With black saints the norm, one church is attracting black Americans
While more and more people seem to be turning away from the church, it might be surprising to hear that the Orthodox Christian Church is getting more popular with black Americans.
The Daily Beast reports that first time Karl Berry stepped into an Orthodox Christian Church, it was 1983, and he was shocked by what he saw. He was surrounded by black saints. The ones that jumped out at him most were St. Moses the Black and St. Cyprian of Carthage.
“My first thought was that these were just some very liberal white people who were doing some outreach and trying to appeal to black people,” Berry, who is now known as Father Moses, said. Turns out he was wrong, and these statues were replicas of icons that were made hundreds of years ago.
“And that was my first introduction to the universal church, not just in theory or in words but in actual depictions of saints from different countries who were always part of the development of Christendom,” Berry added.
Mother Katherine Weston, an Orthodox nun, told the Daily Beast, “One of the things that has attracted me to Orthodoxy as an African-American is that it has no history in the slave trade. The other thing is that it was one of the first kinds of Christianity to reach the continent of Africa, and not in the context of colonialism.”
More and more black Americans are turning away from the Protestant religion and turning to the Orthodox Church. This is due in part to the longstanding history of Christianity in Africa.
Berry is a third-generation member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, where his father was a pastor. According to Berry, he has always had a love for Jesus but ended up drifting away from the Church when he was a teen. “It wasn’t the church that I was looking for,” he said. “Their whole life depended on their relationship with other-worldliness.”
He was re-baptized according to the church’s ancient traditions, and shortly thereafter, he asked a Chicago-area bishop if he would ordain him. After a 20-minute conversation, the bishop suggested they set a date, and so they did, and he has never looked back since.
“My great-grandfather was a slave. We had his slave chains and neck irons in our house. We had quilts from the underground railroad in our house,” Berry said. “When I look at the struggles that some of them have gone through, I’m embarrassed by my own struggle.”