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Growth of Orthodoxy - Neville - 21-12-2009 11:13 AM

Hi everyone. I'm new to the forum. I live in Australia where I was baptised into the Coptic Orthodox Church about 8 years ago. I was raised a Lutheran but didn't feel completely comfortable with a sense that something was missing. Having found orthodoxy I felt like I had finally 'come home'. I serve as a deacon and play an active role in our church community.

However as much as I love orthodoxy, the history of the early church, the sound doctrine and the wonderful liturgy, I am saddened by the noticeably slow pace at which our Coptic Orthodox Church is growing in Australia. I have given it a lot of thought and prayer and have come to realise that although we have pseudo English services, we are not really appealing to our culture but are stlll focussing the liturgy and accompanying church services on the immigrant Coptic community and their offspring.

Many Coptic Orthodox churches in Australia have introduced English into the liturgies and although they may not use Arabic they insist on retaining quite a bit of Coptic in the liturgical responses, psalmadies and hymns.

Passion week is especially rich in coptic but it has become a real stumbling block for me as I am not enjoying one of the most important seasons in our church calendar. I have tried to follow and join in but because the language and drawn out Coptic tunes are not natural to me I find myself objecting to the foreigness and feeling quite isolated to the point of feeling like an outsider.

I find the BOC to be an inspiration as everything is based on sharing the truth of orthodoxy to the British community. I pray that perhaps a similar "Australian Orthodox Church" could be set up where the Coptic ethnicity was not promoted and instead the pure beauty and spirituality of Othodoxy prevailed. I pray it may one day become a reality.

I would appreciate anyone's thoughts on this.
- Neville (Shenouda)


- Peteprint - 31-12-2009 10:11 PM

I understand exactly what you feel. Here, in the United States, it is the same. Other then The OCA (Orthodox Church in America, which many of the other jurisdictions look down upon), approaching the Orthodox Faith entails deciding which ethnic group you feel most comfortable with. You can choose to join a Serbian, Russian, Antiochian, Romanian, Greek church, etc.

I don't see any real solution in the near future, I can only hope that time will take care of it. In the mean time, I will enjoy the Serb, or Russian, or Greek festivals that the churches sponsor.

In my parish, the liturgy book shows the English and Serbian side by side so that I can understand the parts of the liturgy that are being sung in Serbian.

I have the feeling that I would really feel like a fish out of water if I attended the Coptic church here in town.

I remember calling a Russian church several years ago about becoming Orthodox and the priest actually advised me to seek out another Orthodox church. Since I was not Russian he told me I would not feel comfortable attending his parish.

I know that too often converts enter the church and complain about the ethnic factor. I also have read blogs here in the States owned by "cradle" Orthodox that actually refer to the Church as "their" church, and state that converts should be quiet and learn their language.

As for me, I am concentrating on my walk with the Lord and not concentrating on the ethnic aspect of my church. I am there to work out my salvation, not to change mine, or anyone else's ethnicity.

Peter


- mikethelionheart - 08-01-2010 01:53 AM

Hi Neville

Further to the excellent replies you have already had.

Firstly, don't worry too much about slow growth of the church. Size i not everything. I am Catholic and used to be quite smug about the size of the Church and used to love to see figures showing huge numbers of converts. Size does't mean truth. The Jews of the Old Testament were never huge majorities.

Secondly, don't give up on your church. Have you considered starting a 'cell' group. Also known as network groups or house groups. When I converted to Catholicism a few years back, even though the church I joined has quite a big congregation, there was no way to meet people to chat and talk about and explore the faith. I appraoched the priest and asked if I could borrow a room in the presbytery (my house is too small) once a fortnight from 7.30pm to 9.30pm. Put a note in the church newsletter. Carried flyers with the group details on to give to people I saw in the church that I thought might be interested (anyone that looked lost or new or like a student new to the area or something)
Now we have anice little group that usually ranges from 6 to 10 people meeting up. Made some great life long friends, had great faith enhancing meetings.

I pray it all goes well for you.

God bless
mike


- marc hanna - 26-01-2010 08:17 PM

Dear Neville,

I applaud your perseverance through this difficulty. I wonder if you are the Neville from Australia I've been in contact with before.

I am very fortunate to belong to a congregation under Fr Athanasius Iskander here in Canada with ample English in the liturgy. Our Liturgies include Greek, Coptic, Arabic and English with the primary focus on English. We do however have additional liturgies performed throughout the week that are primarily Arabic for those who desire to pray in their mother tongue. The idea of a pure Coptic liturgy is strange to me because very few Copts speak fluent Coptic and even fewer speak it for general conversation.

We are also fortunate here in Canada to have a Coptic mission church under Fr Pishoy Salama which is completely English and is geared toward those of ethnicities other than Coptic.

I have been witness to the "visiting of well-trained deacons" spoiling the English content. There is a sort of unspoken understanding that whatever language the priest uses, the deacon replies should be in the same language, but there are those who insist on replying in Coptic, which appears to me to be somewhat disrespectful.

Praying in the local language does not impose a deterioration of the culture, but cultures do morph over time. Third generation Canadian Copts may not identify with a culture they have never lived in, and so are likely to feel alienated if the church they attend feels foreign to them; so why not change cultural aspect of a congregation to meet the needs of that congregation. When the BOC joined the Coptic church, they were not expected to start praying the liturgy in Coptic or Arabic.

I will pray for those in Australia who desire a culturally relevant parish so that the Father might be glorified in all tongues and that those who speak English might take the blessing that comes from prayer.

Glory to God


- Neville - 26-01-2010 10:32 PM

I want to thank everyone for their kind and supportive advice. And yes Marc I am the very same person you have been communicating with before. I thoroughly enjoyed our discussions on using the KJV as the preferred translation.

Regarding our present topic I put in a request that we all pray that the Holy Spirit shows us clear, definite and productive ways to evangelise in the Coptic church and that our orthodoxy becomes orthodox praxis. I pray that a greater emphasis is placed on spreading the gospel of Christ rather than on appearances and insignificant formalities that tend to distract us from the 'great commission' and that we may bring many unsaved souls to salvation by the saving blood of Christ. After all isn't this what living is all about? (I heard somewhere that 150,000 people die every single day in the world. I wonder how many of them will perish in hell forever because they weren't told.)

Praise be to God,
Neville


- John Charmley - 05-04-2010 10:01 PM

This interesting conversation abuts onto one in another thread where we are looking at another view of Orthodoxy.

Fr. Gregory challenges us here:

Quote:The Orthodox Churches in the West are all too often primarily ethnic culture preservation societies and far too rarely centres of evangelization of the Orthodox Faith. I am strongly in favour of the maintenance of culture ? but not at the expense of the Faith.
and reminds us why the BOC exists.

It is, perhaps natural that we should attract those from an Anglican background who miss the old BCP and the dignified an solemn language of Cranmer, but we might remind ourselves that the 39 articles are pretty Protestant (unless you are a latter-day Newman trying to make them catholic) and treat the eucharist as purely symbolic. And it is here orthodoxy is our staff, for it is what it says; in that sense it is as English as it is whatever nationality you want, for the Good News was, as Fr. Gregory reminds us, delivered to all in their own tongue.

What matters is the content and the spirituality, and one cannot properly access those through a dead language - as the RCC recognised at Vatican II.

Of course the BOC is very fortunate, as in the St. James Liturgy we have something even more beautiful than Cranmer (OK, I'm biased, but I do love Cranmer too). But there remains a great many sheep outside the OC fold, and as Fr. G. reminds us, more escape every year.

In Christ,

John