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#1 Richard A. Downing

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 07:24 AM

I was listening to a very interesting discussion about how a parish manages the balance between the traditional liturgical language of the founders, say Greek or Slavonic, and the need to preach the Gospel in ways it can be understood.

We all want to preserve the cultural heritage of our parishes, but as the older generations fade, so the new generations, and catechumenate, must be taught the faith, and not just be able to sing along in a language they don't fully understand.

There are lots of threads about this elsewhere in Monachos, I am sure (so let's not go over it again). One suggestion that was made, by a quite senior chap, was to have deacons ordained specifically to cater for this, either by being able to teach in the tongue of the diaspora, or in the local language. Such a deacon could have a blessing to serve several parishes, perhaps.

I had two thoughts about this:

1) How was it done in ancient times? I know Sts Cyril and Methodius spoke both Greek and Slavonic, but they could not have been everywhere at once!
2) Is there any historical precedent for using a diaconate in this way? It seems very like the situation we hear of in Acts.

In Christ,
Richard.

#2 Etsi JC Brigid W.

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 01:25 PM

At services where there are more elderly Greeks, there is more Greek spoken in the service. In services where there is more of a mix, there is more English than Greek. However, the services still have a mix of the two languages (with some fully Greek services that are generally attended by only Greeks and one or two English speakers).

My children attend Greek school. They are not Greek, but this has been very good for them and they LOVE making the yiayias smile as they speak to them.

I wish there was a Greek class for adults such as they have at other parishes.

#3 Alice

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Posted 02 June 2012 - 06:46 PM

What makes the greatest difference for my worship experience (and many other cradle Greek Orthodox/American born in my parish agree) is when a certain chanter we are blessed to have, chants with his beautiful and clear voice, entirely in English! I finally understand so much of what I had never understood when chanting was in the stylized Byzantine style...

Even when the entire DL is in English, if the chanting is not, it takes away greatly from worship.

#4 Shawn Ragan

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 04:50 PM

There are, of course, books of the Divine Liturgy in English, so there is no reason for one not to know what is going on in the service, regardless of the language. While I was received into Orthodoxy in a parish that spoke/chanted/etc 100% in English (a parish made up almost entirely of converts), I enjoy when I visit the Greek monastery and am able to listen to the sisters there chant (100% in Greek). It is heavenly. And while I do not understand all of the words, because I am familiar with the Liturgy, I know where we are at all points throughout. Obviously, this would be more difficult if I did not learn the Liturgy first in English, but the resources are there so that one can know what is happening, what is being said/chanted, regardless of the cultural context.

Again, I come from an English Liturgy background, and I think that for an American coming into the Orthodox church, it is beneficial if one is able to understand the words in the Liturgy (after all, aren't the liturgical services of the Church one of our greatest teachers?), but in a multi-ethnic society that can be a little more demanding. Often, when Greek or Russian/Slavonic is used as part of the Liturgy, it is because there is a demand in that parish. There may be Russians, or Greeks, who do not speak English, or at least do not speak it well, who make a significant portion of the parish. And what about a church in a highly Hispanic area of the U.S., where the primary language is Spanish, not English? I think we will always want it in "our" language, and it is perhaps best when it is so, but a parish is a community, and that community is made up of more than just me. Because of that, I try not to get bothered, but rather try to enjoy, when I visit parishes which use other languages (but again, I am in a parish where I do get it in "my" language, so it is probably much easier for me to say this).

#5 Dcn Alexander Haig

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 09:47 PM

I find the sign outside my Church to be particularly interesting, while in English it says 'Greek Orthodox Church' the literal translation of the Greek text above would read 'Greek Orthodox Community'. Until there is a desire to become the Church of God (rather than a community) I do not believe that an English-speaking deacon would make a huge difference.

In Xp
Rdr Alexander

#6 Stephen Hayes

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Posted 06 June 2012 - 07:35 AM

I find the sign outside my Church to be particularly interesting, while in English it says 'Greek Orthodox Church' the literal translation of the Greek text above would read 'Greek Orthodox Community'. Until there is a desire to become the Church of God (rather than a community) I do not believe that an English-speaking deacon would make a huge difference.


One finds these "community" churches wherever there has been a lot of immigration from Orthodox countries. and in them the parish priest function rather like a chaplain to the community, rather than as a parish priest.

The first Orthodox priest in Johannesburg, Fr Nikodemos Sarikas, came to such a situation in 1908. He saw himself as a missionary coming to Africa to preach the gospel. But the Hellenic Community did not see it that way. They made it clear to him that they were paying him to do weddings, funerals etc for the Greek community, and not to go to non-Greeks. After about three years he couldn't take it any more. He went up to Tanganyika, supported himself as a coffee farmer, and preached the gospel to the local people, several of whom he baptised.

Diaspora could, perhaps, be an aid to mission, but in the way it has worked out, it generally has not. One reason for this may be the mechanisms of diasporra. In the case of Fr Nikodemos, when he arrived there was no bishop -- the first bishop came only in 1924. So the parishes developed as congregationalist-secular clubs, and developed their own ecclesiology along those lines, which still persists, even though it is very foreign to Orthodox ecclesiology. There were some "community" churches in our diocese where the Bishop was not welcome for these reasons.

So I don't think the problem can be solved by having multilingial deacons. One needs to go to the root, and look at the un-Orthodox ecclesiology on which "community" churches are based.

#7 Richard A. Downing

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Posted 06 June 2012 - 07:42 AM

Thank you all for your comments.

May I just say that my intent was not to spark a discussion of what language to use in churches, but to seek advice on the use of Deacons to assist linguistically mixed parishes, and to discover the patristic teaching and historical precedents.

Love, Richard.




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