Monday, May 16, 2016

Orthodoxy in America

Anyone want to help me make a list of things Orthodox Americans do that Orthodox in the "old country" don't do? Here is what I have collected so far. This isn't meant to denigrate, just compare.

1. Sit on the floor during homilies - especially in vestments.
2. Complain about "too much incense."
3. Do they bless parish councils anywhere else?
4. Take pictures during services. Just kidding.
5. Hold hands or kiss or hug during the passing of the peace.
6. Children's sermons.
7. Annual food festivals.
8. Friday fish fries.
9. The numerous church-based clubs.
10. The multilingual Pascha experience.
11. Coffee hour/potlucks.
12. Fundraising golf tournaments.
13. Pan-Orthodox vespers.
14. Parish councils and the dreaded parish council meetings.
15. Colorful choir outfits.
16. Sunday school.
17. "Mission" vespers.
18. Stewardship/pledge cards.
19. Parish bulletins / handouts.
20. Pew books.

P.S. If you've seen one of these in a traditionally Orthodox country, please chime in.


  1. - Converts
    - Language comprehensible to worshipers
    - Altar boys (my understanding is altar boys as opposed to adult altar servers are an introduction from the West)

  2. Here in Russia we do have some altar boys, but most of the altar servers in any given church are grown men.
    As for "Language incomprehensible to worshippers," this is a misconception.
    As an American convert baptised and living in Russia, I can say that I am one of many foreign converts who have done their best to learn both Russian and Old Church Slavonic.
    Learning new languages is a struggle, and striving to learn a liturgical language is a wonderful opportunity to dedicate one's labor to Christ and connecting to the history of His Church—to me it's a shame to settle for English. Getting uncomfortable in another language is, to me, a form of ascetism (denying oneself the comfort of one's own language), and, like any self-denial, makes room for God.
    In North America I've seen a lot of barefaced (or at least well-trimmed)/and short-haired priests ( a rarity in Russia).
    Priests in the US frequently wear those black collars with the little white bit in front of the Adam's apple. Here, that would be a sign that that they are non-Orthodox.

  3. Also, seats! Only the old and infirm are 'allowed' (certainly not encouraged) to sit at all during the service. Seeing pregnant women standing for 2+ hours is an inspiration to be more vigilant during the Liturgy.
    Also, any kind of paper handouts/programs. These seem to distract people attending the Liturgy from the Liturgy itself. People end up sitting reading instead of paying attention and witnessing.

    1. Both seats and handouts/ reading from a prayer book are universal in the Middle East.

  4. Let's not forget "Actually going to Church"

    1. "Let's not forget 'Actually going to Church'"

      We will see a couple of generations from now if the children and grandchildren of the boomlet converts and Ancient Faith (TM) generation still "actually go to Church"

  5. Wear T-shirts and hoodies with icons on them. Even if this has spread to the "old countries," most of the merch is probably sold by a US-based outfit like Death to the World or Monkrock. Somehow it's just not quite the same as an iconogrphic embroidery on a phelonion. . .

    Also, parish bookstores?

    1. Just about every church I've been inside in Russia and Romania has a pretty big offering of books in the candle stall as you go in, though I've not seen this in Syria/Lebanon...

  6. And eat turkey during the Nativity fast. We all know it's not allowed, and not a few Orthodox Americans eat it anyway.

  7. Altar boys (and girls) are standard in Syria/Lebanon, as is liturgy in the same language as normal media and schools (which is not the spoken language. Diglossia is common in many cultures). Romania always and Serbia and Bulgaria usually use the spoken language in the liturgy.

  8. One comment re: facial hair -- Native Americans (and those who have partial Native American ancestry) often can't actually grow beards, or not full beards, so it's not actually a choice in all cases for those in North America.

  9. non-Orthodox, non-catechumens singing in the choir... is that something that happens in the "old countries"? I'm not talking about paid choirs either. I'm talking about regular visitors who are not Orthodox.

    Social media checking during liturgy... please tell me that doesn't happen elsewhere.

    Welcoming committee who hand out bulletins and welcome newcomers at liturgy.

    Passing a collection plate.

    Church hopping - both converts and cradle.

  10. 2, 3, 10, 14, 10, 19 is not true

    9, 16 are not unheard of either

  11. 14. Parish councils and the dreaded parish council meetings.
    Parish councils and meetings are traditional. Even Peter the Great in his Spiritual Regulation did not mess with them. The Sobor of 1917 for the first time allowed women to have a say.

  12. 1) The "sunflower syndrome" (slowing rotating to face the priest all around the nave and narthex even giving one's back to the Altar) during censing.

    2) Keeping the candles burning all through Matins (rather than extinguishing them at the appropriate place during the Six Psalms and relighting them later)

    3) Having a different (random) order to processions and liturgical entrances depending on who happens to be serving at the time.

    4) Keeping the Holy Doors and curtain of the iconostasis open all the time, no matter what, during services and only closing them at the end.

    5) Dropping litanies (especially the one for catechumens) at the discretion of the local bishop.

    6) Adding extra stuff as randomly as things are dropped. This is generally a "conservative" error as opposed to number 5 above which is its "liberal" counterpart, but they are two sides of the same coin (Pro tip: the synodikon of orthodoxy is not a yearly opportunity to innovate and make a statement regarding how serious your jurisdiction is against "modernism"... and inadvertently act hypermodern by doing so)

    7) Probably many more, but some of them are questions of posture and ideology more than questions of practice even if the deviations in practice are all that's seen.

    1. Sunflower syndrome! I'm so glad you "named the demon," as it were :)

    2. Where's the Like button :) I also like "Sunflower Syndrome"...

  13. Blessing skateboards, trikes, baby and doll strollers and toy trucks along with the grown-up wheels like cars, wheelchairs and bicycles at the Feast of Prophet Elijah ( Wagon Wheels served at the festal meal….)

  14. Fake electric "candles" carried by altar servers in shiny colored holders. Seen only in Greek churches and monasteries thus far...Beeswax candles truly missed for fragrance, soft light, atmosphere!

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  16. Several of these are alive and well in Greece in certain forms.

    7. Annual food festivals: Our Greek festivals here in America are meant to "recreate" the type of spontaneous bazaars that form outside of any large Church that is celebrating its feast day. On the evening before and day of, any number of vendors selling food, religious paraphernalia, and just about anything you could imagine, converge upon the celebrating parish. The main difference is that this is not the parishes' main fundraiser.

    9. The numerous church-based clubs. These aren't always located within the Church, but Greece has to have the highest ratio of societies/associations/clubs to the general population of any country.

    11. Coffee hour/potlucks: Plenty of parishes have something like a coffee hour, although most people go to local cafés for their fix. Often the larger parishes will have a time after Sunday Liturgy when someone, usually the senior priest, sits and speaks on a topic, something like adult education, and light fare is often served. I keep thinking that the videos of Fr. Zisis that you post are from such a setting.

    14. Parish councils and the dreaded parish council meetings: I don't know how the meetings go, but there are certainly parish councils in Greece. The biggest difference is that the members are usually appointed by the proistamenos rather than democratically elected. I think that traditionally there was no real distinction between a parish council and the village leadership.

    16. Sunday school: Any good size parish offers catechetical school, and many, but not all, do so on Sunday mornings after Liturgy. Others meet on Saturday mornings or a weeknight.

    19. Parish bulletins / handouts: Most parishes in Greece distribute the Φωνὴ Κυρίου (Phoni Kyriou, "the Voice of the Lord"), which is a small pamphlet published by the Church of Greece that includes either the Sunday Gospel or Epistle reading and a short sermon on the reading.

    20. Pew books: The parishes don't provide these, but there is enough of a market for them in Greece that they are rather inexpensive. Few people bring copies of the liturgy, which is second nature to most, but service books for the Akathist, Paraklesis, Holy Week, etc. are very common sights.

  17. May I add church organs to the list?

  18. Priest saying the silent prayers out loud and during the Anaphora the people shouting:
    “Amen……Amen……Amen Amen Amen.”

  19. No one mentioned the failure of many of the women to wear a head covering.