he/she probably knows more English than americans do Ukrainian. Its not ethnic, it language.

The main thing that upsets me is that many churches do not have classes for Catechumens or those who have converted. The Ethiopian churches I have been to DO have them, even the smallest churches. Problem is they are too far to visit every week. I guess I will give it one last try, this time I will be unrelenting and vocal. I will forcefully make my case and will not take no for an answer.
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« Reply #48 on: October 21, 2010, 06:08:35 PM »

Are there any OO monasteries in America?

I know only of one in Southern California:

http://www.stantonymonastery.org/

I am aware of 2 other Coptic Orthodox Monasteries in the US.

St. Mary and St. Moses Abbey in Corpus Christi, TX:  http://abbey.suscopts.org/

St. Shenouda Monastery in Rochester, NY: http://stshenouda.rochcopts.org/

There is also the St. Mary Convent in Florida:  http://convent.suscopts.org/

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« Reply #49 on: October 22, 2010, 01:51:30 PM »

Are there any OO monasteries in America?

I know only of one in Southern California:

http://www.stantonymonastery.org/

I am aware of 2 other Coptic Orthodox Monasteries in the US.

St. Mary and St. Moses Abbey in Corpus Christi, TX:  http://abbey.suscopts.org/

St. Shenouda Monastery in Rochester, NY: http://stshenouda.rochcopts.org/

There is also the St. Mary Convent in Florida:  http://convent.suscopts.org/



Oh, cool. Thanks.  Smiley
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« Reply #50 on: October 24, 2010, 10:40:44 PM »

Fr. Peter, thank you for your kind a wise advice. I agree, I am weak in prayer and at times I do try and do too much. However it is really the small things that are upsetting me. I have been trying for a long while to get the church to use English only, to no avail. I think they may have done more English for about 6 months or so, then backslid. One of the main reasons for this push is that my dad left and decided not to be baptized Orthodox because he could not understand the liturgy, and in some small way I know that he felt left out, as I also did, because it was in Arabic. So I think alot of animosity stems from this, and the fact that I let people walk all over me.

Also I want you to understand, as I am sure you know where I am coming from, that I was baptized and left to fend for myself. I had to find the books and sources to help better my faith. I honestly received no spiritual help from the people at church, which I desperately need and desire. I do not mean to sound judgmental but how am I supposed to feel? There are no kind of classes set up for converts or just people who want to strengthen their faith, I have to do it myself and I hate this. I hate it because I am scared I may misinterpret scripture or the early church fathers, so I refrain from reading scripture unless I have the proper interpretation. So its not just for the simple fact that I do too much, but there are other factors and people at fault as well. I have made my needs known to those in the clergy, and they have been ignored.

I see a couple of problems in these two paragraphs.

First of all, let me say that I am a non-Egyptian convert to Coptic Orthodoxy, having been brought up in the Russian Church. But I became Coptic exactly because of the Coptic Culture, specifically the strong families, loyalty and dedication to the Church and the spirituality of the people. I don't understand Arabic (well, after seven years I understand some) but it doesn't bother me when it is spoken or used in the Liturgy.

First of all you say
Quote
I have been trying for a long while to get the church to use English only, to no avail.
Well that's not going to happen. The Coptic Church is officially bilingual. The Coptic language has a place of honor. Officially the Liturgy is offered in Coptic and the "language of understanding", that is the language spoken by the congregation. In actual practice that means that in the US the Liturgy is prayed in Coptic English and Arabic, the amount of Arabic being driven by the composition of the congregation. In my Church, and other Churches I've attended in the US the practice is for the Priest to vary the use of the different languages based on what he knows about the people there, and what will induce participation by the congregation. I have never been to an "all" English or "all" Arabic Liturgy, even though "all English" is advertised. Even at youth retreats, where English is the primary language, Coptic and some Arabic are used, especially in hymns. Because that's what the people expect and want.

And really, why should it be otherwise? Besides you, how many other people are willing to live without the hymns and prayers that have become part of their tradition over centuries? Perhaps your Priest, who without doubt is possessed of a much deeper knowledge of the needs of the community than you, has very good, pastoral reasons for "reverting". Did you ask him, or did you simply demand?

Likewise your statement
Quote
I was baptized and left to fend for myself.
contradicts everything I've seen. Even the smallest Churches have some sort of Sunday school, one or more Bible Studies and/or weekly meetings. Also there are often small groups who study together informally. You also have a Father of Confession who you should be visiting regularly, and who can help you with your spiritual development if you are open with him. I'm sure he can point you to the groups and meetings you need.

I also detect a feeling of cultural superiority in your comments. You want the Church to Americanize, to use English exclusively, to change it's music and general outlook. I emphatically disagree. From where I sit American culture (to the extent that exists in a non-commercial context) is the antithesis of Orthodox culture. I firmly believe America needs to become more Orthodox, not the other way around.

It sounds like the Church welcomed you with open arms. The ordained you, a newly baptized, as a Deacon. You said that many people did wonderful things for you. Yet you criticize them because they are not more like you? Perhaps you should prayerfully reflect on your relationship with God and the Church. Based on your comments you will be looking for a long time for an Orthodox Church that meets your expectations.

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« Reply #51 on: October 25, 2010, 01:03:46 AM »

Well that's not going to happen. The Coptic Church is officially bilingual. The Coptic language has a place of honor. Officially the Liturgy is offered in Coptic and the "language of understanding", that is the language spoken by the congregation. In actual practice that means that in the US the Liturgy is prayed in Coptic English and Arabic, the amount of Arabic being driven by the composition of the congregation. In my Church, and other Churches I've attended in the US the practice is for the Priest to vary the use of the different languages based on what he knows about the people there, and what will induce participation by the congregation. I have never been to an "all" English or "all" Arabic Liturgy, even though "all English" is advertised. Even at youth retreats, where English is the primary language, Coptic and some Arabic are used, especially in hymns. Because that's what the people expect and want.

And really, why should it be otherwise?

You are downright wrong about this. There already are numerous legitimately all-English congregations. Most of them are predominantly made up of converts. However, I go now to a Coptic church where the vast majority are Copts and they are seriously considering doing all-English (the Priest even said, I quote, "not one word of Coptic or Arabic") Liturgy at least not once a month, if not eventually more, for the purpose of drawing converts.

I also detect a feeling of cultural superiority in your comments. You want the Church to Americanize, to use English exclusively, to change it's music and general outlook. I emphatically disagree.

What you are saying is essentially ethno-phyletist. Language is the primary issue here. Adapting language, and even liturgical content, to serve the needs of the common populace is the Apostolic and Patristic witness. Your approach is simple innovation and Judaic regression. For the Orthodox Churches to be truly universal, they must have a willingness to serve the nation that they are amidst.
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« Reply #52 on: October 25, 2010, 01:31:57 AM »

Coptickev, I do not recall any point in my life where I was condescended to more than your previous statment. The fact that you doubt just about everything I say, especially when I complained that I was baptized and left to fend for myself, shows your ignorance and blind zeal. I said this to further demonstrate my point that the Coptic church, atleast from my perspective is unable to deal with converts. I have seen several americans come, seemingly interested, and never come back. I have seen people get baptized, and never come back, or even convert ti Islam.

What you and others dont seem to realize is that becoming Orthodox is a difficult task in itself, making it even harder by using several languages is unacceptable. YOU converted to Coptic Orthodoxy with a background in the Orthodox faith, I did not. The liturgy utterly baffles us converts. So while we are trying to figure out what is going on, they are busy switching languages. It gives us the feeling of not being welcomed, separated from the group. 1 Cor. 9:20 shows St. Paul's mentality in evangelism, to become a Jew, that I might gain the Jews, to them under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law. St. Paul did not say, when you evangelize make sure nobody understands you. So what YOU are saying contradicts the words of the great apostle St. Paul.  You go ahead an keep your stupid views which isolate converts and make them feel generally unwelcomed, and I will side with St. Paul on this one.
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« Reply #53 on: October 25, 2010, 01:38:09 AM »

You go ahead an keep your stupid views which isolate converts and make them feel generally unwelcomed, and I will side with St. Paul on this one.

Ioannes,

If you think his views lack validation, then address them factually.  Please don't use words like "stupid." 
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« Reply #54 on: October 25, 2010, 01:49:53 AM »

Chris,

I guess we have to look at the reason behind using whatever language we are using.  The main concern here is helping people understand the liturgy.  You mentioned English being used in parishes where the congregations are predominately English speaking converts.  That makes sense.  However, if the congregation is predominately Arabic speaking, an all English liturgy doesn't make sense if the purpose is to help the congregation understand the liturgy.  

I don't know the make-up of Ioannes' church in Toledo.  My guess is there is a mixture of English and Arabic speakers.  Or it could be that the majority there are most comfortable in Arabic and the one third of the liturgy that is in English is being offered to help out the minority who are native English speakers.  If either of those are the scenario, then an all English liturgy is going to leave a lot of people alienated and unable to understand.  


Ioannes,

What percentage of your parish has English as their primary language?  I'm assuming you are not the only one in your congregation who wants the liturgy to be entirely in English.  If it is a sizable number, have you thought about getting together as a group with the others and approaching your priest together?  Or perhaps the others who want the liturgy in English can approach him without you, since you feel the priest is not responsive to you.  Is that a possibility?  If there are enough people with a need for an all English liturgy with no Arabic or Coptic in it, perhaps the priest can do an all English liturgy once a month, or something.
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« Reply #55 on: October 25, 2010, 02:20:15 AM »

This is a complex issue, and I truly understand our brother Ionnes's frustration. I myself am torn. On the one hand, I would love to be able to understand the Liturgy, the homily, and all other aspects of the divine service. It would be great for me if the Liturgy was therefore in English. However, I also believe that when I entered into the Church it became incumbent upon me to adapt and conform to her rather than demanding that the Church conform to my comforts. I am moved and impressed when I see the great efforts  by my Church to teach American-born Ethiopian children their own cultural language. I think this is extremely important, and therefore I would not wish to advocate anything that would hinder these endeavors.

My personal opinion is that the homily should be given in English, but the rest of the Liturgy be conducted in Ge'ez and Amharic. Our Book of Liturgy has an English translation to help us follow along. Our Church is comprised of 99% ethnic Ethiopians, so I don't think the language of the Liturgy should be changed. However, where there are EOTC Churches which are not comprised mostly of ethnic Ethiopians, then I think it would be good to conduct the Liturgy in English.

I think the more urgent matter is to see the translation of our many books of Church Tradition into English and other languages. Ethiopian Orthodox Christians such as myself who do not know Ge'ez and Amharic are missing out on a wealth of holy wisdom and spiritual treasures because many of these books have never been translated.

That's my humble opinion on the matter, FWIW.


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« Reply #56 on: October 25, 2010, 03:00:49 AM »

You go ahead an keep your stupid views which isolate converts and make them feel generally unwelcomed, and I will side with St. Paul on this one.

Ioannes,

If you think his views lack validation, then address them factually.  Please don't use words like "stupid."  


I just quoted a verse from St. Paul that teaches us to to evangelize by becoming part of that culture, without of course tainting the heart of Orthodoxy. Therefore his view, which is not valid because it is contrary to scripture, is stupid. I did not say HE is stupid there is a difference. I am not exactly going to say "Hey your a genius for your views that dont make any sense and contradict scripture" Then that would make what I said stupid. If something is stupid, its stupid. If I insult the person by saying "your stupid" in a general sense, then yes your right.


Publicly arguing with the actions of a moderator is forbidden here.  I'm giving you a three day warning, during which you may want to take the time to calm down a bit and think of ways to more politely address those with whom you disagree.  If you have a problem with this warning, please feel free to appeal it to Fr. George.

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« Reply #57 on: October 25, 2010, 03:05:25 AM »

A language is a language. It is senseless to use languages that are dead, Ge'ez, Coptic, etc. This really should not be much of an issue and am still frustrated as to why it is. We should be more worried about preserving the faith as opposed to a language nobody uses. We should also refrain from saying the creed, or atleast the part of the creed that says "one holy catholic (UNIVERSAL) apostolic church." Simply because many of us do not believe in a universal church, one in which everyone can understand what is going on. But whatever, complaining about it here is going to do just as much as complaining to those in my church so I am officially done with this discussion as it brings more frustration than solution.
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« Reply #58 on: October 25, 2010, 03:11:21 AM »

A language is a language. It is senseless to use languages that are dead, Ge'ez, Coptic, etc. This really should not be much of an issue and am still frustrated as to why it is. We should be more worried about preserving the faith as opposed to a language nobody uses. We should also refrain from saying the creed, or atleast the part of the creed that says "one holy catholic (UNIVERSAL) apostolic church." Simply because many of us do not believe in a universal church, one in which everyone can understand what is going on. But whatever, complaining about it here is going to do just as much as complaining to those in my church so I am officially done with this discussion as it brings more frustration than solution.


I feel your frustration dear brother. Just keep expressing your concerns and work to see the changes you feel are necessary. That's all any of us can do. The Holy Spirit will guide us and preserve us, and He will use His willing and humble servants to further the Kingdom.


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« Reply #59 on: October 25, 2010, 01:40:46 PM »

Liza
       I understand your point. What maybe they should do is either have liturgy on two separate days, one in Ukrainian, or whatever language the church is, and the other English. If not, then the immigrants can follow the English liturgy with a Ukrainian translation. This would actually help them integrate into OUR culture as well as help them learn English.

A liturgy on 2 separate days?  That would never work out.  You don't seem to understand that people in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church want the liturgy in Ukrainian,  My family has been in Canada for over 100 years.  You seem to think that only recent imigrants want the liturgy in their ancestral language.
What do you mean by "OUR culture".  Speaking as a Canadian, multi-culturalism is an official policy of both our federal government and our provincial governments.  On the prairies there are government funded elementary Ukrainian-English bilingual schools.
I thought the USA gave up the idea that they could assimilate people.  People have the freedom to maintain their ancestral culture.
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« Reply #60 on: October 25, 2010, 02:03:55 PM »

The US and Canada may have a different experience, but here in the UK and increasingly throughout Europe it has been shown that multi-culturalism doesn't work.

The majority view in the UK is that if people want to come here then they must at least speak our language and enter into our culture to some extent. People would not take this to mean that other cultures should disappear, but that if you want to live in England then you should have some commitment to English society and culture.

There is a practical need for Church communities to support new immigrants because these folk also have pastoral needs, but the missionary imperative requires that Christians wherever they find themselves seek to share their Gospel in a manner which the host community can understand. This does not mean ceasing to be <ethnic> but it means finding a way to also be English, or whatever.

Whenever I visit another country I make sure I learn some of tha language so that I do not rely on others speaking my own. Whenever I have visitors from another country in my Church I make an effort to learn some of their language so that I can at least greet them and bless them in their own tongue.

England needs Orthodox people who are willing to share their faith in a manner which English people can understand and experience. To refuse to do so seems problematic to me, even while understanding the need for balance with pastoral concerns. Two liturgies seems a reasonable compromise.

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« Reply #61 on: October 25, 2010, 02:48:25 PM »

You are downright wrong about this. There already are numerous legitimately all-English congregations. Most of them are predominantly made up of converts.
Where?
However, I go now to a Coptic church where the vast majority are Copts and they are seriously considering doing all-English (the Priest even said, I quote, "not one word of Coptic or Arabic") Liturgy at least not once a month, if not eventually more, for the purpose of drawing converts.
I've heard that too. Many times. Doesn't last though, despite the good intentions of the Priests. Mostly because for those troubled by a bi-lingual Liturgy the real issue isn't language, it's adaptation to their expectations of religion. After disposing of the language issue, the converts still don't come. Why not? Well it's "too long", it's "too early" there's that fasting thing, "they don't sing my favorite hymns", and - my favorite - "it's sexist".

Let's be serious here. If the Liturgy is offered in two or three languages, the parts in each language vary from time to time and you have a text for those parts that aren't in your language, what's the problem? Finding treasure requires some labor on the part of the seeker.
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« Reply #62 on: October 25, 2010, 02:55:11 PM »

I don't see why any seeker should ordinarily have to learn another language to become Orthodox. This was not the Apostolic or Patristic model.

I know many people who have been discouraged by not being able to participate in worship but none who expect short services. Those who turn up late for liturgies are not normally converts.

It is unfair to link a desire to understand worship with a liberal agenda. This is not the case at all.
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« Reply #63 on: October 25, 2010, 04:31:53 PM »

Thank you Fr. Peter for pointing out CopticKev's ad hominim attack. I know the majority of what is being said, simply because I have been there long enough. A few of the prayers the priest prays, I do not know. I am complaining mostly on behalf of the converts, but there are many things I still do not understand about the liturgy, which pertains to having no teaching for converts about it.

I am shocked CopticKev that you would make such a rash generalization against converts as if we are some sort of non-human entity looking to destroy your church because we want to understand it in our language. You basically saying we are second class citizens in the Coptic Orthodox Church, and in a sense your right because I know that is how I feel for sure!

Orest let me point something out to you. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church did not adopt every single cultural thing from the Copts did the? Their worship service consists of sisturns, which are jewish, and drums, which are pagan. There are actually many jewish things about the EOTC. So your claim is ignorant and irrational to think that the Coptic church cant ATLEAST change the language to Enlgish and adapt a bit more to our culture or society in order to help converts feel a little more comfortable because right now it is an uphill race and I find that Copts are unbelievably stubborn. They would rather NOT evangelize and keep things the same as opposed to helping converts. This is not liberal in anyway, the Coptic church has done it before but now all of the sudden we are bad guys for wanting to be part of the church.

I tell you what if orest and coptickev are what copts are truly like, I honestly do not want to be part of this church anymore. Disgusting attitudes.
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« Reply #64 on: October 26, 2010, 12:47:09 AM »

Thank you Fr. Peter for pointing out CopticKev's ad hominim attack. I know the majority of what is being said, simply because I have been there long enough. A few of the prayers the priest prays, I do not know. I am complaining mostly on behalf of the converts, but there are many things I still do not understand about the liturgy, which pertains to having no teaching for converts about it.

I am shocked CopticKev that you would make such a rash generalization against converts as if we are some sort of non-human entity looking to destroy your church because we want to understand it in our language. You basically saying we are second class citizens in the Coptic Orthodox Church, and in a sense your right because I know that is how I feel for sure!

Orest let me point something out to you. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church did not adopt every single cultural thing from the Copts did the? Their worship service consists of sisturns, which are jewish, and drums, which are pagan. There are actually many jewish things about the EOTC. So your claim is ignorant and irrational to think that the Coptic church cant ATLEAST change the language to Enlgish and adapt a bit more to our culture or society in order to help converts feel a little more comfortable because right now it is an uphill race and I find that Copts are unbelievably stubborn. They would rather NOT evangelize and keep things the same as opposed to helping converts. This is not liberal in anyway, the Coptic church has done it before but now all of the sudden we are bad guys for wanting to be part of the church.

I tell you what if orest and coptickev are what copts are truly like, I honestly do not want to be part of this church anymore. Disgusting attitudes.
Orest isn't a Copt.
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« Reply #65 on: October 26, 2010, 02:05:44 AM »

Before I attempt to reply, Ioannes, could you tell us the make up of your church? I know it won't be exact but could you estimate how many are converts, first generation-born, immigrants, bi-lingual (Arabic + English), or only speak Arabic?

If I could use my church for an example:
I'm a first generation American born of immigrant Copts here in South Jersey. My Arabic isn't the best, but I can hold some conversations and understand large portions of the liturgy. Our liturgies utilize all three languages (4 if you count the Greek hymns). For the doxologies, depending on who's present during that service, we'll do half in Coptic, and half in the majority language typically (usually English on Sundays, Arabic during Wed/Fri when it's usually the elderly who go to those). The liturgical prayers are mostly said in either English or Arabic, however, a large portion of hymns are said in Coptic as it has never been sung in Arabic, not even in Egypt. These hymns are primarily the ones which precede, are in-between, and which follow after the Daily Readings. We always say the Creed in English on Sundays, say Our Father in English, and sing half the Communion hymns in English (exception wed/fri for all this), though depending on if there is a special occasion, we may add in special Arabic/Coptic hymns that the congregation knows well. Sometimes our priests will start praying in Coptic, but it becomes very easy to follow along overtime, and the melodies are just beautiful, nothing one could hear in Arabic or English.

Our congregation is only around 15 years old, and our actual church was built just 3 years ago, with a large portion of our families coming after this, so it's fair to say we are a young church. The majority of the elders in our church are from Egypt, the first generation American being between the ages of 1-30 typically. No real second generations yet. Thus we cannot be an English only church as would alienate half the church, essentially the founders of it. We do however hold all English liturgies one Saturday per month, which is primarily for the youth.

Language does not seem to be a large issue here as we utilize a PowerPoint system which has all three languages next to each other, so one may follow the service in their own language. Sometimes people will complain when the chanters (of which I'm a part of) start singing a hymn in a different language than we're accustomed (starting to put more Coptic in the liturgy) but after a few weeks they pick it up and all is fine for the most part. While I can't talk for everyone else, I'm comfortable with following the liturgy in all three languages. While I may not understand everything the priest may say, so long as I know the part he's in, I can either follow along in the liturgy book, recall from my mind, or look at the PPT screen.

I can understand your issue with this though Ioannes. It must be hard to be a convert when the liturgy switches to a different language. It's can be somewhat difficult for me and I can understand all three languages, but it does get better overtime, that I can promise, but it does take a long time. I cannot judge your situation though as I do not know the makeup of your church. If it's largely immigrant, then I can understand why it's done primarily in Arabic and Coptic, as this is what is comfortable for all of them. If it's otherwise, then I'd need more facts to say anything.

The one thing we have to consider about the Coptic church here and throughout the entire diaspora is that the majority of the people have come fleeing the persecution in Egypt. I do not have to go into detail about the persecution as I'm sure most people know about that, but that's a thing to consider, as the people have left their homes there to make new lives here for themselves and their children. The most important aspect of a Coptic family is the church, followed by their relatives, and these go hand in hand. You will find generations of families and extended families attending the same church, living in the same state, same city, even the same land really. The Copts came to America bringing their church and families with them as these were the only thing they had to rely on. They have slowly opened up, introduced English into the liturgies, and have begun active ministries in their areas. Slowly.

The church here is young and is still learning, is still gathering resources, is still preparing on how to do these things. It cannot be rushed. The East Coast has seen a ton of these ministries begin here, primarily by college and high school aged youth, as these are the only ones that speak the language, understand the culture, and can comfortably serve the diverse community around them. The churches in North Jersey have programs such as FTFT (First Timothy Four Twelve), JC4JC (Jesus Christ 4 Jersey City), etc. The Washington DC church has the Mission Life Center (http://www.missionlifecenter.org/) which carries out missions in Africa, New Orleans, Rochester NY, and numerous other places, as well as operating a medical clinic and a private elementary school to name a few at the least. My church's and the surrounding churches' youth in the Greater Philadelphia region began a JC4Philly program last Saturday which aims to serve the homeless in Center City Philadelphia at least every other weekend to start with food, clothes, bibles, and other essentials. It's a small start, but it's a start which I'm stressing. Most churches do not have programs like this yet, but it's getting there. The Southern Diocese is creating diocesan programs, as is the LA diocese.

Patience is really needed as really, this is completely different than Egypt. In Egypt, we could not actively preach as it is illegal under Sharia Law and those proselytizing are arrested or killed there. Overtime you could say preaching in the Coptic Church there came to an unofficial halt as it just wasn't possible publicly. Did the church provide services to the people? Of course it did, but it did so quietly and under the watchful eye of the government. Here there are so many opportunities, yet the church does not know how to properly use them yet. It's getting there though with all the aforementioned programs, but again I have to stress, it's new and different and it's really uncommon and uncomfortable to many. In Egypt, you dealt with primarily Egyptian Copts and Egyptian Muslims, with some Egyptian Catholics, Egyptian Greek-Orthodox, and Egyptian Protestants. Here, we have to deal with over 35,000 Christian denominations (as the Census recently estimated it), as well as nearly every religion known in the world including atheists. It's a culture shock. A huge one. What the church did there does not work necessarily here, and thus it's experimenting with new things. It's an experiment. It cannot rush into this. It cannot force all churches to use more English as families are still fleeing Egypt to here in large numbers, and they need the support. If the world has given up on them, the church will not. It has to attend to its Egyptian sons and daughters in distress. That does not mean it will ignore the English speaking sons and daughters. It will do its best to serve both, but it's not perfect. All we can do is pray for the church, pray for our clergy, and pray for our servants, so that the church can grow, prosper in all it does, and serve both the Egyptian and English-speaking sons and daughters.

I apologize for the excessively long post. Guess I just had a lot to say haha considering everything I've read about this on here and on tasbeha. I hope to hear a response from you Ioannes.
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« Reply #66 on: October 26, 2010, 09:51:12 AM »

David, It doesnt really matter. Not a single persons seems to understand the very basic concept of using ONE language. I am one of 2 converts that still attend church, there are a few that have left for other religions. I am not really going actually so I guess I dont count. I would go to an EO church but based on their actions here and the fact that they are heretics, I would never debase myself by stooping that low and going to one of their churches.

So who cares what I think, I am just some dumb american.
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« Reply #67 on: October 26, 2010, 10:27:10 AM »

If we don't humble ourselves, no amount of advice or accommodation will help us.
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« Reply #68 on: October 26, 2010, 10:33:36 AM »

If we don't humble ourselves, no amount of advice or accommodation will help us.

You know, I was thinking the same thing.

You won't do well, Ioannes, if you're being ruled by your passions.
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« Reply #69 on: October 26, 2010, 11:04:22 AM »

If we don't humble ourselves, no amount of advice or accommodation will help us.

You know, I was thinking the same thing.

You won't do well, Ioannes, if you're being ruled by your passions.

Sorry for having a passion for converts, for understanding the liturgy, for helping. I now am officially leaving the church. If there is no support on the simple issue of using english then it is obvious that I, and other converts, are not wanted in the COC. It is like talking to a brick wall and quite frankly I am tired of it.
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« Reply #70 on: October 26, 2010, 11:21:44 AM »

If we don't humble ourselves, no amount of advice or accommodation will help us.

You know, I was thinking the same thing.

You won't do well, Ioannes, if you're being ruled by your passions.

Sorry for having a passion for converts, for understanding the liturgy, for helping. I now am officially leaving the church. If there is no support on the simple issue of using english then it is obvious that I, and other converts, are not wanted in the COC. It is like talking to a brick wall and quite frankly I am tired of it.

OK, man. That's not what we're saying.

I understand your frustration and anger over this. I really do. But the more you dwell on this, the angrier you get. Just look at you last few pages of posts. It went from annoyed to leaving the church. REALLY? Why does the church preach that anger is a passion and passions lead you away from God? You got so angry, you literally are walking away.

Now, I'm not saying you're not right. Nor am I telling you to be quiet about this (the squeaky door gets the oil). I'm saying there is a better way to handle it, and when you allow yourself to get all spun up, you're not going to accomplish anything.

God bless.
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« Reply #71 on: October 26, 2010, 12:02:08 PM »

Ioannes do they not use English at all? Or is it just sporadic? You said you're one of a few converts. If that is the case, is it really fair to ask them to drop Arabic, the language in which the majority of church prays in, to use a language that only a few pray in? I wouldn't get frustrated and leave as this is just not worth it. Many years ago my church was primarily Arabic and Coptic, not much English. It took long to transition as my elder priest is an immigrant and his English is not the greatest, but it happpned overtime. It really helps to know the make up of your church. Is it all immigrants? Is your priest from Egypt and elderly? What do they all speak?
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« Reply #72 on: October 26, 2010, 12:12:13 PM »

Ioannes do they not use English at all? Or is it just sporadic? You said you're one of a few converts. If that is the case, is it really fair to ask them to drop Arabic, the language in which the majority of church prays in, to use a language that only a few pray in? I wouldn't get frustrated and leave as this is just not worth it. Many years ago my church was primarily Arabic and Coptic, not much English. It took long to transition as my elder priest is an immigrant and his English is not the greatest, but it happpned overtime. It really helps to know the make up of your church. Is it all immigrants? Is your priest from Egypt and elderly? What do they all speak?

What does it matter?
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« Reply #73 on: October 26, 2010, 01:14:16 PM »

Ioannes,

I think it does matter because if the priest is trying to care for the pastoral needs of a large immigrant community then he cannot be expected to change everything to deal with the pastoral needs of a small convert community. I say this as someone who is committed to the use of the English language in mission in the UK.

This does not mean that nothing could be expected, but that it is necessary (without fully knowing your circumstances) to expect only what is reasonable. It might (and I am not saying this would be possible), but it might be possible to organise a Saturday liturgy with English perhaps. I know here in the UK and elsewhere the 'Liturgy of the Word' has been used in English on some Saturdays as an evangelistic opportunity. If there was an English sermon as well which explained some aspect of the Faith then this might be an opportunity to gather more enquirers and firm up a group.

I would hope that if you can show that you are part of the solution and not part of the problem then this will allow your priest to feel better able to extend his ministry into an area he may not feel comfortable, or he may not feel there is enough support.

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« Reply #74 on: October 26, 2010, 02:05:15 PM »

Greetings,

I think I understand Ioannes' frustration.  I was baptized 10 years ago and I get credit for "sticking around." However, very few people in the Church that I speak with seem to care about the difficulties that a convert might face.  The convert who leaves is always blamed for not really caring about God and His Church.  While members of the congregation or priesthood that I have spoken with do not consider their actions or what they could have done differently to help this person in their walk towards Christ.

Sometimes, it feels like I am alone on an island and I have to fight for anything.  It seems like I am stuck proving myself over and over again.  The tip of the iceberg is the language issue.

And for those who say they have no problem following along in the book or the PowerPoint presentation no matter the language, I truly commend you.  While I follow along I find that a different experience from praying the Liturgy.  I once attended a convention where His Grace Bishop Angaelos led Vespers in English and I sat their with tears in my eyes.  I, of course, had been reading the book and following along as my Church usually did most things in Arabic with a little English here and there.  However, my experience hearing everything in a language where I did not have to think or keep track of where I am on the page was one of the most moving experiences I have had in the last 10 years.  I was able to feel the prayers and it was incredible.

I am not advocating English only and I agree that Arabic should be present to some extent for people who migrated to this country.  However, I generally feel like I am a second class citizen in the Church. 

I have a good relationship with my priest and many of the deacons in my Church.  However, when I raise my concerns I am for the most part ignored.  I often pray for us because it seems like, we as a Church, are failing to follow Jesus' command (Matthew 28:19).

As Fr Peter pointed out, learning a language was not the Biblical model for evangelizing, but it seems to be a requirement today.  I have lost count of the number of times that decisions are based on being "Coptic" rather than "Orthodox Christian."  I do not understand why people make it so hard and create all of these artificial man-made barriers to moving closer to Christ.

Unlike Ioannes, I am not considering even leaving the Church.  However, I have had those thoughts in the past, rising from similar frustrations as described above.

I just keep reminding myself that I am coming to try to grow closer to Christ and I do my best to focus on Him and not the people who profess to follow Him, but often act like I am an after thought.

I apologize for going on.

Please forgive me if I have offended anyone.

Eric

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« Reply #75 on: October 26, 2010, 02:35:39 PM »

We've got to build with the material we have.

We must have one thing clear: some locals want to get immersed in the immigrant cultures. Some immigrants would like to help build a local church. Both models of church are valid and useful.

So, those who would like to see a local Church have to get together and build. That is what the immigrants did. Many of them feel flabbergasted that a newcomer arrives at the institution they built with much sweat and toil and suggests they should change it. "Build your own" is probably the feeling behind it, and you know something? They are right. Not "build your own" as in create a new denomination, but if we know so well how a community should act or behave we should try to start one.

Maybe Ionnes you should study a way of planting an English-speaking community with the blessing of your priest and hierarchs. Not breaking up with anyone, not offending anyone, cultivating gratitude for the gift of faith they brought from lands so far, but put yourself in the fire line, risk as they risked, sacrifice as they sacrificed, to have a local community. Try to find some like-minded people, maybe even among the immigrants, form a prayer group, start looking for an area to build, plan financially how this new community will sustain itself, pay the priest and so forth.

Sometimes when God makes the place where we are unbearable it is because we didn't get His previous more subtle hints that He wants us to go on a journey, on a quest, elsewhere.
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« Reply #76 on: October 26, 2010, 02:41:51 PM »

Good suggestions Fabio.

Ioannes, is there the possibility of being blessed to lead a prayer group using the Agpeya on a regular basis? That would form a liturgical foundation for a group that was also connected to the local congregation. If the group was stable and of reaosnable numbers it might be possible to ask your priest to pray some of the evening prayers entirely in English on occasion.

My own congregation started with a few of us praying together regularly.

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« Reply #77 on: October 26, 2010, 07:53:36 PM »

Greetings,

I think I understand Ioannes' frustration.  I was baptized 10 years ago and I get credit for "sticking around." However, very few people in the Church that I speak with seem to care about the difficulties that a convert might face.  The convert who leaves is always blamed for not really caring about God and His Church.  While members of the congregation or priesthood that I have spoken with do not consider their actions or what they could have done differently to help this person in their walk towards Christ.

Sometimes, it feels like I am alone on an island and I have to fight for anything.  It seems like I am stuck proving myself over and over again.  The tip of the iceberg is the language issue.

And for those who say they have no problem following along in the book or the PowerPoint presentation no matter the language, I truly commend you.  While I follow along I find that a different experience from praying the Liturgy.  I once attended a convention where His Grace Bishop Angaelos led Vespers in English and I sat their with tears in my eyes.  I, of course, had been reading the book and following along as my Church usually did most things in Arabic with a little English here and there.  However, my experience hearing everything in a language where I did not have to think or keep track of where I am on the page was one of the most moving experiences I have had in the last 10 years.  I was able to feel the prayers and it was incredible.

I am not advocating English only and I agree that Arabic should be present to some extent for people who migrated to this country.  However, I generally feel like I am a second class citizen in the Church. 

I have a good relationship with my priest and many of the deacons in my Church.  However, when I raise my concerns I am for the most part ignored.  I often pray for us because it seems like, we as a Church, are failing to follow Jesus' command (Matthew 28:19).

As Fr Peter pointed out, learning a language was not the Biblical model for evangelizing, but it seems to be a requirement today.  I have lost count of the number of times that decisions are based on being "Coptic" rather than "Orthodox Christian."  I do not understand why people make it so hard and create all of these artificial man-made barriers to moving closer to Christ.

Unlike Ioannes, I am not considering even leaving the Church.  However, I have had those thoughts in the past, rising from similar frustrations as described above.

I just keep reminding myself that I am coming to try to grow closer to Christ and I do my best to focus on Him and not the people who profess to follow Him, but often act like I am an after thought.

I apologize for going on.

Please forgive me if I have offended anyone.

Eric




Very good and insightful comments. Your words express a sincere and legitimate concern while demonstrating a humble and Christian attitude. We can all learn from this. Thank you for sharing.


Selam
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"Those who have nothing constructive to offer are masters at belittling the offerings of others." +GMK+
Fr.Kyrillos
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« Reply #78 on: October 26, 2010, 08:35:07 PM »

Greetings,

I think I understand Ioannes' frustration.  I was baptized 10 years ago and I get credit for "sticking around." However, very few people in the Church that I speak with seem to care about the difficulties that a convert might face.  The convert who leaves is always blamed for not really caring about God and His Church.  While members of the congregation or priesthood that I have spoken with do not consider their actions or what they could have done differently to help this person in their walk towards Christ.

Sometimes, it feels like I am alone on an island and I have to fight for anything.  It seems like I am stuck proving myself over and over again.  The tip of the iceberg is the language issue.

And for those who say they have no problem following along in the book or the PowerPoint presentation no matter the language, I truly commend you.  While I follow along I find that a different experience from praying the Liturgy.  I once attended a convention where His Grace Bishop Angaelos led Vespers in English and I sat their with tears in my eyes.  I, of course, had been reading the book and following along as my Church usually did most things in Arabic with a little English here and there.  However, my experience hearing everything in a language where I did not have to think or keep track of where I am on the page was one of the most moving experiences I have had in the last 10 years.  I was able to feel the prayers and it was incredible.

I am not advocating English only and I agree that Arabic should be present to some extent for people who migrated to this country.  However, I generally feel like I am a second class citizen in the Church.  

I have a good relationship with my priest and many of the deacons in my Church.  However, when I raise my concerns I am for the most part ignored.  I often pray for us because it seems like, we as a Church, are failing to follow Jesus' command (Matthew 28:19).

As Fr Peter pointed out, learning a language was not the Biblical model for evangelizing, but it seems to be a requirement today.  I have lost count of the number of times that decisions are based on being "Coptic" rather than "Orthodox Christian."  I do not understand why people make it so hard and create all of these artificial man-made barriers to moving closer to Christ.

Unlike Ioannes, I am not considering even leaving the Church.  However, I have had those thoughts in the past, rising from similar frustrations as described above.

I just keep reminding myself that I am coming to try to grow closer to Christ and I do my best to focus on Him and not the people who profess to follow Him, but often act like I am an after thought.

I apologize for going on.

Please forgive me if I have offended anyone.

Eric



Dear Eric,

God bless you.

I am one of several priests now in the Diocese of Los Angeles who were either born here in the US or came at a very young age (I came when I was 6 months old) and do not speak Arabic. Sure, I can get by talking to someone who only speaks Arabic, but I do not pray any part of the liturgy in Arabic and I have refused to learn! So when I pray, it is mostly English with some Coptic, and this is the case for probably 6-7 other priests in our Diocese.

Be patient...the situation in America/Canada/Europe/Australia will change as more and more priests are ordained who were raised in non-Arabic speaking countries.  We still have to deal with the issue and reality of immigration so I suspect that at some point the Coptic church will establish all-English parishes in every area alongside parishes with immigrant or bilingual clergy.  I realize that this doesn't help someone who currently doesn't have that option but I think we need to have hope!

Believe me, as one who was born a Copt, I have felt that loneliness and still do at times even as a priest when I feel I am somehow not fully participating or accepted in some aspect of church life because of language or culture. However, for me the Coptic tradition and richness of our faith and rites are worth it.  

I very much like this quote and I hope it brings some consolation:

Quote
“Since abandonment is part of the life of the Lord, it is indispensable for us to pass through it, so that we may come to know every step of the Lord’s Way, and attain to perfect knowledge of His Person. If we do not go through abandonment, we cannot know Christ fully.” (Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou)

In Christ,
Fr. Kyrillos
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