Sunset - Larnaca

Sunset - Larnaca

Friday, 10 July 2015

Liturgy, Language and Ethnicity

The Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain has gone to a great deal of work, in order to incorporate Greek (following our Biblical, ecclesiastical and patristic tradition) with English, meeting the needs of the faithful flock, leading to the Church flourishing with diversity and openness to all. Generally speaking, every parish across the country offers at least one Divine Liturgy each month in English, with many celebrating Liturgy in both Greek and English on a weekly basis. The Archdiocese has produced a well-received translation of the Liturgy, an English and Greek prayer book, as well as several other publications, in its efforts to meet the needs of British-born Cypriots and Greeks, Brits, visiting students and all the Orthodox faithful who enter its parishes. 

Certainly, language poses an issue within our Archdiocese here in the United Kingdom, however I believe the fairest compromise, or rather balance, is in place. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, as the largest, well established and well integrated Orthodox Church in this country, should never be seen as some sort of ethnic or cultural club. On the contrary, it should be viewed as the Archdiocese which proudly preserves the holy and beautiful Greek language, sharing it with the faithful, and at the same time being equally accessible for English speakers and natives.

The Divine Liturgy, transcending language, culture and ethnicity, unites us all in communion. Most of the faithful are witnesses to this truth and live by it. Variations in language will not often stop people from attending church, however the attitude of its members can. Attitude is far more important than language; and in fact, perhaps the 'issue' of language is really due to the underlying problems of attitude, experienced over the years. What do I mean by attitude? I am referring to the issue of unfair treatment based on ethnicity; perhaps the priest gives more of his time and attention to Greeks than to English speaking groups of the congregation; or to Cypriots more than Greeks? These things can always be noticed by the faithful, so it is important the parish welcomes all with open arms, and mutual respect. In my experience, it is not the Greek language that is off-putting or leaves an impression on English-speaking members, but the lack of warmth, welcome and time given to them as members of the Church. 

As Greek Orthodox Christians in the United Kingdom, we should be proud of our Greek tradition - not for ethnic or nationalistic reasons, but because through this Biblical, patristic treasure, we maintain authenticity, originality, and uniqueness in our liturgical worship. It would not be an exaggeration to state that the majority of Brits and Greeks within the Archdiocese, whether fluent in the language or not, prefer the Liturgy in Greek. At the same time, through its liturgical publications, weekly bulletins (distributed to every parish ), sermons and events, the english speaker is made to feel at home, and is given no less opportunities for spiritual edification, integration and guidance, in the daily life of the Church. The clergy, and members of each parish should continue to strive to serve the faithful, united in Christ; loving one another, 'that with one mind we may confess.. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity consubstantial and undivided.' 


  1. It's very telling that you divide Thyateira into "English speakers" and "natives" (end of paragraph 2). I guess that means that in Thyateira English speakers are ipso facto foreigners. Doesn't sound very "transcendent of culture and ethnicity" to me!

    1. Thank you for your comment Alan. You completely misinterpreted the sentence: 'English speakers and natives' are one; the natives of the United Kingdom - English, Scots, Irish, Welsh etc.. It certainly was not referring to a division; in fact the whole article is written in order to argue against the misconception of the Archdiocese being some sort of ethnic or cultural club.

    2. Ok, I take your word for it, although it's not the way the sentence read to me. However, if the sentence is to be understood as you say, then it looks even worse! For now it looks like you are opposing "the faithful" to "English speakers and natives" – as if "natives" are ipso facto not part of "the faithful" of Thyateira. So it still looks to me like you are still lapsing back into that ethnic conception of Orthodoxy for which Thyateira is so famous – taking back with one hand what you appear to give with the other...

    3. No, those are two separate points; 1) the Archdiocese shares the Greek language with all its faithful, and at the same time 2) the life of the Church is equally accessible for English-speakers (with its publications/translations etc)

    4. I agree they're separate points. Thyateira behaves one way with the non-native "faithful", and behaves a different way with the native "English-speakers". I appreciate you want to say Thyateira is all rosy. But your case isn't helped when, in making this claim, you revert to language which identifies fidelity with Greek nationality, and opposes it to the English language. It would be better if you just said "Thyateira is mainly for Greeks. We tolerate a few foreigners, but primarily we're a Church for Greeks and people of Greek ethnicity." That's obviously the reality, so why pretend otherwise?