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Author Topic: Converts and Established Customs  (Read 9996 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: August 25, 2006, 12:27:46 PM »

Note: this thread was split off from "Introduction and Question" in the Convert forum because it began at this post to talk about the following topic. ~ Pedro

Quote
Oddly, one of the catalysts for my investigating Church history was that I realised that what I'd been taught made it seem like Christianity was a western European phenomenon

EXACTLY! and what a great segue for my favorite sport convert bashing. I am tired of converts from western confessions bashing our little "t" traditions. These are small traditions that are more ethnically based. I left a mostly convert community recently because they wresteled hold of the board and in my opinion were in the process of creating their own "antiseptic" form of Orthodoxy. Minimal icons, no food fairs, but ladies' teas are OK, design of a new church that would not reflect Slavic or Byzantine architectural forms. I could keep going.

Sorry if I offended, but I've been offended. Don't let my rants dissuade you ComingHome.  Come Home we want you. But remember to respect the forefathers and mothers in the Orthodox faith who had a hand at establishing Orthodoxy in the USA, Canada, Australia, etc.
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« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2006, 01:13:59 PM »

EXACTLY! and what a great segue for my favorite sport convert bashing. I am tired of converts from western confessions bashing our little "t" traditions. These are small traditions that are more ethnically based. I left a mostly convert community recently because they wresteled hold of the board and in my opinion were in the process of creating their own "antiseptic" form of Orthodoxy. Minimal icons, no food fairs, but ladies' teas are OK, design of a new church that would not reflect Slavic or Byzantine architectural forms. I could keep going.

Sorry if I offended, but I've been offended. Don't let my rants dissuade you ComingHome.  Come Home we want you. But remember to respect the forefathers and mothers in the Orthodox faith who had a hand at establishing Orthodoxy in the USA, Canada, Australia, etc.

Well put.  My falling away from Lutheran theology corresponded with a time in my life where I was increasingly becoming disillusioned with Western thought in general.  I found myself increasingly drawn, not to the religion, but to the mindset of my Oriental and Indian friends.  It was the revelation that true Christianity is an EASTERN religion, and what I was practicing was a Western perversion of that religion that interested me in the Orthodox Church.  The Orthodox people that I met taught me that Christianity was not a system of beliefs, but rather a way of life.  The "small t" traditions followed by so many of the "ethnic" Orthodox were actually a result of the Orthodox way of life and not so much ethnicity.  I remember a Serbian priest tell me that one cannot be a Serb and not be Orthodox.  Likewise, if you are Orthodox, regardless of the fact that I was born a German, I was a Serb inside.  I have seen some of this mentality among some of the Greeks and Syrians that I have met, too.  I got the impression that to truly be Greek meant to be Orthodox.  To truly be Russian meant to be Orthodox.  To truly be Serbian meant to be Orthodox.  Rather than my old mindset of "I'm a German who happens to be Lutheran rather than Roman Catholic", I realized that Russian Orthodox meant "I am Orthodox, but I just happen to feel more comfortable with Slavic Culture than Mediterranean" .  This is my veiw as a convert, and I may perhaps be all wet.  The Orthodox culture is so rich because Orthodox Christianity is the completion and crowning point of any culture or ethnicity.  All true philosophy, all true art, all true science, all true beauty finds it fulfillment and completion in Christ, and the Orthodox Church is the Body of Christ.  A sterile Church is the result of a sterile culture, and the emptiness that gave birth to it.  Forgive me if I am wrong or have offended anyone by this.
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« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2006, 03:02:27 PM »

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I found myself increasingly drawn, not to the religion, but to the mindset of my Oriental and Indian friends.  It was the revelation that true Christianity is an EASTERN religion, and what I was practicing was a Western perversion of that religion

The same was true of me. In what I call my wandering in the desert years I eventually found evangelicalism to be bereft of substance. Then I came home.  In my wandering years I was impressed by eastern religions but could not bring myself to convert because in their faith Christ is not God. This I always believed in and could not deny. Orthodoxy is the answer. It is Christianity with substance! With meat!
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« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2006, 03:50:14 PM »

Dear ASERB and PUNCH,

As a cradle Orthodox Christian, starting out as a Carpatho Russian and now OCA, I have grown increasingly weary of hearing about Holy Russia, Holy Antioch, Holy Greece, Holy Serbia, etc., etc., etc. We are in America. I can't believe that either of you feel that it is impossible to have Orthodoxy in America, which is the fullness of the Body of Christ, without also having all the little "t"'s which I feel hinder the spread of Orthodoxy in this country. Our parish has all services in English--every word. We always have a flow of new members--we are growing. These converts have discovered Orthodoxy and have found their faith fulfilled in a truly AMERICAN ORTHODOX parish. We have Russians, Greeks, Serbs, Macedonians, Irish, English, Italians and Slavs--you name, we have it. We are, however, a parish united in the Body of Christ--not united by various ethnic traditions and customs. We still have our Easter baskets on Pascha night, but you are just as likely to see Kentucky Fried Chicken as you are to see Slovenian sausage.

We average about 50 people every Saturday evening for Vespers. Many of these attendees are from the local Greek church--they come to our church because it is in English. A month ago an elderly gentleman from the Greek Church came up to me after the Vesper service with tears in his eyes and exclaimed that this was the first time in 70+ years that he had understood the meaning of the service and how beautiful it was to worship in understanding.

We have about 200 people every Sunday morning and nearly all attend the coffee hour. We have no bingo, no ethnic food festivals, no casino nights. Our parish is funded solely on the tithes of the parishioners.

We are not stuck in pre-revolutionary Russia or any other historical period. We act daily on our mission to build up the body of the Church. This CAN be done without any ethnicity at all. We are living proof. We still have 2 hour Divine Liturgy and there have been no concessions to proper Orthodox worship. People are there because they want to there.

Please don't let your fondness for any ethnic period or custom be a key reason for being Orthodox. The first missionary to North America didn't force the Aleuts to learn Russian, he translated the Gospels into Aleut.

We will never grow as a church until we quit being stuck in time and ethnicity and go forth to evangelize where we are with what God has given us.

May God bless us all!

COWBOY
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« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2006, 03:59:50 PM »

The first missionary to North America didn't force the Aleuts to learn Russian, he translated the Gospels into Aleut.

The Russian Orthodox Church worships in Church Slavonic, not modern Russian. And while much translation was done of prayers and the Bible into the local language, the Russian church in general believes that it is best that ethnic minorities retain a Church Slavonic liturgy. Even after the efforts of my patron, St Stephen of Perm, church services in Komi land are in Church Slavonic, and even though much publishing in the Mari language is of religious texts, the Church still maintains Church Slavonic. So, not a good example.

Now, for what it's worth, I don't have too much complaint about Americans blending a little of their culture with what they have received, provided it's all godly and orthodox. However, very often I see certain American converts actively trying to wipe out nice traditions that do no harm and enrich the local community. It's understandable that people desire an English-language liturgy, but the relish that some take in trampling on ethnic food, holidays, etc. is just wrong and appalling.
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« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2006, 04:12:24 PM »


Now, for what it's worth, I don't have too much complaint about Americans blending a little of their culture with what they have received, provided it's all godly and orthodox. However, very often I see certain American converts actively trying to wipe out nice traditions that do no harm and enrich the local community. It's understandable that people desire an English-language liturgy, but the relish that some take in trampling on ethnic food, holidays, etc. is just wrong and appalling.
[/quote]

I do not disagree that this sometimes happens, but it is when ethnic parishes come to believe that food festivals and other traditions ARE the faith that convert zeal comes into action. I have encountered  many Orthodox Christians who feel that their "church work" is making pierogies, or God forbid, calling the numbers at bingo or tending bar at the church club and that sometimes this prevents them from going to services. This is the perversion of Orthodoxy to which I am referring. One of our local Greek churches just had their festival--but didn't have Vespers on Saturday evening because it interfered with the festival. Orthodoxy is about God--not about food.

COWBOY
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« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2006, 04:20:11 PM »

Orthodoxy is about God--not about food.

Oh, Cowboy--welcome!  What a wonderful sentiment to hear from someone born and raised in the faith.  Please continue to post here.  Yes, indeed; anything that would take the place of engagement with the services (and through them, God) is a distraction.  Not wrong in and of itself, but an unwelcome distraction when it's given precedence over evangelism and active participation in the liturgical life of the Church.

It's understandable that people desire an English-language liturgy, but the relish that some take in trampling on ethnic food, holidays, etc. is just wrong and appalling.

I agree that it's unhealthy to desire to wipe out all traces of the ethnic roots of the faith, for much of it is the Christianization of a human culture, rather than the exclusive culturization of Christianity.  I think the food, the music, the festivals, and the tones are important links with the Holy Spirit's work in other cultures who have transferred the gospel to us.

However, language is another matter, and one that's close to my heart, as I'm a language teacher.  I think the vast majority of the divine services needs to fit the linguistic needs of the community; this means that I believe that Russians should worship in Russian (not Slavonic), that Ukranians should worship in Ukranian (not Slavonic), that Greeks should worship in modern Greek translations of the Liturgy (not the ancient Greek that is difficult for modern Greeks to understand), that Hispanics should worship in Spanish, and that those living in American for whom English is their first language should worship primarily in English.

The repeated prayers (Lord, have mercy/Grant this, O Lord/Holy God etc) are a good place to insert the "Old Country Languages" along with the English.  But understanding--and by understanding I don't mean "just the gist of it" understanding, but fluent understanding in the natural, first language of the hearer--of the divine services is crucial to folks taking their faith seriously, believing that it has anything at all to say to them in their lives.  To insist on liturgies in a language that a minority of the people understand (or a version of the language that is much less clear than their native tongue would be) is to get in the way of the Great Commission of our Lord, God and Savior, as well as the building up of the faithful.

My 2 cents, fwiw.
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« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2006, 04:28:40 PM »

Thank you for the welcome, Pedro. I am happy to be here.
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« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2006, 04:32:13 PM »

Cowboy

Well bully for you do want a prize?  You are so Orthodox let me bow to your piety.  For your info I believe that the services should be in English, but don't berate me if I want to hear a little Slavonic now and then. Oh and you fully support your church on your tithes. You get a special star in heaven. For your info,the food fairs that we hold are also an evangelistic tool. Many non-Orthodox or soon to be Orthodox are introduced to the faith through their stomachs. Apart from the English language, American culture, in my opinion, with its relativism and if it feels good do it attitude has NOTHING to offer traditional Orthodoxy!
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« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2006, 04:32:58 PM »

Woa there, Cowboy!

I have nothing against Othodox Liturgy in English.  It has always been my understanding that the Liturgy was to be performed in the language of the people.  What I am discussing is the mindset of the American people vs the mindset of some of the more "ethnic" people.  Most of the Russians, Arabs, Serbs and the like that I have met come from cultures that are far different than that of the United States.  Considering that the Middle Eastern and Greek peoples have been Orthodox for 2000 years, and the Russians for 1000 years, these cultures have had much time to infuse themselves with an Orthodox mindset.  This is quite different than the Mason inspired, Democratic and Capitalist society that has been created over here.  Even though the United States considers itself "Christian", I would say that we are as close to a pagan society as we can get.  What I am refering to when it comes to my love for "ethnic" Orthodox people is not the language of the service (the ROCOR parish that I attend when I can make it uses English), or whether or not they eat gyros or hamburgers after the service.  What I am referring to is the Orthodox mindset that I have seen in the "ethnics" (ok, not all of them) that comes from 1000 or more years of history vs the very Western and very secular culture that is a part of so many converts such as myself.  I agree with you that the United States could become an Orthodox country.  But it cannot do so as it stands today.  To become "Holy Russia", Russia had to throw off its Viking and Pagan past.  The Greeks also had to give up some of their culture.  Are not the Epistles of Paul filled with encouragement of the Jews and Greeks to give up some of their former selves and be reborn in Christ?  This could happen in America today.  However, for now, I have noticed myself learning more from some of the "ethinc" Orthodox with thier ancient traditions of Orthodoxy than I do from some of the converts such as the ex-AEOM groups.

So, to conclude, I never stated that it was impossible for there ever to be an Othodox America equaling or exceeding the glory of Holy Russia or whatever.  I also did not say that we will get there by eating gyros and swilling ouzo.  In fact, I believe very much that a person can be Orthodox within the confines of much of their ethinicity.  In this regard I believe much the same as Sundar Singh, who believed on could be a Christian while still being Indian and not English.  What I DID try to say was that some of the "ethnicity" that we American or European converts often make fun of should be viewed more closely to determine if the practice in question is simply ethnic, or if the ethnicity of the practice is reflective of the Orthodox tradition of that Church.
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« Reply #10 on: August 25, 2006, 04:35:27 PM »

Quote
So, to conclude, I never stated that it was impossible for there ever to be an Othodox America equaling or exceeding the glory of Holy Russia or whatever.  I also did not say that we will get there by eating gyros and swilling ouzo.  In fact, I believe very much that a person can be Orthodox within the confines of much of their ethinicity.  In this regard I believe much the same as Sundar Singh, who believed on could be a Christian while still being Indian and not English.  What I DID try to say was that some of the "ethnicity" that we American or European converts often make fun of should be viewed more closely to determine if the practice in question is simply ethnic, or if the ethnicity of the practice is reflective of the Orthodox tradition of that Church.

AMEN AND AMEN!!!
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« Reply #11 on: August 25, 2006, 04:37:05 PM »

Pedro.

As usual you are the voice of reason. That is why you are a moderator and I am a sinning polemic.
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« Reply #12 on: August 25, 2006, 04:41:55 PM »

I am tired of converts from western confessions bashing our little "t" traditions. These are small traditions that are more ethnically based.

Perhaps converts are tired, not of the little "t" traditions in and of themselves, but of folks treating those traditions as if the Faith itself would fall apart if those traditions--which, as you said, are more ethnically than theologically based--were not observed.

Quote
I left a mostly convert community recently because they wresteled hold of the board and in my opinion were in the process of creating their own "antiseptic" form of Orthodoxy. Minimal icons, no food fairs, but ladies' teas are OK, design of a new church that would not reflect Slavic or Byzantine architectural forms. I could keep going.

"wrestled hold," huh?  Our priest (a cradle) put a mostly-convert board together because he knew we were the ones who, along with a handful of dedicated cradles, devoted time, money and energy to the parish.  I'll admit that it would seem odd to me to have minimal icons and tea and crumpets instead of traditional Orthodox fare, but hey, if that's the culture of the parish (not to mention the surrounding community that the Church is to be a part of), then that's what needs to be done, and nothing about Orthodox Tradition (with a big T) is being compromised by doing that.

That is not to say that I discount your feeling uncomfortable at all, aserb.  But to say that their culture is somehow inherently incompatible with Orthodoxy is a bit much.  May God bless them in what they're doing, if such is done to relate to the surrounding community.

Pedro.

As usual you are the voice of reason. That is why you are a moderator and I am a sinning polemic.

Sarcasm duly noted.   Wink  Sorry you're offended, but I hope you will note that, in my last post, I did say that much of the ethnic cultural traditions are not to be despised.  Neither are they to be exalted to the point of sacrificing the spiritual life of the Church, but they shouldn't be actively disparaged and suppressed by overzealous WASO converts.
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« Reply #13 on: August 25, 2006, 04:46:31 PM »

Now, for what it's worth, I don't have too much complaint about Americans blending a little of their culture with what they have received, provided it's all godly and orthodox. However, very often I see certain American converts actively trying to wipe out nice traditions that do no harm and enrich the local community. It's understandable that people desire an English-language liturgy, but the relish that some take in trampling on ethnic food, holidays, etc. is just wrong and appalling.


I do not disagree that this sometimes happens, but it is when ethnic parishes come to believe that food festivals and other traditions ARE the faith that convert zeal comes into action. I have encountered  many Orthodox Christians who feel that their "church work" is making pierogies, or God forbid, calling the numbers at bingo or tending bar at the church club and that sometimes this prevents them from going to services. This is the perversion of Orthodoxy to which I am referring. One of our local Greek churches just had their festival--but didn't have Vespers on Saturday evening because it interfered with the festival. Orthodoxy is about God--not about food.

COWBOY

Well Cowboy, I'll up the ante by this:  my parish DOES have a food festival and we DO have Vespers DURING the festival and the festival just contributes to paying off the mortgage (in addition to tithes) besides 10% of the REVENUE going to a charity fund.  Additionally, we do retain a little bit of Slavonic and maybe throw in a Greek litany sometimes.  We have lots of American converts besides all those other ethnicities as well.  But I think here is the catch - you first need to define American culture to even be able to have a strictly "American" Orthodox Church.  And there are many things American that are certainly NOT Orthodox and will never be.  Besides some of the obvious like Apple Pie, Hot dogs, BBQs and some others, what we DO know is American is....every culture that has come to this land mixed in.  White-Anglo/Euro-Manifest Destiny-Evangelicals taking over the Gummint <> American Culture.
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« Reply #14 on: August 25, 2006, 04:53:34 PM »

Cowboy

For your info,the food fairs that we hold are also an evangelistic tool. Many non-Orthodox or soon to be Orthodox are introduced to the faith through their stomachs.

Exactly...and what should be one of their primary purposes.
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« Reply #15 on: August 25, 2006, 05:13:34 PM »

Dear ASERB,

I meant you know ill will or disrespect. Neither did I write anything about my personal piety. God knows what a sinner I am. I didn't berate you for wanting to hear a little church Slavoinc or Greek. I was raised with church Slavonic and when I feel in need of re-living my childhood I put on a CD and listen to my hearts content.

What I said about tithing was not about me personally--but about the fact that our entire parish is self-sufficient based on the tithes of the membership.

I am glad that your parish attracts potential converts through their stomachs. We prefer to attract them through the word of God.

While I agree with you that American culture is about as far away from Orthodoxy as you can get--we are really swimming upstream--I would hardly look to Russia or other Western European countries, or Greece for that matter, as beacons of cultural superiority.

We have to act in the faith where we are with what God has seen fit to give us.

Finally, ASERB, this must be a real hot button issue for you to display such such un-Orthodox sentiments toward me personally. I wish you nothing but God's blessings and hope we can dialogue in the future without personal attacks.

Yours in Christ,
COWBOY
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« Reply #16 on: August 25, 2006, 05:24:41 PM »

Exactly...and what should be one of their primary purposes.

Maybe, but I see it as basic survival tool of many parishes. Not a big party - they are lots of work. No one labors like that for fun. I know - my wife and I help support two parishes so we get to work prepping both souvlaki and pirohi.

As far as an evangelizing tool, well, the temple IS open and the priests are very visible and available. If the festivals bring 200 to 10,000 (my home parish gets those larger number) people just to the church grounds, that's a start.
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« Reply #17 on: August 25, 2006, 05:44:02 PM »

What I said about tithing was not about me personally--but about the fact that our entire parish is self-sufficient based on the tithes of the membership.

I am glad that your parish attracts potential converts through their stomachs. We prefer to attract them through the word of God.

1) Again, as is ours....

2) As do we, but the food festival is great and DOES help evangelize.  Plus, how do you attract through the Word of God?  Do you go out into the streets?  What do you do?  How do people know that your parish or Orthodoxy even exists?
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« Reply #18 on: August 25, 2006, 06:12:31 PM »

[quote author=Αριστοκλής link=topic=9819.msg133228#msg133228 date=1156541081]
Maybe, but I see it as basic survival tool of many parishes. Not a big party - they are lots of work. No one labors like that for fun. I know - my wife and I help support two parishes so we get to work prepping both souvlaki and pirohi.

As far as an evangelizing tool, well, the temple IS open and the priests are very visible and available. If the festivals bring 200 to 10,000 (my home parish gets those larger number) people just to the church grounds, that's a start.
[/quote]

Well, Cowboy does have a good point - the food festival SHOULDN'T be needed for basic survival.  It should just be for fun and evangelization.  No, we don't do some ROI study for the festival, but because it is a parish tradition and we OUGHT to do it to help evangelize.

Now, this Greek festival I went to recently while visiting family had some pro's/con's.  It attracted a lot of people, but the biggest con (besides food prices too expensive) was that it was not on the church grounds but at a municipal park.  Granted, the church is in a more remote location, possibly even outside of the city limits, but only having a bookstore run by a couple of monks isn't as good as having a nice temple on site.
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« Reply #19 on: August 25, 2006, 06:36:11 PM »

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I am glad that your parish attracts potential converts through their stomachs. We prefer to attract them through the word of God.

This one is below the belt. Of course it is the Word and the church that makes people Orthodox, but when you go fishing you need some bait or do just put down a dry hook and expect a bite.

Yes it is a hot button because I left an overly convert heavy parish where the forefathers and mothers of the church were disrespected and where the little T traditions, which were not pushed on anybody, were berated.
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« Reply #20 on: August 25, 2006, 07:10:00 PM »

Yes it is a hot button because I left an overly convert heavy parish where the forefathers and mothers of the church were disrespected and where the little T traditions, which were not pushed on anybody, were berated.

And that is uncalled for and unconscionable.  I don't blame you for leaving.  I probably would have, too.
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« Reply #21 on: August 25, 2006, 09:37:49 PM »

Pedro

Quote
Sarcasm duly noted.     

This wasn't ment as sarcasm. I do find you reasonable.  Cool
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« Reply #22 on: August 25, 2006, 10:28:08 PM »

Well, Cowboy does have a good point - the food festival SHOULDN'T be needed for basic survival.  It should just be for fun and evangelization.  No, we don't do some ROI study for the festival, but because it is a parish tradition and we OUGHT to do it to help evangelize.

Yes, a good point. Holy Cross (GOA parish in nearby Mt. Lebanon, PA) has a huge festival attracting thousands. They maintain there about 1000 sq.ft. of vending space full of icons, literature, and devotional items staffed by knowledgeable volunteers headed by nuns who answer questions eagerly.

But they probably also do what we do...an "ROI" study. My Greek parish as two festivals annually - a big one in the fall and a Gyrofest in the spring after Pascha - combined prceeds do not cover priest's salary.

Same result from our ACROD parish's monthly dinner - covers 60% priest's low salary.

Same result from Norfolk's Annunciation Cathedral's festival: Clear $250,000 and breakeven on two priests' salaries, their taxes, insurance, rectory costs - barely, maybe.

Guess the big Greek parish could dispense with the massive festival and reduce the salaries to OCA/ACROD levels and let their clergymen starve and/or get secular jobs to supplement.

We accept the help where and how He gives it to us.

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« Reply #23 on: August 25, 2006, 11:04:33 PM »

Pedro

This wasn't ment as sarcasm. I do find you reasonable.  Cool

D'oh!   Kiss  Stinkin' written word!  Well, gee, thanks!  Sorry I read you wrong, man...  Undecided Embarrassed Lips Sealed
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« Reply #24 on: August 26, 2006, 02:22:39 AM »

[quote author=Αριστοκλής link=topic=9819.msg133264#msg133264 date=1156559288]
Yes, a good point. Holy Cross (GOA parish in nearby Mt. Lebanon, PA) has a huge festival attracting thousands. They maintain there about 1000 sq.ft. of vending space full of icons, literature, and devotional items staffed by knowledgeable volunteers headed by nuns who answer questions eagerly.

But they probably also do what we do...an "ROI" study. My Greek parish as two festivals annually - a big one in the fall and a Gyrofest in the spring after Pascha - combined prceeds do not cover priest's salary.

Same result from our ACROD parish's monthly dinner - covers 60% priest's low salary.

Same result from Norfolk's Annunciation Cathedral's festival: Clear $250,000 and breakeven on two priests' salaries, their taxes, insurance, rectory costs - barely, maybe.

Guess the big Greek parish could dispense with the massive festival and reduce the salaries to OCA/ACROD levels and let their clergymen starve and/or get secular jobs to supplement.

We accept the help where and how He gives it to us.


[/quote]

Again, we meet our expenses SANS festival revenue...and our priest DOESN'T have a secular job and DOESN'T starve (although he should be paid more, but it is up to the parish council).
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« Reply #25 on: August 26, 2006, 04:30:49 AM »

Again, we meet our expenses SANS festival revenue...and our priest DOESN'T have a secular job and DOESN'T starve (although he should be paid more, but it is up to the parish council).

And you are fortunate indeed.

Of course, I never hear such criticisms of evangelical parishes' spaghetti nights, bingo (well, maybe bingo), outdoor cookouts, candy sales, etc. as I read about our productive fund-raising efforts.
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« Reply #26 on: August 26, 2006, 08:54:51 AM »

Good Morning,

Please forgive the fact that I haven't yet learned how to put quotes from previous posts in boxes.

Pedro--I agree with you and was attempting to make the exact point that I think many converts (and cradles, too) resent or are even bewildered by the treatment of litte t traditions and customs as if they were the Faith. In my own parish there was a quite low turnout for the Divine Liturgy on Holy Saturday morning. Why? Most (not all) ethnic parishioners were too busy preparing their Easter baskets for the midnight Pascha service! Priorities a little out of whack.

Aserb--I am really sorry that you felt it necessary to leave your church over little t traditions. This must have been very difficult for you. This does however make my point. These are not essential elements of the Orthodox Way. I would never condone belittling of traditions or berating the fathers and mothers of the church because of them. However, sometimes I think that these traditions become barriers to church growth. We cradle Orthodox are sometimes guilty of not only "guarding the Faith" but of making it an exclusive "club" that converts have to fight their way into. Ethnic cultural traditions are not a part of the Orthodox Faith in my opinion and are no substitute for worhip, prayer, fasting and doing acts of mercy. Have you considered that God may have sent you this trial to test you, to see whether it is the Faith or the traditions that make you an Orthodox Christian?

Elisha--It sounds like your parish festival is a good thing! How is the turnout for Vespers? Are festival attendees as well as parishioners invited and encouraged to attend? I must say I was quite confused by your comment about defining American culture and what part of it is not in conflict with Orthodoxy. Please forgive me if I have mis-interpreted what you have written--but are you saying that "American" food like apple pie, hot dogs and BBQ are not Orthodox? I was not aware that there was "Orthodox food". I will take a hamburger over a cabbage roll or pierogi or a gyro any day of the week (except Wednesday and Friday). Are you suggesting that an Orthodox parish picnic which featured hot dogs, BBQ and apple pie is somehow not Orthodox?
I would hope not. I would consider it a great day for American Orthodoxy when we will no longer be defined by our food, but rather by how we live our lives as a testament to our Faith. This will fuel church growth.

We don't attract converts by "going out into the streets" per se. Of our last 20 converts, 18 were initially invited to attend a Divine Liturgy by a current parishioner and then welcomed with open arms by the rest of the parish. Our evangelization takes place person to person. The other 2 just wandered in and were "smothered by the love of their fellow Christians".

Overall it is hard enough to attract potential converts because of our cradle tendency to be stuck in some prior era of Church history. The beards, the long hair, the hats, the Bishops dressed up like Byzantine Emperors. Most people in America look at us as some sort of sideshow and we certainly don't help ourselves by reinforcing this stereotype through our love of ethnic customs, rituals and food which have nothing to do with Orthodoxy. That is why I view all of these things as barriers--we have to first get potential converts past all the baggage of our own by-gone eras before we have a chance of sharing the WORD with them.

Finally, please forgive the fact that I am expressing my feelings in such a strident way. My childhood parish had 600+ families in the 1960's and now has less than 75. Why? Language! My generation did not understand church Slavonic nor the Slavic language sermons. Cradles of my age know less about the Orthodox Faith than the average convert who studied and CHOSE Orthodoxy. This sad pattern is widespread and must be broken in the current generation if Orthodoxy is to ever achieve its bright promise in North America.

Asking God's Blessings for us all,

COWBOY

p.s. I am an "office-only" poster--no computer at home. Talk to you all next week.
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« Reply #27 on: August 26, 2006, 11:33:55 AM »

Wow...a guy takes a day off and things go CRAZY   Wink Grin

So here is my 2 cents about everything already said. 
 
First of all, Cowboy...welcome to the site!  Good luck getting all your posts in at work! 

Secondly, I really wanted to say something about the "language" discussion being held. 

I think that as Orthodox Christians we need to be really careful on several points. 

1.  We should never go to an extreme.  If we are to have ALL English then we need to be careful.  I've heard of parishes that use English and refuse to say "theotokos" but would rather say "birth-giver of God"  does this not sound pharisaical?? 

2.  I think we need to be realistic as WELL as theological.  If the parish needs an ethnic language then we need to START from there.  HOWEVER, this does NOT mean that we cannot come to a BETTER understanding of our mission here in America, which is to bring the Gospel to all nations. 

3.  I agree with a lot that's being said about small "t" traditions.  There CAN be a lot learned from them, but in my experience a lot of converts don't care to take the time to learn anything from them.  They're "hell-bent" on making sure that THEIR concept of Orthodoxy is vindicated.  This goes back to point 1 about going to extremes. 

4.  I've talked to a number of "ultra-extremists" from the ONLY English side.  The thing that keeps getting to me is their insistance that we have to spread the Gospel in a language that EVERYONE understands.  Their solution to Ethnic parishes is to TEACH them English.  Which is not a bad idea. 

The thing is, what about Spanish?  Are these same people willing to learn Spanish in order to preach to the upcomming spanish-language "take-over" which we all know is happening right now?  I would say that these people are NOT willing to learn Spanish.  So, in effect, they become the very same thing that they "abhore"  they become Ethnically-oriented Orthodox, able only to be a part of and serve ONE community that speaks ONE language.  Just like all of the other Ethnic communities. 

The real problem is, that when you bring up this problem to the "extremists" they just say "we all need to learn English as the founding language of this country, etc."  which is true.  The issue is that there are NO programs (to my knowledge) in the OCA, Antiochians, or any other English based church for Spanish speaking people.  Only in individual parishes is there any kind of work being done to help Spanish speaking people learn English, etc.  Or a Spanish speaking service, etc. 

This is why I put extremism as a FIRST problem.  Yes we need to be zealous about our knowledge of the Gospel and what its trying to tell us to do.  YES we need to spread the Good News to all people.  But we ALSO need to have a better plan and better understanding of each other.  When I talk to "extremist" converts all they try to do is tell me about THEIR goal for the church in America.  What about MY goal as a cradle immigrant?  Even if they are willing to listen, they can't understand.  Believe me, i've tried a LOT. 

In all of these things i'm willing to be wrong, just to make sure that Christ is a part of ALL people that I come into contact with.  I'm not sure that the extremists are willing to be wrong. 

Please forgive me if I focused only on one side of extremism.  I think we are all aware of the problems with Ethnically minded churches.  The thing is, no one is taking an objective look at "American" minded churches, and the problems there.  (I think). 
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« Reply #28 on: August 26, 2006, 04:31:50 PM »

Quote
1.  We should never go to an extreme.  If we are to have ALL English then we need to be careful.  I've heard of parishes that use English and refuse to say "theotokos" but would rather say "birth-giver of God"  does this not sound pharisaical??

SCANDAL!  What's next, will the Serbs stop saying Theotokos and instead translate it as Bogorodica...

Quote
3.  I agree with a lot that's being said about small "t" traditions.  There CAN be a lot learned from them, but in my experience a lot of converts don't care to take the time to learn anything from them.  They're "hell-bent" on making sure that THEIR concept of Orthodoxy is vindicated.  This goes back to point 1 about going to extremes.

It's not that most converts are unwilling to "take the time" to learn anything.  By virtue of being a convert, a convert has already invested more time and energy into Orthodoxy than maybe 90% of their ethnicly Orthodox counterparts.  We already have our families, our cultures and such - that is not why we are converting to Orthodoxy. 
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« Reply #29 on: August 26, 2006, 05:03:47 PM »

Nektarios, 

So...you make fun of me for making an overgeneralization, and then you make one yourself?  Good times... Wink

Your point about Bogorodica is very valid though.  I admit that my example was poor, especially for the points that I provided later.  I appologize that I let my emotions get ahead of me and give a bad example for my argument.  I hope that people understood what I wanted to say anyway...

As for taking time and energy to learn...the only thing that I want to say that is that ANY Orthodox Christian who is not struggling to learn more about their faith, should be. 

Quote
We already have our families, our cultures and such - that is not why we are converting to Orthodoxy.

I really don't understand what you're trying to say/prove here...can you maybe explain this a little bit more/better? 
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« Reply #30 on: August 26, 2006, 05:07:44 PM »


The real problem is, that when you bring up this problem to the "extremists" they just say "we all need to learn English as the founding language of this country, etc."  which is true.  The issue is that there are NO programs (to my knowledge) in the OCA, Antiochians, or any other English based church for Spanish speaking people.  Only in individual parishes is there any kind of work being done to help Spanish speaking people learn English, etc.  Or a Spanish speaking service, etc. 


I also think that it has a lot to do with which "tradition" a person came from when they converted to Orthodoxy.  For my part, I actually prefer the Liturgy to be performed in Slavonic rather than English, as long as the Epistle, Gospel and Sermon are in English.  Why?  I know what the Liturgy says, so I don't need to hear it in my native language.  I have attended Greek Churches where the service books are in Greek / English.  The Serb Church that I occasionally attend has service books in Serbian / English.  I have even seen a service book in Arabic / English.  My personal prayer book contains Pre-Nikonian Slavonic on one side and English on the other.  As long as the Liturgy is performed as written, it is not difficult to know where you are.  And since I have the English translation right in front of me, I feel that I am in unity with the rest of the congregation when I say "Amen" after a litany.  Why I feel this way may have a lot to do with the fact that I come from a Protestant denomination that has a strong liturgical tradition.  One of the things that caused me to doubt my Church was the thought that since Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever more, why does my Hymnal have to change every 40 years?  So, being inclined to be liturgically oriented in the first place, the first thing that I did was study the Liturgies of the Orthodox Church when I was considering converting.  It was, to some degree, the Liturgy that converted me.  As it is, I love the Liturgy in whatever language I hear it.

On the other hand, I can see where a person converting from an Evangelical background would have a lot of problem with a Liturgy in a language that they could not understand.  Evangelicals tend not to realize the importance of the Liturgy, and the importance of preserving it intact from generation to generation.  So, I am in somewhat of a quandry as to what is the best way to handle this.  Is the best way to try to translate the Liturgy from rather fixed languages like Greek and Slavonic into English, and then have to re-translate every few years to keep up with the current English usage?  Or is the answer to teach converts the Liturgy so that they know what is going on independent of the language that they are hearing?  I lean toward the latter.
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« Reply #31 on: August 26, 2006, 05:14:27 PM »

Quote
I really don't understand what you're trying to say/prove here...can you maybe explain this a little bit more/better?

I hear it from ethnically Orthodox people all the time - converts must hate Greece/Serbia/Russia etc. because they don't learn the language, all the folk customs and such.  Yet that is the ethnically Orthodox people completely not understanding converts.  Converts already have their own heritage and want to keep it.  St. Sava even let you keep your pagan household gods...just call them patron saints now, Sts. Cyril and Methodios let you keep your own language (i.e you say Bogorodica not Theotokos) etc.  That is all that most converts want, to pray in our language and live within our culture.  
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« Reply #32 on: August 26, 2006, 05:20:35 PM »

[quote author=Νεκτάριος link=topic=9819.msg133358#msg133358 date=1156626867]
I hear it from ethnically Orthodox people all the time - converts must hate Greece/Serbia/Russia etc. because they don't learn the language, all the folk customs and such.  Yet that is the ethnically Orthodox people completely not understanding converts.  Converts already have their own heritage and want to keep it.  St. Sava even let you keep your pagan household gods...just call them patron saints now, Sts. Cyril and Methodios let you keep your own language (i.e you say Bogorodica not Theotokos) etc.  That is all that most converts want, to pray in our language and live within our culture.  
[/quote]

My only point with this is that it goes both ways.  St. Sava did "let us" keep Serbian pagan household gods.  The Serbs also made many changes based on Greek/Byzantine culture as well.  Why is our most ancient form of chanting Byzantine?  Why did our kings build monasteries and become saints? 

The whole thing, to me, is that there has to be a middle.  If living in your culture is...pagan...there may need to be changes. 

As for language, I think we both agree (I think) that we need to have more English.  But there are a lot of semantics there to be hashed out. 
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« Reply #33 on: August 26, 2006, 05:31:46 PM »

Quote
For my part, I actually prefer the Liturgy to be performed in Slavonic rather than English

Which is just plain silly.  If you are going to insist on a language other than the vernacular (or an older dialect thereof) at least be logical and use Greek as that is the language most important to the historical development of Orthodoxy.  

I've just resigned myself to the reality that the Orthodox Church will be nothing more than a dieing out ethnic musuem for at least my lifetime.  
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« Reply #34 on: August 26, 2006, 05:41:51 PM »

"Oh, ye of little faith..."  Cheesy

My birth parish still uses a mix of Greek and English and is exponentially growing...and not from new immigrants. Curiously the English only parishes in the region are not.
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« Reply #35 on: August 26, 2006, 05:44:31 PM »

[quote author=Νεκτάριος link=topic=9819.msg133358#msg133358 date=1156626867]
That is all that most converts want, to pray in our language and live within our culture.  
[/quote]

I can fully understand the language.  Culture is where I have a problem.  I guess my issue is why someone wants to convert to something that they don't like.  I don't see a lot of Orthodox people going door to door and asking us to come to their Church.  Most converts that I have run accross came to an Orthodox Church on their own.  I consider this somewhat bad form to go to another person's house and then spend my time complaining that his house is not like mine.  If someone did this to me, I would tell them "If you like your own home so much, go back to it.  Don't let the door hit you on the way out."  When I became Orthodox, I repented of my heretical beliefs and fled my empty and worldly culture.  The verse about the dog returning to its vomit comes to mind when I want to continue to hold on to my past rather than look forward to the future.  While there are many things about America that I like, American "culture" is not one of them.  Actually, I consider America to be a rather uncultured society which drifts from one fad to another based on whatever Madison Avenue is trying to sell to us today.  Do I really want to exchange whatever culture the Orthodox have for this?  If so, why convert.  I believed in Jesus when I was a Lutheran, and my Baptist friends believe in him, too.  Why convert?  Protestant religion is FAR more in line with American culture than Orthodoxy is.  In fact, if anything, Orthodoxy is almost completely foreign to American culture.
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« Reply #36 on: August 26, 2006, 05:51:39 PM »

[quote author=Νεκτάριος link=topic=9819.msg133364#msg133364 date=1156627906]
Which is just plain silly.  If you are going to insist on a language other than the vernacular (or an older dialect thereof) at least be logical and use Greek as that is the language most important to the historical development of Orthodoxy.  

I've just resigned myself to the reality that the Orthodox Church will be nothing more than a dieing out ethnic musuem for at least my lifetime.  
[/quote]

You lost me.  I thought that I stated my preference, not that I insisted on anything.  I prefer Slavonic because I have more comfort with the Slavic culture than I do the Greek.  As to English, I don't mind that either if you can find a "vernacular" that is reverent, clear to understand, acutally fits the tones, and will not be obsolete in ten years.  The constant change is really the only thing I have against English.  If we could all agree an the English that we are going to use for the rest of my lifetime, I would say "go for it".
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« Reply #37 on: August 26, 2006, 06:29:35 PM »

Part of the reason I feel the way I do is because my own upbring was in the Catholic Church for no other reason than my family is of Polish heritage.  Being young/stupid I had the idealistic idea that Christianity ought to be something more than just an institution that if you are Polish, Italian or French means you are Catholic, German you are Lutheran, English you are Anglican etc.  So in naivette I thought conversion to Orthodoxy was the way to find this real Christianity.  After dealing with the Orthodox church for the last four years it has become readily apparent that the mentality of the vast majority of people I have come into contact with is simply to keep up their church as an ethnic/cultural center. So yeah, I get a little frustrated at the constant attemps (especially by converts) to keep the Orthodox Church an ethnic ghetto. 
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« Reply #38 on: August 26, 2006, 09:17:29 PM »

Hey. I am not asking that all converts take a crash course in litte t traditions. I am asking jsut to respect them. Also this brings me to a larger issue.  Cowboy's church lost 600 families now has it's 75. I do believe that the language and cultural emphasis may have been a barrier to growth. But forgive those hard working founders of your church for not having enough foresight. Your Slavic forefathers and mothers left dirt poor conditions under oppressive and depsotic leaders to scrap and fight to come to the USA. They brought one suit case and the flame of Orthodoxy. They worked hard, sacrificed, built beautiful temples and established monastaries and schools of theology. SHouldn't you and the converts to the church be taught to appreciate those peoples' sacrifice even if they did not have the foresight that we now have for church growth. Also - Church growth are we welcoming converts simpy for the sake of growth and not instilling in them enough of the fundamentals of Orthodoxy. I read that in the early church it took three years to convert. THREE YEARS. Are we sacrificing quality for quantity or do we just need their tithe money? I am not for watering or dumbing down the faith for the sake of quantity. Also the converts I a have met bring a Protestant mindset. And old wise priest once told me that it takes ten years,minimum to develop an Orthodox mindset and I believe him. Heck, I'm so dull it will probably take me til death. Converts I welcome you, but remember who established Orthodoxy in this land even if they were not the greatest evangelists. There ethnocentrism was forged to some extent because they could not or were not permitted access to the larger American society. Have a heart. Show some respect.
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« Reply #39 on: August 26, 2006, 09:35:39 PM »

Quote
Your Slavic forefathers and mothers left dirt poor conditions under oppressive and depsotic leaders to scrap and fight to come to the USA.

My slavic ancestors were forced from their homeland because of the expansionists policy of Russians who are glorified as "holy Russia."  In fact people kiss pictures of the some of the men directly responsible for the occupation of the territory my ancestors lived on. 

I would hope you could understand why some people aren't into glorifying certain cultures.  I'd really like to find an Orthodox Church that I can go to that doesn't tell me I have glorify Russian or Greek culture...or pretend to be something I'm not. 
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« Reply #40 on: August 26, 2006, 09:41:58 PM »

Polish Orthodox Church
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« Reply #41 on: August 26, 2006, 09:55:24 PM »

Converts I welcome you, but remember who established Orthodoxy in this land even if they were not the greatest evangelists.

That sounds like a veiled way of saying "stand in the back, put your checks in the plate, and try not to defile our church."  Nothing like being a second-class member of one's own faith.
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« Reply #42 on: August 27, 2006, 01:05:39 AM »

Wow, my first inter-Orthodox throw down Wink

Seriously speaking:  although I am not a convert as yet, the parish with which I have contact is OCA.  There are indeed some Russian things but also many American.  I would convert if I had to go somewhere everything was totally foreign to me because it is worth anything (learning any new culture) to be a part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.  I hope that doesn't sound corny but I am so hungry to make the leap. 
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« Reply #43 on: August 27, 2006, 02:02:04 AM »

Hey. I am not asking that all converts take a crash course in litte t traditions. I am asking jsut to respect them.

And we are just asking that the cradles be open to accepting new traditions/languages/cultures and coexisting with them alongside their own established ones.  Respect goes both ways; if the cradle Orthodox are unwilling to make room for other cultures' expressions within the Church, they should not then look around in bewilderment and ask why their numbers are dwindling and their congregations graying.
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Posts: 1,188


« Reply #44 on: August 27, 2006, 02:07:34 AM »

Respect is earned.
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Save us o' Son of God, who art risen from the dead, as we sing to thee Alleluia!
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