Yes, Ukies can be very unwelcoming in their parishes along cultural lines.
I'm not defending that.
But that is a fact that exists here and elsewhere.
Knowing how our people are, I've actually dissuaded converts who are non-Ukrainians from joining the Ukie Churches.
My OCA priest friend is a case in point. He had so many bad experiences, not that I didn't warn him
, that he left for the OCA.
Not all Ukie parishes are like that. The one I'm working with now isn't and I challenge anyone to match the kind of cultural "smorgasbord" that we have there.
But I will state the obvious in saying that many of our Ukie parishes see the "Byzantine Church" as "our Church" and if you want to use "English" then go to an "English Church" - which used to mean Roman Catholic.
In terms of the loss of numbers of faithful that the Administrator notes - that really is, in Canada, a function not only of assimilation with its push and pull factors, but also, and mainly, because the young stop going to Church.
They come for Easter and Christmas - but that's about all. And that has to do NOT with the issue of culturally-specific parishes, but with catechesis and a crisis of faith.
The Church here in Eastern Canada, however, is quite vibrant and dynamic. The parishes here are to overflowing - the cited statistical losses aren't really reflected here and it will take some more years before an adequate assessment of what is taking place now will be available.
But be that as it may, our Church here shows no signs of losing its strong cultural character. Our other cultural Churches are likewise very strong - it would be wrong to hypothesize that losses of membership seen in terms of youth dropping off Sunday attendance et al are somehow related to their staying away because they don't understand the language or that the cultural aspect is a turn-off. That simply isn't the case.
But back to the main point here, I don't disagree with the Administrator on the cultural aspect - we agree fundamentally!
What we don't agree on is how that cultural factor should be expressed, by way of separate Churches or by way of a single united Church wherein there are many cultural expressions.
From a strictly pastoral whatever point of view, no Ukie here is going to agree to give up their Church to unite with others, no matter the assurances that their culture will be preserved etc.
Call it a function of history, cultural consciousness or what have you, that is not going to happen.
We're generations away from that and even then, given that the "myth" (and I mean that in a positive sense) of Ukrainian identity is founded on an awareness of being "taken over" and "oppressed" - this whole idea of a unified Byzantine jurisdiction simply won't fly with them.
I'm not here to argue mental arguments - I really can't change that, I'm just reporting it to you
The Canadian multicultural context is such that really does nourish the continued existence of separate cultural Churches and their name here is "legion."
I would also make the point that the Kyivan Church of Ukraine, itself once quite "multicultural" will eventually become that again.
The "uncanonical" UOC-KP today not only has Ukrainian parishes at home and abroad but Russian parishes (the "True Russian Orthodox" and one other joined with it), three Greek Archbishops, parishes in Kazakhstan, English parishes in the U.S. (following the New Calendar would you believe . . .
). It is moving toward the vision of Kyiv as a Light of the East and throughout the East.
That is how I see a North American version of Kyivan Christianity developing over time - culture is not simply secular culture, but there is also the spiritual culture of the ancient sees embodied in Particular Churches that persist.
And those Particular Churches aren't limited by geography. The influence of Kyivan Christianity was felt across Siberia and into North America.
I see no reason why the healthy tension between self-governing Metropolias of the Diaspora and their Mother Church connected with the ancient Sees cannot continue - and the Administrator doesn't disagree here either.
Today we call ourselves "Ukrainian Catholics and Orthodox."
That is a recent phenomenon, informed by the national-consciousness movements of the 19th century.
The problem with those names is that North Americans hearing them think we are ethnocultural enclaves and here to promote that.
That is certainly part of our Church's life today - a normal part given the role the Church has always plaed in the lives of the nations it has served, especially in times of colonial oppression etc.
But ultimately we need to reach back and regain our own self-awareness as heirs to the Kyivan Church itself, a Church whose own strong spiritual culture is rooted in all that "RUS'" stood for and still stands for.
I've had time to reflect on these issues brought forward by the Administrator and I see now that my earlier resistance to his idea is based not on the issue of culture, but on the issue of the Church of Kyiv and Kyivan Christianity.
I want to continue to be faithful to Kyivan Christianity even in North America.
For me, Kyivan Christianity IS what the Administrator is proposing - it is just that we need to recover its ideals.
Kyivan Christianity embraced many cultures and peoples and has traditionally been a Teacher in the East, serving and nurturing the people of God of the East.
Just as Kyivan Christianity embraced the peoples of Siberia and elsewhere, so too Kyivan Christianity can and should move into "stage two" of its ecclesial existence of North America and embrace the cultural realities of both mainstream and ethnic dynamics here.
Perhaps what is needed to achieve this is a Patriarchate of Kyiv composed of different Metropolias worldwide that reflect these realities and dynamics.
Over time, not only our cultures in North America, but Kyiv itself will become a more "Catholic" or universal centre, as it was in the past and regain that lost vision.
Kyivan Christianity is also something that saints like St Raphael Hawaweeny was inspired by - he was trained in Kyiv and even called himself a partisan of the culture of "Rus" by education.
We are not ultimately called to preach Ukrainian Catholicism outside Ukraine.
We have every right to maintain our UGCC.
At the same time, there truly is the other, supra-national aspect of the tradition of Kyivan Christianity, which is both Orthodox and Catholic in its vision of outreach to all peoples, that all of us who are children of that heritage need to work on to recover in all its theological, missionary and evangelical dynamism.
The more we study St Peter Mohyla (himself a Moldo-Wallachian, not a Ukrainian) and others in our history, the more we will come to a greater appreciation of that vision.