Every responsible parent asks this question at some point as their children grow older: “How do I raise my children as faithful Orthodox Christians?” We want our children to grow up safe and free, as healthy as possible in body, mind and spirit, and to make the best use of their God-given gifts. We know that the Church is the ark of salvation and that the spiritual safety of our children depends on their remaining in the Church through all the stages of life, from the cradle to the grave.
What happened at Pascha
This year Paschal celebrations were exceptionally joyful for one Greek Orthodox family visiting The Good Shepherd. They had young children and young teens who were visiting The Good Shepherd for the first time. The children in this family were absolutely enthralled with the service, the celebration and the community. They were thrilled to be able to completely enter into the joyful Paschal celebrations because they fully understood the language—perhaps for the first time in their lives. They were so overwhelmed by the goodness of celebrating Pascha in their own language that they unselfconsciously turned to their parents and begged, “Can we please come here! This is where we want to come!”
The power of Orthodox Eucharistic services to reach the young is magnified when they hear the liturgy in their own language. And make no mistake—no matter how diligent you are in speaking Greek at home or sending your children to Greek school on Saturday—if they are attending an Australian school, and speaking to their friends during the week, then their primary language is English.
Studies show that English is essential for healthy Church life
Studies conducted by the Assembly of Bishops in the USA show that the use of English increases attendance and participation by as much as 30%. Being able to understand the liturgy matters, especially for young people, converts, and mixed marriages. It is foolish to think we can pass on the experience of the life of the Church to our children if they constantly cannot understand the liturgy because it is in Greek or Ukrainian. A vibrant liturgical life in English is essential in helping our children grow into mature witnesses to the Faith who have a strong understanding of how the Church answers the questions proposed by life. Consistently participating in and understanding the Divine Liturgy is far more enriching than any number of classroom lessons.
Given the vital importance of hearing the liturgy in their own language, denying our young the opportunity to hear the Faith in their own language is to fail them.
A challenge to all Orthodox Christians who are concerned about the young
Here’s an excerpt from an excellent article on the subject:
What message does a refusal to use English in church give to young people, particularly as they enter their teenage years?
As Orthodox Christians we are obliged — it is not a choice, it is a command of the Gospel itself — we are obliged to communicate and live out the Gospel in the society, culture and indigenous language in which we live. To imply that this is not possible is to reduce the Church to being a museum or protectorate of certain privileged cultures and languages deemed to be safely Orthodox in contrast and opposition to others deemed to be incapable of becoming Orthodox Christian. If that were true, St Paul would have never taken the Gospel to the Gentiles and the Church would have remained a Jewish sect.
The most disastrous aspect of this is the refusal to use the English language in worship and teaching which is the only guarantee that our young people will be sufficiently equipped through understanding the faith in order to practice it and witness to Christ through it.
Failure to act now, before it is too late, will leave our children outside the Church as they grow up.
If we don't start by discharging our duty to our own children, what chance is there that we will come anywhere close to fulfilling the Great Commission?
- Why The Good Shepherd speaks the “heart language” of Australians.
- Back to the Future—Did you know the history of Orthodoxy in Australia was pan-ethnic?
- Why Australians are attracted to Eastern spirituality.
Study in congregational participation conducted by the Assembly of Bishops in the USA.
“What will become of my children” written by Fr. Gregory Hallam, Dean of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in Britain.