Liturgical Literacy

by Richard Barrett

Recently, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America’s Metropolis of Chicago announced the ten areas of strategic focus they had developed during a three-day retreat. His Eminence Nathanael, Metropolitan of Chicago, said that these areas represent  “who we are and what we stand for as Orthodox Christians[.]” Number nine on the list was “Worship Engagement and Accessibility.” This appeared to grow directly out of at least one weakness called out in the published SWOT analysis: “Unsatisfactory church experience (welcoming and liturgical).” This announcement echoed the concerns raised in Alexei Krindatch’s report, “Orthodox Christian Churches in 21st Century America: a Parish Life Study,” released in January of this year by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. According to Krindatch, attendance at Sunday services declined overall between 2010-2015, and in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and the Antiochian Archdiocese in particular, regularly participating members have become less engaged in the lives of their parishes.Issues of language, comprehension, and participation are oft-cited barriers to engagement; the service is in a language that the people do not understand, following an order with multiple moving parts that the people cannot track, which gives the people nothing to do. As a result they do not see that they have a reason to be there.

This perceived state of affairs is in marked contrast to the commonplace that from the Eastern Orthodox Church perspective, the primary act of the Christian is to worship God. Continue reading

Christians of Holy Land and the Jewish State

by Michael G. Azar

Amid the growth of Islamist persecution in the last few years, a variety of think tanks and politicians have sought to bring the plight of Christians in the Middle East to the forefront of American politics. Amid such fervor, Israeli leaders have also claimed their role in the defense of Christians. Prime Minister Netanyahu recently told a Jerusalem gathering of over 180 Christian media representatives that Israel is the protector of the Christian people and “the only place in the Middle East” where Christians have “the freedom to worship as they please.” Together, he explained, Christians and Israel stand against Islamic fundamentalism. Indeed, many American Christians concur.

A likely reason why this media gathering, organized by Netanyahu’s Press Office, featured prominent Israeli officials and a visit to Israeli settlements, but no local Christian representatives nor visits to local Christian villages, is that most Christians of the Holy Land do not share the rosy view of the State of Israel that Netanyahu’s government wishes to promote. So why the disconnect? Continue reading

The Greek Orthodox Church Meets Secularization A Theological Comment on a Recent Agreement

by Nikolaos Asproulis

Since the establishment of the Modern Greek state (1830), the Greek Orthodox Church has functioned more or less as one of the (perhaps the most important) institutions of the state and continues to enjoy certain symbolic and other privileges (“prevailing religion”) granted by the Constitution. The progressively-closer dependence of the Church on the state, especially after the Second World War, led the latter to take over the clergy payroll in 1945, in recognition of the Church’s contribution to the nation, even while previously having expropriated most of the so-called ecclesiastical property. The recent agreement between the Greek Prime Minister, Mr. Tsipras, and the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Mr. Ieronymos—according to which the clerics are no longer recognized as civil servants, while a Church Asset Development Fund run by both sides will manage assets to resolve property-related issues—thus constitutes a landmark moment in this long relationship between Church and State in Greece, opening up a more general debate on the role and position of the Orthodox Church in Greek society and the public sphere. To get a satisfactory glimpse of the on-going discussion, it is necessary to get acquainted with the context lying in the background: the special relationship of the Orthodox Church with the national identity of the Greek state and the secularization process gradually spreading in traditional orthodox countries like Greece. Continue reading

Engaging with Appalachia’s Coal Crisis Old Stereotypes and New Initiatives

by Sarah Riccardi-Swartz

There’s no whitewashing the dark environmental effects of coal mining and fracking in West Virginia and other parts of Appalachia. Most assuredly, coal is toxic—for the environment, for local economies, and for life more broadly the Mountain State. In “An American Guilt Trip,” his recent article for Public Orthodoxy, Dr. Fr. John Chryssavgis draws on a brief trip he took to West Virginia in order to witness first-hand the cost of “black diamonds.” As an anthropologist, I’m tremendously supportive of scholars conducting ethnographic research in order to think through broad societal questions and problems. However, as someone who has just returned from twelve months of living in West Virginia for my dissertation research, I am also deeply attuned to the problematic ways in which we scholars often talk about or even for Appalachia and its inhabitants. For those of us who work on issues of environmentalism in its various expressions, even adjacently, I worry that sometimes we fall prey to colonialist assumptions of privilege, often subconsciously, that feed into our narratives of communities dealing with ecological devastation. As someone who works in the social sciences and humanities, I wonder how we might highlight issues of the Anthropocene in a way that critically examines toxicity as it relates human neglect for the environment, while also being mindful of the other crucial sociocultural issues of power at play historically. This is important particularly when we approach regions such as Appalachia that have long been subject to external mechanisms of power that mine the area for its natural resources while suppressing, subjugating, and stigmatizing those employed as extractors.  Continue reading