Greeting Visitors with a Measure of Genuineness and Sincerity
This question is for those of you who are Orthodox, but especially for my non-Orthodox readers who have at least visited an Orthodox Church. Would you agree with the conclusion of the following observation (made on the Orthodox Convert Discussion Group):?
"I personally realized (something my wife already knew because she is Greek) was that the ethnic Churches may not be as friendly "up front", because it takes time to gain the people's respect and affection. But once you have it, you never have to watch your back or doubt their sincerity and genuineness."
".... It is my experience that the American culture is very shallow. People will let you into their intimate space very quickly
with no testing or time to measure who you are. They can be very friendly to your face and can share intimate things with someone even within the first conversation. On the surface this can appear very appealing."
"But most of the time it doesn't run very deep."
"On the other hand, the ethnics take their time in getting to know you. In their homes, you don't usually get past the formal living and dining rooms during the first visit. They watch you and measure your genuineness and sincerity. After they start to feel secure with you, then they will appropriately start to open up and share themselves with you. The Russians have a saying about friendship. 'Someone is not a friend until you have eaten a pound of salt together.'"
"I am so grateful to God for letting me experience a parish with mostly old country ethnic people. It did wonders for my shallow American bred soul."
While in many ways this is a subjective preference and may have no universal answer, it seems to be a perfect example of what happens to the "feel" of our parish community when we attempt to superimpose our American ethos onto the Church.
Or does it? Do our parishes need "welcoming committees" (as my father-in-law passionately pushed for in his Greek parish) that make an aggressive attempt to greet and meet every visitor who sets foot in the church? Should we let people naturally enter into the life of the parish, or do we need a more formal approach?
From your experience, what would have been more helpful for you as you came in contact with Orthodoxy for the first time?