Skip to comments.Planted in tradition Orthodox churches are gaining presence, members amongst Protestants
Posted on 06/01/2003 8:57:43 PM PDT by Destro
Planted in tradition Area Orthodox churches are finding themselves gaining presence, members
Daily Mail Staff
Saturday May 31, 2003; 10:11 AM
HUNTINGTON -- While many West Virginians may find the Orthodox faiths mysterious, more and more families are turning to the ancient church for constancy in troubling times.
In Cabell and Wayne counties, where Methodists and Baptists have long dominated, two new Orthodox churches are being built, an Orthodox monastery is thriving and people from beyond the usual ethnic groups that have traditionally populated the faiths are converting.
"When you are truly wrestling with questions about God and your place in the universe, there is something very appealing about the Orthodox tradition," said the Rev. John Dixon, the leader of Huntington's Holy Spirit Orthodox Church. "The connection to something so ancient with continuity all the way to the present day has a great feeling of authenticity."
Like many of the new converts, Dixon knew little about Orthodoxy growing up. He was in graduate school when he first became acquainted with the faith after a long period of spiritual searching.
"It was new to me, but I felt at home from the beginning," Dixon said. "And that is a cornerstone of the faith -- that the church is more than a place to go on Sunday. It's a community of faith."
He went on to become an active member of Holy Spirit and eventually joined the priesthood. He works full time for the Huntington Planning Commission, and is considered a part-time priest.
Most of the Orthodox churches in West Virginia are rooted in Syrian, Lebanese, Greek and, to a lesser extent, Russian immigrant communities. Two of the major sects of the faith, Greek and Russian, are largely based on nationality. The third, of which Holy Spirit is part, is called Antioch or Antiochian and focuses on the common traits among the sects.
Increasingly, people like Dixon, who grew up in the Baptist church and has the same Anglo-Saxon heritage as most West Virginians, are being drawn to what had long been seen as a largely ethnic church.
Lexa Lewis, an elder at Holy Spirit, wasn't raised Orthodox either, but said the appeal of the faith is universal.
"We're not trying to become just another American church -- our heritage is a lot of what makes us special, and, I think, helps draw people in," Lewis said. "Like the country itself, we can take the very best of different cultures and incorporate it."
All of the sects rely heavily on the ancient traditions of the faith, which developed in the near east while the Catholic tradition came from Rome. The rituals, worship and ceremonies are little changed since the days of Constantinople and largely based on the earliest church founded by the apostles.
The 75-family congregation at Holy Spirit is betting on continued growth with an ambitious building project. They are constructing a new church on the outskirts of town, a short distance from the Fifth Street exit on Interstate 64.
"We can draw from all over the Tri-State area, and I expect we will," Lewis said.
Huntington already has one thriving Greek Orthodox church and there is another new church just completed in Wayne, but Dixon said he believes that there are more people who will come to the faith.
"The worship, the ceremony, the ancient traditions all put people in touch with something greater than themselves," Dixon said. "It takes them to someplace beyond their worldly cares."
Writer Chris Stirewalt can be reached at 348-4824.
Sobornost - the lost key, the forgotten path, the secret to the most profound of all worlds to a new civilization of love. Home to Gods house into the graced intimacy of eternal belonging.
"The church is a union of love - or as Khomiakov puts it, "love as an organism" - not only in the sense that her members are united by love, but above all in that through this love of all for each other, through love as life itself, she manifests Christ and his love to the world, she witnesses to him and loves and saves the world through the love of Christ.....The essence of the church lies in the manifestation and presence in the world of love as life and life as love."
"But then the assembling as the church is above all the sacrament of love. We go to church for love, for the new love of Christ himself, which is granted in our unity. We go to church so that this divine love will again and again be "poured into our hearts," so that again and again we may "put on love" ( Col 3:14), so that, constituting the body of Christ, we can abide in Christ's love and manifest it in the world."
"Thus, in the holy kiss, we express not our own love - rather we embrace each other through the new love of Christ. And is this not the joy of communion, that I receive this love of Christ from the stranger standing across from me, and he from me?"
"Make love your aim," says the apostle (1 Co 14:1. And where can we attain this, if not in the sacrament in which Christ himself unites us in his love?"
I was so struck by these words when I read them.
"We go to church for love"
GREEK ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN TELEVISION 4500 Broadway, Suite 6J New York, NY
On Sunday night, June 8th, GOCTV will present a program on Pasha as celebrated by the Rum/Greek Orthodox in Jerusalem. The miracle of the Holy Light spreading throughout the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a wonderful sight to see. The program's video was taped this past Pascha (2003).
To view GOCTV outside the City of New York go to www.MNN.org and click on the Channel 34 icon. GOCTV is webcast on Sunday nights at Midnight (New York time.)
He makes such a terrific point about unity when he approaches the idea of the unity of churches in this world and the people who are obsessed with the idea
"...the chief and most frightening danger poisoning contemporary church consciousness is the substitution of unity from below for unity from above."
"Only from God is there life, the law of which, however much life is perverted by sin, remains the law of unity."
"The substitution, the vistory of the prince of this world, however, lies in that fact that he has torn this unity away from God, its source, content, and goal, and thus has made unity an end-in-itself or, in the language of faith, an idol. Unity, which is from God, has ceased to be unity with God and in God, who alone fulfils it as genuine unity and genuine life. Unity becomes its own content, its own "god"."
"We are speaking of the inner orientation of church consciousness, of that treasure, of which the gospels say that there where the heart is, man's treasure is also, and which comprises the inner nerve, the inner inspiration of church life."
I think this is what I was trying to say in one recent email to you. I just pulled some quotes which I thought were well-written to make the point. Unity without God is a worthless endeavor, or perhaps I should say the unity driven by man, and I think this is what drives some of us to abhor the idea, even though we rarely have had the ability to put the words to it that Fr. Schmemann has in such abundance.
It is a striking statement, and true.
While I reached out to the Church looking for peace, love is exactly what I found.
Those who believe themselves perhaps beyond redemption are all the more in awe of this love when they find it.
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