John wonders what an Australian Orthodoxy would be like....so do I! It being Anzac Day (effectively our annual celebration of national identity and more significant in that than Australia Day) I thought I should reflect on the topic.
Traditionally, Orthodoxy adapted to the language and the culture of the peoples it evangelized. Thus, when missionaries carried the Faith to Russia they did not require the Russians to become, or appear to be, Greek, or to use the Greek language. In modern times, the reverse has, sadly, been the case. We can speak of ?English-speaking Orthodoxy? (as in, for example, the Orthodox Church of America) but that refers solely to language and not to culture. From what I know of it, I would describe the Orthodox Church of America as English-speaking Russian Orthodoxy. I can?t see anything specifically or distinctively American about it.
So ? what about an Australian Orthodoxy? I can?t describe what it would look like but I can suggest some principles. It would, of course, be English-speaking, but Australian-English-speaking. It would (sadly, from my point of view) not use Jacobean English (as in the King James Version and the Book of Common Prayer), nor would it use the Latinized English of the traditional Roman Rite. Both of these styles of English are foreign to the vast majority of Australians, whether of old Australian ancestry or recent migrants. I am not, obviously, suggesting liturgical language that addresses God as ?mate?, but rather language with a simple dignity and devoid of pomposity.
It would be ritually minimalist ? that is, no great pomp and circumstance in its services, and simpler vestments than common in Orthodoxy. Australians are traditionally less formal than their brothers and sisters in Britain or the USA or Europe. People who ?dress to impress? (whether clergy or mayors) are usually viewed with amusement rather than respect.
It would use appropriate simple Western music chosen to allow maximum congregational participation.
It would avoid rigid clericalism and promote the active participation of lay women and men in its life and worship. Australians have a long tradition of suspicion of (or, more accurately, a distaste for) claims to titles and pretentions to symbolic authority, and a strong sense of both egalitarianism and the need for individuals to earn respect and recognition. My father, once an Army officer, used to summarise this as: ?You salute the uniform, but you respect the man.? If the uniform is too exotic, you may salute it, but you?ll laugh about the pomposity behind the wearer?s back.
It would a simple Western aesthetic style, minimal gilt and glitter and decoration, minimal ?fuss? and clutter. This does not, of course, mean that icons would not be used, but they would be icons in the more ancient and simpler style (rather than the more elaborate styles of Greece and Russia).
It would be clean and efficient in its worship! Services (and any other meetings) would begin and conclude on time, would be well organized and structured. Although relaxed in their private lives, most Australians are intolerant of shambolic public meetings. It would take account of other demands on the time of its members ? and of the fact that most Australians place a high value on family time and recreation, especially on Sundays.
It would offer, but not impose, participation in community life. Australia has a long tradition of what is often called ?rugged individualism?. Most people like to be able to choose to participate in community activities, or not to do so.
It would be clearly Australian. Most Australians have no interest in, and probably some hostility to, the idea of being a colony, whether politically or ecclesiastically. Or indeed of being the recipients of a ?foreign? mission ? which is one of the reasons groups with titles like ?The Australian Orthodox Mission? will struggle to spread the Faith.
A particularly insightful Roman Catholic work addressing such questions is Johanne Hofinger (ed) Liturgy and the Missions. The Nijmegen Papers New York, P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1960 (now, alas long out of print and rare). This includes inspiring and challenging papers on how the Church (in that case, the Roman Catholic Church) can or should adapt its forms in different cultures.
It would be interesting to have some responses as to how such an Australian Orthodoxy might differ from, for example, British or American or French Orthodoxy.