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Author Topic: Is this an American thing?  (Read 4219 times) Average Rating: 0
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mike
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« on: January 27, 2011, 04:09:16 PM »

One of the things I cannot understand is the main puprose that daunts potential converts to Orthodoxy. Surprisingly, after having read many threads in the Convert Issues, it's neither venerating icons nor praying to Saints. Many potential converts seem to expect that when they visit a Church for the first time they will be welcomed with an unrolled red carpet, champagne and a big welcoming party and they are disappointed when they are not. Simple 'hello' does not satisfy them.

Is this an American thing? Are you welcomed with honors when enterring a shop or a post office? Do you need to be treated with such a high attention?

I am sorry if this post hurts anyones feelings but I need to know this.

« Last Edit: January 27, 2011, 04:18:08 PM by Michał Kalina » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2011, 04:11:53 PM »

I haven't experienced (or read) what you're talking about, so I can't comment Smiley
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« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2011, 04:15:47 PM »

I could post some links to threads from the Convert Issues but I don't want to offend fellow posters.
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« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2011, 04:16:44 PM »

Many Protestant churches "greet" new comers in this way. Pamphlets will be shoved into their hands, they will be asked to fill out background cards, maybe ushered into a special seating area for newcomers or called up to the stage... er... I mean pulpit for some special recognition.

As to "are you welcomed with honors when entering a shop or post office?" Actually... some shops in the United States appoint "greeter" employees to greet people at the door to their shops. It makes us feel special and wanted, I suppose.  Wink

A liturgical church like the Orthodox Church requires immersion and experience for one to understand and participate. A trend in America is to "coddle" people through anything of sufficient complexity because, on average, we don't like being embarrassed or feeling out of place! So new-comers want that guiding tour. I remember I was certainly glad when someone told me where I could stand during my first Orthodox church visit.
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« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2011, 04:18:31 PM »

I sometimes think it is an American thing.  I've been to both kinds of churches, where people were overly friendly and people didn't act like I was there.  I honestly do not understand the "Well, the people at this church didn't come up to me and say hello and ask about me so they suck!" attitude.  
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« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2011, 04:19:43 PM »

One of the things I cannot understand is the main puprose that daunts potential converts to Orthodoxy. Surprisingly, after having read many threads in the Convert Issues, it's neither venerating icons nor praying to Saints. Many potential converts seem to expect that when they visit a Church for the first time they will be welcome with an unrolled red carpet, champagne and a big welcoming party and they are disappointed when they are not. Simple 'hello' does not satisfy them.

Is this an American thing? Are you welcomed with honors when enterring a shop or a post office? Do you need to be treated with such a high attention?

I am sorry if this post hurts anyones feelings but I need to know this.



From what I have seen, this is common in America.  Being a German by birth, I find the situation about like you do.  I come to Church to pray and worship, not to socialize.  Americans tend to be more gregarious than others.
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« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2011, 04:29:06 PM »

Wow! There are churches that pass out champagne? Maybe in they're in the OCA.

I think it's something expected by any person walking into a church for the first time whether in America or even Russia, that they not be treated as a potential threat or evil foreign influence. Seriously, however, a real danger for a parish is that it will cease to grow--and then it slowly dies. A real danger for a parish is that it becomes simply a nice social club, where everyone knows everyone else and is fine just socializing with friends, family, and acquaintances. When a new person comes to a church (Orthodox or not--and anywhere in the world), he is potentially entering a completely unfamiliar social group, to say nothing of an unfamiliar religious environment. If he is a seeker, as opposed to just a visitor, he is thinking not just of having a good one-time experience but finding a spiritual home, of being able to have what the people worshiping in that parish have--and not just the faith, but the relationships. Many times, visitors/seekers are single, other times they could be a married couple just moving to the area. It is just good practice to be welcoming, as a fulfillment of the Lord's commandment, "I was a stranger, and you welcomed Me," which, in reality, can go much beyond saying hello, because strangers can say hello to each other on the street and remain strangers. The goal of welcoming people to church, I think, is to make it so the person is no longer a stranger. Too often this burden is unfairly placed on the person coming in, while the responsibility of the community is neglected. Parishes ought to show hospitality. Hospitality is a virtue and a responsibility. "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers," St. Paul writes in Hebrews, "because thereby some have entertained angels unawares." Hospitality requires sacrificial love, like the love the Righteous Lot showed to the angels that visited him, even to the point of offering up his daughters to the Sodomite mob to keep the strangers he had received safe. I think people are reasonable to expect hospitality, especially from Christians. Sadly, such a virtue is diminishing in the world.
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« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2011, 04:36:36 PM »

Let me add my two cents. As a naturalized US citizen, I too was perplexed by the general friendliness of the Americans, particularly in the South. Indeed, Charleston, South Carolina has been repeatedly selected by international travelers as the most polite city in the world. I can also vouch that the folks who live in the country and the suburbs are generally much friendlier than the city dwellers. Also generally speaking, Southerners tend to be more outgoing and welcoming that the Northerners. In any case, the norm here is being friendly to all, informal with most all, and polite as much as possible. A word of caution: sometimes the facade does not match the interior.
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« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2011, 04:57:16 PM »

I sometimes think it is an American thing.  I've been to both kinds of churches, where people were overly friendly and people didn't act like I was there.  I honestly do not understand the "Well, the people at this church didn't come up to me and say hello and ask about me so they suck!" attitude.  

ditto And sometimes we Yanks, at least this one, has trouble getting the nuances from non-Americans or I have trouble understanding the point of view from others until I give it a lot of thought and remember history, geography etc....have different influences on opinion in other parts of the world. We all have to keep an open mind and a kind heart.
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« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2011, 05:05:26 PM »

One of the things I cannot understand is the main puprose that daunts potential converts to Orthodoxy. Surprisingly, after having read many threads in the Convert Issues, it's neither venerating icons nor praying to Saints. Many potential converts seem to expect that when they visit a Church for the first time they will be welcomed with an unrolled red carpet, champagne and a big welcoming party and they are disappointed when they are not. Simple 'hello' does not satisfy them.

Is this an American thing? Are you welcomed with honors when enterring a shop or a post office? Do you need to be treated with such a high attention?

I am sorry if this post hurts anyones feelings but I need to know this.



ISTM it's related to the idea of the "death of the common man", and the fact that most Westerners today, and especially in America, that most consumerist of consumerist nations, believe themselves to be (at least subconsciously), and are continuously shaped by media, etc., to believe themselves to be little kings or deities. Couple such delusions of grandeur with a perhaps paradoxically concomitant inner self-loathing, likely caused by the longstanding spiritual vacuity of the West, and you get a really strong desire to be "affirmed", "welcomed", and generally coddled.
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« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2011, 05:14:04 PM »

One of the things I cannot understand is the main puprose that daunts potential converts to Orthodoxy. Surprisingly, after having read many threads in the Convert Issues, it's neither venerating icons nor praying to Saints. Many potential converts seem to expect that when they visit a Church for the first time they will be welcomed with an unrolled red carpet, champagne and a big welcoming party and they are disappointed when they are not. Simple 'hello' does not satisfy them.

Is this an American thing? Are you welcomed with honors when enterring a shop or a post office? Do you need to be treated with such a high attention?

I am sorry if this post hurts anyones feelings but I need to know this.



ISTM it's related to the idea of the "death of the common man", and the fact that most Westerners today, and especially in America, that most consumerist of consumerist nations, believe themselves to be (at least subconsciously), and are continuously shaped by media, etc., to believe themselves to be little kings or deities. Couple such delusions of grandeur with a perhaps paradoxically concomitant inner self-loathing, likely caused by the longstanding spiritual vacuity of the West, and you get a really strong desire to be "affirmed", "welcomed", and generally coddled.

....not to mention the Evangelicals' triumphalist co-option of 'exceptionalism.'
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« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2011, 06:12:54 PM »

We all have to keep an open mind and a kind heart.
Absolutely! When I was searching out Orthodoxy I attended many different parishes. I can remember one issue that was happening in one of the parishes that actually made me break down and weep during Liturgy. But for those truly seeking, it won't matter. I remember many long nights searching the Scriptures, and Church history, crying out to God to show me the way I should go. I am not saying converts aren't looking for truth. I think though, that many potential converts dont really take it very seriously. And yes, I do think it is an American thing. We LOVE our pride.
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« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2011, 06:16:33 PM »

I think you have to understand the psyche of the American public. The fact is, as a whole, we're very disconnected. Thus, when it comes to things like church, we either subconsciously or consciously hold them to a higher standard. You have to figure, for many evangelical Protestants considering the leap over to Orthodoxy, they're often coming from "mega-churches" or churches with a mega-church mentality. That means they're disconnected from the church, so they're longing for a community. At least, I know this describes many of my friends and myself.

That being said, every time I've visited an Orthodox church I haven't had a moment to myself. The first two times I went I did go with a friend who was Orthodox, so that helped. But when I moved and began attending a church where I literally knew no one, within 2 minutes an older gentleman was introducing himself to me, having me sit with him, and then explaining the service every step of the way. Afterwards at lunch I was treated as if I had gone there for years.

So out of the three different Orthodox churches I've visited, I've felt more welcomed at them than anywhere else. And admittedly this is what has drawn me to Orthodoxy the most, because growing up in a society that values individuality and autonomy, I have a longing for community.
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« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2011, 06:34:54 PM »

I sometimes think it is an American thing.  

 I agree, I absolutely see this as an American phenom.  I don't have any studies to back up my assertions, but I would say this attitude stems from the American business "Best practices" policy where in American businesses, the customer is considered (at least on paper) to always be correct ergo, the customer is to be acknowledged immediately upon entering a business with a friendly greeting of some sort.  I believe that because American Protestantism is so tied to American capitalism (see "Protestant Work Ethic") that the attitudes of the latter carries over into the former.  I concur that I'm perhaps being over simplistic, but overall I think I'm on to something.  Wink
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« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2011, 06:46:34 PM »

The common path of conversion, especially for those of us who are younger, is to read ourselves into the Church. The first step isn't showing up at Church and discovering Orthodoxy through liturgy, or one-one-one conversations with a priest. That comes later, for better or worse. It starts, instead, with books and more often than not, the Internet (again, for better or worse). So when someone comes on a message board and discusses everything they have fallen in love with about Orthodoxy, but that "one thing" that holds them back is the people, well, it's not because they expect to be treated like the most amazing person to set foot inside the building or the best thing to happen to the parish in months, if not years. Rather, they see and feel a disconnect between what they read about, what they expected, what they were hoping to find, and the apparent coldness of the parish.

This was not my experience, mind you, but I've had several correspondences with people where this was an issue they ran into. Unfortunately, it's more common than some might like to believe.

What happens is, everything they read about stirs their heart, and they feel like they've finally found exactly what they were looking for, and they can only assume that those who are actually Orthodox feel this way themselves, so they go in expecting to find people who are filled with the love of God and the joy of being Orthodox. I know of one person who was so excited to attend Liturgy for the first time that they couldn't sleep the night before! "Finally, I'll be around people who feel the same way I do about being Orthodox!" And instead they found bored people who didn't smile at them and could really not care one way or another if this "visitor" wants to come back ever again.

This issue isn't, "I'm new, so flip out when you see me!" It's, "Whoa, if these people have what I thought they had, why are they this way? Is this what I'm going to be like if I convert?"

This might not be the case for everyone, and perhaps those who didn't feel welcome at a parish had other reasons for feeling that way, but I've met several people for whom this was the case and to be honest, as a convert, I can understand where they're coming from.  Blame it on American exceptionalism all you want, but it's probably not the case...
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« Reply #15 on: January 27, 2011, 07:27:48 PM »

Nothing wrong to be hospitable, but in my rather short experience over here, I saw hospitality expressed only towards certain categories of people (those with potential economic and social), while others were ignored, even if they crossed the threshold of the church (homeless but not only).
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« Reply #16 on: January 27, 2011, 07:40:33 PM »

We are a self-centered culture and I don't mean that as a judgment.  It is what it is, I suppose.  We are told our whole lives that we are exceptional individuals and we can and be anything we desire.  So as an American convert I was particularly surprised to learn that I wasn't nearly as important as I thought I was.  One of the first times I met with my priest when I was exploring Orthodoxy he asked me if I was a seminary student and I said, "No I'm not, but thank you."  By the look on his face it was clear that his question was NOT a compliment.  The Church provides a very clear mirror...
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« Reply #17 on: January 27, 2011, 07:43:41 PM »

The common path of conversion, especially for those of us who are younger, is to read ourselves into the Church. The first step isn't showing up at Church and discovering Orthodoxy through liturgy, or one-one-one conversations with a priest. That comes later, for better or worse. It starts, instead, with books and more often than not, the Internet (again, for better or worse). So when someone comes on a message board and discusses everything they have fallen in love with about Orthodoxy, but that "one thing" that holds them back is the people, well, it's not because they expect to be treated like the most amazing person to set foot inside the building or the best thing to happen to the parish in months, if not years. Rather, they see and feel a disconnect between what they read about, what they expected, what they were hoping to find, and the apparent coldness of the parish.

This was not my experience, mind you, but I've had several correspondences with people where this was an issue they ran into. Unfortunately, it's more common than some might like to believe.

What happens is, everything they read about stirs their heart, and they feel like they've finally found exactly what they were looking for, and they can only assume that those who are actually Orthodox feel this way themselves, so they go in expecting to find people who are filled with the love of God and the joy of being Orthodox. I know of one person who was so excited to attend Liturgy for the first time that they couldn't sleep the night before! "Finally, I'll be around people who feel the same way I do about being Orthodox!" And instead they found bored people who didn't smile at them and could really not care one way or another if this "visitor" wants to come back ever again.

This issue isn't, "I'm new, so flip out when you see me!" It's, "Whoa, if these people have what I thought they had, why are they this way? Is this what I'm going to be like if I convert?"

This might not be the case for everyone, and perhaps those who didn't feel welcome at a parish had other reasons for feeling that way, but I've met several people for whom this was the case and to be honest, as a convert, I can understand where they're coming from.  Blame it on American exceptionalism all you want, but it's probably not the case...

Thoughtful and insightful post.  Thank you.
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« Reply #18 on: January 28, 2011, 08:20:14 AM »

I understand the need of company and hospitality but I personally feel embarrassed when I'm being assaulted by many people unknown to me with enormously big smiles on their faces that want to socialise with me. I prefer to make new friends with a few people on the same time.

I suppose the lack of hospitality attacks in the ethnic Parishes is caused by the fact that many Old Country cradles think the same as me. They do not rush to greet the newcomer no because they don't want to welcome him but because they don't want to make him embarrassed.
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« Reply #19 on: January 28, 2011, 08:35:52 AM »

We all have to keep an open mind and a kind heart.
Absolutely! When I was searching out Orthodoxy I attended many different parishes. I can remember one issue that was happening in one of the parishes that actually made me break down and weep during Liturgy. But for those truly seeking, it won't matter. I remember many long nights searching the Scriptures, and Church history, crying out to God to show me the way I should go. I am not saying converts aren't looking for truth. I think though, that many potential converts dont really take it very seriously. And yes, I do think it is an American thing. We LOVE our pride.

It took me 2 tries before I entered the Orthodox church.  First back in 2000.  I don't remember specifically having trouble with unfriendliness - it really wasn't the guiding issue that kept me from becoming Orthodox.  However, when I started up again in '05 I remember clearly thinking "I don't care how they treat me, I've just got to go because I *know* it's the truth."   I was going alone and it was a bit daunting to be out there without my husband and kids, so I had to give myself a little pep-talk most weeks before going to church. Yes, there were a few bumps along the way, but I was clinging to the Pillar and Ground of Truth - not some friendly social club.

But, while I can't speak for all Americans, I think we [Americans] can be a bit insecure.  We like a bit of friendliness and hand-holding along the way - especially with something as new as Eastern Christianity.  We like to be told "it's okay, you're in the right place." 

The other thing I think may be at play is that most Christians in America- especially Protestant Christians, try to create a Christian community.  This is why they often have Sunday & Weds. evening services, very active youth groups and women's groups.  Many of the bigger churches will try to have sports activities and camps for the kids.  I even know one church where many of the members try to buy up houses in the same neighborhood.  So, you take that mentality and move over to the EO church and you what you get are some who are looking for is that kind of community to become part of.  This would be especially true if they have kids.

just my 2cents
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« Reply #20 on: January 28, 2011, 09:15:29 AM »

It may be an American thing but it's also an evangelical thing. And really, the evangelicals are right on this one, at least to a degree. Listen, the Episcopal Church suffers under something of the same delusion: we really tend to believe, deep down, that any right-thinking person knows that we are the superior church, so between that and our history of arising out of subculture that tends to be on the reserved side, Episcopalians will hand out a bulletin and shake hands, but besides that they're not too keen on eye-contact. (Unless you are a singer. I can guarantee that if I attend a service at a Protestant church with an active choir, as many of them as can move fast enough will descend upon me as soon as the service is over.)

But also behind that is Anglicanism's history as an Established church, and Orthodoxy suffers from the same plague, or its inverse: being in a place where they need to keep their heads down. We tend to think that everyone of Our Kind belongs to us by right. For Episcopalians that means upper-middle class WASPs; for Greek Orthodox, that means, well, Greeks, and so on. In the Old Country nobody had to work for members (which isn't true there anymore either, and that's a big problem, but be that as it may); now we do, and there's no use complaining about having to do it.
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« Reply #21 on: January 28, 2011, 10:40:44 AM »

No red carpet, champagne or a big welcoming party, for me, but then neither did they come at me with pitchforks and torches...lol   Roll Eyes
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« Reply #22 on: January 28, 2011, 10:54:36 AM »

One of the things I cannot understand is the main puprose that daunts potential converts to Orthodoxy. Surprisingly, after having read many threads in the Convert Issues, it's neither venerating icons nor praying to Saints. Many potential converts seem to expect that when they visit a Church for the first time they will be welcome with an unrolled red carpet, champagne and a big welcoming party and they are disappointed when they are not. Simple 'hello' does not satisfy them.

Is this an American thing? Are you welcomed with honors when enterring a shop or a post office? Do you need to be treated with such a high attention?

I am sorry if this post hurts anyones feelings but I need to know this.



From what I have seen, this is common in America.  Being a German by birth, I find the situation about like you do.  I come to Church to pray and worship, not to socialize.  Americans tend to be more gregarious than others.


Since I currently live in Germany and lived many other countries...but being American by birth...I can say yes we are gregarious but also attempt to make others feel welcome.  As another commenter in this thread has already stated "Americans are embarrassed if we do not know where to stand...I would hate to un-intentional offend some one by my behavior.  Fortunately when I went to my first Liturgy one of members recognized my problem and coached me through the worship.

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« Reply #23 on: January 28, 2011, 10:58:35 AM »

Nothing wrong to be hospitable, but in my rather short experience over here, I saw hospitality expressed only towards certain categories of people (those with potential economic and social), while others were ignored, even if they crossed the threshold of the church (homeless but not only).

That's not really true, it may seem so but that's not my experience over a lifetime.
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« Reply #24 on: January 28, 2011, 11:43:21 AM »

I think that there are several considerations at play here. First off, yes, in some ways it is an American thing, because reality is that walk-in potential converts to EO/EC OO/OC churches are vastly more common in the US or Canada than in the typical village church in the Old Country.

1. Inquirers to Orthodoxy or Catholicism (because one hears the same comments made by visitors to parishes of both Churches) who are coming from a Protestant background are, generally, used to the type of 'welcoming' to which someone referred above, as it's a hallmark of Protestant congregations. They may well perceive its absence as reflecting disinterest in them as potential converts.  

2. Those who encounter the lack of this at a large Latin parish may well write it off to a depersonalized atmosphere resulting from a congregation numbering well into the hundreds. It's harder to do that in a typical EO or EC parish, with congregations numbered in multiples of ten.

3. 'coffee and' - by whatever name your parish terms it - is a relatively common phenomenon in our parishes and pretty reminiscent of the 'fellowshipping' that the inquirer knows from his or her Protestant background. In the Protestant world, that after worship fellowshiping is where the 'greeters' or the 'welcoming committee' takes up and follows through on those quick initial and hospitable moments that occurred on arrival. In our churches, too often, these are the times when our peoples break down to families or cliques (with sidelong looks over shoulders at the 'outsider' - or, as I've heard, in various languages, 'the Amerikan', or 'the Englisher'), effectively excluding anyone who isn't one of 'us'.

4. If the parish is one that includes a reference in its titling to an ethnicity - Russian, Ukrainian, Greek, etc - it's all the more likely that an approach by no one will reinforce the visitor's perception that - not being of that ethnicity - he or she is unwelcome.

5. It sure does nothing to disabuse that perception if the sole question directed at him or her is 'So, are you _______?"  When one's answer of 'No', is met by a response of 'Oh, hmm, well have a nice day', it kind of cements the perception.

6. Finally, we are not used to - and really have no well-thought out plan on how to deal with - visitors, converts, inquirers. They are a relatively new phenomena to most of us. Historically, our Churches were, indeed, ethnic enclaves and those who came to us did so by marriage - with the occasional inquirer arriving at the priest's door. We did not, historically, reach out to convert - that was a Latin Catholic thing - not an Eastern or Oriental one - Catholic or Orthodox.

Now, in a world that is more aware of our existence, we need to get over wondering why people expect a different approach of us and do something about it if we are to grow and if we are to fulfill the commission to go forth and teach all nations. Fufilling that commandment involves more than missioning - or outreach. It also requires that we reach out with open arms to those who come to us, not merely those whom we approach.

We are naive if we believe that the Lord will not look askance at us if persons never had the benefit of learning about our faith because we didn't make them welcome among us.

Forget the red carpet, some warm words beyond 'hello' would suffice. "Nice to see you, is this your first visit to a ______ church?" - "Did you have any questions that I mught be able to answer? - etc.

Many years,

Neil

PS it's also good if the interchange isn't conducted between the visitor and the parish eccentric - too often the case - or the person most likely to say 'oh, you're a ____, you know that you're doomed to hell, right?'
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« Reply #25 on: January 28, 2011, 12:03:36 PM »

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I honestly do not understand the "Well, the people at this church didn't come up to me and say hello and ask about me so they suck!" attitude.


Sorry, Shultz, but why should they think that anyone in that church espouses Christian ideas of caring about their fellow human beings if that is their level of interest in someone who might want to worship with them?

That's a typical attitude of a congregant at a Latin parish from which 500-1000 persons pour forth after Mass, with the goal to be first out of the parking lot and avoid the traffic jam from those arriving for the next Mass. No one knows anyone, doesn't really care to, and worship is individual.

Many years,

Neil
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« Reply #26 on: January 28, 2011, 12:13:01 PM »

and yet it's okay to write off an entire congregation/jurisdiction/Orthodoxy because someone didn't come up and say hello? 
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« Reply #27 on: January 28, 2011, 12:26:23 PM »

I understand the need of company and hospitality but I personally feel embarrassed when I'm being assaulted by many people unknown to me with enormously big smiles on their faces that want to socialise with me. I prefer to make new friends with a few people on the same time.

I suppose the lack of hospitality attacks in the ethnic Parishes is caused by the fact that many Old Country cradles think the same as me. They do not rush to greet the newcomer no because they don't want to welcome him but because they don't want to make him embarrassed.

Interesting observation, and one I can appreciate.  A lot of the attitude you recognize as American does come from experience in Protestant or 'non-denominational' churches, I think, and is just as prevalent up here in Canada, btw.  Being one who has not come from a church background of any kind, I much prefer the Old Country approach that you speak of here.  In a mostly convert church I recently attended, I almost felt cornered immediately.  Everyone was so friendly and forward that I was a bit embarrassed.  In the more ethnic, mostly cradle churches, I have felt welcome without being singled out, and I appreciate the time and space I am given to sort of feel things out and gradually get to know people.
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« Reply #28 on: January 28, 2011, 01:53:57 PM »

I want to underline that I do not consider over-socialised Parishes to be bad. All I want is to pay attention that not all people like that approach and can be capable of behaving in that way.

BTW I am surprised that such a long discussion can be carried on without words such as 'Chalcedon', 'autocephaly' or 'supremacy'.  angel
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« Reply #29 on: January 28, 2011, 02:55:54 PM »

I want to underline that I do not consider over-socialised Parishes to be bad. All I want is to pay attention that not all people like that approach and can be capable of behaving in that way.

BTW I am surprised that such a long discussion can be carried on without words such as 'Chalcedon', 'autocephaly' or 'supremacy'.  angel
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« Reply #30 on: January 28, 2011, 03:40:56 PM »

and yet it's okay to write off an entire congregation/jurisdiction/Orthodoxy because someone didn't come up and say hello?  

Every church needs to accept the reality that they have spiritual competition and ought to take seriously the race for converts. It's one thing to say "well, we won't do X because it's dishonest/counterproductive/heretical/fattening" but we're hardly at a risk of any of that with a simple greeting. It really doesn't matter if such a dismissal is wrong by some standard; it's something we have to live with nonetheless.
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« Reply #31 on: January 28, 2011, 03:52:00 PM »

and yet it's okay to write off an entire congregation/jurisdiction/Orthodoxy because someone didn't come up and say hello?  

Every church needs to accept the reality that they have spiritual competition and ought to take seriously the race for converts. It's one thing to say "well, we won't do X because it's dishonest/counterproductive/heretical/fattening" but we're hardly at a risk of any of that with a simple greeting. It really doesn't matter if such a dismissal is wrong by some standard; it's something we have to live with nonetheless.


I didn't say I approve of not greeting people; I do, indeed, think it's rude, especially if there's a warden/sexton/whatever.  However, the over-reaction of some people to not being invited to the pastor's home for coffee afterwards is a bit much, don't you think?
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« Reply #32 on: January 28, 2011, 05:12:39 PM »

Well, from an American perspective, most don't know that non-Greeks are welcome in a Greek Orthodox Church, non-Russians are welcome in a Russian Orthodox Church, etc. Many, many of my fellow Americans I've encountered have asked me, "You go there? They let you go there? But you're not Greek!"

So if some American wanders in the door of an Orthodox church without much background knowledge, they don't know what to expect.

In that context, I don't think a friendly greeting and an inquiry of "What's your name?" is a bad thing.
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« Reply #33 on: January 28, 2011, 06:43:36 PM »

A lot of this is just culture, period.  I don't really think it has much to do with once being Protestant.  Although, I will say, that as an introvert (which is hellish for an American to be- as you're automatically at natural odds with your entire culture), there was nothing I hated more than being attacked by official 'greeters' who expected me to fill out visitor cards- but this happened to me at a Greek parish too (it's not just a Protestant thing).  The Greek parish was worse because the priest had us stand up and introduce ourselves to the entire parish after liturgy (and I wasn't Orthodox at the time).  I just about died.  I never went back to that parish either.  Random people merely saying hello was never a problem- it was the fact that there were people who had an official job to do those things that always irked me.  However, I can honestly say that if a visitor comes to an Orthodox parish and then gets up the nerve to attend coffee hour, an American would be quite put out and upset if nobody came up to them and said hello.  Happened to a friend of mine who moved recently and decided to attend the local OCA parish.  She said they won't even sit in the same pew as her, much less speak to her at coffee hour- and she's been there a few weeks.

To an American, smiling, greeting, and being overtly friendly to strangers isn't being shallow or superficial, it is being polite. In fact, to Americans, showing how you really feel to co-workers and acquaintances is considered rude more often than not. There's a general cultural feel that people don't want to know or care about your bad day or your problems. If you're in a bad mood, the world shouldn't know about it. We don't need to make our problems someone else's, unless we're close to them. If an American is treating you in such a way (smiling, wishing you a nice day, etc.), they are using their good manners. The thing is, most Americans aren't being disingenuous or sarcastic in doing this- despite what you may think. We don't consider such courtesy to be shallow. To us, such common courtesy actually predisposes many of us to have a better view of each other so real friendships have more of a chance of succeeding. It is a cultural defense mechanism, as well. It is always better to be polite than to be someone who wears their emotions on his/her sleeves, because that makes us vulnerable. We don't like feeling that way. We tend to save the ugly reality for our friends and family.
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« Reply #34 on: January 28, 2011, 09:51:51 PM »

The common path of conversion, especially for those of us who are younger, is to read ourselves into the Church. The first step isn't showing up at Church and discovering Orthodoxy through liturgy, or one-one-one conversations with a priest. That comes later, for better or worse. It starts, instead, with books and more often than not, the Internet (again, for better or worse).
This is very true.

Quote
but that "one thing" that holds them back is the people, well, it's not because they expect to be treated like the most amazing person to set foot inside the building or the best thing to happen to the parish in months, if not years. Rather, they see and feel a disconnect between what they read about, what they expected, what they were hoping to find, and the apparent coldness of the parish.

Precisely. One of the reasons why I was dissapointed at my first parish visit, was I was expecting this amazing religious and moving experience. I was very disappointed because I set the bar way too high.

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What happens is, everything they read about stirs their heart, and they feel like they've finally found exactly what they were looking for, and they can only assume that those who are actually Orthodox feel this way themselves, so they go in expecting to find people who are filled with the love of God and the joy of being Orthodox. I know of one person who was so excited to attend Liturgy for the first time that they couldn't sleep the night before! "Finally, I'll be around people who feel the same way I do about being Orthodox!" And instead they found bored people who didn't smile at them and could really not care one way or another if this "visitor" wants to come back ever again.

My feelings and experience exactly.
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« Reply #35 on: January 28, 2011, 10:31:24 PM »

At the end of the  Hierarchal Liturgy  That Bishop Longin officiated at .... ....When we were Standing in line to venerate with a kiss The Holy Cross and the Bishops,and priest's hand, the Deacon went down the line and shaked everyones Hand and said Welcome and Christ is Risen, i thought that is very nice thing to do.....There was alot of russians, a few Bulgarians ,some Ukrainians ,and Macedonians, and we Serbs plus Other's ....I think it's a great Idea to welcome strangers, if not at the beginning of Holy Liturgy, then at the end of Liturgy would be a good idea... police
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« Reply #36 on: January 28, 2011, 10:40:48 PM »

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The Greek parish was worse because the priest had us stand up and introduce ourselves to the entire parish after liturgy (and I wasn't Orthodox at the time).  I just about died.  I never went back to that parish either.

I empathize!!  Sounds like a nightmare, being an introvert myself.  Funny enough, that is similar to my first experience at an Antiochian parish, where the priest decided to single me out for a public Q & A after the service in front of the congregation.  He meant well... laugh
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« Reply #37 on: January 28, 2011, 10:46:51 PM »

I could post some links to threads from the Convert Issues but I don't want to offend fellow posters.

Fair enough, and I think I understand what you were talking about now. For my part, while I wouldn't want Orthodoxy to go "seeker sensitive," returning phone calls or answering emails within 2 weeks time would be nice, I think.  angel
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« Reply #38 on: January 30, 2011, 05:44:41 PM »

At the end of the  Hierarchal Liturgy  That Bishop Longin officiated at .... ....When we were Standing in line to venerate with a kiss The Holy Cross and the Bishops,and priest's hand, the Deacon went down the line and shaked everyones Hand and said Welcome and Christ is Risen, i thought that is very nice thing to do.....There was alot of russians, a few Bulgarians ,some Ukrainians ,and Macedonians, and we Serbs plus Other's ....I think it's a great Idea to welcome strangers, if not at the beginning of Holy Liturgy, then at the end of Liturgy would be a good idea... police

My friend and brother, stashko, who masquerades here daily as the ultimate curmudgeon, has now shown his true colors - he is actually 'Officer Friendly'! With stashko on my side of the argument, I feel truly vindicated in the stance I've taken!   Smiley

Many years,

Neil 
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« Reply #39 on: January 30, 2011, 05:59:49 PM »

I have to admit that I do miss coffee hour in Romania and elsewhere. Getting together for fellowship and a meal after the liturgy is a tradition found at the very beginning of Christianity, and it's a pity that most of the Orthodox world has abandoned it. When everyone just goes straight home after liturgy (and many don't even stay through the whole thing), it's hard to build a solid Christian society.
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« Reply #40 on: January 31, 2011, 01:35:16 AM »


Serbs didn't abandon this..The Church usually  honor's , celebrates several slava's Patron Saint's ,after the Holy Liturgy, anyone can attend  dinner/lunch in the church hall, people fellowship this way....one just give's a donation when one attends the dinner/lunch usally a envelopes  are placed at the tables.......
It's done here in the U. S. as well.....


I have to admit that I do miss coffee hour in Romania and elsewhere. Getting together for fellowship and a meal after the liturgy is a tradition found at the very beginning of Christianity, and it's a pity that most of the Orthodox world has abandoned it. When everyone just goes straight home after liturgy (and many don't even stay through the whole thing), it's hard to build a solid Christian society.
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« Reply #41 on: March 04, 2011, 08:57:34 AM »


Every church needs to accept the reality that they have spiritual competition and ought to take seriously the race for converts.

'Spiritual competition'? 'Race for converts'? It sounds as if you consider the Orthodox Church as a sort of shop that fights for customers to be financially successful. To me it sounds outright blasphemous.

The purpose of the Orthodox Church is not to lure people from other denominations just to become bigger and richer. Her purpose is to lead people to God along the straight and narrow path of salvation. On this path there are no bonuses or gifts for customer fidelity, no pampering, no commercial sweetness. The Orthodox Church offers converts a life of struggle with a strong element of suffering. She also offers spiritual consolation and true happiness in God, but these things have nothing in common with any commercially available pleasures.

A convert who comes to the Orthodox Church just to enjoy nice company and small talk over a cup of coffee is not an acquisition for the Church, he or she is nothing but ballast.

Of course, I don't mean that we should be hostile or indifferent to newcomers. We must welcome them, we should help them to feel at home and explain the teaching of the Church as best as we can. And if they need help we must try to help. That goes without saying. But we should not think in terms of 'spiritual competition' or 'race for converts', we should not behave as  or waiters trying to 'sell' the holy faith to capricious customers. The Church does not need customers, she needs seekers for truth. And Orthodox Christians should approach everyone, including a potential convert, in the spirit of disinterested love, without any ulterior motive.

Having said that, I have to admit that, at least in Russia, Orthodox parishioners and church workers quite often meet newcomers with distrust or even hostility, especially, if a newcomer is a foreigner or belongs to some traditionally non-Orthodox ethnic group. That may be connected with the experience of the Communist persecution when agents of the State infiltrated the Church as informers. At that time, people had every reason to fear every new face at the liturgy. But now it is no longer justified and is a great impediment to the spread of the faith. Fortunately, this situation seems to be changing. Churchgoers and church workers are becoming friendlier.



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« Reply #42 on: March 04, 2011, 03:19:06 PM »

Apostles were racing for converts not waiting for 'the truth seekers' to approach them.
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« Reply #43 on: March 04, 2011, 03:43:10 PM »

I can see both sides, but to be honest it does matter... especially in the Southeastern USA.  Call it a cultural issue if you like.

I visited 2 Orthodox parishes when I was inquiring. 

The first I sat at a table by myself nearly every week at coffee hour.   The rare times that anyone sat with me they refused to speak english (and yes.... I found out later that these folks are quite fluent in English).  In 2 1/2 years I can count on one hand the number of people who even said "hello".

The second parish made me feel very welcome.  I have been to many of their homes for dinner.  When I see them about town I am greeted with a hug.  The welcome was so warm that my husband began coming to the Liturgy (and later converted).

I still visit the other one for different events, but guess which one is my home parish?
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« Reply #44 on: March 29, 2011, 07:46:54 AM »

Apostles were racing for converts not waiting for 'the truth seekers' to approach them.

For some reason, I suspect that the Apostles did not think of their mission in commercial terms.

Having said that, I am all for being hospitable and supportive for newcomers. Of course, it is scandalous to refuse speaking English to a guest.
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