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Author Topic: Passive instead of participatory: Does this annoy you too?  (Read 2638 times) Average Rating: 0
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Cyril of New York
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« on: April 09, 2006, 02:38:56 PM »

Is my own parish the only one where worshippers are--how do I put this--well, lazy? Aside from reciting the Nicene Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and a few spoken responses to the priest, almost the entire congregation seems content to just stand there staring straight ahead for the better part of ninety minutes. Aside from a mere sprinkling of folks, the laity seem content to just listen to the choir. I don't get it. Are people just too embarrassed to sing aloud? Granted I tend to do so rather quietly (I wouldn't want to damage those gorgeous windows), but can we at least see some lips moving out there? True, the growth of the number of converts has contributed to the language barrier but it is the phrase "Kyrie Eleison" really that tough? Worse, most of the seniors who attend, who still speak Greek as their first language seem not to say a single word.

What really bothers me is that the majority don't even bother with the numerous supplications of "Lord have mercy" or "Grant it, O Lord". This is worship? There should be a lot more to it than just crossing oneself every few minutes. I have a hard time reconciling what I've seen every Sunday for so many years with the vibrant image in my head of what must have taken place inside Hagia Sophia in the tenth century. Much as I hate to admit it, I think we could learn a lot from Protestants when it comes to really putting our heart and soul into our worship, rather than just letting the priest, psalter, and choir do everything for us. Even at midnight Pascha services, I've noticed that our priest has to occasionally remind everyone to sing "Christos Anesti". That's not exactly conducive to the enticement of non-Orthodox attendees who are being introduced to Orthodoxy. In fact, it's an embarrassment.

This might bother me a lot less if the same people who are so liturgically tight-lipped didn't start babbling loudly amongst themselves when the Holy Eucharist is being distributed. As the apex of true Christian worship shouldn't this be the most solemn and respectful time to observe? The same thing occurs afterward when the antidoron is being given out.

I don't think that this is a characteristic exclusive to my church. Is this a source of irritation for anyone else?
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aurelia
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« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2006, 12:48:18 AM »

Now now don't get too upset.  I mouth along, so does my 8 yr old, but then she is in childrens choir, so she knows the words.  Wink  We dont sing along with the choir as a rule, but there are some that do.  Don't forget that half the people who are at Pascha only go that one night a year so they don't have a clue anyway. Maybe it  is a parish thing, but our priest will goad us into action if needed, and I dont think any worse of us all for it.  Look at the bright side, at least you cant sleep through an orthodox service.  

Really though, I can understand your frustration, maybe an article in the sunday program or monthly bulletin asking for attentiveness?
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« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2006, 09:22:06 AM »

I love you Cyril but I'm with Aurelia. Maybe people will follow your example. I stand in the back of the nave and greet as well as take care of the candles and I usually, not always, respond and sing along; however, I am in the minority. For some it is a matter of how they were raised in the church. Many cradle Orthodox were brought up not responding; however, my church had an outstanding choir if I do say so myself.

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« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2006, 09:45:58 AM »

Cyril,

    I can appreciate a lot of what you are saying (especially since I'm reading a book EXACTLY on point - Living the Liturgy), however sometimes it is not that simple.  Aserb hit it exactly right... I was raised in the Church (Cradle Serbian Orthodox) and active participation has NEVER been encouraged in any parish I've belonged.

    In fact, growing up, I often wondered why Liturgy was so passive.  This kind of goes hand in hand with the level of knowledge of the laity.  Admittedly, my knowledge of the Liturgy is/was poor.  None of the parishes I've belonged to offered any type of classes about the Liturgy and participation therein.

     For me, an additional problem is the Liturgical language of the SOC.  As you might know, we use Old Church Slavonic, which is neither here nor there.  My Serbian is fair (at best) and my OCS is totally lacking. Put it all together and you have the recipe for non-participation.  

     I'm not placing the blame on the Church (as the individual bears the bulk of the responsibility for participation), however, the Church has the means to facilitate the ease within which participation can be cultivated.
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« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2006, 12:06:26 PM »

I have the complete opposite experience in the church I go to. I third the suggestion that you be the change you'd like to see. As the church population changes, people grow old, leave the church, or come into it, most will follow the procedure that is already in place. If they are standing by you, and hearing you participate, they will be more willing to do so as well.

I went to a different church in a different state last weekend that was as you described, and it was so passive and DEAD feeling that I couldnt stand it. I felt like I just sat through a high Presbyterian service with a RCC flair to it with the liturgical movement of the priest. It was 50-50% English, and I recognized some of the choralized chant that was being sung by the 12 or -so-member choir, so you better believe I was standing there singing along for as much as I could and was apprppriate (stuff like the hymns of the day, it's GOOD for the laity to not try to sing--they're special, and you're supposed to be paying attention to what is being said.) No one else in the church was that I could tell. But I didn't care, and I felt better for having done it. Orthodox has so much personalized worship, from crossing yourself to lighting candles to prostrations and litanies and the other responses you are SUPPOSED to be making (anyone else know to say "May God forgive us all" when the priest comes out and asks your forgiveness during the service or some verion thereof?)--take advantage of the mouth and heart God gave you and start singing. Eventually other people may join in.
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« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2006, 03:58:08 PM »

HOWEVER, (Yeah, someone has to be the "devil's advocate"--how I HATE that term)

With some people, the refusal to sing may not be passivity.  Some people just cannot carry a tune in a 5-gallon bucket and prefer to NOT sing so that they don't distract other people with their cacaphony. Tongue Of course, these people will still be actively engaged with the liturgy in different ways (such as crossing themselves often and at key moments in the prayers when they're expected to).
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« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2006, 04:44:48 PM »

Aside from reciting the Nicene Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and a few spoken responses to the priest, almost the entire congregation seems content to just stand there staring straight ahead for the better part of ninety minutes.

But that's the tradition!
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aurelia
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« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2006, 08:32:27 AM »

Some people just cannot carry a tune in a 5-gallon bucket and prefer to NOT sing so that they don't distract other people with their cacaphony.

Like I said, I mouth along... I can't sing and I have a good enough ear to tell;D
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« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2006, 08:36:21 AM »

Like I said, I mouth along... I can't sing and I have a good enough ear to tell

I learnt to sing, by correspondence
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« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2006, 01:44:43 PM »

I learnt to sing, by correspondence

Do you mean to say that you learned how to sing via correspondence school?  How ghastly!  Shocked
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« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2006, 03:48:24 PM »

The reason why I chose the Malankara Church over the Greek Church was that the congregation actually participates in the liturgy rather than just staring into space. Instead of having a cantor or choir, the entire congregation participates in the oldest liturgy of the Church.

Peace.
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« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2006, 08:04:44 PM »

I think that Cyril brought up a very good topic and all of the responses were informative.  Where do we go from here?
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« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2006, 09:30:07 PM »

Do you mean to say that you learned how to sing via correspondence school?  How ghastly!  Shocked
Yeah, I'd sing my responses back by letter.

Doh- ray - mi - mi - so - la etc.

And the teacher would correct this by saying

Doh- ray - me - SO - far - la etc.
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« Reply #13 on: April 11, 2006, 09:31:39 PM »

The reason why I chose the Malankara Church over the Greek Church was that the congregation actually participates in the liturgy rather than just staring into space. Instead of having a cantor or choir, the entire congregation participates in the oldest liturgy of the Church.

Peace.
I'm not sure if it's typical of a particular church, but of a parish. I've been to two different Antiochian churches and one everyone chanted, and the other everyone stared into space. Even the priest was in a hurry to get out of there and go home
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« Reply #14 on: April 11, 2006, 10:43:57 PM »

WHEN I consider how my light is spent
E're half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide,
Lodg'd with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, least he returning chide,
Doth God exact day-labour, light deny'd,
I fondly ask; But patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts, who best
Bear his milde yoak, they serve him best, his State
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o're Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and waite.

John Milton, 'On His Blindness'
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« Reply #15 on: April 11, 2006, 11:22:24 PM »

WHEN I consider how my light is spent
E're half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide,
Lodg'd with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, least he returning chide,
Doth God exact day-labour, light deny'd,
I fondly ask; But patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts, who best
Bear his milde yoak, they serve him best, his State
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o're Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and waite.

John Milton, 'On His Blindness'
Very nice
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« Reply #16 on: April 12, 2006, 11:11:48 PM »

GreekChristian's reply to all of our chatterings is very telling. To me it says, whether one is participating openly in liturgy or is silent, no one but God know's what is in a person's heart!  
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« Reply #17 on: April 13, 2006, 12:13:06 AM »

At the parish I used to attend, the choir sounded like cats in heat.  The choir director always had to be the one heard screeching the most. (she actually thought she was good)  I would have welcomed the entire congregation drowning them out.

P
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« Reply #18 on: April 15, 2006, 06:16:11 AM »

They also serve who only stand and waite.

Thank you for reminding me of this poem, GiC!
I think it may actually be a symptom of our over-hyped, 24/7, extreme, modern culture that equates "passivity" with "non-participation".
How are we supposed to hear God speak to us in the Liturgy if our lungs and vocal cords are behaving like a pair of bellows with fog horn attached to them?
My hat goes off to those who practice their hesychasm in the Liturgy.
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« Reply #19 on: April 15, 2006, 11:11:41 AM »

How are we supposed to hear God speak to us in the Liturgy if our lungs and vocal cords are behaving like a pair of bellows with fog horn attached to them?

I would be more prepared to agree with this if it weren't for my experience that in Orthodox liturgy someone always has to be talking. But then, that too is the tradition.
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« Reply #20 on: April 16, 2006, 10:47:38 AM »

I would be more prepared to agree with this if it weren't for my experience that in Orthodox liturgy someone always has to be talking. But then, that too is the tradition.

I think of it this way: the choir and readers have sacrificed their own hesychasm for the sake of the hesychasm of the rest of us. Wink
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« Reply #21 on: April 16, 2006, 04:37:24 PM »

Our congregation sings along with the chanter, choir, and priest, when the song is not an overdone rendition. Sometimes the chanter likes to really keep us waiting with his long terirems, the choir sometimes is soo overstylizes that you dont know what on earth they are singing, so our priest always asks them to keep the original simple byzantine melodies which everyone knows or can learn. So when Christos Anesti, Ti Ipermaho (To you the Champion) is sung, the vast majority of our church sings along with them or thats at least what it sounds like. The rest of the liturgy which is chanted such as hte kyrie eleisons are done solo psaltiri/choir.
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« Reply #22 on: April 16, 2006, 04:39:15 PM »

Oh yeah and every sunday liturgy after the our Father, the priest turns towards the people and tells them in greek and english that "just as we have prayed the our father together, we should pray the whole liturgy together- as it is not just for the priest or the chanter or the choir" so that is very encouraging to hear him saying that every sunday. Maybe it will work.
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« Reply #23 on: April 16, 2006, 04:53:22 PM »

I have spoken with many of the people who do not sing in church and appear to be satisfied "just observing"  and was I mistaken in what I had thought.

Several spoke of feeling overawed by the presence of The GReat King before them and being humbled to silence and full worship.

several others spoke of being in the presence of the Holy Ones of the Church and aware of their own unworthiness and worship in meditative thanksgiving for the mercies of Our Great God who allows them to commune with His most precious body and blood. For them the attendance at the service was to mystically enter the Kingdom of Heaven and be present at the Throne of Christ with All the Saints of Heaven.

These responses have changed my judgemental attitude about the "non-partricipants" at church.  While I still actively participate in the Liturgy, I have discovered that for many their silence is deep and meditative worship at the feet of the Throne of God with great awe and thanksgiving that I can learn from.

In Christ,
Thomas
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« Reply #24 on: April 16, 2006, 06:29:40 PM »

I have spoken with many of the people who do not sing in church and appear to be satisfied "just observing"  and was I mistaken in what I had thought.

Several spoke of feeling overawed by the presence of The GReat King before them and being humbled to silence and full worship.

several others spoke of being in the presence of the Holy Ones of the Church and aware of their own unworthiness and worship in meditative thanksgiving for the mercies of Our Great God who allows them to commune with His most precious body and blood. For them the attendance at the service was to mystically enter the Kingdom of Heaven and be present at the Throne of Christ with All the Saints of Heaven.

These responses have changed my judgemental attitude about the "non-partricipants" at church.  While I still actively participate in the Liturgy, I have discovered that for many their silence is deep and meditative worship at the feet of the Throne of God with great awe and thanksgiving that I can learn from.

In Christ,
Thomas

Sometimes when I feel the need to take a break from singing in the choir, I will do just this.  I will stand amidst the congregation and intentionally NOT sing, partly to just give my vocal chords some rest, and partly to soak in the music and worship before the throne in this silent awe and thanksgiving, particularly when the choir is singing a choir-only hymn such as the Cherubic Hymn or the Anaphora.  I often find it difficult, though, when not in the choir to just not sing for the entire Liturgy, so I'll often join the congregation in the litany responses and the Creed.
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« Reply #25 on: April 16, 2006, 10:13:46 PM »

Our congregation sings along with the chanter, choir, and priest, when the song is not an overdone rendition. Sometimes the chanter likes to really keep us waiting with his long terirems, the choir sometimes is soo overstylizes that you dont know what on earth they are singing, so our priest always asks them to keep the original simple byzantine melodies which everyone knows or can learn. So when Christos Anesti, Ti Ipermaho (To you the Champion) is sung, the vast majority of our church sings along with them or thats at least what it sounds like. The rest of the liturgy which is chanted such as hte kyrie eleisons are done solo psaltiri/choir.

Re: chanter - there are places (especially for long services usually done in monasteries) where it is appropriate for the chanter to go off on these long melismas.  The purposes can be 1) to allow the participants to meditate on the words that have just BEEN sung (not an almost meaningless 3 pg one-syllable of an Alleluia) and 2) to deliberately pass the time or lengthen the service.

Re: choir - I agree that there is a lot of overstylized music out there.  My priest (who also has the position of Choirmaster for the OCA Diocese of the West) will hardly tolerate anything with "schmalz" - one reason why we happen to do a fair amount of Znammeny, Carpatho-Russian and even Byzantine chant.  The time before Communion of the Faithful (or Priest's Communion) is essentially a carte blanche time for a choir concert (although sometimes readings may be done in lieu).  Besides other standard Communion hymns, often festal Troparia, Vespers Lord I have Cried, Aposticha or Praises (from Matins) stichera are appropriate as they have lots of important teaching in their content.
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« Reply #26 on: April 18, 2006, 10:45:26 AM »

My priest said that a lot of the "complicated" hymns of the Church came from times when either:

a. The norm of writing at the time was a very poetic stylized form (such as St. Ephraim of Syria's works and St. Romans the Melodist).

or

b. When the church was (still is) under the heavy persecution of Islam which stated that services could be conducted but sermons or homilies were NOT to be given in public. And so many priests would write their sermon's in music form and chant their sermons aloud to the congregations...and the non-Christians would have no clue that it was not actually part of the service. Pretty neat Cool
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« Reply #27 on: April 20, 2006, 09:26:16 PM »

Is my own parish the only one where worshippers are--how do I put this--well, lazy? Aside from reciting the Nicene Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and a few spoken responses to the priest, almost the entire congregation seems content to just stand there staring straight ahead for the better part of ninety minutes. Aside from a mere sprinkling of folks, the laity seem content to just listen to the choir. I don't get it. Are people just too embarrassed to sing aloud? Granted I tend to do so rather quietly (I wouldn't want to damage those gorgeous windows), but can we at least see some lips moving out there? True, the growth of the number of converts has contributed to the language barrier but it is the phrase "Kyrie Eleison" really that tough? Worse, most of the seniors who attend, who still speak Greek as their first language seem not to say a single word.

What really bothers me is that the majority don't even bother with the numerous supplications of "Lord have mercy" or "Grant it, O Lord". This is worship? There should be a lot more to it than just crossing oneself every few minutes. I have a hard time reconciling what I've seen every Sunday for so many years with the vibrant image in my head of what must have taken place inside Hagia Sophia in the tenth century. Much as I hate to admit it, I think we could learn a lot from Protestants when it comes to really putting our heart and soul into our worship, rather than just letting the priest, psalter, and choir do everything for us. Even at midnight Pascha services, I've noticed that our priest has to occasionally remind everyone to sing "Christos Anesti". That's not exactly conducive to the enticement of non-Orthodox attendees who are being introduced to Orthodoxy. In fact, it's an embarrassment.

This might bother me a lot less if the same people who are so liturgically tight-lipped didn't start babbling loudly amongst themselves when the Holy Eucharist is being distributed. As the apex of true Christian worship shouldn't this be the most solemn and respectful time to observe? The same thing occurs afterward when the antidoron is being given out.

I don't think that this is a characteristic exclusive to my church. Is this a source of irritation for anyone else?

Maybe this site will have some resources to give vibrancy to your parish and its parishioners:

http://www.stsymeon.org/index.htm
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« Reply #28 on: April 20, 2006, 11:59:11 PM »

All very interesting responses.. I too have noted this.  In fact sometimes the priest has to really shout " oli mazi' (all toegether) for both the Lord's prayer & the Creed.. A few other observations:
1. For Christmas we had a pageant w/ traditional American Carols.. passed  around the words.. It took awhile for the parish to warm up to it.. some people are just not comfortable singing...
2. In RC parishes the mass is not sung...priest prays and the whole congregation responds as appropriate...because it is not sung... no excuse for not participating.
Which brings me to my 3rd point:
3.  Much of the tradition of the early church was from a clergy parish(hundreds of clergy/chanters) to teach the new Christian world.. and yes, to entertain .. so people would go to church instead of the theater. there are  theatrics in the service.. They may have meaning, but still there is a 'show' component..

Historically, at one point the Emperor even brought in professional actors & singers.. because he didn't have funds to keep both the church and theatre operating..  However, the more elaborate the chanting became.. the less the ordinary person could do it.. so.. I wonder.. Today..is the psalti chanting in Greek the 'background' for inducing private prayer??? i.e.white noise that drowns out distractions so people can pray.. for sure most don't have a clue what is being chanted in unintelligible Byzantine Greek chant.  HMMMM might work just as well for a background..

Seems to me the options are:
- responses are spoken... all people can do this
-responses are sung... a few can do this if there are standard tunes used regularly.
- resposes are chanted... who knows where the psalti is going with his chant.. each psalti has a unique style... most would not dare to join him without knowing exactly what he is doing...

We never use the first approach... so we hover with the last two. hence.. there is detachment from the service
In XC, Kizzy
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« Reply #29 on: April 21, 2006, 01:40:12 AM »

As you might know, we use Old Church Slavonic, which is neither here nor there.  My Serbian is fair (at best) and my OCS is totally lacking. Put it all together and you have the recipe for non-participation.

The SOC does not use Old Church Slavonic. That was the language only of the translations connected with the Moravian mission and its immediate descendents, and was a hastily codified literary language based on the Slavonic language spoken in the hinterlands of Thessaloniki. The period of OCS ended, according to philological tradition, at the end of the eleventh century. The language the SOC, as well as the Bulgarian and Russian churches, use is "Church Slavonic", a thoroughly artificial language created by taking Old Church Slavonic and applying modern phonology (loss of the yers, denasalization of the yus letters) and grammar (loss of the original Slavonic verbal system).
« Last Edit: April 21, 2006, 01:41:13 AM by CRCulver » Logged
calligraphqueen
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« Reply #30 on: April 24, 2006, 10:02:09 AM »

this response if from a prot convert, so bear with me.

I grew up in a huge famous protestant church, where big names in "christian music" would come and perform for us. Or we would have an "artist in residence" as the music director.  He would lead the congregation in a couple of hymns maybe, or as years went on they would use those stupid popular Calvary chapel praise songs. (vain repetition anyone?)  Mostly we would just sit there and be entertained, shout a few amens to a neopolitical ear tickling diatribe...I mean message and then speed out of the parking lot to get to the local feeding trough in time to beat everyone else.  It all had to be timed just right because they had only paid for so much air time.

So, to enter the Orthodox church-even with very old cradle borns that kind of just stand there, was STILL more active than what I ever knew.  We have one Russian gentleman that attends, and stands the entire service and doesn't sing in Greek.  But then he is having enough trouble with English in this country.  I cannot judge his piety or what is in his heart any more than I can assume I know what's in these stodgy old Greek men.  We only have a chanter, one woman that thinks she can sing because she can read music-so she "helps" the chanter, and one of my children's godmother's that also helps ( I love her voice)  We have no choir.  And I know that i try to follow along and sing when I can, but I lose my place frequently when son #3 messes with son #2 or one of his three sisters, or puts his feet where they don't belong, or something else my kids do.  You really never know a person's heart, and as I have said on other posts it's probably not our job to try and gauge another's heart.  If you could see me juggling 6 kids or 7 if my teen comes with us, you might think i am not pious enough!  Huh
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