A survey for the present Servant Parish Project was designed to explore and quantify the following among Orthodox Christians:
- basic attitudes toward social action,
- sources of personal beliefs about social action, and
- actual and potential sources of motivation for increasing personal involvement in social action.
In addition to these three purposes, the survey also provided an opportunity to harvest ministry ideas and to collect additional local stories of ministry successes and failures. A copy of the survey questions is included as Appendix 1.
The Servant Parish Project survey was published using the Google Forms platform at a website deducted to the research project: www.servantparish.org. Participation in the survey was advertised by reaching out to a wide variety Orthodox social media sites. On those sites, the project was described and a direct link to Google Forms survey was provided. An attempt was made to advertise the project to a wide range of Orthodox audiences. All jurisdictions were targeted, as were all political preferences, ranging outward from more traditional to more progressive.
Using this method, it was not possible to produce a random sample of adult Orthodox Christians in North America, but at this time such a sample is nearly impossible to achieve, owing to the many practical limitations that would be impossible to avoid. Also, the population of adult Orthodox Christians in North America is not well-defined, and neither is there anything like a comprehensive list or database of names from which sampling might be conducted. The survey, therefore, is best described as a sample taken from the population of English-speaking Orthodox Christians who (1) have access to social media, and (2) are interested in both learning and sharing their ideas about ministry to the poor and suffering. The sample is self-selecting, in the sense that each participant chose to be a member of the group. Consequently, sources of self-selection bias are unavoidable. Using the data to draw conclusions about the general population described by (1) and (2) above cannot be made without a great deal of caution. Every attempt will be made to respect these sampling limitations when exploring the data.
A total of 145 participants completed the survey, mostly between March and July of 2018. (A small number of responses were collected in later 2018 and early 2019.) Here is a report of the makeup of the sample.
GENDER. When asked about gender, participants responded as follows:
|Prefer not to say||1||(0.7%)|
AGES. Participants ages were distributed fairly uniformly from 18 to 78 years, with a median age of 50.
CLERGY/LAITY. Church roles were distributed as follows:
|Clergy (Bishop, Priest, Deacon):||22||(15.2%)|
|Lay member (including Subdeacons and Readers):||118||(81.4%)|
CRADLE/CONVERT. Among those who are not Catechumens, 44 (30.3%) were born into an Orthodox family (“cradle Orthodox,” colloquially) and 96 (66.2%) were received into the Orthodox Church through personal or family conversion apart from any prior affiliation (“convert Orthodox”).
ATENDANCE. When asked to describe the frequency of one’s attendance at an Orthodox Church, the large majority of participants reponded “mostly weekly:”
|Only a few times a year:||4||(2.8%)|
JURISDICTION. 126 participants reported their current jurisdiction affiliation. Seventeen did not report a jurisdiction, and one did not know.
|Orthodox Church in America||63|
|Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America||23|
|Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America||20|
|Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia||6|
|American Carpatho-Russian Diocese||5|
|Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate)||2|
|Serbian Orthodox Church||2|
|Orthodox Church of Ukraine||2|
|Greek Archdiocese of Canada||1|
|Orthodox Vicariate of Jamaica||1|
|Romanian Orthodox Church||1|
|I don’t know||1|
GEOGRAPHY. Respondents were asked to report the location of their home church. The data is combined into regional categories to obtain the following distribution
(A map which divides the United States into the five regions of Northeast, Midwest, West, Southeast, and Southwest is given in Appendix 2.) The general distribution of home parishes represented in the data is largely consistent with the general distribution of Orthodox Christians in the United States, where there is a higher concentration in the Northeast and Midwest, with growing communities in the West, Southwest, and Southeast especially.
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS. As a group, the participants completing the project survey display the same sort of variation as one finds in the larger Orthodox population of North America. Three groups are somewhat more strongly represented in the sample than in the general population (members of the OCA, members of the ordained clergy, and “convert” Orthodox Christians), and Canadians are probably slightly underrepresented, but these differences between sample and population are not so great. One category that is probably disproportionately present in the sample is the group of those who report attending an Orthodox church “mostly weekly” (87.9%). Although he speaks anecdotally as an Orthodox priest, the researcher is nevertheless quite sure that the true percentage of Orthodox Christians who attend services that frequently is considerably lower.
The following organizations promoted the Servant Parish Project survey on their associated websites:
- Orthodox Church in America
- St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary
- Orthodox Christian Laity
- Orthodox Christian Studies Center (Fordham University)
- Orthodoxy in Dialogue
In addition, the following Facebook groups also promoted the survey: Orthodox Hipster Coffee Hour, Orthodox Clergy Group, Presvyteras Coast to Coast, Progressive Orthodox Christianity, Traditional Orthodoxy, and Orthodox Christian Studies Group. The survey was also publicized on the personal Facebook pages of Jim Forest (author and founder of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship) and George Demacopolous (co-founder of Fordham’s OCSC).
Sister Vassa Larin (host and publisher of Coffee with Sister Vassa) politely declined the request to promote the survey, as a matter of general social media policy, and the following organizations and websites either did not respond or were not able to move forward with the request: The Orthodox Peace Fellowship, the American Orthodox Institute—USA, Eastern Orthodox Christian News (Facebook), International Orthodox Christian Studies (Cambridge University), the Monomakhosblog of George Michalopulos.