The following is part of a series of interviews conducted in preparation for the development of our new module for emerging adults: young men and women, out of college, who are as yet unmarried. In an effort to plan activities and discussion groups, we sought to reach out to a diverse cross-section of people.
What follows in this, and subsequent installments, is the highlights. Here, you will find a range of opinions: some uncertain, some confident, some optimistic—and all of them thought provoking.
In this week’s installment, we profile what some of our young people feel are the greatest challenges for this generation. The final installment will offer potential new directions for living in the church.
Part II: Living in the material world
Our first interviewee is a 25 year-old female who works for a non-profit, who converted to Orthodoxy from Methodism. The second interviewee is a 35 year-old male who works at a non-profit. The third interviewee is a 28 year-old male engineer.
FLM: What do you feel are some of the most pressing challenges for young people in the church?
Interviewee #1: Young people…have been taught Christianity, but they haven’t been taught specifically the Orthodox phronema; they haven’t been taught why we have men who are priests, but women are not priests.”
My role in the church [as a woman]…can be just the same as the vast majority of men in our church. People don’t realize that that’s the case, because they’ve only seen men in certain roles that are also open to women. There are usually only men at the chant stand; women are just as able to chant as men…It’s an assumption “That’s not for me”, instead of actually knowing [why]. And I think that’s a failure on the church’s part. Because the fact that I know this, when I didn’t grow up in the church, is kind of telling.
Interviewee #2: Young people who come to church, who are involved…[they] believe in God. But in some place, they try to find, in this personal [relationship] with God, how [to] determine [their] position “Am I believer, am a nonbeliever?” “Am I sinful?”… Sometimes it’s hard to determine their place in relation [to] God.
You walk out and people start attacking Orthodox Christians. “You do not ordain women; you do not perform gay marriages…” And you don’t have any chance to start speaking about [the] church’s love; you feel like you are an apologist… Some people…they strive, they struggle…And it’s not only an intellectual matter, it is something that goes inside and troubles the human soul, the personal [relationship] with God.”
Interviewee #3: My primary source of frustration with the Greek Orthodox Church is language. I know that this is a very divisive topic, but I don’t see room for gray area on this. The people who are likely to understand parts of the service done in Greek are an aging population; they are a population that, let’s be very honest, is not going down the street to the Baptist Church if they get [angry]; they’re not going to marry outside of the faith–they’re here. The people that are going to go down the street are my age.
“Specifically…it’s the parts of the service that are not repeated every week. Orthros, those prayers change every week…Vespers…the Troparion, those change day to day. In my church…they don’t do a very good job of doing things in English at all, and that’s very frustrating to me.”
[He gave an example of attending church with two college age friends, and hearing the Troparion of Pentecost in Greek. He understood what was being sung, however, his friends did not understand at all.] “They did it four times…and not once in English. Not only did we do a non-repeatable him in Greek, but also when we had an opportunity on the second time or the third time to do it in English, so someone would know what they were hearing, we didn’t. I was really sad…”