My Church likes to skip hymns



  • [quote author=TITL link=topic=11241.msg135979#msg135979 date=1302728665]
    What are you trying to prove? :P

    I'm saying if you have an excuse for occasional skipping, then you can't say "since we had an excuse once, we're allowed to give excuses for every single church service".

    i don't get it...
  • OK back to the basics...
    What is a liturgy? It's the WORK of the people...
    Ok, What are the characteristics of work?
    1. DEDication, meaning to dedicate every thing, and give every thing up for the sake of the work, the job you're going to do... does anybody care how long he spends at work if they can't finish on time? DO people get bored? OF course the majority will but if they voice that, what'd happen?
    2. Work is submission to your employer. How do you submit? DO you dictate to them what you'd like to happen? DO you plan something and do it regardless of whether they give you permission?
    3. It's also duty. You have a duty to be there for a specific task. DOn't skive or shy away, otherwise....
    Bottom line is hymns, sermons, preferences, whatever, this should always be our mindset...
  • Forget it, Mina. Just focus on the 'judging = sin' thing :P
  • I think there is a difference between skipping and rushing. I would never want to rush the liturgy, but there are times when things might need to be abbreviated slightly, but only to an extent, and never so that the Liturgy is affected. A seasonal hymn might be abbreviated, perhaps, but not the prayers or the fixed hymns.

    As a priest, and a convert, and someone who has to work for my living, I do understand that actually people can be very much overwhelmed with other responsibilities that perhaps people are not aware of. There are people, for instance, who need to also visit very ill relatives on Sunday because there is no other time, and who might also have to travel several hours just to get to Church. There are others who might have managed to get a few hours work on a Sunday afternoon because the have bills that must be paid, even if they do not want to work. There are families where it is hard to get everyone to attend the Liturgy at all, let alone for increasing numbers of hours. There are a great many hidden stories of trials and tribulations that we do not know about.

    This is not the same as saying 'Let's shorten the Liturgy'. But we do need to understand that the person checking their watch, and rushing off quickly after communion, may be facing almost unbearable strains. We should not be quick to judge them.

    On the other hand, if a congregation is at spiritual condition X and the priest is concerned that it should be at spiritual condition Y then there is a need to plan to do what might be necessary to facilitate that. Personally I think that the unrushed celebration of the liturgy, with a spiritual homily, and a spiritual atmosphere, is most important. This includes an APPROPRIATE use of hymns based on the spiritual condition of the congregation, and a plan to IMPROVE the use of hymns as part of a comprehensive and unhurried programme of development. I am not sure that singing a great many hymns at once is the best means of improving the spirituality of a congregation, but having a programme where that is one aspect of improvement is sound. Certainly reducing the number of usual hymns is not necessarily appropriate either. But it is not only about hymns. And the priest and bishop has to have the wider spiritual growth of the congregation in mind.

    It is not appropriate for a beginner to try to fast like an experienced monk. It is not appropriate for a struggling congregation to try to act as if it was a mature community. There is a need for steady and sustained improvement. Steady is the keyword.

    If there is 120-150 minutes set aside for the liturgy then it seems to me that it is better to fill that time with an unhurried and reverent celebration than to try to squeeze 180 minutes into 150 minutes. In my own circumstances we know how long the liturgy takes when we proceed without rushing. But when it is a feast or a special occasion then it is appropriate to add additional materials which will extend the celebration. These are perhaps the occasions when a priest can add additional materials without the congregation feeling that the liturgy is being added to each week.

    This Holy Week we will not be celebrating every service which is possible. Although we will be celebrating significantly more than last year. Is this because we are lazy and lack commitment? I do not think so. God has ordered things so that most of my congregation have many responsibilities which cannot be ignored. Some live several hours away from Church by train. Others have to work long hours each day. There should be a sense of joy and relief at coming to Church for whatever time is possible according to God's will. There should not be a sense of failure, or guilt, or conflict. The person caring for a seriously ill relative is no less worshipping God at the bedside than in the Church. The person bearing the responsibility of supporting a family, who wishes he could be in Church is no less doing God's will.

    It is all rather more complex than skipping hymns. Undoubtedly there are congregations where it really is a matter to be concerned about, but as a priest who has to make such decisions, it is not as straightforward as some might like to think. Indeed, I am sure that there are many here who can think of many reasons why a priest might not be free in his own Church to make the decisions he might prefer. Slow and steady GROWTH and IMPROVEMENT should be the aim.

    Father Peter
  • I agree completely with Fr. Peter as the goal is a continuous improvement and spiritual growth. This is very true for a startup congregation or a church of newly converts.

    However, what I have experienced in the last several years is that there is a general trend, whether here in the land of immigration or in Egypt, that there is more and more emphasis to shorten the prayers whether hymns or the actual liturgy.

    Let me give an example. It's the rite of the Church to celebrate Feasts with the Gregorian liturgy since its tune is festive. However, what I am seeing is that the priest may start Gregorian till the signings and then switch to the Basil liturgy. Or he may start with the Basil one and switch to the Gregorian at the end (at the beginning of the fraction prayer).

    Sometimes the responses to the short litanies are skipped, the response Ke is shortened, the priest rushes through the congregation of saints faster than you can flip the page.

    All this takes place on Sundays and in different churches I have served in.

    Most of the congregation in my church (established 15 years ago) are migrants who live within 7 miles of the church. However, over 70% come after the Gospel reading and take communion.  My question is when are we going to grow spiritually and focus on prayer instead of focusing on the social life after the liturgy.

    I believe an established Church should strive to grow instead of decline. What Fr. Peter is doing is great and should be implemented in other Churches.

  • I don't think what I said applies only to a new Church of converts. It applies everywhere. We are at X and we want to be at Y, so we need to prayerfully consider how to get there is a steady and consistent manner. The fact of being an existing congregation of Egyptians is no guarantee of spiritual maturity since we all need to be converted each day, and our congregations need to keep choosing God rather than wordly benefits. So we are all at X and need to get to Y. The problem is when a proportion of a congregation are happy with X and think that actually W is more than enough effort.
  • I agree again Fr Peter.

    However, a church of converts differ than a church of migrants. A church of converts needs to accommodate the members as babes that just get milk and help them grow to get to the solid food.

    A church of migrants, as the one I described above, is working backward; abandoning the solid food and is looking for the milk.
  • [quote author=TITL link=topic=11241.msg135979#msg135979 date=1302728665]
    What are you trying to prove? :P

    I'm saying if you have an excuse for occasional skipping, then you can't say "since we had an excuse once, we're allowed to give excuses for every single church service".

    Was this directed at me or Mina? If was me, then you must have misunderstood me. I never said there is an excuse for occasional skipping. I said there are rational, acceptable reasons for skipping hymns. A reasonable, legitimate reason is not an excuse. And I didn't say if we have an excuse, we're going to extend it for every service. I said, if there is a reasonable reason for an occasional change, then there maybe another (altogether different) acceptable reason to skip hymns every liturgy. I believe that reason is preferences.

    Regardless of the reason why churches skip hymns, what we can conclude from observation is that all churches skip or change the hymns to accommodate time or it's simply their preference to say Hymn X and not Hymn Y. If all churches change or skip hymns (regardless if we agree with the change), we can't say skipping hymns is the exception. Skipping hymns is the norm. (Maybe skipping is not the right word here. Maybe "implementing or interpreting the rite differently" is a better phrase?)

    This is what Fr. Peter was alluding to when he said his church will not be celebrating every Holy Week service possible. There is a reasonable legitimate reason for skipping some services. Again maybe implementing the Holy Week service differently is a better phrase.

    I also agree with imikhail that lack of commitment is seen in many churches. This, however, is an excuse and we should not accept it. We should try to work for improving the situation. Insisting on 100% hymns may also cause more harm than good.
  • I think that you are mistaken in considering a Church of Egyptians as being essentially mature and on solid food. There is no reason for this to be the case, and there is danger in such an assumption.

    In the case of my own community, I have had to choose Orthodoxy, and did so 17 years ago. I had been a serious Christian since my infancy. Most of my congregation have also been serious and committed Christians for many years before becoming Orthodox, or have been born into Orthodox families. What we have in common is that we all choose to continue to be Orthodox and we all choose to be at Church for the Liturgy. Since we are a small, mixed ethnicity community there are no pressures on people to attend. I will email and phone if people disappear, but in the end if they only want to come intermittently then no-one is pressuring them. So our congregation is filled with people who have chosen to be at the Liturgy and who choose each week to be Orthodox.

    I grew up in a protestant church were most of us had not chosen to be members, but found that it was generally too difficult to stop being members until we left home or got married etc. Some of us were serious Christians, others were not. This is the same for all religious communities.

    I think that it is necessary for it to be clearly understood that NO-ONE IS BORN ORTHODOX. Everyone has to chose to become Orthodox each week and each day. And NO-ONE IS BORN SPIRITUALLY MATURE. It is a mistake to think that a congregation of Egyptians is mature in itself, or that any group of young people growing up in a Coptic community are mature, or even properly Orthodox. The Orthodox Faith is not transmitted by genetics. There are many congregations where reducing the hymns is not the problem, it is only a symptom of the underlying problem, that the people, or some of the people, or many of the people, are not properly Orthodox. But this is not remedied by simply doing Orthodox things, or making sure that every hymn is sung. It needs to be addressed by understanding that every person has to choose to be Orthodox, and needs to understand the commitment that Orthodoxy requires.

    If there are members of an immigrant community that have a weak understanding of the faith, and a shaky experience of it, and who come because the family pressure them to do so, then they are true babes in the faith. Are these people being continually addressed or is it assumed that if you are 40 and an Egyptian then you must be a solid Orthodox Christian? It is not the case. Nor is it the case in any religious community. People have to understand for themselves and make a repeated commitment for themselves. It cannot be made for them by grandma.

    Which is why I believe that every Church needs to realistically consider where it is at. A congregation where the youth attend protestant services does not strike me as mature. One where the priest is unable to make any changes to practice without being bullied does not strike me as mature. One where outsiders do not find themselves welcomed does not strike me as mature. One where all the parents require their children to become qualified in Medicine, Pharmacy or Engineering does not strike me as mature.

    All of our Churches need to become more mature. But we need to face facts. Doing the liturgy well or accurately is not the same as spiritual maturity, but nor is doing it rushed or missing many parts, nor adding every hymn possible. The performance of the Liturgy is a symptom, but there are other symptoms as well which are apparent in the relationships and attitudes of congregation members.

    Being Egyptian is not the same as being Orthodox.

    Having been baptised is not the same as being Orthodox.

    Being Orthodox, being committed to Orthodoxy, this is what Orthodoxy means.

    I don't think the issue of skipping is the real one. It seems to me to miss the bigger problems which may be present in such situations. We need to ask ourselves, and support our priest and bishop in asking, is our Church really Orthodox? In what ways are we failing to be an Orthodox community? How do we work to correct these failings and weaknesses so that we become truly an Orthodox community? Hymns and rites are one aspect of this, but relative to the aspect of true commitment to Christ, of understanding the faith, and of being daily converted, they are secondary because a congregation that is not committed to Christ but does the liturgy well is not Orthodox. While a congregation that is committed to Christ, does the liturgy badly, but it trying to do better, is truly Orthodox.

    This has nothing to do with convert vs immigrant. There are converts who are entirely Orthodox. There are immigrants who are barely Orthodox. There are the majority of converts and immigrants who are in the middle and who could become more Orthodox if they were helped and instructed and inspired how to do so.

    Father Peter
  • Dear Fr Peter,

    Solid food is a relative term and is infinite in terms of spirituality. The great Abba Antony would say that he was still on the beginning of the road even after 70 years in the desert.

    What I meant is when a Church of non converts ethnic Copts starts to consistently rush through prayers after, and cut rituals to suit its congregation's life is not helping them spiritually.

    Unfortunately, several of the churches I served in shrank services then they used to. I'll give you an example: we used to pray the last Friday for six hours, it shrank to 3.5 hours. We used to pray the Vesper prayer Midnight Praises, Matins and the liturgy on Feast days. Now we start with the matins and rush it. This is what I am referring to by leaving the solid food.

    Fortunately, you are doing the opposite. You are increasing the period of service while we are shrinking it.
  • Remnkemi,

    My last post was directed to Mina. I understand completely what you are alluding to and I agree to some extent (not fully because I have not witnessed most of your examples in my own parish).

    In my previous reply to you, I mentioned that the occasional circumstances (hymns, baptism, long sermon..etc) would result in exceptions. Why can't we call these "excuses"? They are rational, acceptable reasons, yet excuses :)
    I don't understand why don't want to use the word? Excuses aren't always bad.

    You brought up an interesting point by saying skipping hymns isn't an exception, but a norm. To what extent would it be acceptable to skip hymns. If the church were to recite all the hymnology in a single Liturgy, we would be in service for 6 hours (according to you, because I have no idea). So we obviously skip SOME hymns (3 hours worth of hymns lol), but would it also be a norm to skip Tee/ay-shory, Hiten, Agios, Erepo Esmo, Psalm 150? I would only say it's a norm when the longer not-as-famous hymns (like Pinishty, Evchais or something) aren't recited, but I would also say it's an EXCEPTION to skip frequent and regular hymns (Agios..etc). What do you think?

    I also agree with imikhail that lack of commitment is seen in many churches. This, however, is an excuse and we should not accept it. We should try to work for improving the situation. Insisting on 100% hymns may also cause more harm than good.

    If you have a solution in mind, I (and others) would love to hear it! And, just curious, have you ever attended a Liturgy where 100% of the hymns were recited.. if so, was it really 6 hours?!

    Btw, I think it's really funny that this thread is having two different conversations at the same time... we're so Egyptian :P

  • So we skip hymns, and shorten the Liturgy to suit people's lives, circumstances, and YES preferences? What message are we giving out? Oh yes, my bad: the message is attending a church is secondary in your life. It shouldn't be primary, as long as you have a strong relationship with God, and other events in life are more important.
    Are we looking for "rational" excuses? It is funny you should mention that TITL and Mina, because the work of the people is the Liturgy. If you go to WORK and start looking for excuses, then you know where you end up. If you go to WORK once or twice and then think to yourself, oh very tedious, I won't come regularly then, you know where you end up. So let's be careful with our Employer...
  • Did I say something wrong? lol
  • There is a difference in English between a reason and an excuse.

    There may be reasons for modifying the liturgy within acceptable bounds that do not involve any excuse whatsoever. There may be excuses offered that provide no legitimate reason.

    Father Peter
  • I don't understand why everyone thinks excuses are bad. Why is reason always something positive and excuse unfavorable? I think you're giving an excuse, Fr. Peter :P

    I guess the example you gave makes sense, but it also makes sense to say "I have a reason for not turning in my homework" and "I have an excuse for not turning in my homework". An excuse is a reason, right? Like with modifying the Liturgy, the excuse would be whatever the reason is.

  • An excuse is a reason, but often with a negative connotation to it. I'm not sure, but I would guess that this is because "excuse", literally, is used to exonerate someone from blame. So you can have "reasons" while still accepting responsibility, but "excuses" by their very nature involve not accepting responsibility or blame. If you have a good reason, you never need an excuse. ;)
  • As a native English speaker I am aware that I have an advantage over many here on the forum whose first language is American.

    As dzheremi intimates, excuse has the sense of avoiding blame, while reasons tend to have the sense of being blameless or to involve a situation where blame is not an issue.

  • As a native English speaker I am aware that I have an advantage over many here on the forum whose first language is American.

    This time, can I say you started it (the whole american vs. british war we have in every thread)?

    Since Lent is coming to an end, and Pascha is approaching, I will hold my tongue... but not my fingers; American's always win, Father. Vietnam doesn't count, and I gave a reason (not an excuse) for the other "wars" you mentioned.

    At least American's don't have an accent like the British.  ;)
  • And so, Churchill's famous quip that Britain and America are "two nations divided by a common language" comes alive right here on Tasbeha...

  • TITL, it is true that Americans do not have an accent like any British person, but the accents which you do have....!!!!!

    In terms of accents, I don't really have one, and I tend to speak Standard or Queen's English.
  • [quote author=Father Peter link=topic=11241.msg136057#msg136057 date=1302812500]
    TITL, it is true that Americans do not have an accent like any British person, but the accents which you do have....!!!!!

    You're right, Father Peter. It's a shame we Americans don't all talk like this lovely gentleman...  ;)
  • TITL, to respond to your previous question. I doubt any one has served in a liturgy(except ones be recorded for a purpose) have done EVERY hymn possible for that liturgy. I assume also that the liturgy of St Basil that was recorded by HICS includes the Liturgy of the Word and its Hymns. St Basils liturgy alone will not take 6 hours but 3 if everything is done and 3 hours or more for the Liturgy of the Word if it is done with EVERY hymn possible(including the readings done in coptic and long praxis and hiten, plus the hymn for the saint of the day and a tamgeed after the Synixar etc).
  • TITL, it is true that Americans do not have an accent like any British person, but the accents which you do have....!!!!!

    ...makes the entire world jealous. You really ought to finish your sentences, Father Peter, instead of misquoting mine. :P
  • i dono about you guys....but i love an english accent--whenever i do understand it. it's like the true english language that i can never speak perfectly with.
  • Mina.

    Go away.

    If any OTHER American Tasbahians have anything supportive to say about their country, please feel free to.
  • [quote author=TITL link=topic=11241.msg136073#msg136073 date=1302820786]

    Go away.

    make me....
  • FATHER PETER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    You asked for it.
  • Well said jydeacon, I guess you just missed out the abouna's talk, which because abouna's are in charge, they like shortening other hymns. I've been thinking about this from a psychiatric point of view, as I'm a strong believer that our church is the best psychiatric institution on earth. Hymns comfort souls, as music therapy. They act in my opinion via relaxation techniques for those who practise them. Talks can be viewed as talking therapies, as in a group therapy setting. Of course group therapy has other criteria and I don't think abouna's talk fulfils that, but can we stop them? SO bottomline is if you come to church asking to be healed, and you dictate how it's going to be done through excuses, reasons, preferences or whatever then pity on me. I don't believe anyone goes to their doctor's and not be prepared to give the whole time in his world and wish the doctor give him equally back. Unfortunately there is ONly ONe Doctor who can do that...
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