The Convert Parish
If I had my choice, I think a balance of converts and cradle would be ideal in a Parish. My Parish has virtually no cradles (except kids and young adults who were born in ours or another all-convert parish) and I think we suffer for that lack of "old" blood.
Then again, there are no doubt a number of "old" blood parishes that could use a tranfusion of convert Zeal. But that Zeal untempered by some maturity can get a little “crazy” if I may use the term – no matter how good a Parish priest may be in providing guidance. A problem that frequently comes up for the average convert is that many of them (us) are VERY highly read and when they finally do enter the Church some come virtually carrying a copy of “The Rudder” under their arms and a whole host of presuppositions about Orthodoxy.
This is Orthodox, but that is not. Orthodox do this, but they do not do that. The service is done this way, but not that way. For some it can be a rude awakening to discover (frequently by visiting another – even local – parish) that the Church is not all that organized and monolithic. One common example is our Parish’s habit of touching the priest’s garments as they parade through the people during the Great Entrance – I was rather surprised to learn a year or so ago that this is actually a rather unusual practice and (if memory serves – as it frequently does not) is a hold over from the EOC days. But so what? We know for a fact that the Great Entrance and the little entrance were radically different when the words of the liturgy were first penned and so we must be atuned to this fact. Perhaps in a few hundred years all parishes will do the Entrance like us….or…the practice will simply shrivel up and die and we’ll be left with having to deal with other things – like our salvation. Oh dear, I have found a tangent. My point in this paragraph was to say that converts (me included) all too frequently think they have Orthodoxy all figured out and that we know what is and isn’t Orthodox.
But as I sit back and type this, I am thinking that there is one thing that “old” blood might be able to remind us: that Orthodoxy is not something we hold, but rather it is something that holds us. And that being the case, we ought also to remember that Orthodoxy is ALIVE and that trying to become Greek, Arabic, or Russian simply will not do. We are American Orthodox and like those cultures that have had this faith for much longer than we have, we ought to be able to give ourselves the chance and the time to allow this religion to permeate our lives and thereby it will naturally begin to flower and produce fruit in and of itself. I believe that somewhere out there, there is going to be an authentic and uniquely American expression of the Orthodox faith – though likely none of us will ever see its maturity. Regardless, we would gain much from having both converts and old world cradles tilling the soil together.
For the time, we need (or certainly I need) to relax, sit back, and be wholly willing to admit that I do not know neccesarily what is and isn’t Orthodox and nor do I know what is neccesarily the “official” or “authentic” liturgical practice. Zeal can be a good thing, but it is my experience both within and without the Orthodox faith that untempered Zeal avails nothing and can paralyze.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:58 AM [+]