Preventing the Exodus of Our Children

Keeping our youth in church is all important for the preservation of Orthodoxy

When parishes are forced to close, it is not just because the children have moved away, and the old folks have died off. The problem is much greater than this. With increased numbers of immigrants joining parishes, often with the expressed desire to preserve their Russian identity, we can easily fall prey to believing our churches are on solid ground, and will thrive into the next generations. In our collective joy at seeing our churches packed for Sunday Liturgies, we forget about previous influxes of immigrants, whose children, upon growing into adulthood, became so Americanized that they saw the Orthodox Faith as relevant only for their parents and grandparents, but meaningless to themselves.

The remedy, I believe, in forestalling another great exodus of our youth, is to wage a concerted effort to help our youth embrace Orthodoxy as their own. This means they must be able to understand the services, and since they are unlikely to learn Church Slavonic, or liturgical Greek, we must admit that it is time to serve in English. The Ancient Church saw the language of the people as the vehicle for teaching the faith, and passing Orthodoxy on to the next generations. Saints Cyril and Methodius helped to Slavic people receive Orthodoxy by translating the services into a language the people understood. Thus the Greek language did not remain the liturgical language of the newly illumined people of the Slavic lands.

I believe Church Slavonic has it’s place, for as a common language it can be a point of unity, especially when used during joint services among Slavic peoples from different countries. Church Slavonic, as well as Liturgical Greek, are both lovely languages, and have their place in the life of the Church. However, that most lay people do not understand these languages (beyond the parts that are used during each service), should be a wakeup call. If the changeable parts of the service are not understood by life-long Orthodox faithful, what does this mean for our children, and for visitors who might be looking into Orthodoxy? The romantic attachment to an ancient language is just not sufficient if we want the Faith to be delivered to both the heart and the mind, and become the mainstay of our life. The Roman Catholics discovered this truth when they dumped Latin as the normal language for Mass, in favor of the vernacular, and the move has worked very well in those places where the Mass is served with the dignity and tradition of the ancient Western Rite.

The early missionaries knew the importance of teaching the faith so as to accommodate the local population, and allow newly converted people to really know the Orthodox Faith. Just as was the case when Saints Cyril and Methodius brought Orthodoxy to the people of Kievan Rus, our children must be able to understand the services, and be taught the faith. Our children must understand why we do the things we do, why we fast, and why we worship the way we have worshiped for almost two thousand years. If these changes are not implemented by the local parishes, our youth will see Orthodoxy as nothing more than a quaint religion of a bygone age, meaningless to their own lives as modern Americans, and they will depart from the faith.

Since a priest is allowed to celebrate only one Liturgy per day, the introduction of English Liturgies could be gradually introduced, with one Sunday given over to English, and the second Sunday to Church Slavonic. Another option, in the beginning, might be to balance the service by using both English and Slavonic in equal amounts.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Photo: Our forest, just north of the monastery church.

Wednesday July 3, 2019 / June 20, 2019
3rd Week after Pentecost. Tone one.
Apostles’ (Peter & Paul) Fast. By Monastic Charter: Strict Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits)
Hieromartyr Methodius, bishop of Patara (312).
Holy Prince Gleb Andreyevich of Vladimir (1175).
St. Minas, bishop of Polotsk (1116).
Translation of the relics of St. Gurias, archbishop of Kazan (1630).
Martyrs Inna, Pinna, and Rimma, disciples of Apostle Andrew in Scythia (1st-2nd c.).
Martyrs Aristocleus presbyter, Demetrian deacon, and Athanasiusreader, of Cyprus (306).
St. Leucius the Confessor, bishop of Brindisi (5th c.).
St. Nicholas (Cabasilas) (1397).
Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “Modensk-Kosninsk”.
St. Nahum of Ochrid (910) (Bulgaria).
St. Callistus I, patriarch of Constantinople (Mt. Athos) (1363).
Translation of the relics and garments (ca. 960) of the Apostles Luke, Andrew, and Thomas, the Prophet Elisha, and Martyr Lazarus to the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople (Greek).
Martyrs Paul, Cyriacus, Paula, Felicilana, Thomas, Felix, Martyrius, Vitaly, Crispinus, and Emilius in Tomi (290).
Blessed Studios, founder of the Studion Monastery (5th c.).
Finding of the relics (1959) of New Martyr Hieromonk Raphael of Lesbos (1463).


Romans 8:2-13

2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who liveaccording to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies [c]through His Spirit who dwells in you.

Sonship Through the Spirit

12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Matthew 10:16-22

Persecutions Are Coming

16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. 18 You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

21 “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.

Abbot Tryphon

About Abbot Tryphon

The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon is Igumen of All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington. Situated in the heart of a beautiful forest, surrounded by the Salish Sea, the monastery is reached by ferry from either Seattle, or Tacoma, Washington.


  1. Amen! I wholeheartedly agree with you ! We are converts to Orthodoxy and we have moved often in the last few years. As senior citizens we have tried churches close to where we live first and they are usually not English speaking, and as such, we struggle to keep up with what’s happening. We always end up searching for an English speaking church, usually a significant drive from our residence. Then it’s difficult to become active in the life of the church because of the distance.

  2. I commend you for clearly articulating the path the church needs to embark on. I sensed this over 40 years ago when I was ordained. I also believe some of the other problems we face today might have been avoided if the practice of establishing churches here in the US in particular along national lines which was condemned by the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch in 1872 as the heresy of phyletism had been observed we would have one unified Orthodox Church in the US with English as the official Liturgical language. Though I see them as interrelated they are separate issues.

  3. Amen . Agree & Fr Bob. Phyletism is alive and well in Australia. Orthodoxy is universal.
    Time to take the lead of the apostles and saints who have spread the Orthodox faith to the world, in the language of the local community. Very difficult if not impossible to locate an English service in this country every Sunday! How else will Australians learn the true faith? My Orthodox journey has been long and limiyed by the lack of English Liturgy. Thank God for the many Orthodox books written in the international language of English.

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