Fr. Moses Berry, Orthodox convert, is an inspirational priest and evangelist. He is the pastor of Theotokos Unexpected Joy Orthodox Church in Ash Grove, Missouri. This week the New York Times published a very uplifting article about his work preserving the African-American heritage of his hometown and the museum he founded, the Ozarks Afro-American Heritage Museum.
For several years Fr. Moses has been presenting Orthodoxy in a unique way to a community that is woefully underrepresented in our churches. It’s important to remember that the historical Orthodox Church wasn’t a “white” church; the Middle East and Mediterranean were filled with Africans, Arabs, Greeks, Persians, peoples of all races and nationalities, who became the first Christians. Sadly, we’ve lost much of that cultural, and maybe never had, that racial diversity in America’s churches. Black Americans searching for the religion of their ancestors are more likely to stop at Islam without realizing that the original faith of their grandparents 15 centuries ago was in many cases Orthodox Christianity.
Besides full-time priestly responsibilities, lectures, writing and museum duties, Fr. Moses had the energy and drive to found the Brotherhood of Saint Moses, an organization that sponsors an excellent yearly retreat (going on 18 or 19 years now), called the Ancient Christianity Afro-American Conference, focusing on Orthodox evangelism to minorities, African-Americans, in particular. Ancient Faith Radio has been broadcasting the retreat lectures for a couple of years and they are in the must-listen-to category.
Also, please see Fr. Moses’ September 2009 video lecture at St. Tikhon’s Seminary’s Annual Lecture Series, titled “Honoring a Shared Heritage”. His testimony and conversion story are filled with a power and conviction that I wish I could honestly say I had. Glory to God and His Holy Church in this country, and praise God for priests like Fr. Moses. If we had 100 more like him, can you imagine what the Orthodox Church in America would be like? Unstoppable!