Language barrier

colin00

Chicken
Protestant
I live in Basel, Switzerland (not to confuse with Sweden) and I am looking for an Orthodox Church. There are two Russian, a Romanian, a Serbian and a Greek Orthodox Church (whose priest attends ecumenical services) in my town. What they all have in common is that I can’t understand the language in these Churches. I don't know how important it is to understand the Liturgy but it's hard for me to imagine attending a Church where everybody speaks a language that I don't understand. As far as I am concerned, this is not unique to my country, most Orthodox Churches in Europe do not hold the Liturgy in the local language. I hope someone can give me some advice.
 

OrthoSerb

Robin
Orthodox
I live in Basel, Switzerland (not to confuse with Sweden) and I am looking for an Orthodox Church. There are two Russian, a Romanian, a Serbian and a Greek Orthodox Church (whose priest attends ecumenical services) in my town. What they all have in common is that I can’t understand the language in these Churches. I don't know how important it is to understand the Liturgy but it's hard for me to imagine attending a Church where everybody speaks a language that I don't understand. As far as I am concerned, this is not unique to my country, most Orthodox Churches in Europe do not hold the Liturgy in the local language. I hope someone can give me some advice.
Just to clarify, have you attended all of these churches and confirmed none of them use any German? I would be surprised if that's the case with the ROCOR parish.

I also wouldn't say its the case that most Orthodox churches in Western Europe don't use the local language at all, not that it helps you if that happens to be the case in your city. Whilst I understand the preference for local language during Liturgy, I would say that its not a deal breaker if you have a priest who is able to direct you in the local language and a supportive community you can immerse yourself in. The structure and meaning of the Liturgy is such that over time language becomes almost no barrier at all (bar the readings and sermon). For example, I don't speak Greek or Russian but can follow the Liturgy in those languages because I know exactly what prayers are being read and what hymns are being chanted based on the chronological order, the various processions and censing, the melodies used etc. You can also obtain Liturgical books which have Russian and English (or in your case, German) side by side.
 

pathos

 
Banned
Orthodox Inquirer
I also wouldn't say its the case that most Orthodox churches in Western Europe don't use the local language at all, not that it helps you if that happens to be the case in your city.
From my own observations, this varies depending on the parish or the jurisdiction. In some cases, they seem to cater very strongly toward the local immigrant/expat community and will hold services in their native or respective liturgical language only, e.g. Church Slavonic. Sometimes the priest doesn't even master the local official language.

In other cases, as with the EP, they tend to celebrate mainly in the country's official language(s) while doing parts of the liturgy in other languages, e.g. adding some Greek, Church Slavonic, Romanian, or even Georgian in the mix - depending on the occasion. It's helpful having the Liturgy celebrated in your native language as a convert though not necessarily a requirement, I think, as long as there are translations available to get used to it.

I can’t understand the language in these Churches.
Check if the priest speaks your native language, English or some other language you can settle on for communication. I'd also ask for translations of the services.
 

jackwmullins

Chicken
Orthodox Catechumen
It comes down to a matter of preference. Do you want the hymns, chants, and homily to be in your language? Or is it just important for the priest to at least speak your language? I went to a ROCOR church and did enjoy it despite them speaking Russian about 90% of the time.

However, being completely new to Orthodoxy, I preferred to have the whole liturgy in English. It helped with learning the hymns and chants and the structure of the liturgy. Like stated above, the thing that matters most is your relationship with your parish priest.

I would also advise (based on Roosh’s suggestion) to shy away from Serbian and Romanian orthodox churches, they tend to be overly ethnic. ROCOR or Antiochian have been the two I have liked. Pray to God for guidance and He will put you where you need to be!
 

colin00

Chicken
Protestant
Just to clarify, have you attended all of these churches and confirmed none of them use any German? I would be surprised if that's the case with the ROCOR parish.

I also wouldn't say its the case that most Orthodox churches in Western Europe don't use the local language at all, not that it helps you if that happens to be the case in your city. Whilst I understand the preference for local language during Liturgy, I would say that its not a deal breaker if you have a priest who is able to direct you in the local language and a supportive community you can immerse yourself in. The structure and meaning of the Liturgy is such that over time language becomes almost no barrier at all (bar the readings and sermon). For example, I don't speak Greek or Russian but can follow the Liturgy in those languages because I know exactly what prayers are being read and what hymns are being chanted based on the chronological order, the various processions and censing, the melodies used etc. You can also obtain Liturgical books which have Russian and English (or in your case, German) side by side.
I have not attended any of those Churches. There is a ROCOR and a Moscow Patriarchate parish in my city. I checked out all websites of the parishes and not even those are available in German (apart from the Moscow Patriarchate parish). There is also a directory of the Orthodox parishes which mentions the language of each parish and I couldn‘t find one in German. I’m pretty sure that the priests and congregations speak German but since all people are from the same country I guess they talk in that language also after the service and it will be hard to immerse in the community. Ultimately, I have to accept that and I will probably just get in touch with a priest (most likely the Moscow Patriarchate parish).
 

colin00

Chicken
Protestant
It comes down to a matter of preference. Do you want the hymns, chants, and homily to be in your language? Or is it just important for the priest to at least speak your language? I went to a ROCOR church and did enjoy it despite them speaking Russian about 90% of the time.

However, being completely new to Orthodoxy, I preferred to have the whole liturgy in English. It helped with learning the hymns and chants and the structure of the liturgy. Like stated above, the thing that matters most is your relationship with your parish priest.

I would also advise (based on Roosh’s suggestion) to shy away from Serbian and Romanian orthodox churches, they tend to be overly ethnic. ROCOR or Antiochian have been the two I have liked. Pray to God for guidance and He will put you where you need to be!
Well, I would say that all parishes are absolutely ethnic where I come from because there almost no converts since there are not many Christians anyways. I guess the only difference may be that in some parishes people attend Church to be spend time among their own people and in others more for the faith. Ethnicity is always matter which I absolutely understand (if I lived abroad I would also like to spend time with my own people).
But I will definetly pray about that and ask God for guidance.
 

iop890

Peacock
Orthodox
Gold Member
As someone that attends Liturgy in a language I don't speak well(Georgian) I can assure you that you'll pick up the Liturgy very quickly. I've been attending every service I can and following along with a translation that includes transliterated Georgian on one side and English on the other for the past month or so and I already understand more Liturgical Georgian than regular Georgian, and always know where we are, when to cross myself during Matins/Liturgy/Vespers, etc.

And that's with a language that has very few resources(we had to make our translation ourselves with the help of our priest). If your services are in Church Slavonic or something it should be even easier.
 

colin00

Chicken
Protestant
As someone that attends Liturgy in a language I don't speak well(Georgian) I can assure you that you'll pick up the Liturgy very quickly. I've been attending every service I can and following along with a translation that includes transliterated Georgian on one side and English on the other for the past month or so and I already understand more Liturgical Georgian than regular Georgian, and always know where we are, when to cross myself during Matins/Liturgy/Vespers, etc.

And that's with a language that has very few resources(we had to make our translation ourselves with the help of our priest). If your services are in Church Slavonic or something it should be even easier.
Thanks for your reply! That's good news for me!
 

Eusebius Erasmus

Ostrich
Orthodox
I attend an Old Slavonic service at a ROCOR parish. I prefer it to the English-speaking Antiochian parish in town, because the ROCOR priest is a wonderful spiritual father, and is far more traditional and opposed to Covidism than the Antiochian priest.

Knowing the language isn’t the most important thing, as long as your heart is open to finding Christ in His Church. There are intellectually disabled people who attend church, who don’t know any language, but they can also become God’s children.
 

Viktor Zeegelaar

Crow
Orthodox Inquirer
I live in Basel, Switzerland (not to confuse with Sweden) and I am looking for an Orthodox Church. There are two Russian, a Romanian, a Serbian and a Greek Orthodox Church (whose priest attends ecumenical services) in my town. What they all have in common is that I can’t understand the language in these Churches. I don't know how important it is to understand the Liturgy but it's hard for me to imagine attending a Church where everybody speaks a language that I don't understand. As far as I am concerned, this is not unique to my country, most Orthodox Churches in Europe do not hold the Liturgy in the local language. I hope someone can give me some advice.
I went to a Russian Orthodox Parish recently to see and it was a very multicultural Church, with mixed language in Dutch, English and Slavonic. They usually do Dutch/English and Slavonic/English every other week. But this church has Dutch people, many Eastern-Europeans, even Eritreans, as it is more of a hub. So I'd just go and see what the community is like, ask the priest about it. If it's only an ethnic community I understand that that will be more difficult, but you have to experience it. That being said, Orthodoxy is growing in the Western world especially among disillusioned Christians from other denominations so there surely must be Swiss who are joining a church like the one you're looking at. Once again, go and find out, I wouldn't be surprised if there's a Swiss group there. With regard to the Liturgy itself it doesn't matter too much, it's mostly singing, not so much Bible sermon, and foremost a spiritual experience and not an intellectual/legalistic.
 

Yeagerist

Robin
Orthodox Catechumen
This is the biggest criticism or complain about Eastern Orthodox congregations from outsiders/inquirers, and will continue to be so as long as cradle Orthodox don't have an active mindset of proselytizing. (Although obviously not something as extreme as Evangelical street preachers or Jehovah's Witnesses going door to door.) I have also suspected some degree of nominalism on the part of the baptized expats, if the parishes doubling as social clubs for immigrants is an indicator. Fortunately the few EO parishes in my country are English-speaking (and they already have a number of local clergy), only the drawback being that I'm too poor and they're too far for travel.

From what I've observed on social media, it's the Antiochians that have been the most welcoming to outsiders and most likely to use English in worship. Honestly this whole thing shows a disconnect between the existing communities of ethnic cradles and converts who found Orthodoxy through the Internet seeking it as the pearl of great price.
 
Top