Author Topic: Parish Isues  (Read 698 times)

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Offline Georgii

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Parish Isues
« on: February 08, 2015, 11:52:53 AM »
I am posting this in the Convert Issues sub-forum because I was Chrismated less than 10 months ago, and I have maybe a fairly typical case of convertitis. My especial problem is that my fellow parishoners are sinners.

Shocked! Shocked to find gambling at Rick's!

In our mostly-Russian congregation in Germany there has been a drive for about three years now to carry out what I would call a "Great Purge" in the style of the USSR of 1937. The recently-departed Lydia for whom I asked for your prayers in the Prayer Forum would know what I am talking about.

The Archpriest who had been serving here got what you could call the King Lear treatment, although he is still the nominal Rector. Our long-serving Elder was chucked out at about the same time.

The new regime has been trying to get my wife to stop singing in the choir for years now -- for maybe 15 years she and whoever came by that day or night was the choir.

Now the Elder of the Church Council is telling our Choir Director that she should stop teaching all of the people who have any experience at al with choir singing, and that she should run auditions to find the best (new) singers, and before her work visa for Germany expires in March she should train these people up.

This is a woman who graduated from the music conservatory in Moscow, and after that from the school for choir directors at the Moscow Theological Seminary. This woman knows her stuff!

After consultation with me and my wife, she told the people in our congregation: "Ah, you want me to train Orthodox Choir members in three months. OK, we had iprofessional icon painters in here last summer. Why don't we run tryouts and give the most promising candidates three months of training in icon painting, then we will let them have a go on the walls of the church here."

Sorry for the rant here. Our Father Deacon had an answer to this question: All of us should receive Communion every week, then everyone would be nicer to each other. Somehow this has not worked so far.

Our Archpriest/Rector knows about the situation. He told my wife, his spiritual daughter, that she must not stop singing in the choir there. And being, for better or for worse, a stubborn woman (as I am a stubborn man), she has been a very tough nut to crack.

I could say much much more about this, and maybe I will, shortly. Suffice it to say that Homo Soveticus is alive and well in this part of the world.

The "nuclear option" would be to tell our Archbishop, but especially as a recent convert I don't want to push that button too quickly. Thank you for any thoughts.
'
« Last Edit: February 08, 2015, 11:56:30 AM by Georgii »
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Offline mike

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Re: Parish Isues
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2015, 01:31:31 PM »
Welcome to Orthodoxy.

My aunt has recently made a mistake, namely she informed a bishop (Abp. Theopanes I suppose) about some financial mismanaging in a parish she attended. It kinda backfired since nothing was done about that and rest of the parish started to give her strange  looks. Now she and a few other exiles attend a Romanian parish. Why wouldn't you make a move too?

Offline hecma925

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Re: Parish Isues
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2015, 07:08:17 PM »
Church intrigue.  How lame.

Hopefully, it works out for you and your wife.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2015, 07:08:45 PM by hecma925 »
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Offline Thomas

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Re: Parish Isues
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2015, 09:57:42 PM »
This is not the norm in parish life follow the pastor's advice the parish council  is to serve the secular not spiritual needs of the church.
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Offline Volnutt

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Re: Parish Isues
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2015, 10:00:10 PM »
This is not the norm in parish life follow the pastor's advice the parish council  is to serve the secular not spiritual needs of the church.

The make up of the choir is kind of a blurred line though, isn't it? Especially if they're having to hire non-Orthodox singers.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2015, 10:00:33 PM by Volnutt »
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Offline Dominika

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Re: Parish Isues
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2015, 08:51:48 AM »
Welcome to Orthodoxy.
+1
Neither new nor unusual. But, believe me, there are worse "parish issues". And you have two ways: be involved into the parish life not only via Sacraments - but it causes such problems; or just be a typical parishioner who just attends the services - it's higher probability you won't be exposed to such things.

I know it's disturbing, and choir issues very often cause higher tension and discussions, because it's one of the most visible parts of the parish life and everybody wants to introduce his own ideas, but on the other hand, nobody wants to be responsible for it and everybody is blaming each other. Plus such stuff as who should/shouldn't be member of the choir etc.

Have all the people involved into this conflict met together? Because one of the worst things are discussions between a few people in separate groups, and even if everybody knows the situation, nobody knows it in details and it generates problems.

My aunt has recently made a mistake, namely she informed a bishop (Abp. Theopanes I suppose) about some financial mismanaging in a parish she attended. It kinda backfired since nothing was done about that and rest of the parish started to give her strange  looks. Now she and a few other exiles attend a Romanian parish. Why wouldn't you make a move too?
Yeah, now I know how doest it look perfectly :( (from my own experience, as you know more or less) - it should work perfectly, informing the bishops, but it's like an own goal.

That's good your aunt and the rest have the choice of the local Church, despite all negative consequences of overlapping jurisdictions. I wish I had a Romanian parish in Warsaw to attend it.
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Offline mike

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Re: Parish Isues
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2015, 12:49:34 PM »
I wish I had a Romanian parish in Warsaw to attend it.

Thanks God there won't be any.

Offline Georgii

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Re: Parish Isues
« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2015, 04:29:08 PM »
Thank you all for your responses.

As it turned out, on the very day of my OP, our Archbishop addressed the issue of envy between Christians in his sermon, which I have only listened to today:

(in Russian) http://www.sobor.de/images/stories/audio/am2015/a.m_2015_01_25_Sv_Novomuchenikov_i_Ispovednikov_Ross.mp3

He knows perfectly well what has been going on in our parish.

Lesson learned: Trust Your Clergy.

« Last Edit: February 25, 2015, 04:31:08 PM by Georgii »
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Offline Georgii

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Re: Parish Isues
« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2015, 03:56:14 AM »
The make up of the choir is kind of a blurred line though, isn't it? Especially if they're having to hire non-Orthodox singers.

We have one non-Orthodox singer, but she is definitely not paid to do it, she isn't there much of the time, and she has experience in Byzantine Rite singing. What the parish council was talking about was getting rid of everyone in the choir who has experience, especially those like my wife who have been the backbone of the choir for years.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2015, 04:08:24 AM by Georgii »
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Offline Georgii

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Re: Parish Isues
« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2015, 04:00:17 AM »
Have all the people involved into this conflict met together? Because one of the worst things are discussions between a few people in separate groups, and even if everybody knows the situation, nobody knows it in details and it generates problems.

Meeting together is exactly what we have not done, and as you say, it is the discussions in separate groups that is poisoning the atmosphere.

These choir squabbles are a symptom of deeper problems.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2015, 04:00:33 AM by Georgii »
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Offline podkarpatska

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Re: Parish Isues
« Reply #10 on: February 26, 2015, 12:56:57 PM »
I was gratified in a truly 'weird' way to read the sad stories on this thread. Why, one might ask? Such a strange reaction! Let me explain.

In America the history of Orthodoxy has been a story of starts, stops, divisions and schisms. We've rather settled down in the second half of my lifetime, but still the scars and animosity run deep. We, cradles and converts alike, have a habit or idealizing the 'old world.' Somehow we have this idyllic vision of the Church on the hill, with happy parishioners and wise rulers worshiping all of the cycles and services with abandon, led by beatific pastors and wise bishops where heaven on earth exists in near harmony.

Converts tend to leave a denomination where anything but wise leadership and harmony are the norm, and somehow - because of either our own use of the venerable 'Potemkin Village' approach to treating 'newbies' or because they see what they want to see, they tend to idealize the Orthodox Church in comparison to their old church.

Human nature expects us to simply 'find the end of the rainbow' rather than to work hard to achieve our rewards, both secular and spiritual.

So we must remember, the Church which has been handed down to us was founded in a sense as a perfect vehicle for us to acheive our salvation - but we forget that it was entrusted by our Creator to mortal men and women - all of whom live in a fallen world with the consequences of sin. Like the 'ladder of divine ascent', the church is the means we are given to climb beyond our fallen nature and to seek Theosis and our salvation.

What is important to remember is that inspite of our human nature, the Church has survived as promised by Jesus to Peter. We just have to perserve and keep true to the faith. No one said it would be easy.

Offline Georgii

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Re: Parish Isues
« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2015, 01:23:58 PM »
I was gratified in a truly 'weird' way to read the sad stories on this thread.

I do aim to entertain. For another colorful image, how often is it that men feel like going mano a mano behind the church building with the parish priest for insulting their wife?

How grateful we can be to face such trials!

No one said it would be easy.

They sure didn't. Thanks for your perspectives.

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Offline podkarpatska

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Re: Parish Isues
« Reply #12 on: February 26, 2015, 02:05:55 PM »
Georgi, with respect to the 'mano a mano' question, did you ever see the movie The Deer Hunter?

Offline mike

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Re: Parish Isues
« Reply #13 on: February 26, 2015, 03:19:23 PM »
For another colorful image, how often is it that men feel like going mano a mano behind the church building with the parish priest for insulting their wife?

We had recently an incident when a priest was drinking with one of his parishioners, then beat up him, and finally tried to rape that man's wife (or that's what people were vaying). Public opinion was outraged because he drank on Philip's fast.

Offline Georgii

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Re: Parish Isues
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2015, 03:20:51 PM »
did you ever see the movie The Deer Hunter?

It was way before I had any clue about Orthodoxy, but yeah.

At least there aren't that many guns in Germany.
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Offline gzt

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Re: Parish Isues
« Reply #15 on: February 27, 2015, 12:26:52 AM »
I know it's disturbing, and choir issues very often cause higher tension and discussions, because it's one of the most visible parts of the parish life and everybody wants to introduce his own ideas, but on the other hand, nobody wants to be responsible for it and everybody is blaming each other. Plus such stuff as who should/shouldn't be member of the choir etc.

I always find it fun when people outside the choir try to influence what the choir sings. I mean, look, you get a vote if you stand up here and sing with us. Bring your music, sing it with us, we'll sing it. Okay, that's not the rule in all places.

Offline Georgii

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Re: Parish Isues
« Reply #16 on: March 02, 2015, 04:10:13 AM »
Welcome to Orthodoxy.

Thanks.

Now she and a few other exiles attend a Romanian parish. Why wouldn't you make a move too?

I did attend a Romanian Liturgy yesterday at a chapel about 400 meters on foot from where I live. The place was packed. Except for one guy who stared/glared at me, people were quite friendly. On kissing the cross I told the priest I was from the Russian parish, and he smiled -- they probably don't get many non-Romanian visitors.

So that is indeed an alternative if life gets intolerable in the Russian parish, but as mentioned before my wife's spiritual father has told her to endure there, and being good friends with the choir director my wife and I want to keep supporting her. But it's very much a case of show up, sing and/or read, and leave as quickly as possible.

Today I realized that almost all of the core choir members -- the people who the parish council want to replace -- have advanced degrees: one has doctorates in medicine and biochemistry, one is a dentist, one has "only" a diploma in electrical engineering (and he is the weakest singer), two have two master's degrees each in linguistics (my wife is one of them), and one graduated from the local conservatory (she's kind of uneven as a singer, too).

Of the wannabees who think they can replace these people, a couple graduated from what you could call musical vocational schools (училище) in the former Soviet Union -- a musically-oriented high school education. Sorry to say, they still aren't very good. A couple of others have high-school level pedagogical training that qualified them as primary school teachers in the former USSR. One trained as a medical doctor, but she is the least pushy of the lot.

Many parishioners accuse the current choir members of elitism. What I am realizing now, even though I don't particularly like it either, is that higher education really does matter in being able to read in church and sing church music well, even if it is not specifically musical education.

Envy.

Well, if the choir does get purged somehow, it won't be literal Pol Pot-style killing fields -- these intrigues of ours are indeed lame by most measures.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2015, 04:26:42 AM by Georgii »
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Offline podkarpatska

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Re: Parish Isues
« Reply #17 on: March 02, 2015, 12:28:08 PM »
Georgii, could the current difficulties relate to political or social issues in the home country of some of these folks? Such was often the source of discord in American parishes when eastern European immigration was at its height before the second world war. If so, that one is  tough, tough nut to crack and has little, if anything, to do with matters of faith but it can quickly poison the waters of the best of parishes. Good luck.

Offline Elisha

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Re: Parish Isues
« Reply #18 on: March 02, 2015, 01:02:06 PM »
Georgii, could the current difficulties relate to political or social issues in the home country of some of these folks? Such was often the source of discord in American parishes when eastern European immigration was at its height before the second world war. If so, that one is  tough, tough nut to crack and has little, if anything, to do with matters of faith but it can quickly poison the waters of the best of parishes. Good luck.

I think they affect modern times too.  Just a few years ago during the Russia-Georgia issues, an OCA "Old Calendar Slavonic" parish had issues I hear.  They had a bunch of Georgians in the parish who gradually just stopped going.  I have no idea if there was coffee hour political bickering or not, but sad to hear nonetheless.

Offline podkarpatska

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Re: Parish Isues
« Reply #19 on: March 02, 2015, 02:23:50 PM »
Georgii, could the current difficulties relate to political or social issues in the home country of some of these folks? Such was often the source of discord in American parishes when eastern European immigration was at its height before the second world war. If so, that one is  tough, tough nut to crack and has little, if anything, to do with matters of faith but it can quickly poison the waters of the best of parishes. Good luck.

I think they affect modern times too.  Just a few years ago during the Russia-Georgia issues, an OCA "Old Calendar Slavonic" parish had issues I hear.  They had a bunch of Georgians in the parish who gradually just stopped going.  I have no idea if there was coffee hour political bickering or not, but sad to hear nonetheless.

True, they have hardly disappeared, but they are usually not as destructive as in the 'good old days'...when my grandparents' generation were starting parishes before the war.

Offline Georgii

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Re: Parish Isues
« Reply #20 on: March 02, 2015, 08:02:17 PM »
could the current difficulties relate to political or social issues in the home country of some of these folks?

The typical congregation member is a descendant of Volga Germans http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volga_Germans who were deported to Siberia or Central Asia during WWII. Kazakhstan is probably the most common point of origin. As ethnic Germans, they had/have a right to return to Germany. While some of them may have retained some rudiments of German culture and language, and many of them have German last names, they are all thoroughly Russified, and have had to learn (better) German once they got here. They mostly moved to Germany because their situation in Kazakhstan or wherever was unsatisfactory, even desperate.

The typical choir member is a Russian not of German descent who came to Germany either as a university student (like my wife), or as a trained professional (like the biochemist and the dentist) -- not out of desperation, but in a spirit of adventure and/or seeking greater opportunities.

Thanks for asking the question, podkarpatska, it has helped me to understand these issues better.
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Offline Georgii

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Re: Parish Isues
« Reply #21 on: Yesterday at 12:47:34 AM »
The typical choir member also used to live not in Siberia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan etc., but in or near Moscow. Hmmm.
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Offline podkarpatska

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Re: Parish Isues
« Reply #22 on: Yesterday at 06:27:10 PM »
It sounds like the kind of issues that many parishes faced in the 1920's in America. In the aftermath of the breakdown of the Hapsburgh empire and the collapse of Tsarist Russia, some came from what is now Poland, some came from what is now Ukraine, some from what is now Slovakia and so on...the groups each thought they knew it all...and problems ensued, the vestiges of which continue to the present in many communities in America.