Archdiocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania
Orthodox Church in America
/ Ministries / Parish Development / Evangelization / Clannish-- Us?
Clannish? Us?
On vacation in Florida we found the only Orthodox parish within a 45 mile radius. Our experience:
  • Welcome? or Not? Some might doubt it?
    The parish website was four years out of date. "Epistle for this Sunday August 12, 2011 will be..." It was Feb. 2015.
  • The website contained numerous insider references. Nothing about "welcome visitors". This is FLORIDA!
  • An email to the priest (two weeks in advance) inquiring if the parish was still in existence, service times and could we receive communion received no reply.
  • We phoned the Saturday before and left a message with the same questions. The reply came 40 minutes before church on Sunday. We were assured we'd be welcome.
  • We looked for the parish location on Google maps. There were two different dots. We guessed right.
  • The small sign outside, prominently displayed an ethnic label and announced their upcoming ethnic food festival.
  • The celebrant's portion of the liturgy was in English -- but chanters responded in a foreign language. Yes, we knew what they were singing. But no, we couldn't participate.
  • The Gospel ("Sunday of Last Judgment") referred to caring for prisoners. It was later noted something to the effect that "our parish community has no prisoners" -- so only peripheral applicability.
  • During announcements a seemingly obscure village custom associated with the first week of lent was mentioned. "Does anybody trace to a village with this custom?"
Best of all the sermon, which was actually quite well done, referred in part to a recent study in which non -Orthodox were asked their impression of Orthodox people. The priest reported that the two most cited qualities were that Orthodox are:

 

1. Known for food

 

2. Seen by others as "clannish".  

 

Interestingly, our sense was that the parishioners found these results rather surprising.

 

Clannish? Why would people think that?

 

What can we learn here? It is hard for us as Orthodox to appreciate when we are talking and presenting ourselves to others in a way that breeds and communicates "insularity"