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Re: Why we loose younger generations from our church

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  • Saji Thankachan, Riyadh, indianorthodox@y
    I think I am a little bit late to respond to the subject, but hope still the topic is open for discussions. I use this opportunity to congratulate Mrs. Omana
    Message 1 of 10 , May 4, 2008
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      I think I am a little bit late to respond to the subject, but hope still the topic is open for discussions.
      I use this opportunity to congratulate Mrs. Omana Thomas for raising the subject once again for discussions. No doubt it is a topic of great importance. I spent my childhood and youth time in a village in Thumpamon Diocese, with active participation in church bodies. Also I spent six years in Delhi, during the time I have had good association with St. Marys Orthodox Cathedral, Hauz Khas. I would like to share my experience and put forth some of my findings on the matter of concern.

      Questions raised by Mrs. Omana Thomas:

      What is exactly the problem with our younger generation:

      i)Is it language?

      Could be-but who is responsible if the children are not familiar with the mother tongue? Definitely parents. They must have had tried to teach them their mother tongue from childhood to which their culture and tradition is linked with. Most of the parents would not allow their children to speak their mother tongue even at home, but force them to speak English. English is a universal language - no doubt - but it is just to communicate with the rest of the world. If you have no idea about your own identity what have you to communicate with rest of the world? I always feel, Malayali had a bad impression that it is a credit if their children could not speak Malayalam. The prime thing we forget is – in order to understand our culture and tradition, we must know our mother tongue. It is not easy to understand those aspects through some other medium. I see that is one of the failures.

      ii) Is it because of our age old traditions?

      No I don’t think. From where these traditions come to orthodox Christians – from Jesus and His disciples, isn’t it? And as such it is not traditions, but exercise of Christianity and its beliefs. If we change these practice, it would not be Orthodox Christianity but something else. What we call ‘traditions’ are the core of Orthodox belief.

      iii) Our worship is very long and is not appealing?
      Jesus says: “Always pray and do not lose heart” (Luke 18:1-8) Prayer is worship and worship is prayer and He asked us to do it always. He granted six days for us to work and reserved just one day for Him. What else we want to use that day for? Do you think 4 hours is more for God? No, never, it not the question of lengthy worship, but the attitude. We do not mind to spend hours for a movie or a live show, but hardly 4 hours for Holy Mass is too lengthy for us!! We don’t even know the time running while we are with something or somebody we love. We do not mind time spending with boy friends or girl friends at the park or somewhere. That is what I said, attitude. If we love Jesus, we will be happy to spend hours for him. If we understand the purpose, we will be able to concentrate in Holy Mass.
      I did not fully understand the term “appealing” in terms of worship. Worship is an exercise, to be ‘pleased with’ by the person or power worshiped. The ‘appealing’ is the feeling to come from above. The God’s pleasing worship/sacrifice is ‘broken heart’. Holy Mass is a time of ‘remembrance of the Great Sacrifice’. We could not find anything appealing scene at the last supper at the Mansion of Markose when Jesus instituted the Holy Qurbana. The only feeling floating was silence and a kind of pain. So it is nothing we could change by our tastes or imagination. But we should teach our children its symbolic representation and importance. Still we have soft musical instruments with church choir to make the singing more pleasant to our ears.

      iv) They are not getting enough opportunity to show their capability & talents?

      The prime thing parents should do is to mindset up their children to go along with the church activities. If the parents are active in church activities, definitely their children will be active too. There are opportunities for the youngsters; even we can increase their participation in various fields. But the question is, have you parents prepared your children for the same?

      v) They are attracted and impressed by any other denominations, if so, what?

      I am not sure. But if they are attracted and impressed by other denominations, it is because of the interpersonal relation within the group. We lack this relation within our church. Reasons could be varying. Normally protestant groups are in small in size, with maximum fifty members. They are able to communicate and care each other. The communication strengthens the relation and commitment towards the church. We lost that communion. In city parishes, even Priests are not familiar with its members. We must do something to strengthen the relation between the church members, which would help young generation to be more close to the church.

      vi) Do they want changes, if so, what are the changes they expect?

      Definitely we should communicate with them. It is always good to have first hand suggestions from the concerned group. We should discuss how it can be done effectively.

      vii) Last but not least, are they short of time?
      Time is what we search and find. No body is short of time, but the search starts from hearts. Where there is a will, there is a way. It depends on the circumstances they brought up, whether they spend time constructively or not. If the child is brought up in a God fearing family, he/she must find time for prayers and Holy Communion. Otherwise they will spend time on their own ways.

      To conclude, I would recall the proverb 22:6 “Train up the child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it”. We should train our children from the first day when he is in the mother’s womb. Prayerful moments influence the child from its beginning stage. We do not forget to train them to be smart in school and other activities, but forget to train him spiritually. There is no place for philosophy in spirituality. God is real, but how we can understand the reality, not by seeing, but by experiencing. Holy Mass is an experience for those attends to receive the experience with open heart. Let us pray for our young generation, the prime thing, to open their eyes to see the God greatness in our church. There is no meaning of blaming them, but to start doing our responsibility and provide them proper guidance stage by stage.
      With great pain, I would say a real fact-if our children have had their grand parents with them, they would have been properly guided towards our church activities and beliefs. Alas, we have only photos/videos with us in our nuclear family of cities and we parents are busy with our daily routines. Who is there to guide our children? We must find more time to spend with our children in prayers and discussions on church activities. We could do much in our home for our children, but that should be from beginning, before it is too late. Let us submit and surrender our off-spring to God’s hands and cry!!
      Thank you,
      Saji Thankachan, Riyadh
    • Vinod Abraham, indianorthodox@yahoogroups
      This is a very interesting and challenging topic. The children are the replica of the parents. They reflect our values and vision (99% of the time). They watch
      Message 2 of 10 , May 5, 2008
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        This is a very interesting and challenging topic. The children are the replica of the parents. They reflect our values and vision (99% of the time). They watch and observe parents very carefully. This is from my own experience as a proud and humble father of three children and living in this world for four decades. In order to address the concern for Omana Thomas from Delhi I have to address the following questions first. �What is exactly the problem with our younger generation�?i) Is it language?- No ii) Is it because of our age old traditions?-No Iii Our worship is very long and is not appealing?-No Iv They are not getting enough opportunity to show their capability & talents?-No v) They are attracted and impressed by any other denominations, if so, what?-No vi) Do they want changes, if so, what are the changes they expect?-No vii) Last but not least, are they short of time?-NoAs a parents of younger generation think of ourselves. Are we doing the right things for them? Do we have a family prayer? Have you ever thought how we enjoyed all the blessings that we have. At least I know for the fact majority of the present American generation all came from below poverty. Our parents and grand parents prayed hard despite of the poverty and sufferings. They trusted God more than mighty dollar and rupees. As we read in Deuteronomy 6.20-25 [And] when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, what [mean] the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD our God hath commanded you? Then thou shalt say unto thy son, we were Pharaoh's bondmen in Egypt; and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand: And the LORD shewed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from thence, that he might bring us in, to give us the land which he sware unto our fathers. And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as [it is] at this day. And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us. The above passage is a reminder from God to teach our children to be faithful to God who brought us from adversity.Second are we taking them to church and Sunday school on a consistent basis along with parents? As King David says in Psalm 37:25-26 �I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed.Third, are we a model to them? Do we practice what we preach them? I know a perfect real example regarding a family which is close to us. Parents especially father brought the 3 children a great upbringing. All three became a medical doctors and great children. Now they all scattered in three ways. Father separated from the wife and children. Wife became Pentecostal. As always they were looking for an opportunity to convert the converted. They never try to solve the real problem, rather create more wound in order to boast they have an Orthodox Christian in their church. If we look at the root cause father was an alcoholic and abusive husband. He never wants to change his abusive practice. Now we lost all 3 children and wife. This has nothing to do with our church. It is a personal responsibility.If we look at American Diocese we are proud about our younger generation. They are more active in our church and our community and they are role model for us. If we analyze these younger generations all the credit goes to their parents. These parents are also sick and tired of dirty American church politics. Instead of complaining they became the solutions. Like late American President John F Kennedy once said, "And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. Please ask the same questions, ask not what your church can do for you; ask what you can do for your church."Another example is, if we look at the 2nd and third generation Jews in the US who are highly successful in their respective fields (Physicians, Attorneys, CPA�s, Teachers etc) they are very much bonded to their Jewish heritage, language and worship (which is very traditional and service is Hebrew).Let me conclude this topic with one simple thought about our Trisagion (Kauma). Holy Art Thou, O God! Holy Art Thou, Almighty, Holy Art Thou, Immortal, Crucified for us, Have mercy on us.If we can pray this with a repented heart as King David did in Psalms 51, I strongly believe we don�t want to worry about our younger generation; rather we can leave a legacy (not Lexus) of our forefather�s faith to them.-Vinod Abraham, NY
      • Rajan Thomas, Kenya, indianorthodox@yahoo
        We must first consider and think of Israel(the Jewish)here first. They had been dispersed all over the world due to very many reasons. However they never
        Message 3 of 10 , May 5, 2008
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          We must first consider and think of Israel(the Jewish)here first.
          They had been dispersed all over the world due to very many reasons.
          However they never forgot their
          tradtion, their faith and the the Law of Sabbath including their
          language and dress. They taught their children their language, traditon
          and faith as per their laws. Their tradtion and faith goes back 2000
          B.C. as of even today they follow same faith, tradition and customes.
          Look at Malankara Nazranis they forget their language or tradtion
          which went out of the people of Kerala for the last two centuries the
          Malankara christians moved different places of India during British
          colonial days. They never
          thought of younger generations: their problems of worship and faith
          etc until about 25/30years. If we
          are true followers of St.Thomas, we would have been teaching our
          children our mother tongue, faith and traditon etc.
          If we could have developed everything in our children in the right
          time the present young generation could have attended the church, our
          faith and really followed our customs. What we follow in our church
          the present generation cannot understand. It is our parents' duty to bring them up in our faith and customs.
          It is very sad and pity our church services especially the Holy Week
          is not properly uderstood and followed by the young generation.
          Let us try our best to bring our young generation into truth and
          light.

          Rajan Thomas, Kenya
        • John Varghese, Ahmedabad, indianorthodox@
          Dear All, The confused youth in our Church is a man made catastrophe we ourselves have created. For a century or so our Church deviated from its real mission
          Message 4 of 10 , May 7, 2008
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            Dear All,

            The confused youth in our Church is a man made catastrophe we ourselves have
            created. For a century or so our Church deviated from its real mission of
            gospel, and in place it was replaced schism, personality cult, self-rule.
            The true gospel truth of love and peace have vanished from our church.
            Instead we teach them how to deal with people who differ in some way or the
            other, pretending to be protecting our faith. The central theme of
            Christianity "the Salvation of mankind through the sacrifice of His only
            Son, Jesus" is not finding any place in preachings of our Preachers. Instead
            we tried to feed the younger generation with veneration of Saints, making
            some other days more important than that of Sundays, the Holy Passion etc.
            and the younger generation now think only about these celebrations. Every
            other day during our Holy Services, we will be remembering some departed
            souls of yester years, and the young generation was forced to believe that
            these memorial services are the main theme of Orthodoxy. When they happen to
            hear true gospel in some other places, the unmeasurable love of our LORD,
            naturally they were getting attracted to such preachings, and their
            eagerness to know more about it naturally drag them out of our Churches.

            We, parents and clergy of this great Church is responsible for this, and it
            is high time we desist from making unwanted street plays against any other
            group or individual, instead concentrate more on educating the younger
            generation with the real Orthodoxy, and the traditions of our Church,
            through any language they can understand better.

            Let us all pray to Almighty to give wisdom and courage to accept the truth.

            Regards,
            John Varghese, Ahmedabad
          • C. Alex Alexander, Glen Burnie, MD, india
            Vinod Abraham stated in ICON 19917 the following: if we look at the 2nd and third generation Jews in the US who are highly successful in their respective
            Message 5 of 10 , May 8, 2008
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              Vinod Abraham stated in ICON 19917 the following:

              "if we look at the 2nd and third generation Jews in the US who are
              highly successful in their respective fields (Physicians, Attorneys,
              CPA's, Teachers etc) they are very much bonded to their Jewish
              heritage, language and worship (which is very traditional and service
              is Hebrew)."

              I have been a student of the "evolution" of minorities in this melting
              pot of our Nation, viz., the US., for nearly five decades. All
              scholarly studies indicate that every ethnic group bar none, has
              always adapted and embraced the American values which are nothing but
              an amalgam of its constituent contributors, albeit predominantly
              rooted in the Judeo-Christian traditions. Interfaith,
              interdenominational and even interracial marriages are becoming more
              and more common in the US than a rarity. In our own community too, the
              same is taking place. They may not be "visible" to those who choose
              not to notice!

              Mr. Abraham's reference to the "Jewish Heritage" etc., is not
              supported by facts as you can see below from the excerpted passages,
              whose references are also cited below.

              http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/08/10/reviews/970810.10epsteit.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

              "Abrams, Assistant Secretary of State in the Reagan Administration and
              now president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington,
              rehearses the Jewish decline with grim thoroughness. At the end of
              World War II, Jews constituted about 3.7 percent of the American
              population. Today the Jewish percentage of the population has plunged
              to around 2 percent, and its median age tops 40. The number of Jews in
              America hovers around 5.5 million, no greater now than it was 50 years
              ago. Worse still, every conceivable social measure records a decline
              in Jewish self-identification. Intermarriages by Jews, still
              infrequent only 30 years ago, have multiplied as Jews have moved out
              from their stable geographical and social enclaves: today more Jews
              marry outside the faith than within it. Yet the number of non-Jewish
              spouses converting to Judaism or raising their children as Jews still
              shrinks. Today fewer Jews are involved in synagogue life, while Jewish
              support for and participation in Jewish charitable activities fall
              apace. And the trends show signs of accelerating."

              http://www.acjna.org/acjna/articles_detail.aspx?id=269
              "If we want interfaith families to raise their children as Jews, we
              need to welcome them. As Rabbi Rachel Cowan of the Cummings Foundation
              has said, people can tell when their welcome is genuine. When people
              who are intermarried hear Jews talk about intermarriage as a negative
              - `bad for the Jewish people,' `communal suicide' and the like - they
              are made to feel worse than unwanted. The result is that fewer
              children are raised as Jews ... It is our choice whether to engage in
              old, negative, counter-productive and self-defeating strategies, or to
              seize an opportunity to expand and enrich our community by doing what
              is necessary to increase the number of interfaith families who raise
              their children as Jews."

              C. Alex Alexander, M.D., Glen Burnie, MD
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