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Posted By: Jim Ethnicity as a stumbling block for conversion - 11/01/07 02:30 PM
Ethnicity is often downplayed as just part of the cultural majority in a given church, not an actual requirement for active involvement as a believer.

Years ago my wife and I attended a Greek Orthodox service on our spiritual quest. At the time, I was recently retired, my family has been in the U.S. since the 1720s, and is thoroughly americanized, mainly southern protestants, especially Southern Baptists. My wife's family has a closer ethnic tie on her paternal side, to eastern Europe. When I asked her if she would consider attending the Greek parish regularly, she replied, "You need another job. You have too much time on your hands if you think I could do that." (Even a Greek priest found that amusing. Nothing like a wife putting a husband in his place.)

I know there are non-ethnic converts to most jurisdictions. Some are unmarried, and some marry into the church. Some jurisdictions, the Antiocheans in particular, have had more success by starting missions with converts, minimizing the ethnicity as much as possible.

So, to my question: If ethnicity IS a stumbling block to conversion, what are various churches doing about it?
Dear Jim,

I am not trying to be contrary, but sometimes ethnicity can also be a draw. I know of a few converts that love being in an American Greek environment--whether it is for the warmth, the food, the emphasis on family, or any other diverse reasons.

One of our most recent parishioners, for instance, is an Irish-American woman, and her husband of Irish-Polish descent. They originally joined an OCA community, and loved the spirituality, but didn't feel comfortable fitting in with the particular community. My community fit their bill much more--we have a very spiritual priest and great ministries, but also alot of community social functions which they love.

One of our posters, with not a drop of Southern or Eastern European blood in him, and whom I NEVER encouraged one way or another, used to pm me about how much he loved visiting his local GO church. He said they were the friendliest people he had ever met. A half year ago, he converted to the Greek Orthodox church because of that.

Though most of us in my parish are third or fourth generation Greek-Americans, ( and frankly, we are not TOO Greek like alot of churches w/first generation Greeks may be--I can definitely see those churches being a turn off to converts and potential converts, because sometimes they are even a turn off to ME wink ), if we were to take out everything that classifies us as 'ethnic', I don't think that we would be much different than the RC or Protestant church down the block, and I don't think that we would be as vibrant and appealing community as we are.

My suggestion about any ethnic church is to try it out a few times. If you feel comfortable and like the Liturgy and the Priest, then you should also stay for coffee and get to know the people. That is how one will know if this is a church 'family' which you can really feel 'at home' in. There are many factors that make a person feel comfortable in a spiritual home and I believe that ethnicity or lack of it is only one factor.

My conclusion, therefore, to your question is that ethnicity can be *both* a stumbling block to some, and a draw to others, in the matter of conversion.

Alice
I agree with Alice.

For me, the ethnic character of my church has not been a stumbling block. My Church is Ruthenian, and the founding families came mostly from the Presov area in modern day Slovakia.

I myself have no Slavic blood that I know of- I have a Slavic grandparent and great grandparent, but they are step-parents in both cases.

However, I have become somewhat of a Slavophile. I enjoy studying East Slavic- Rusyn, Ukrainian, Russian, Belarusan- history and language. I appreciate the ethnic character of our Church. I want to learn Rusyn and Ukrainian, and I occasionally read my prayers in Slavonic. I have enjoyed learning the Cyrillic alphabet.

There are people there who are very proud of the heritage, and yet, I have felt very warmly welcomed from day one. I bet hardly any of our new members have Slavic heritage.The first day I visited our church was on a day when we had our parish festival.

I enjoy the ethnic food, and the occasional hymn sung in Slavonic at our Church. I would hate to see those things ever go by the wayside.

I have a devotion to our priest-martyr Blessed Bishop Theodore Romzha, who has his feast day today.

Blessed Theodore, pray for us!
Dear Lance,

I believe that there are quite a few non-ethnic Slavophiles on this board besides you! smile

Regards,
Alice

Thanks, Lance and Alice. I myself find no particular problem with the emphasis on Greek language, cuisine, etc. as long as worshipers have an opportunity to express their own culture, and can participate without necessarily adopting another culture instead. I AM more interested in the language and cuisine in my own family's background, but I have seen the multi-cultural mix work in some OCA parishes. (Went to a conference once where each luncheon was prepared by a different ethnic group in that parish, for example.)

As each generation gets more distant from the ethnic base, it may be easier for U.S. non-Orthodox or non-eastern Catholics to relate to them. In the meantime, it would appear that church members often do not see this as a priority issue, or are not interested in working it as such in order to help conversions. Maybe it's the old problem of not being very good at missionary work anymore, which seems to dog the Christian east, mainly because they don't usually have to compete with churches in the homeland. No beating the bushes, but reliance on being sought out, instead. For me it is an issue that is not taken seriously enough in this country given how the people live, but should be, because not everyone finds the culture of one group worthwhile for their lives day to day, when they are used to all kinds of cuisines, etc.

Don't get me wrong. I don't doubt anything that you both have said already. I just think that if there are more options on the table, there is a greater chance of folks being able to relate.

(Also, happy feast of Ss. Cosmas and Damian! It was on this day that my wife was chrismated some years ago.)
It�s in an interesting topic, but not one that I think you could really come up with a definitive answer for. The reason being there is no one type of potential convert and no one definition of what�s �ethnic�. Two factors that I think are of principle importance are the pervasiveness of the ethnic component and what language is in use.

I think I�ve sort of seen both sides. The first parishes I visited were OCA and definitely in the Great Russian tradition (I had previously taken some Russian in High School and visited the then Soviet Union, so it wasn�t like a complete culture shock). These parishes were more second and third generation though, with converts and the services for the most part in English. So I was attracted not only to the religious component, but I liked the cultural aspect as well. I�m basically from a generic, Northern European, whitebread background. I felt like I could fit in without much problem. I did attend a couple of UGCC parishes around the same time, and I did not feel particularly comfortable there, because the Ukrainian component seemed really, really important. Nobody seemed to care that I was there, at least due in part as far as I could tell, because it was obvious I was not Ukrainian. Nobody greeted or talked to me though, so it�s hard to say.

Going forward a few years we spent some time in an Antiochian mission. They did not have the ethnic/cultural component at all, due in large part to the fact that without a permanent building it�s hard to do some of the stuff more established parishes can. The parish profile (including the priest) was also overwhelmingly convert. It became increasingly clear there was not only a lack of facilities to support ethnic/cultural activities, or even a lack of support for them, but really an open hostility to making the church look and feel like anything but a completely generic Americanized Orthodox parish. I heard a lot of derisive and unseemly comments made about other jurisdictions and other ways of doing things. It was kind of a mindset, adopted even by people who grew up Orthodox but were attracted to this way of doing things. The attitude filtered down in various ways and had some odd permutations that weren�t for me. I could appreciate they wanted to reinforce the religious component of the church (and I�m very aware things can go the other direction), but I don�t think it has to be carried out in a way that simply excludes of parts of the traditions of the people who make up the church.

Eventually we left there and went to a Carpatho-Russian parish that I feel very much at home in. One of the things I like best about it is that I think it does a good job of retaining aspects of the church that are cultural/ethnic, but not making them seem like they are central to the reason you go to the parish. I guess I feel like the ethnic/cultural side is just there for you to take part in as little or as much as you would like. I�m sure there are people out there who would still find my parish foreign, ethnic or strange; but the mix of old world and new in the parish feels very American to me, even if it isn�t my ethnicity.
I think that this is a great thread and discussion, and I hope that more posters will add their personal thoughts...

On a silly note, and forgive me, but I can't help myself:

Jim said:
Quote
I just think that if there are more options on the table, there is a greater chance of folks being able to relate.

...and all I could think of, (after reading so many posts all over this forum about food), was: there are many options on the table; pirogy, souvlaki, kibbe, etc. !! wink

Alice
OOOPS Alice - here we go again biggrin FOOD.

Errr .....umm ........have I missed something ?

We aren't yet fasting again are we ? Have I messed up my calendar again ?
Originally Posted by Our Lady's slave
OOOPS Alice - here we go again biggrin FOOD.

Errr .....umm ........have I missed something ?

We aren't yet fasting again are we ? Have I messed up my calendar again ?

LOL! grin

So come to Dublin and enjoy our peculiar version of Irish Orthodox Greek-Catholicism welcoming the Ukrainians (and everyone else who cares to come). I'm handicapped in one important regard: the artificial famine in the nineteenth century destroyed indigenous Irish cuisine, so we must reconstruct appropriate recipes - preferably using indigenous ingredients - for the fasting periods (there is, however, no lack of local traditions on the subject - in the West of Ireland the older people insist that eating duck on fast days is OK, because the ducks eat fish).

On the other hand, at least the Irish language is explicitly Christian. A rude expression for our rude neighbors involves calling them "the weathermen", because when one greets someone in Irish one speaks of God, the Theotokos, and the Saints, while when them ones greet somebody in their mongrel dialect, they talk about the weather!

Alice - please give my warm greetings to the Irish people in your parish, and bring them with you on a visit to the Homeland.

Fr. Serge
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As each generation gets more distant from the ethnic base, it may be easier for U.S. non-Orthodox or non-eastern Catholics to relate to them. In the meantime, it would appear that church members often do not see this as a priority issue, or are not interested in working it as such in order to help conversions. Maybe it's the old problem of not being very good at missionary work anymore, which seems to dog the Christian east, mainly because they don't usually have to compete with churches in the homeland. No beating the bushes, but reliance on being sought out, instead.

This is a real problem and I agree with your observation.
As a convert to the Byzantine Catholic Church from an atheist Anglo-Nordic background, I've never felt the ethnic tones a barrier. I suppose I always saw Church Slavonic as an equivalent to the Latin of a traditional RC Church. Had the language been wholly Church Slavonic, I doubt there would have been much draw, but the parish had few cradle Ruthenians and the language was predominately English. It was perfect... for me, at least.

Any time I find myself wondering how the blood of Vikings ended up in an Eastern Catholic church, I fancy that one of my ancestors might have been a member of the Eastern Roman emperor's Varangian Guard. I'm just returning to a tradition that we allowed to lapse in my family for a thousand years.

Anyway, since it's never been a barrier, I've never given much thought to overcoming it.
Originally Posted by AMM
Quote
As each generation gets more distant from the ethnic base, it may be easier for U.S. non-Orthodox or non-eastern Catholics to relate to them. In the meantime, it would appear that church members often do not see this as a priority issue, or are not interested in working it as such in order to help conversions. Maybe it's the old problem of not being very good at missionary work anymore, which seems to dog the Christian east, mainly because they don't usually have to compete with churches in the homeland. No beating the bushes, but reliance on being sought out, instead.

This is a real problem and I agree with your observation.


I agree with you, Andrew. Old style ethnic Catholic parishes have the same problems. Now mostly situated in changing neighborhoods they are the ones being closed because the new neighbors were never welcomed.

I think this can be a sociological issue. Immigrant parishes are built as safe havens for ethnic minorities. They are often inward looking and serve as mutual aid associations. Hispanic communities though they often share facilities within a larger parish function in much the same way. Nothing wrong with that--except that the nature of the Church is to feed the disciples so they can be apostles to the rest of the world. The Evangelicals say they "make disciples who make disciples." This consciousness is almost absent in both the Catholic and Orthodox churches. Again, it is about getting back to the gospel imperatives and not letting history be an excuse for not changing.

Even as we talk between Catholics and Orthodox, we all have a lot to learn from the Evangelicals in regard to that real evangelizing spirit that they have.
Preserve the faith, untarnished and unadulterated.

Live the faith to the best of your ability, in a personal sense and in a communal sense.

Welcome outsiders into your Church as you would into your home and they will come even if your services are in Swahili!

Alexandr
Originally Posted by Fr J Steele CSC
I agree with you, Andrew. Old style ethnic Catholic parishes have the same problems. Now mostly situated in changing neighborhoods they are the ones being closed because the new neighbors were never welcomed.

Certainly they've suffered from demographic changes and other factors beyond their control (like an expressway cutting the boundaries of a parish in two). One thing I did notice that I found problematic was often an impersonal feeling one could get in a parish. When I attended St. Hedwig's in Chicago for instance one readily got the feeling that there was a connection that was lacking between the priests and the people, and between the people themselves. This was simply accentuated by the fact that the parish was spatially too big, and built for a congregation well beyond what the current level was at. I've gotten this impersonal feeling even at large suburban parishes though, where people don't really talk to each other and rush off after mass to whatever else they're on to next.

Quote
I think this can be a sociological issue. Immigrant parishes are built as safe havens for ethnic minorities. They are often inward looking and serve as mutual aid associations. Hispanic communities though they often share facilities within a larger parish function in much the same way. Nothing wrong with that--except that the nature of the Church is to feed the disciples so they can be apostles to the rest of the world. The Evangelicals say they "make disciples who make disciples." This consciousness is almost absent in both the Catholic and Orthodox churches. Again, it is about getting back to the gospel imperatives and not letting history be an excuse for not changing.

Even as we talk between Catholics and Orthodox, we all have a lot to learn from the Evangelicals in regard to that real evangelizing spirit that they have.

Catholics and Orthodox both have a lesson to learn from the Evangelicals. The people I was around with the Antiochians were former evangelicals, and though ultimately the went about things wasn't my cup of tea, I can't criticize their commitment to reaching out. Orthodox parishes often have an unfortunate tendency of just hoping interested people will show up. It really isn't enough.
Originally Posted by Slavipodvizhnik
Preserve the faith, untarnished and unadulterated.

Live the faith to the best of your ability, in a personal sense and in a communal sense.

Welcome outsiders into your Church as you would into your home and they will come even if your services are in Swahili!

Alexandr

AMEN!
My impression when attending the ethnic UGCC that I used to attend (and, God willing, will do so again soon smile ) was that I knew the Liturgy would be half Ukrainian and half English. I didn't know that the people were mostly 1st or 2nd generation Ukrainians. But as soon as the "coffee hour" started, we were welcomed like the Prodigal Son. We had never been so warmly received and that's how it should be. To paraphrase Alexandr, show them agape and your service can be in Swahili and people will come.
Maybe one of the reasons you've never felt the ethnic tones as a barrier is that Rusyns were originally Vikings! At least one theory says that. The Vikings came down from the Baltic into what is now Ukraine. And stayed. And migrated west into what is now Western Ukraine and Eastern Slovakia. So Carpatho-Rusyns are actually the descendants of Vikings!

Another theory is that the Varangian Guards were given land as their rewards and some of the land was in what is now Ukraine. Kiev as the center of what was Rus.

So in all reality, you've just come full circle. Or rather, just made the natural evolution from Viking to Rusyn. Welcome home!

Tim

In a country made up of various culutres with no "distinctive" expression, I think that for some people the ethic character of Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches IS a draw.

I don't think the ethnic character should be forced on anyone and it certainly can push people away. However, thereis even diversity in dicversity. For instance, at the Melkite Church in Phoenix, we have Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians, Egyptians, and Lebanese. These are all very distinct cultures!

Of course we also have people from Irish, German, British and Rusyn backgrounds.

I have to say that I have always been facinated by various cultures and so the ethnicity WAS a draw for me. Ther closeness of the community and the church. It is a second family to me. Besides, we have Kibbeh Nayyeh!!!
I think I have to disagree that simply being friendly and welcoming (though these are incredibly important factors in attracting and retaining people) is enough, especially irrespective of the language. I would not go to a church if the language was predominantly in something other than English even if the people were really nice. The reason is that I wouldn't be getting anything out of it, and neither would my kids. It would be sort of like how the dogs hear people in Gary Larson cartoons.

What I do think is unfortunate is that many Orthodox Churches have essentially adopted the flytrap approach, and often the only visible form of outreach engaged in are the ethnic festivals and fairs. This is I believe problematic.

I help one of our priests teach the middle and high school kids on Sundays and this year we're doing the book of Acts. Last Sunday we had a conversation very much related to this, based around the gifts of the spirit. In Acts 4 Peter and John are arrested for preaching and healing, and when questioned, basically say they simply aren't able to stop speaking publicaly about their faith. It is too important to them to do so, and in so doing they bring about the conversion of thousands. Our priest asked the kids and myself about this and tried to find where we find gifts of the spirit, and how what would happen if we followed the example of Peter and John. What I didn't say of course was that I think we tend to take the exact opposite approach, and simply keep our faith contained in our parish and wait for people to arrive. One of the kids said his Dad told him to never talk about religion with anybody, because it would lead to trouble.

I think we do have something wrong in our approach. I would not put the blame itself on ethnicity (though some do), though I think the ethnic component can became a symptom or even a cause of a certain unfortunate tendency to insularity or self-sufficiency.
This one really is a tough one and I certainly will not claim to have the definitive answer. One the one hand--having a totally ethnic church and Liturgy could turn many people off. If they can't understand what is being said or what is happening, how are they going to get much out of it. Then on the other hand, when ethnic based churches go all out ethnic and do ethnic festivals--it brings in money and people by the loads. In most cases. If you don't have people, you can't have converts or additional parishioners. Either converts or people who are originally of that nationality but have fallen away. And the ethnic festivals can bring them back around to "come home" in a sense. Too little of one is not enough. Too much of one is too much. What's the middle ground? I certainly do not know. I wish I did. Then my church would be overflowing with people. But I don't, so it isn't.

I don't think there's anything wrong with a bit of ethnicity. It doesn't even have to be at every Liturgy. Once a month a few prayers in that language. People will get the connection between the english version and the ethnic version of the prayer. But there is something to be said about how welcoming the people in the church are. If people don't feel welcome, they're not going to come back unlesss the visitor is a religious fanatic or already decided on switching.

I guess the Greeks were right--moderation in all things.

Tim
Originally Posted by tjm199
I guess the Greeks were right--moderation in all things.

Tim


Just leave out the organs and choir robes! wink
I'm a convert to Orthodoxy with a northern European heritage. My ancestors have been in the States (or Canada) for so long there are no ethnic traditions in my family.

I joined an English-speaking, almost all convert Orthodox parish, because that's where I was directed by a friend who had attended there before her family moved away.

However, I've visited Greek parishes for special services, YAL events, and I was rarely welcomed. In more than one case (YAL), I was told I was not wanted because I was not Greek. I even helped out multiple times with a soup kitchen at one local Greek parish, and got grilled about my ethnicity each time I arrived to volunteer. As soon as I would answer I wasn't Greek, but I *was* Orthodox, the conversation would switch to Greek. I finally gave up and didn't volunteer there any longer.

My metropolitan area does have a large Greek-speaking population, but the worst cases of "You not Greek, we don't want to, don't care if you're Orthodox" have occurred at parishes with few immigrants and more 2nd-3rd generation Greeks. In fact, my English-speaking parish has begun to get folks of Greek heritage (who speak little if any Greek) because they want to have services in English. Most local Greek parishes have services that are about 75% in Greek. At least one priest was forced out of a parish where he tried include more English in services.

Very sad, really.
Originally Posted by tjm199
This one really is a tough one and I certainly will not claim to have the definitive answer. One the one hand--having a totally ethnic church and Liturgy could turn many people off. If they can't understand what is being said or what is happening, how are they going to get much out of it.

It's different if you're already Byzantine Catholic or Orthodox, for example, and just switch parishes - you already know what's going on if you move from a parish with English services to one with non-English. However, if you're thinking about converting - say from Protestantism, and everything is new - not being able to understand what's going on can be quite a barrier to conversion.
That's been my experience as well, Doc. The Prodigal Son is an excellent example that I use on a regular basis when I think of myself and my UGCC. Even before I became clergy we were never treated so warmly and with as much respect at any other parishes of any other jurisdiction, and yes that does make a difference, especially to the wife. The ethnicity (althoug I am distantly related) was never a point of exclusion for us, but rather drew us into a richer culture centered on God and the liturgy - quite unlike mainstream American modern culture.

The amazement continues to happen on a regular basis. Last week as I was finishing tidying up in the altar at our parish in Lincoln of St. George I came out of the iconostasis. The ladies were patientially waiting in the back - the hospodar's wife stepped forward and said "we want to sing for you Otche Diakon". Then followed several rounds of Mnohaja Lita as well as several other folk songs, and I was well in tears by the end of it all. It's good to be home.
Originally Posted by Marie
I'm a convert to Orthodoxy with a northern European heritage. My ancestors have been in the States (or Canada) for so long there are no ethnic traditions in my family.

I joined an English-speaking, almost all convert Orthodox parish, because that's where I was directed by a friend who had attended there before her family moved away.

However, I've visited Greek parishes for special services, YAL events, and I was rarely welcomed. In more than one case (YAL), I was told I was not wanted because I was not Greek. I even helped out multiple times with a soup kitchen at one local Greek parish, and got grilled about my ethnicity each time I arrived to volunteer. As soon as I would answer I wasn't Greek, but I *was* Orthodox, the conversation would switch to Greek. I finally gave up and didn't volunteer there any longer.

My metropolitan area does have a large Greek-speaking population, but the worst cases of "You not Greek, we don't want to, don't care if you're Orthodox" have occurred at parishes with few immigrants and more 2nd-3rd generation Greeks. In fact, my English-speaking parish has begun to get folks of Greek heritage (who speak little if any Greek) because they want to have services in English. Most local Greek parishes have services that are about 75% in Greek. At least one priest was forced out of a parish where he tried include more English in services.

Very sad, really.

Dear Marie,

From your profile, it doesn't say what state or city you are from.

I am really sorry about your experience, and please know that not all Greek Orthodox parishes are like the ones you have encountered, though the type of people you encountered definitely do exist, and they should be ashamed of themselves.

There can be quite a discrepancy, even within thirty mile radiuses, in how welcoming or not welcoming Greek Orthodox parishes are to non-Greeks. I believe that alot depends on the priest and how much he tries to emphasize Orthodox Christianity and spirituality to his congregation OVER cultural Orthodoxy. When a pastor cares more about the second, the congregation is given carte blanche to be an ethnic club rather than a church.

In any case, I think that one needs to meet the priest FIRST before attempting to become a member of a Greek Orthodox church community. You can gauge the community from your discussion with him, and by meeting him and introducing yourself to him first, he can also become a powerful advocate for you feeling welcome!

In Christ,
Alice


I'm very sorry you had that experience, Marie. That's sad, I agree. And it isn't very Christian, either. My parish priest had some experiences that saddened him and made him more than a bit angry. Some nuns, who happened to be a different ethnicity and skin color than the Ruthenian parishioners at his church were not exactly welcoming to the nuns. And there is simply no excuse for that.

My parents were born in the early 1900's and as people of their generation, they used words and phrases that would not be considered appropriate today. But they never meant anything disrespectful by it. It was just an expression, nothing more, nothing less. And they always taught us kids (I'm the youngest of seven) that we should treat everyone the same, regardless of color or religion or ethnicity. And this was in the early 1960's, during the incredible problems with Civil Rights in the South. There were no people of any other color than white in my hometown. We were quite diverse--as long as you consider every country and region in Eastern Europe to be diverse. But they made sure we knew that Christ taught us to treat everyone equally. Take people at their word until they prove untrustworty. Give them the benefit of a doubt. I don't see what's so hard about that. From one Christian to another to be rude is just silly.

Let's all say a prayer for the ladies at that Parish. And hope the priest has enough guts to lay down the law and let them know rudeness is not acceptable.

Tim
Alice, I didn't put down my location because I've been burned online before where I was more open. I didn't put down my jurisdiction either, for the same reason. Just know that I have experience with both the OCA and the Antiochians.

What's "funny" is that the priests were generally welcoming, and even spoke about a convert in their midst might give a jump start to some of the younger people.
Quote
He said they were the friendliest people he had ever met.

That's it. Right there. End of story! Close the book! Movies over, go home and turn out the lights!

Being a welcoming parish comes first.

Everyone is ethnic. We don't think about it, but I am an ethnic midwesterner. I can play up some ethnic cards a little... But when push comes to shove, no one is going to confuse me for a Hungarian, Scotsman or French-Canadian. I'm a Buckeye.

But if all our parishes went white bread ethnic Ohioan tomorrow, guess what? We'd still be ethnic!

A few years ago I was switiching through the channels and saw a an Eastern church in a video clip on some Evangelical station. Much to my chagrin they were talking about the missionaries they were sending over to convert these unsaved Christians. Then they cut to a Palestinian Evangelical pastor in jeans and tennis shoes who spoke English with a feint Southern US accent! Talking in bapto-speak about "Strengthening the brothers", I almost fell out of my chair! Well I will be, an ethnic Palestinian/Son of Dixie! Who knew?

My priest friend in California assures me that the situation is the same in Hispanic evangelical congregations - picture Scarface meets Jimmy Swaggart/Jim Baker! (Can I get an A-men, amigos?!?)

Ethnic is as ethnic does.

What seems to matter most is hospitality and prayer. I am a radical moderate on this one - cook up ethnic food in the kitchen, sing hymns from the old country, throw in some Slavonic/Greek/Arabic... People will first and foremost respond to being welcomed, invited to coffee hour, and being invited back.

Ethnicity has never caused the slightest problem for me at the UGCC church I attend. Despite being non-Ukrainian, being on the young side at 47, and having very long hair, I immediately got on well with a number of parishoners because we had other more important things in common. I grew up in the same neighborhood where the church started out, so that was a great opening topic for conversation. Then I demonstrated a rudimentary understanding of Ukraine and it's history by discussing Petliura, Khmelnitzky, the Famine etc, and when they got around to asking with polite curiosity why I started attending their church, I told them very matter of fact about my displeasure at the irreverent way masses are conducted at the Roman Catholic Churches in the area. Best of all though, I like attending a church where the parishoners hold to the same views and values that I was raised with. Heck, after Liturgy this morning, I spent over an hour chatting with an elderly man who's son once threatened me in High School. We later got on well, but sadly he no longer attends any church.
The ethnic issue has not really been an issue at all for me (a convert from Judaism who is also 1/2 Portuguese). I attend a Ruthenian Rite parish in southern California, where many in the congregation aren't of Rusyn origins (there was a baby baptized, chrismated, and given communion a few weeks ago with the last name Donovan). I have also attended a Melkite parish where the priest, deacon, one of the readers and a handful of the congregation aren't of Middle Eastern backgrounds but are loved and welcomed just as much as those that are. I have also gone to vespers a couple of times at the local Antiochan Orthodox Church and the congregation there seems pretty diverse, there were only a few families at the service but about a third of them were of WASPish backgrounds. Finally the local Greek Orthodox Church is very diverse from what I have heard. I interviewed one of the priests there for a project for school last year and he is of a Protestant background. Maybe it can just be chalked up to the diversity found in Southern California to begin with, but I'm glad that I haven't had the problems that some of the other posters here have.
I have a cousin in NJ who found her husband's UGCC parish
far more welcoming than the local RC parish, although they
were very intestested in her husband's antecedents: what villages
did his people come from, etc.

That is good ethnicity.Christ first, the homeland, second.

Edmac
Originally Posted by Edmac
That is good ethnicity. Christ first, the homeland, second.

Amen. And then the ethnicity isn't an impediment; it is heritage.

As Etnik once posted, you can't grow a new crop if you throw out the seed corn . . .

That doesn't mnean doing everything in Old Church Slavonic or Syriac, Arabic or Greek; but it does mean honoring the people who passed down the Gospel to us.

Just my two cents worth. Be well.

-- John

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