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Author Topic: Uncomfortable Inquirer  (Read 2459 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: May 02, 2013, 10:11:00 AM »

Over the past year I've attended liturgy at a local mission here on Chicago's south side. Discovering orthodoxy has literally opened my entire world admittedly. Yet I have some nagging concern. I happen to be the only African American in attendance, which did not bother at the beginning. Over the course of the my entire time there only 3 others ever even speak or talk to me. The resident Priest is very attentive and I could not ask for a better teacher, however I do feel uncomfortable and out  of place - for as said before I feel 'isolated' socially because no one, I mean no one even says much of a 'Hello, how are you'? Strange? And I do enjoy Orthodoxy as a religion/the liturgy, the icons, etc. there are no other churches in the immediate area. Am I alone in this regard? Has this happened to other Inquirers (African American or not)?
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« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2013, 10:16:48 AM »

Over the past year I've attended liturgy at a local mission here on Chicago's south side. Discovering orthodoxy has literally opened my entire world admittedly. Yet I have some nagging concern. I happen to be the only African American in attendance, which did not bother at the beginning. Over the course of the my entire time there only 3 others ever even speak or talk to me. The resident Priest is very attentive and I could not ask for a better teacher, however I do feel uncomfortable and out  of place - for as said before I feel 'isolated' socially because no one, I mean no one even says much of a 'Hello, how are you'? Strange? And I do enjoy Orthodoxy as a religion/the liturgy, the icons, etc. there are no other churches in the immediate area. Am I alone in this regard? Has this happened to other Inquirers (African American or not)?
I'm very sorry to hear about that. I have been very fortunate that my experience has been different. My parish is very ethnically diverse and also very friendly, almost to the point of overload sometimes. I am still a catechumen, but I have difficulty getting out the door some days.  Do you attend an ethnic parish?  I have heard complaints regarding a few parishes that are around me where the people are very ethnicly minded and not very welcoming to outsiders.   Sad
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« Reply #2 on: May 02, 2013, 10:17:03 AM »

One of our local deacons, Fr. Michael Bishop, is an African American who serves in a parish of the Moscow Patriarchate in Baltimore, MD.  His story may be of some help to you.

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« Reply #3 on: May 02, 2013, 12:00:27 PM »

There is an African-American archdeacon at the nearby OCA church and my Church has a few African Americans as well as  Ethiopian and Eritrean attendees.
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« Reply #4 on: May 02, 2013, 12:06:41 PM »

Of course, don't let it affect your peace and faith which is between you and God. If you feel you are not wanted there, I don't know, maybe you should find a different place. Personally, I avoid situations that cause illogical and unnecessary tension because it never leads to good things and can possibly exacerbate over time. A more immediate question would probably be if you feel that that church actually live the faith as they should. If they don't, then don't be surprised, if they fail at accomodating such a basic element as the ethnicity of another person.
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« Reply #5 on: May 02, 2013, 12:08:04 PM »

Over the past year I've attended liturgy at a local mission here on Chicago's south side. Discovering orthodoxy has literally opened my entire world admittedly. Yet I have some nagging concern. I happen to be the only African American in attendance, which did not bother at the beginning. Over the course of the my entire time there only 3 others ever even speak or talk to me. The resident Priest is very attentive and I could not ask for a better teacher, however I do feel uncomfortable and out  of place - for as said before I feel 'isolated' socially because no one, I mean no one even says much of a 'Hello, how are you'? Strange? And I do enjoy Orthodoxy as a religion/the liturgy, the icons, etc. there are no other churches in the immediate area. Am I alone in this regard? Has this happened to other Inquirers (African American or not)?

Some parishes are just this way, unfortunately.  We belong to a rather warm and welcoming parish, but we have certainly attended others where where nobody went out of their way to greet or welcome us.

Regarding skin color, keep in mind that many of the Orthodox churches have their origins in countries like Russia and Greece where dark skin-color is very rare.  Antiochian churches may have more people from the Middle East and Arab countries where skin color may be darker than what you will see in a Greek or Russian church, but still not dark brown or black.  

In Africa, of course, there are many Orthodox churches.  You may be interested in learning more about these churches and about other African Americans who have become Orthodox:

http://www.mosestheblack.org/

http://oca.org/news/oca-news/interview-with-fr.-moses-berry-the-church-belongs-to-everyone

http://www.godsgardenthefilm.com/

http://www.amazon.com/Unbroken-Circle-Christianity-African-American-Experience/dp/0916700518

http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2012/10/largest-orthodox-church-in-africa.html

http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/06/icon-of-saints-of-africa.html

http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2012/01/missionary-patriarchate-of-alexandria.html

http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2009/10/fr-themi-atheist-rocker-who-became.html

http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2011/03/first-orthodox-monastery-in-uganda.html



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« Reply #6 on: May 02, 2013, 12:14:11 PM »

No, you're not alone. And after 10 years, it isn't an experience exclusive to inquirers, either.

Don't assume hostility. Most socializing after Liturgy occurs among three groups: within (large) extended families, between non-related families whose children are growing up/have grown up together, and between persons concerned with some aspect of parish council ministries. If you don't fit into at least one of those three categories, it's difficult to develop relationships.

If you really want to get to know people quickly, volunteer for kitchen duty alongside the babas and the yia yias. Pinch some pierogies, roll some dolmades, wash the pots, mop the floors. Do that, and the ladies will take care of your social networking for you.
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« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2013, 01:10:03 PM »

It pains me personally to hear this. I wish I was around to pull up a chair with you for a nice warm chat or to invite you for coffee or dinner.
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« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2013, 01:28:38 PM »

Perhaps you could try approaching some of the people there? Also, there are a few Orthodox parishes in Chicago, perhaps you could jump on a bus or train to one? I'm sorry that you are experiencing issues, I will keep you in my prayers.
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« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2013, 01:29:41 PM »

Over the past year I've attended liturgy at a local mission here on Chicago's south side. Discovering orthodoxy has literally opened my entire world admittedly. Yet I have some nagging concern. I happen to be the only African American in attendance, which did not bother at the beginning. Over the course of the my entire time there only 3 others ever even speak or talk to me. The resident Priest is very attentive and I could not ask for a better teacher, however I do feel uncomfortable and out  of place - for as said before I feel 'isolated' socially because no one, I mean no one even says much of a 'Hello, how are you'? Strange? And I do enjoy Orthodoxy as a religion/the liturgy, the icons, etc. there are no other churches in the immediate area. Am I alone in this regard? Has this happened to other Inquirers (African American or not)?

No, you're not alone. Parishes can sometimes be cliquey, people can be shy or afraid to step out of their comfort zones, etc. I'd like to think it has nothing to do with you being African-American but it goes without saying that some white people have all kinds of irrational hang-ups in that area and have no idea how to talk to you like a human being. They might be waiting for you to say hello first, just to demonstrate that you're not threatening. Yeah, it's stupid. Or they might honestly be uncomfortable with strangers.

It's good though to hear that the priest is attentive.
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« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2013, 02:39:51 PM »

Some parishes are just this way, unfortunately. 

Why "unfortunately"?
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« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2013, 02:54:41 PM »

Because it is unfortunate that people would not make inquirers welcome to the parish. That seems to be obvious.  Wink
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« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2013, 03:07:28 PM »

Because it is unfortunate that people would not make inquirers welcome to the parish. That seems to be obvious.  Wink

This is not obvious. It's an American tradition. I do not see any reasons why 1st gen cradle parishes must adhere to it.
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« Reply #13 on: May 02, 2013, 03:19:39 PM »

Because it is unfortunate that people would not make inquirers welcome to the parish. That seems to be obvious.  Wink

This is not obvious. It's an American tradition. I do not see any reasons why 1st gen cradle parishes must adhere to it.

It is an American tradition to be kind to strangers?  Shocked  I was under the impression that kindness was present in the Church much longer than Orthodoxy in America was.
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« Reply #14 on: May 02, 2013, 03:21:14 PM »


Yes....I don't understand Michal's statement, either.

Exactly what is the "American" tradition?
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« Reply #15 on: May 02, 2013, 03:30:00 PM »

Exactly what is the "American" tradition?

Talking to strangers in a church. Socialising in church setting.

I'm not saying it's wrong. I only would like to note it's not universal and people who from some reasons are not used to it shall not be treated with reluctance. Some people go to church just to pray and it should be respected.
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« Reply #16 on: May 02, 2013, 03:40:44 PM »


Oh sure....certainly don't get in people's faces if they are trying to make a quick exit.

However, if you are in an "American tradition" church....and people ARE talking to each other and greeting each other...than they ought to greet everyone....even the different shaded newcomer.

It's unchristian to talk to Suzy, and ignore Jose, who is standing right next to her.

Mind you this "talking" does NOT occur during services...other than a nod or a smile, as greeting.

My parish is mostly white....however, we are open to all....

Here's a photo from last Sunday (Palm Sunday).  These are our four First Confession kids.  One is of African heritage, one is Mexican and the other two are Ukrainians.



I love them all....and think each one is beautiful, inside and out.

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« Reply #17 on: May 02, 2013, 03:44:32 PM »

Particularly those who are raised in the Orthodox Church may not understand why they need to welcome strangers.  "If they want the true Church, and they want to worship God in spirit and truth, and if they want to save their soul, they will return."  They are correct in this view, but those Orthodox who come primarily from Evangelical Protestant backgrounds, where churches may bend over backwards to try to make the newcomer feel "special" and welcome, understand that newcomers from the same background expect this when visiting a new church and consider the absence of such a warm welcome to be indicative of a "cold" and "unloving" church.  At least in this country, where Evangelical Protestantism is so widespread, I think Orthodox churches should be aware if this perception that inquirers may have, however wrong it may be.  Our parish seems to do a pretty good job in this area, but not all parishes do.

The main recommendation to the OP would be to get to know the priest well.  He, then, can introduce you to others.  
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« Reply #18 on: May 02, 2013, 03:49:31 PM »


Oh sure....certainly don't get in people's faces if they are trying to make a quick exit.

However, if you are in an "American tradition" church....and people ARE talking to each other and greeting each other...than they ought to greet everyone....even the different shaded newcomer.

It's unchristian to talk to Suzy, and ignore Jose, who is standing right next to her.

Yeah. I've already got that all of you all better than these obscure people who just come to church to pray and not to make friends. "God, I thank you, that I am not like these cradles, casual Orthodox, 1st gen. immigrants, people from Old Country. I greet everyone who arrives at church. I socialise with everyone during coffee hour."
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« Reply #19 on: May 02, 2013, 03:56:20 PM »


Who said anything about anyone being better than anyone else?

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« Reply #20 on: May 02, 2013, 04:01:13 PM »

 Roll Eyes It must be a full moon out tonight.

I don't think anyone is claiming they are better than anyone else.  It is just a matter of common human decency that you are kind to those who are around you.  I don't think you have to be American to believe that.  It kind of falls in the whole "love your neighbor as yourself" genre.
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« Reply #21 on: May 02, 2013, 04:04:54 PM »


Who said anything about anyone being better than anyone else?

Everyone who posted here behaviour mentioned in the OP is not OK.

It is just a matter of common human decency that you are kind to those who are around you.

It's just a matter of common human decency that you are aware that not all people are alike and some do not go to church to talk to strangers. And not to think they are worse than those who like to talk to strangers.
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« Reply #22 on: May 02, 2013, 04:06:50 PM »

I don't know how it is in Poland....perhaps there are so many faithful each Sunday that there is no way of knowing one from the other...they are just a bunch of faces.

In the States, we actually know each other.  It's just our "thing".  We notice when someone is missing, and we call or visit to make sure they are okay...especially the old folks.

Usually we go down to the church hall after Liturgy on Sunday for either a lunch, or just coffee and sweets.  This lets us talk to each other, share concerns, offer advice, etc.  At this point we teach the kids, the kids become friends with other Orthodox kids, etc.

In the States, more often than not...this is the only time Orthodox have an opportunity to mingle...because usually we are the only Orthodox person in our school, at our job, in our neighborhood.

This is just the way we do things here.  

Nobody is saying it's better or worse than any other tradition....this is just our tradition.

Living in the States, and living this tradition....it would be wrong to ignore a new face that enters the church.  That was the point we were trying to make.
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« Reply #23 on: May 02, 2013, 04:08:22 PM »

It is just a matter of common human decency that you are kind to those who are around you.

It's just a matter of common human decency that you are aware that not all people are alike and some do not go to church to talk to strangers.

I am aware that everyone is different.  I am not an outgoing person by any means, but I do endeavour not to be rude to those around me.  I'm not saying that you (or anyone else is).  The Church is a refuge for lost souls, not a group of individual islands in the same building.
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« Reply #24 on: May 02, 2013, 04:10:46 PM »

but I do endeavour not to be rude to those around me.

Accordingly to you, is not talking to strangers in a church rude?
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« Reply #25 on: May 02, 2013, 04:12:37 PM »


No, it's not.....not after kissing the cross and exiting the building.
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« Reply #26 on: May 02, 2013, 04:20:47 PM »

Yeah, it took me a long time to understand the concept of "socializing at Church".....I think I'm still working on it, but living in United States helped a lot. We are a minority and it's nice to have people around you that believe, behave and think alike. As a cradle Orthodox, I can tell you that I took my faith for granted for way too long. I'm still learning what Orthodox really means, and I've been an Orthodox all my life.
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« Reply #27 on: May 02, 2013, 04:21:27 PM »

but I do endeavour not to be rude to those around me.

Accordingly to you, is not talking to strangers in a church rude?

I would say ignoring someone is unkind or prideful.  Christ says "I was a stranger and you took me in", if we aren't willing to take in the stranger, what are we doing?  Christ has harsh words for those who ignore strangers in his sermon in Matthew 25.  I'm pretty sure telling Him, "sorry, it just isn't my culture" isn't going to cut it.
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« Reply #28 on: May 02, 2013, 04:35:07 PM »

but I do endeavour not to be rude to those around me.

Accordingly to you, is not talking to strangers in a church rude?

I would say ignoring someone is unkind or prideful.  Christ says "I was a stranger and you took me in", if we aren't willing to take in the stranger, what are we doing?  Christ has harsh words for those who ignore strangers in his sermon in Matthew 25.  I'm pretty sure telling Him, "sorry, it just isn't my culture" isn't going to cut it.

About 500 people attended my church tonight. How can I see whom should I talk to? Or should I talk to all of them in turn?
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« Reply #29 on: May 02, 2013, 04:37:03 PM »


But, see....that's the difference.  Did you read my post?

We aren't like that.
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« Reply #30 on: May 02, 2013, 04:39:38 PM »

Michal,

This isn't a case of "I just want to come and pray and leave, please don't bother me."

This is a case of, "I am refusing to notice someone who is relatively new; I've seen him around here so he's not not a total stranger, but I'm not going to make any effort at all to even say hello when our eyes meet and, instead, I'm just going to socialize with Joe and Maria here."

The first I can sympathize with; that's me most of the time, especially in an unfamiliar place.  The latter, however, is unconscionable for a Christian.  I am socially awkward at the best of times and not very outgoing, especially with strangers, but to see someone being uncomfortable, sitting all by his lonesome during coffee hour while everyone else is socializing (note, this isn't some Old Country parish where no one is socializing...it's happening all around him), I would at least say hello.  No one is saying that you have to be best friends with everyone in your church, but to patently and obviously avoid someone is rude, especially in the United States.


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« Reply #31 on: May 02, 2013, 04:46:46 PM »

but I do endeavour not to be rude to those around me.

Accordingly to you, is not talking to strangers in a church rude?

I would say ignoring someone is unkind or prideful.  Christ says "I was a stranger and you took me in", if we aren't willing to take in the stranger, what are we doing?  Christ has harsh words for those who ignore strangers in his sermon in Matthew 25.  I'm pretty sure telling Him, "sorry, it just isn't my culture" isn't going to cut it.

About 500 people attended my church tonight. How can I see whom should I talk to? Or should I talk to all of them in turn?

If you notice people there who've never (to your knowledge) been there before, especially if they are near you, what do you do?  Ignore them, or somehow acknowledge their presence and make them feel welcome--even if with nothing more than a simple smile or nod of your head? 
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« Reply #32 on: May 02, 2013, 04:52:52 PM »

If you notice people there who've never (to your knowledge) been there before, especially if they are near you, what do you do?  Ignore them, or somehow acknowledge their presence and make them feel welcome--even if with nothing more than a simple smile or nod of your head?  

I do nothing and they do nothing.

Michal,

This isn't a case of "I just want to come and pray and leave, please don't bother me."

This is a case of, "I am refusing to notice someone who is relatively new; I've seen him around here so he's not not a total stranger, but I'm not going to make any effort at all to even say hello when our eyes meet and, instead, I'm just going to socialize with Joe and Maria here."

I do not see nothing wrong with the latter either.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2013, 04:53:33 PM by Michał Kalina » Logged

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« Reply #33 on: May 02, 2013, 04:53:22 PM »

If you notice people there who've never (to your knowledge) been there before, especially if they are near you, what do you do?  Ignore them, or somehow acknowledge their presence and make them feel welcome--even if with nothing more than a simple smile or nod of your head? 

I do nothing and they do nothing.

Would it be considered rude for you to do something?
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« Reply #34 on: May 02, 2013, 04:55:38 PM »

If you notice people there who've never (to your knowledge) been there before, especially if they are near you, what do you do?  Ignore them, or somehow acknowledge their presence and make them feel welcome--even if with nothing more than a simple smile or nod of your head? 

I do nothing and they do nothing.

Would it be considered rude for you to do something?

Interrupting some strangers? Maybe, maybe not. I know I would feel awkwardly in such a situation and would pray such a person go away ASAP.
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« Reply #35 on: May 02, 2013, 04:57:22 PM »

If you notice people there who've never (to your knowledge) been there before, especially if they are near you, what do you do?  Ignore them, or somehow acknowledge their presence and make them feel welcome--even if with nothing more than a simple smile or nod of your head?  

I do nothing and they do nothing.

Michal,

This isn't a case of "I just want to come and pray and leave, please don't bother me."

This is a case of, "I am refusing to notice someone who is relatively new; I've seen him around here so he's not not a total stranger, but I'm not going to make any effort at all to even say hello when our eyes meet and, instead, I'm just going to socialize with Joe and Maria here."

I do not see nothing wrong with the latter either.

Smiley  This explains a lot.

Do people in Poland never greet each other?  What about on Pascha?  Do you greet each other with Christ is Risen?  Is there the Paschal kiss x 3?

What you don't seem to understand, or are unwilling to understand, is that in the States things are done differently.  We DO greet each other, and share kisses, etc.

Therefore, if Joe is sitting in the corner and he sees everyone else speaking to every other person, but him....it's wrong.  If you take the time to say hello to one person, you ought to at least smile at the person standing next to them.

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« Reply #36 on: May 02, 2013, 05:02:19 PM »

Do people in Poland never greet each other?  What about on Pascha?  Do you greet each other with Christ is Risen?  Is there the Paschal kiss x 3?

To some strangers you have no intention to get to know? Not really.

Quote
What you don't seem to understand, or are unwilling to understand, is that in the States things are done differently.  We DO greet each other, and share kisses, etc.

Therefore, if Joe is sitting in the corner and he sees everyone else speaking to every other person, but him....it's wrong.  If you take the time to say hello to one person, you ought to at least smile at the person standing next to them.

And you do not seem to understand there might be some people (or even whole parishes) who might share the approach I have. And they have right to do it. And they are not worse than others.
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« Reply #37 on: May 02, 2013, 05:13:20 PM »

Africanus,

 Welcome to the forum!  If you're following the conversation, you're probably noticing that some foreigners aren't comfortable with socializing with folks they don't know.  I would also say that they've probably taught their children, by word or action, their custom too.  If the bulk of your church are foreigners, this might be your answer.  If no one made any attempt to welcome me after a while of attending, I'd probably either ask the priest what's up with his congregation or (most likely) I'd just find another church to attend. 

 

 

 
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« Reply #38 on: May 02, 2013, 05:30:58 PM »

Do people in Poland never greet each other?  What about on Pascha?  Do you greet each other with Christ is Risen?  Is there the Paschal kiss x 3?

To some strangers you have no intention to get to know? Not really.

Quote
What you don't seem to understand, or are unwilling to understand, is that in the States things are done differently.  We DO greet each other, and share kisses, etc.

Therefore, if Joe is sitting in the corner and he sees everyone else speaking to every other person, but him....it's wrong.  If you take the time to say hello to one person, you ought to at least smile at the person standing next to them.

And you do not seem to understand there might be some people (or even whole parishes) who might share the approach I have. And they have right to do it. And they are not worse than others.

Michal, we are replying to the OP, and not commenting on what you, your parish, or people in Poland do.

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« Reply #39 on: May 02, 2013, 05:34:33 PM »

I'm white and I was never made to feel so unwelcome as when visiting a Russian Cathedral.  If that had been my first exposure to Orthodoxy I would still be Lutheran  Wink

Fortunately I came in thru the Antiochians.  Welcoming to the point of being nosy, lol.

I think it has less to do with you being African American than just being a stranger- every parish I have attended have had some Ethiopian and Arab members.
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« Reply #40 on: May 02, 2013, 05:45:05 PM »

Michal, we are replying to the OP, and not commenting on what you, your parish, or people in Poland do.

I'm saying the OP might have visited similar parish.
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« Reply #41 on: May 02, 2013, 06:02:35 PM »

Welcome to the forum. As mentioned above it depends on parish...more specifically of people in it and it is not what race you are or anything as such. The main criterion is whether you are a member of their congregation or not. NonSerbs in our parish are treated the same and they have been members of our parish for a long time. The same thing can be aaid for the Russian parish. Some people will feel comfortable approaching, second group do not wish to socialize with new people, while the third group do not socialize for personal reasons, and fifth group of people is composed of people who wish to give you space and wait for you to approach them you feel ready. I have met all such jndividuals. If you wish to create an opportunity for more social interraction then ask a priest if you can help somehow by volunteering on short term project like cleaning around the church, helping in the parish library or something as such that a priest suggests and you feel confortable doing. As Michal pointed out some pople even in North America come to prat and do not wish to socialize whatsoever. There are such people in my parish and I respect their decision.
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« Reply #42 on: May 02, 2013, 06:28:02 PM »

Roll Eyes It must be a full moon out tonight.

I don't think anyone is claiming they are better than anyone else.  It is just a matter of common human decency that you are kind to those who are around you.  I don't think you have to be American to believe that.  It kind of falls in the whole "love your neighbor as yourself" genre.

Yes, it was a full moon yesterday. And I barely slept due to the howling wind, crickets, a bob cat eating a rabbit outside my bedroom window, banging cans, and those Mercedes speeding down the road at all hours of the night. The natives were restless.

And yes, our Lord did instruct us to LOVE ONE ANOTHER, and that means being kind in and outside of church.
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« Reply #43 on: May 02, 2013, 07:11:34 PM »

Michal, we are replying to the OP, and not commenting on what you, your parish, or people in Poland do.

I'm saying the OP might have visited similar parish.
he says it's a "mission"on the southside of Chicago. Now I doubt there is an Eastern European or Middle Eastern 'ethnic' enclave doing "missionary" work on the southside of Chicago. The only thing I heard of would be a mission affiliated  with the University of Chicago.
I also think that underneath the OP's apprehension is, even if left unsaid, the racial thing, not an unreasonable fear imo. And we live in the same city.
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« Reply #44 on: May 02, 2013, 07:18:03 PM »

hmm...  I feel bad about not socializing with the many ethnic Russians in my church.  They politely leave me alone but I know in my heart the "distance" is my choice not theirs.  They speak enough English for me to talk to them if I really wanted to.  Maybe after silently seeing each other eye to eye for many months more I'll move out of my comfort zone to a barely perceptible nod - which seems about right (to me). 

Perhaps I was Polish in another life?  <---  (that's a joke, I don't believe in reincarnation).
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