Language in Church

I hate to wade into these waters again because it is a very delicate topic but I think I must. First off if you must post anonymously please put your name at the end of the post!

Okay with that said, language in church is a very delicate issue for many people. Right or wrong, if you understand Orthodox Church history in the country then you will understand that Churches were primarily founded as social clubs where people from the same place could come together and speak the language the left behind when they came here. In this little village I live in we have four Roman Catholic Churches. One was the French Church, one the Italian Church, One Polish, and one Irish. Now I believe that the Polish Church is the only one that does not worship in entirely in English and people still seem to go. The Church of Rome as recently loosened up the reigns on the Latin Mass of the Pre-Vatican II days. In some places where this Mass has begun they do not have enough room for all the people that attend, and guess what folks, no one speaks Latin anymore.

Language is not keeping people away, we are! That’s right we are. How welcoming are we when people show up for church? Do we show them to a seat, give them a liturgy book, of we have such a thing, invite them to coffee hour, if we have such a thing, and smile at them once in a while. Or when someone new comes in the door do we look at them like they have three heads. What are our churches doing for outreach? Do we have bible studies for adults? Are we involved in our local communities? Do we reach out to those who have stopped coming? Have we converted ourselves? Ahhhh the last one is key. How many of the “members” of the parish actually come to the church? How many of those same people avail themselves of the Sacraments of the Church to include Confession and Eucharist more than once a year, which is an abomination by the way. How much time does the priest spend in preparation for preaching or does he just throw it together at the last minute? Does the chanter or choir rehearse or does it just sort of happen? how does the church look, the grounds, the vestments, etc?

All of these things are important and it is what people look at. Language will not keep people away nor will it bring them in, neither will putting the Self Ruled Diocese on everything that will hold ink by the way no one cares who rules what!

There are many reasons why people come and do not come to a church and yes language is one of them but there are many others, and we, converts that is, seem to blame everything on language. At the Resurrection service we read the Epistle in Romanian, and by the way read it right after in English. And did a few other things in Romanian. All toll I bet we did 98% of the Liturgy in English and I heard complaints about the amount of Romanian we used. We need to understand that the Orthodox Church is an ethnic Church, there is no such thing as a non ethnic church right Syedna? You coming to the Huffly this weekend? If you understand Orthodoxy then this is clear to you. All of the music we use is ethnic, the eight tones of the church are all ethnic there is no such thing as American tones. Even the Orthodox Church of America is very Russian in it’s Liturgy and music.

As the church grows in this country less and less of the original language will be used but for the time being do not blame lack of attendance on language. Take a long hard look at what you do as Church and how you do it. Make sure you know all there is to know about your church and her beliefs. Don’t be so concerned with how things are done but rather why things are done. Is the church relevant to society today? That’s the big question. Are we relevant to people who are not traditionally Orthodox? Why are people converting? Not because of language or lack of it, they are converting to churches that hold to what they have taught… And I hate to say this but we are not the only game in town folks… Just my 2 cents worth.


  1. you are right that some of the catholic churches have gone over to latin services but from what i understand it is not all churches. also there are rules set down by the bishops such as a church that does go to a latin service must first prove they have enough people to attend the service,and ask the other catholic churches in their area if they have people who will also ateend and that these people who do agree from both the original church and area churches will agree to continue to attend it can not be a one time thing. also these churches must offer masses in english,since a chatholic church is allowed to do more then one service per day.for the benifit of those who do not want to attend a latin service. there is nothing wrong with doing a service in a certain language has long has all the people of the church are given a chance to a english speaking service, which the orthodox church can not do since they are allowed only one liturgy a day.
    you are also right that a church is more then a language it should be a living breathing part of society and of it self many churches lack in the community part. anne

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