Orthodox Adoption in the Lands of Immigration

Hello Everyone,

We recently had a visit to our parish from an Antiochian Orthodox priest who is himself a convert from Anglicanism.  He told us about a small mission parish which he is running from a local university and is growing steadily.

One of the things he mentioned is that most of the liturgical traditions which Orthodox Churches have haven't been well adopted by westerners because they're too hard to chant for native speakers of the English tongue.  In his parish they have evolved their own tradition which is based more on Russian style chant which has been very successful.

In Fiji one of our missionary fathers noted that the locals have started to acclimatise the liturgy to their environment by chanting in a way which sounds more harmonically like it is of pacific rather than coptic origin.

One of the fathers in my Church is an Anglican convert and he can only chant in a traditional English sort of way, I wanted to record him praying the agpeya and title it as something like 'the coptic prayer of the hours according to the eastern rite'. :)

Another convert who is also a senior deacon is given the most important roles in our liturgy but struggles with the pronunciation and simply cannot chant our hymns.at.all.

Given that it is so challenging for westerners, I want an indication of how many of us would be willing to make the big sacrifice of giving away our musical tradition for one which is better suited to people of western origin?

One of our challenges to bringing Orthodoxy to our western brothers is that it doesn't fit these moulds and our churches are full of Egyptians who probably don't want their standing traditions suddenly transformed into a westernised version of themselves/

Knowing that there won't be an overnight change, how can we on a church by church level encourage participation in our liturgy?

Please pray for me,



  • I am one that would never want to give up my Church Traditions and rites.

    This is no way of attracting others. The way you attract people is through establishing parishioner churches that only speak to the parishioners and leave the indigenous Copts alone.

    Forr example, you happen to be in Australia. To attract indigenous Australians is to have a church dedicated to them with service that suit their needs, from paintings, music, readings, ..... Of course to get to that point you need lot of word like establishing a catechumen classes, be ready with lessons and a full educational materials on Orthodoxy.
    Remember, you are not attracting them to "Copticism", rather to Orthodoxy.

  • Your approach is build a second Church to be populated with people who are non-coptic. That doesn't sound very Biblical.
  • [quote author=LoveisDivine link=topic=12636.msg148373#msg148373 date=1322907471]
    Your approach is build a second Church to be populated with people who are non-coptic. That doesn't sound very Biblical.

    How can it be unbiblical? You probably misunderstood me.

    We cannot force our culture on others and at the same time we cannot abandon our culture for the sake of others.
  • what imikhail is suggesting is called by english speaking theologians the 'homogenous unit principle'.
    if u want a debate about this, i can send a personal message to another forum member who has written about this and is quite knowledgeable.

    but to cut a very long story short, there were no separate 'jew' and 'gentile' churches in the Bible or early church tradition.
    so we should all mix together in the same congregation but we can occasionally have a 'european evening' or an 'asian evening' or an 'egyptian evening' where we share the food from a particular culture represented in the church and then share in spiritual songs or other things from that particular tradition.

    in my current church we use english quite a lot and there are several non egyptians (from various countries) who manage the congregation responses well and who have found a spiritual home in the church here.
    some of us are also learning to cook fasting food that is not foul medammes (egyptian beans) and egyptians, natives and other immigrants mix well together.

    i think if u get to the stage where there are very many non egyptians in your church, maybe u could request to occasionally use a differently liturgy that sounds easier (i realise this would be a big deal with the synod, but new liturgies have been introduced before, so it's not unthinkable).

    unfortunately, what puts people off orthodoxy (i mean the people who are not religious) is not the songs / chants but the level of commitment needed to God and the fact that we are not promising any 'cheap fixes' ('repeat these words after me and all your problems will go away')
    and as Jesus said 'make disciples of all nations', not 'get as many bums on the seats once a month as u can', i think we are on the right track.
    i await further discussion...
  • there were no separate 'jew' and 'gentile' churches in the Bible or early church tradition

    I disagree with this statement as St Mark did not force his Jewish culture on the Egyptians, and so the other Churches established by the other apostles. Otherwise, all the Churches would have the same prayers, hymns, music, ...etc.

    What happened is that the apostles delivered the faith and left the worship tiny details to the congregations. The Coptic Church did the same thing with the Ethipian Church, the Eritreans, and the rest of the African Churches. We did not force our music and hymns on others.

    Hope this clarifies the issue.
  • Agape,

    In another thread called "My friends are leaving the Coptic Church," this topic came up. Since it's related to the subject of mission, I'm gonna copy and paste what I wrote there. In summary, if we are to preach to others, we preach Orthodox Christianity. People from other cultures can use what is spiritual in their own cultures to practice Orthodoxy and worship God in spirit and truth.

    Here's what I wrote:


    While I am very conservative about the Coptic Orthodox Church's rites and hymns, which is evident  in my participation with the HCOC choir (for example), it must be remembered that these rites and hymns serve our Coptic people, and do not necessarily have any spiritual significance or meaning to converts (unless they're fascinated with Orientalism).

    The Coptic rites and hymns are good in themselves, but they only serve those who could understand it and use it in their prayers. The key term here is "serve." The hymns and rites are in service of the people, to aid in worship. To force converts to become "Coptic" Orthodox (actually, it's worse... we force them to be Egyptians with Arabic-influenced culture and ideals) is a sin, because it points to our worship of our culture, rites and hymns. The culture becomes an end, rather than a means to worship God.

    Let the converts freely express their worship in their own heritage, provided it's spiritual and reverent.

    The Coptic Church, unfortunately, does not have a theology of mission, and does not know how to missionize either. Orthodox faith is caught, not taught. Orthodox faith is a living expression of spirituality and union with God, not the worship of the false idols of cultures, rites, hymns, and languages.


    And another post:

    As I said earlier, we worship God, not our languages and cultures. It is a sin to create the idol of Coptic and worship it.

    As the old saying goes: "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." This does not translate (necessarily) to "sin as the Romans sin," which is usually what goes on in Middle Eastern people's minds when they think of moving to and avoiding the influence of Western cultures. There is much spirituality in Rome, as in any culture, that can be used to praise God, equally - if not even better - than in worshipping in a tongue that makes no sense to the one who prays.

    Take this an example: when the Syrians went to Egypt, they worshipped in the Coptic rites and hymns, and even built their monastic community in similar structures as the Coptic ones in Egypt, rather than the structures of Syria/Palestine.

    Take this as another example: when the Egyptians preached to the Ethiopians, the Ethiopian Christians built their own churches, worshiped in their own languages, created their own rites, and composed many hymns of their own.

    Christianity should always be local. Christianity should always be incarnate!
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