To the Ends of the Earth

Orthodox Christian Missions

Archive for May 2010

St. Makarii Glukharev, Missionary to the Altai

leave a comment »

Commemorated May 18

I am a little late, but still wanted to share this post put together by Fr. Oliver Herbel, at his blog Frontier Orthodoxy.

I thought I would share with you a summarized timeline of the life of St. Makarii Glukharev. Those wishing to know more should consult Kharlampovich, Konstantin Vasil’evich, Archimandrite Makarii Glukharev–Founder of the Altai Mission, Translated and edited by James Lawton Haney (Edwin Mellon Press, 2001). Haney is a past professor of mine and a friend. The book is well worth reading. You may also wish to check out the Orthodox Wiki page:

It is important to remember, when reflecting upon the life of St. Makarii, that he was greatly influenced by the reforms within ecclesiastical schools that occurred between 1808 and 1817. Essentially, these reforms focused upon academic theological integrity and translation work. St. Petersburg Academy was the epicenter of such activity and was the headquarters of the Russian Bible Society, which was involved in translating the Bible into the contemporary Russian at the time. The academy even had the first modern Russian Hebraist at the time, Gerasim Pavsky.

On July 18th, 1817, Glukharev graduated from St. Petersburg Academy, where Filaret is the rector. Filaret later became Metropolitan of Moscow.

In September, 1817 Glukharev is appointed professor of Church history at the Ekaterinoslav Seminary. In July, he is tonsured a monk, taking the name “Makarii” and goes to the monastery at the Caves in Kiev. In 1819, he returns to Ekaterinoslav Seminary in order to be the dean of students. He didn’t get along with Bishop Iov.

On April 20th, 1821 he is transferred to Kostroma seminary where he is raised to the rank of archimandrite and appointed rector of the seminary. In 1824, he leaves and goes to the Caves of Kiev briefly and then eventually to Glinsk Hermitage in the Kursk Province.

In 1826, the Russian Bible Society closes down as a reaction to western influences within Russia.

In 1829, Makarii requests to be a missionary and is transferred to the Tobol’sk Diocese, where he is head of the mission in that region. On September 7th, 1830, Makarii baptizes his first convert. During his time in Tobol’sk, Makarii learns several Turkic Dialects and receives permission from the Synod to translate parts of the Bible, the Divine Liturgy, and prayers into the native language. This resulted in Makarii translating most of the New Testament, the Psalms, other pericopes from the Old Testament, and creating a dictionary of the various dialects of the region.

Throughout all of his mission work, Makarii had a large, progressive vision. He believed that the mission needed to start schools and seminaries which would include women teaching orphans how to read and write and would even involve women translating works. This is at a time in which women professors or teachers were not the norm in the Russian academic world. He also believed the office of the deaconess must be re-established, not as some sort of pseudo-academic recreation, but to fulfill the needs of teaching the orphans life skills and serving as missionary nurses and Church cantors/readers. These proposals were, unfortunately, ignored by the Synod.

St. Makarii gave the missionaries under him three instructions. First, instruct the natives in the important dogmas and doctrines of the Church, including the distinction between veneration and worship (in reference to icons). Second, work with the natives lovingly and patiently without coercion or threats. Third, begin converting people from the nearest locations and settlements and then work beyond that sphere, all the while learning about the people themselves.

One quote that stood out for me was: “Jesus crucified is our righteousness, our justification, and our sanctification.”

During his fourteen years as a missionary in the Altai region, St. Makarii converted 675 natives and laid the groundwork to later conversions, resulting the conversion of 25,000 of the 45,000 residents. This later work was performed by Makarii’s followers, the priests Landishev and Vladimir. Makarii created one of the most organized missionary activities in the history of the Christian Church.

In 1839, he goes to St. Petersburg to discuss the financial situation of the mission and his work at translating the Bible into the Russian vernacular as well. He is sent to Moscow where he finds a major benefactor named Sofiia de Val’mon, the daughter of a Russian noblewoman and a French army officer who converted to Orthodoxy.

In 1840, he goes to Kazan to study the Tartar language even further before returning to the Altai region. In 1841, the Synod considers Makarii’s belligerent attempts at getting the Synod to publish his Russian translation of the Bible actions deserving of a mild punishment. He spends time at the house of his friend Bishop Afanasii, where he is technically under “house arrest.”

In 1844, Makarii leaves the Altai region (having requested transfer) and arrives in Bolkhov, where he is installed as the abbot of the monastery there.

In 1846, Makarrii publishes a book of poems with musical notations.

On May 18th, 1847, St. Makarii dies. In his dying moment, he rises up in his bed and cries, “The Light of Christ illumines all!”

In 1848, three of his sermons are published posthumously and in 1854 these same sermons are republished along with the publication of three others.

On August 20th, 2000, Makarii is canonized as a saint.

Source: Frontier Orthodoxy
I assume there are icons of St. Makarii available, but I couldn’t find one online. For some pictures, though, of the Altai, and Orthodox missionaries to them, you can view this page by Professor Andrei Znamenski.


Written by Stephen

May 20, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Posted in European Saints, Saints

St. Dunstan of Canterbury

leave a comment »

Commemorated May 19

The early history of Christianity in England is marked by sharp fluctuations. Soon after the Romans withdrew from the island, staunchly heathen Anglo-Saxons virtually obliterated all traces of the first Christian communities planted by St. Joseph of Arimathea and Apostle Aristubules and watered by the martyric blood of St. Alban and others. The vigorous missionary thrusts of the sixth and seventh centuries-effected in the north by Celtic monks from Ireland, and in the south by St Augustine and his followers from Rome—-ushered in a golden age which saw the establishment of many great monastic houses and centers of learning–Iona, Lindesfarne, Wearmouth–and provided England with some of her most illustrious saints: Columba, Alden, Oswald, Cuthbert, Bede, the holy abbesses Hilda and Etheldreda. In the ninth century paganism against raised its head. Raiding Norsemen ravaged monasteries, burning their libraries; the interests of war eclipsed the interests of the Church, and spiritual life declined, hastened by the dissolution of the monastic ideal. Then, once again, the tide began to turn. It was just at this time that the Anglo Saxon Chronicle records the birth of St. Dunstan, a key figure in England’s subsequent recovery of Christianity, a magnificent flowering before its unfortunate departure with Rome into schism in 1054.
Although the Chronicle gives 925 as the year of St. Dunstan’s birth, most historians place it somewhat earlier, c. 910, on the basis of the fact that from 940-45 he was attached to the court of King Edmund as a priest, a rank which required that he be at least thirty year old.

St. Dunstan was born into a noble Wessex family whose property lay close by Glastonbury Abbey. Although monastic life was scarcely in evidence, Glastonbury’s tradition as Britain’s oldest Christian settlement still attracted numerous pilgrims, and its well-stocked library accounted for some Irish scholars in residence. There Dunstan received a good education before joining his uncle Athelm, Archbishop of Canterbury, at the court of King Athelstan. Another relative, Aelfheah “the Bald,” who later became Bishop of Winchester, encouraged the youth to become a monk. Dunstan had his eyes on marriage, but he became afflicted with a skin disease which he feared was leprosy, and when he recovered he acted upon his relative’s suggestion and was tonsured.Saint Dunstan
Returning to Glastonbury, Dunstan built a small cell adjoining the “Old Church,” and there he occupied himself with prayer, study and manual labor, showing a talent for fine metal work in his crafting of bells and church vessels. (In the Roman Church tradition, he became the patron saint of goldsmiths and jewelers.) His musical ability was reflected in the hymns he composed. He also spent time in the scriptorium, copying and illuminating manuscripts. Among his peers, he was considered to be a mystic. Nurtured partly in the strictly ascetic Celtic tradition, he concentrated on the inner spiritual warfare and wrestled with visible demons and heard mysterious, heavenly voices. One of his contemporaries wrote that when he sang at the altar he seemed to be talking with the Lord face to face.

Athelstan’s successor, King Edmund, recalled Dunstan to the court as a priest, but jealousy soon conspired to disgrace the monk. He was about to leave the country when the King, in a narrow brush with death while out hunting, had a sudden revelation of Dunstan’s innocence. In making amends, he granted Dunstan some land and, in 943, appointed him abbot of Glastonbury, charging him with the renewal of its monastic life.
One of Dunstan’s first steps as abbot was to reintroduce monastic discipline using the Rule of St. Benedict (+ 547). He enlarged the church and other buildings and bolstered the abbey’s reputation as a center of learning. Students at the school were taught by professed monks and were expected to participate in the daily monastic observances. This preparation provided a good crop of candidates for monasticism. Soon Glastonbury became a spearhead for a widespread monastic revival.

The period of St. Dunstan’s reforms coincided providentially with a change in England’s political fortunes: the death of Eric “Bloodaxe” of Norway in the late 940’s opened the possibility for England’s unification, and the country entered a quarter century of peace. Dunstan continued to enjoy royal patronage under Edmund’s successor, Eadred (946-55) and, as one of his closest advisors, he helped to conciliate the Danes.
As a statesman, Dunstan’s zeal for moral reform and his promotion of monastic interests were resented by some of the West Saxon nobles, and they were only too glad when he was exiled by King Eadwig, although the king’s motive was hardly political: the 16 year-old monarch had slipped away from his coronation banquet and was severely chastised by Abbot Dunstan–no respecter of persons–when he found him sequestered in a room with two women, mother and daughter, both making overtures with an eye to marriage. Resentful of such a reproof, Eadwig deprived Dunstan of his property and forced him out of the country, casting uncertainty over the future of England’s monastic revival.

Dunstan found refuge in a monastery in Ghent, where he scarcely had time to observe the reformed type of continental monasticism before he was recalled to England by Eadwig’s half-brother Edgar (“the Peaceable”, 959-75), who had been elected ruler by the Mercians and Northumbrians. It was Edgar’s ambition to restore all the great monasteries of England, and the partnership of these two ardent reformers shifted the monastic revival into high gear. Dunstan became successively Bishop of Worcester and London, and, in 960, after Eadwig’s death, Archbishop of Canterbury.
Monarch and hierarch were assisted in their’ campaign by two very able and saintly men: Ethelwold and Oswald of York. It was Ethelwold who was primarily responsible for drawing up the Regularis Concordia (c. 970), a common rule for monasteries. The English reformers were not innovators; the rule followed closely that of St. Benedict. From it there emerges a picture of the rigorous daily life of a tenth-century English monk: in winter he was roused at 2:30 AM for the first service of the day; two hours each morning were occupied in manual labor, the rest of the day was devoted to the cycle of services; five hours a day were spent in prayer, psalms singing and scriptural reading; the day ended at 6:30 PM. In summer the day was extended by an hour at each end.

There were, however, some unique features in the English rule: prayers were offered daily for the king, and an attempt was made to integrate monasteries into the life of the people. It was Dunstan’s aim that the monastic reform should encourage personal piety among the laity as well, and he attached great importance to the monastic schools.

As Edgar’s advisor, Dunstan persuaded him to defer his coronation until he reached the age of thirty. Dunstan himself composed the rite, shifting the emphasis from the crowing to the anointing, which gave it a sacred character and suggested strong parallels to the consecration of a priest, forging a mystical link with the ancient Hebrews and cementing the relationship between Church and Crown. It is said that Dunstan attended to all the details of the service, down to making the crown, its four equal sides representing the City of God. The form of the rite is still used in the coronation of England’s kings

After Edgar’s untimely death, Dunstan continued as advisor to his teen-age son Edward. But resentment at the Crown’s extensive land grants to the Church inspired a certain anti-monastic faction of nobles to support Edward’s more malleable younger brother Ethelred. Edward was viciously murdered and Dunstan withdrew from the affairs of state to concentrate on his pastoral duties there at Canterbury and his personal service to God. Even as he grew old, it was his delight to teach the boys of the cathedral school. He was, it seems, a gentle master. and after his death the boys would invoke the aid of their “sweet Father Dunstan” to mitigate the corporal punishment which was so readily meted out in those days.
After celebrating the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of Ascension, 988, St. Dunstanpreached a sermon in which he foretold that within the next three days he would die. He indicated the place he wished to be buried and, on the second day, May 19, after having communed of the Holy Mysteries, his soul departed to the Lord. His last words, according to tradition, were those of the Psalmist: The merciful and gracious Lord hath made a remembrance of His marvelous works; He hath given food to them that fear Him.

In the Chronicle, the entry for 988 says simply “In this year…the holy Archbishop Dunstan departed this life and attained the heavenly.”
This glorious chapter in England’s Orthodox heritage, in which St. Dunstan figured so prominently, gives the impression “of a religion of the sprat rather than of the letter, of a church not noted for its rigid enforcement of ecclesiastical discipline and. given its heritage from the Celtic Church and the size of its still not fully assimilated Scandinavian population, retaining much of that pastoral character of a missionary church whose first duty was that of patient conversion”

(LC.B, Seaman, A New History of England: 410 1975)

Source: St. Dunstan Orthodox Christian Church

Written by Stephen

May 18, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Posted in European Saints, Saints

Fiji and New Zealand: Baptisms, Feasts, Monastery

with 5 comments

Resurrected from my files, at long last some news from Fiji and New Zealand. Apologies for the delay.

December 2009 – A Historical Day In Fiji

Wednesday the 16th December 2009, the feast day of Saint Porphyrios of Aigaiou, Theophane of Basilissa and Medestos Patriarch of Jerusalem. Eight o’clock in the morning. T he contractor and his team are taking the blessing and are beginning to measure and put the indicator markers for the foundation so as to follow the design of the Church of Saint Paraskevi in the yard of the Missionary Center in Sambeto, Nandi. The day before yesterday the Cyclone passed with its frightful momentum and its incessant rains which transformed all the surrounding meadows into lakes, harassing the trees and animals and forcing the birds to hide in their dens, carrying away some men to death and leaving many areas for many days in darkness due to the loss of electrical power. Now, however, a boundless calm is spread everywhere. The clear-blue sky and the warm sun remind man, whose life returns to its normal rhythm, of the first days after the flood of Noah. The yards and surrounding trees are full of birds which fly joyfully and please their listeners with their sweet chirping. Today is very beautiful and joyful. Nothing is by accident. The first Orthodox Church in Fiji is founded in the heart of the Pacific Ocean. The elements of nature participate in their own way with our own joy, so that with much gratitude we thank and glorify our all-powerful and gift-giving God, honouring and magnifying as well His holy martyr Paraskevi, whose name and joy will from today be imprinted beautifully on this place of retreat. Archbishop of New Zealand, † Amfilochios

Newly Baptized in the Fiji Islands

Four young Fijian girls adopted the Orthodox faith and were baptized at the Missionary Center of the Holy Metropolis of New Zealand in Fiji.

His Eminence Metropolitan Amfilochios assisted Archimandrite Fr. Christodoulos and the Priest Father Bartholomew in completing the Baptisms.

The Newly-illumined received the names Maria, Anastasia and Sophronia. May the holy name of our Lord Jesus Christ be glorified.

One Soul-Stirring Experience (Fiji)

Everything seemed fine from the moment when we entered the catamaran and, leaving behind us the port of Nandi, we began to approach one after another beautiful little islands with pure-white beaches and tropical vegetation. Until, that is, we arrived at Yasawa, Ira Ira, the island of our newly-illumined sister Sophronia.

The boat was full of passengers, white tourists and brown natives, the former going to spend summer vacations the latter returning with supplies from Nandi. The Captain and crew, all natives, were completely organized and very well mannered. We looked admiringly at every island with its picturesque barges dancing upon the waves as they came alongside the boat in order to pick up and transport passengers and their baggage.

I was thinking that this was the method on the smaller islands and that for our own larger island, just as it appeared on the brochure, there would be some platform for the boat to draw alongside. Contrary to my expectation, when we arrived we saw that here as well the barges would come and take passengers and baggage and then depart quickly in the same way. They were going to Yasawa, Ira Ira.

We disembarked into one of these barges following the same procedure as the preceding boats. Our own boat was more slow-moving and therefore we couldn’t see the other boats which had passed around the cape. We were eight people inside the boat. The further we progressed the more I was thinking the Pacific Ocean was showing us its true colours. The wind began to blow with force and the waves of the sea were swelling dangerously and were literally roaring as they relentlessly hit up against the side of our boat splashing us with their salty contents. Now, however, we saw that we were passing one cape after another and the port was nowhere to be seen; we began to worry.

From the very salty water our eyes were burning unbearably and I could not see in front of me, perhaps from my little experience I would have said something to the boatman in order to assist him. He himself could not have had clear vision since he was often spreading his hand in order to take the water from his eyes.

By now we were in the open sea which necessarily we should have had to pass in order to arrive at the opposite shore where I was suspecting the port and the village of our destination would be. I began to get uneasy. The only refuge in similar circumstances is prayer. I chanted secretly the Paraklesis of our Panaghia believing that she would not leave us unprotected. “To whom else shall I flee o Pure one? And to whom else shall I run for help and be saved? Where shall I go, and where shall I find a safe retreat?” (Words from the Great Paraklesis to the Most Holy Virgin)

We approached with much effort the beach while not seeing either a port or a village. We would have to pass many more capes in order to hear from Presbytera Lydia that behind the next cape was the village. However, it was not the next cape, but rather the one after the next. After four hours struggling with the waves we finally arrived at the end of our trip. We disembarked from the boat half-swimming because there was no platform or plank, only one pure-white beach which was covered with trees providing a deep-shade.

This is the village of our newly-illumined Sophronia. I consider how for her joy and the joy of her family and her three-hundred fellow villagers who welcomed us with special joy and honour and offered us hospitality that the weariness of our arduous journey was worth it. Orthodoxy imprinted its footprint here on this remote island of the Pacific.

May the name of the Lord be glorified.

March 2010 – News from the Monastery (New Zealand)

The last several weeks have seen, with the help and grace of God, the construction of the churches of the Holy Archangels and Saint Basileios in the Monastery of our Holy Metropolis.

Recently the frame has been finished and we are awaiting now the weatherboard, the roof, electrical installation and the plumbing.
Thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of all those who evolved we expect to celebrate the Divine Mysteries inside our newly erected churches in the next two months.

God willing another spring of life and renewal is being planted, by the right hand of our good God, in New Zealand.

December 2009 – The Baptism of an Orthodox Maori (New Zealand)

“Today let companies of High Priests in spirit leap for joy, as with us they honour your memory, venerable Hierarch Chrysostom, illuminary of the Church.“

We thank the Triune God for the limitless gifts which he offers to us every day. One such gift was received on this day by as many of us who met inside the Holy Parish of Saint Demetrios in the city of Hastings.

Today the first Orthodox Maori was baptized. Archimandrite Father Christodoulos and Hieromonk Ioakeim completed first the holy mystery of baptism of the Maori—Micheal, and later the holy mystery of marriage for Michael and his Greek wife Ephigenia.

Later in the evening our joy was completed with the baptism of their three children: Stephanos, Sophia and Athanasios.
We welcome our newly baptized brothers into the Great Church of Christ, may His holy name be glorified.

More videos from New Zealand and Fiji can be found on this channel on youtube.

Source: EP Archdiocese of New Zealand

Written by Stephen

May 17, 2010 at 9:08 pm

Interview: From Pentecostal to Orthodox

with one comment

The following is a transcript of an interview Frederica Mathewes-Green conducted in November, 2009 with the now-ordained Fr. Barnabas Powell. The interview itself is available at Ancient Faith Radio, here.

Frederica: I’m here in the living room of my son Stephen Matthewes’ apartment on the campus of Holy Cross Seminary, Hellenic College, and he’s a first-year seminarian, starting just a few months ago. And we have daughter Ruthie who is almost two and son Lucas who is three months now, who might be making some sound effects in the background. My husband is here as well, and little Alexandra Powell, visiting from upstairs. And they’re watching Lady and the Tramp. We’re hoping to create a little more quiet in the room thanks to that.

I’m talking to Deacon Barnabas Powell, formerly Chuck Powell, and you just became a deacon—was it two weeks ago?

Dn. Powell: Yeah, exactly. Actually, November the 8th—Sunday November the 8th—I was ordained in my hometown, in Atlanta, Georgia, in Annunciation Cathedral. Pretty cool.

Frederica: Ah, that’s right. And you’ve been Orthodox since 2001?

Dn. Powell: November 2001. That’s when we were chrismated: myself, and my best friend and his family, and twenty families from the church I was pastoring. We all converted together.

Frederica: Really? Was that in Atlanta?

Dn. Powell: It was in Atlanta, northern parts of Atlanta. Woodstock, Georgia was where we were, and we converted in a little OCA parish there in the metropolitan area

Frederica: Oh really? Yeah? My son is up in Cumming, Georgia, not too far north of Atlanta, and going to a little OCA parish—St. Mary.

Dn. Powell: Oh sure, yeah, exactly.

Frederica: You know that neighborhood.

Dn. Powell: I do.

Frederica: I remember—of course you pastored—but I remember you also were a radio guy. Didn’t you help somebody who had a big Evangelical radio ministry?

Dn. Powell: While I was pastoring I also did some work for “In Touch Ministries”—Dr. Charles Stanley. And also I did some consulting work with some other ministries as well around the country in the Evangelical Protestant world. Evangelical Protestant media was and still is very, very big business, if you will. And consequently it was kind of interesting to be a part of that. I remember Dr. Stanley, when I was being chrismated, he found out about it and Dr. Stanley asked me about it. He said, “Now, are you becoming a Roman Catholic?”

“No, no doc, it’s Eastern Orthodox.”

“Ok, fine. As long as it’s not Roman Catholic!”

Frederica: That’s alright then! As long as it’s not Roman Catholic! ‘Cause you might pray to the saints or something. I mean, there’s no telling. You might use incense.

Dn. Powell: Or light candles, for heaven’s sake.

Frederica: You had a church that was kind of one off, I guess. It was similar to the seeker-friendly churches, and the Willow Creek—

Dn. Powell: Yeah, exactly. Willow Creek Community churches, and the metachurch-growth model. We were growing, we were growing fairly well, actually. And I was pretty excited about that. And then me and my best friend, Rod Loudermilk, made the serious error of starting to get interested in church history, which we’d already been interested in. Since 1992, he and I had known each other, been dear friends. We were very interested in it. But by the time we got ready to convert, we had been, since 1992, on this journey—talking, and studying, and thinking, and meeting people that had become Orthodox—which I thought I was losing my mind because I was getting interested in liturgy and I was kind of interested in all kinds of pageantry-type things. Why—why was that interesting to me? I didn’t get it. It was about that same time that a lot of the worship music was coming in, and the pageantry with the banners. And I don’t know if you remember in that Evangelical, charismatic world where we started using banners.

Frederica: Yeah, and thinking of the guy in Chicago…Bob something?

Dn. Powell: And also in Alabama they formed a…Hosanna…Integrity’s Hosanna Music. Integrity’s Hosanna Music. They had all this worship music coming out, and I remember we went to a “March for Jesus.”

Frederica: Oh yes.

Dn. Powell: And I was still a Pentecostal pastor, but I had gotten hold of an icon of All Saints. Don’t ask me how—and it’s a fairly large icon—a big piece of wood. So I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool to process with this icon?”

Frederica: Like a banner.

Dn. Powell: Yeah like a banner.

Frederica: Why not?

Dn. Powell: And I had a guy marching next to me in this “March for Jesus” in Woodstock, Georgia. I don’t remember what year it was—1998, ‘97? Something like that, I don’t remember. And he said, “These folks in this picture stern and so somber.

And I said, “I looked at that and I thought about that same thing.”
And he said, “Why aren’t they smiling and rejoicing and jumping up and down and being excited? ‘Wow, we’re in the presence of God! Isn’t this great?’”

I said, “I know, I really thought about that and maybe it’s because they’re grown-ups.”

Frederica: Woah, well said!

Dn. Powell: I think it’s because they really get where they are. And I don’t want to throw-off on that at all. As anybody around me five minutes knows, I’m very exuberant. I go to a ball game and I’m yelling at the top of my lungs and screaming at the TV when my football team is messing up and all this kind of stuff. But there comes a time—and one of the things I fell in love with about Orthodoxy was the opportunity to sober up. Yeah, really, it was just absolutely wonderful to just kind of be there and rest and finally find a home where I could grow up and be a full, mature Christian. And be sober. And be sober about the faith. Not—and a lot of people confuse it. They think if you get to this point where you become sober—in fact, in my own Pentecostal background, we were very suspicious of seminaries, of high education. Because—in fact, I’ve heard many preachers call them semitaries. ‘Cause that’s where faith goes to die.

Frederica: Yeah, yeah. It all becomes “book-learning.”

Dn. Powell: It all becomes “book-learning” or you learn that well, maybe all these plain things that you thought were so in the Scripture, well, maybe there are some other ideas and other ways to look at things that might leave you with some more questions. And questions, of course, are dangerous. What if you question—what if you say the wrong thing? What if you make God mad? ‘Cause you know how delicate He is. But seriously, you have this mindset that—you have this motivation to do good works. You have this motivation to obey the Lord.

Frederica: Well there’s a great love of the Lord.

Dn. Powell: A deep love. But there’s also mixed in with that a fear of disobeying Him. And there’s an ugly side, too. And that is obedience to God so that I can get God to give me things.

Frederica: Oh of course.

Dn. Powell: Now you never talk about it that way, but the whole “name it and claim it” stuff, and all of that stuff that moves through is just to—it’s a natural progression from the philosophical and theological undercurrents of saying, you know, if I make God happy, He’ll pat me on the head and say, “Good boy.”

Frederica: Unfortunately, that’s really true. And there was a survey done by the Pew Foundation a couple of years ago of Pentecostalism around the world. And one of the question they asked, “Yes or no, do you agree with this,” was “God will bless with health and wealth the person whose prayer is right.” And they found in Nigeria 97% of the people agreed with that. It’s scary, because it is the “name it and claim it” theology.

Dn. Powell: Well, it’s a soul-sickness, because what that does—that reduces Jesus to Santa Claus. He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake. You know what I’m saying?

Frederica: Yes.

Dn. Powell: So there certainly has to be, as you mature through the faith—you know the Apostle Paul was good about “To the children I write this,” “To the young men I write this,” “To the mature men I write this.” And so there’s obviously there’s a time of maturing. And there’s nothing wrong with being in the Kindergarten of spirituality. There’s nothing wrong with that—unless you’re thirty-five.

Frederica: Right, unless you stay there.

Dn. Powell: Yeah, exactly. And so for me, at least, my journey became “How do I not reject the day of small things?” How do I not reject those precious child-like things? How do I reject childishness and retain child-likeness?

Frederica: Did this question come to you while you were still a Pentecostal pastor?

Dn. Powell: Oh yeah.

Frederica: Really?

Dn. Powell: Because I had come to the end of my rope, actually. I was terrified I was going to have to stop being a Christian, frankly.

Frederica: Really?

Dn. Powell: Oh yeah, yeah. I was—because, I had read enough, me and my best friend had been talking and so on and so forth. And I thought—because I had not met any Orthodox. And we’d read about the Orthodox and we thought they’re wonderful people and this is exactly how it ought to be, but is anybody—

Frederica: Do they exist?

Dn. Powell: Did they make it? I remember asking that question. Did they survive past the fourth century or the fifth century, or whatever they were? And so I was really despairing. I thought maybe I’ll look at Anglicanism. ‘Cause I couldn’t look at Rome. There was just too much prejudice in my own heart about that. Lord have mercy. God forgive me.

And so I considered Anglicanism for a while. And then I saw—well which branch? Which family? Which flavor? And I thought, you know, I’m not going to step from the frying pan into the fire. I’ve already got this where I am now. Which branch, which flavor? Which, you know, which group? And depending on what’s going to happen next week, you know, maybe they’ll shift again. I was tired of the ground shifting under my feet. So I was looking for something timeless—not old. If it was old, that’s fine but just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s true. There’s old heresies. But I wanted something timeless. Something that over—that transcended the power of life and death. I remember telling my dad when I finally became Orthodox—he was broken-hearted.

Frederica: Aww…

Dn. Powell: Yeah. Dad’s still a Pentecostal preacher, actually. He said, “I had such hopes for you, son. You were going to have a megachurch.”

And then I said, “Dad, that’s what I was afraid of, too! That’s why I’m so thankful God got me out of there before that happened.”
But I told Dad, “Dad, I finally found a theology that is worthy of the dignity of the human soul.”

Frederica: Oh, beautiful.

Dn. Powell: It’s big enough. In fact, it will always be bigger than me always. I found the borders where I was. When I was a Pentecostal, I found all the borders. I found exactly where everything came to an end. And I’m thinking, if this is it, I’m not going to make it.

Frederica: Do you think the superficiality that you found has something to do with the theology of salvation—with the idea that actually salvation is external. It’s something—it’s a mark God makes in His book in heaven. When you say the dignity—

Dn. Powell: Or a contract, even.

Frederica: A contract, yeah. The dignity of the human soul—a beautiful phrase, but that acknowledges that Orthodoxy addresses the entirety of the person. Even the things we don’t know about ourselves. Our most profound…the twisted psychology deep inside. And that’s kind of glossed-over in a soteriology where it’s merely imputed.

Dn. Powell: Exactly. And that certainly true, but even there, the Holy Spirit did not leave us without hints. Because even in my Pentecostal world—the whole Pentecostal, in my opinion…(someday, God willing I’ll write the dissertation)—the reason that Pentecostalism is sweeping the globe, the fastest-growing expression of Christianity right now.

Frederica: It is?

Dn. Powell: —and the reason why is because of the failure of western theology to take into account the concept of mystery and the concept of “I don’t know.” To be able to say “I don’t know.” It’s a mystery. It’s beyond us. Because for the West at least, and those of us who are children of the Enlightenment, we don’t really do well with that idea. “Well we just haven’t learned yet. One day we’ll learn and then scientific method and…we’ll work it out. We just haven’t learned that yet.”

The human person knows that’s not true. The human soul realizes and the human soul hungers for an unexplainable intimacy. And Pentecostalism offers that—an unexplainable intimacy that says, “You know what? This is beyond my control.” I remember as a Pentecostal, I’d tell people how to get the baptism and how to speak in tongues. Just release your control. Just release your control. Just let the Holy Spirit speak though you. Who knew that was the natural way, the Holy Spirit nudging us towards mystery and profundity and amazement. Awesomeness.

Frederica: Yes. Wonder.

Dn. Powell: That’s it. And so that’s why Pentecostalism is so successful.

Frederica: And also because they’ve got the gifts, they’ve got the fruits to prove it, that the miracles and signs do follow them. And that’s been suppressed, and a source of embarrassment, I think, in much of the West, because it’s, quote: “anti-intellectual.” But when you’ve actually got miracles and healings happening—

Dn. Powell: What are you going to do with that? Exactly. You can’t pretend.

Frederica: Well I guess you can’t.

Dn. Powell: You can’t. Well, you can try. But you will find—

Frederica: Just look the other way.

Dn. Powell: But even in the rest of the Evangelical Protestant world, I mean, you’ve got Baptist churches now—when I was a kid—they’re raising their hands in worship. Baptist churches and Methodist churches keeping Advent, for heaven’s sake, and mixing these two things together. Then you’ve got the emerging church movement that’s start that’s trying to throw out everything and trying to be relational, and all this kind of stuff. And you get to the point where you think, you know, these folks are going to stumble around and find the Faith if they ain’t careful. Because God loves us and God wants to be found.

Frederica: And it’s a sincere seeking.

Dn. Powell: It really is a sincere seeking and I don’t blame them. And the thing that they’re reacting to—the things that they’re reacting to—makes perfect sense to me. I understand why they’re scared. I understand why they grieve. Because I do too. I grieve the loss that I said goodbye to, but I tell you, I’m like the Apostle Paul in the sense that I look back at that and it was valuable and I love it but it’s not me anymore. I’ve grown not beyond it but I’ve grown up around it. It’s not that it’s bad. It’s just that it’s never enough. It’s the fullness that we’re looking for.

So we became—we entered the Faith and then of course after we became Orthodox all our problems disappeared and every problem and every problem I had is gone!

Frederica: Well of course! The money’s pouring in.

Dn. Powell: Money’s pouring in. In fact you know it’s embarrassing for me to talk about it. I’m kidding! No of course, things got worse. Things got more difficult.

Frederica: Immediately, sharply.

Dn. Powell: Well I needed a job.

Frederica: And you said your friend—was it Rod?

Dn. Powell: Rod Loudermilk, my best friend—

Frederica: —discovered a brain tumor?

Dn. Powell: Three months after we converted he found out he had a brain tumor.

Frederica: Thank God you converted first. Thank God you had Orthodoxy.

Dn. Powell: Amen. It was the only salvation we had. Eighteen months we fought and right before he died I got a phone call, I was traveling with Father Chris Metropolis at OCN. I got a phone call from his wife saying, “Barnabas, Photius”—that’s what his name was in the Church—“won’t go back to the doctor. I said, “OK, darling, let me talk to him.”

So I got on the phone. I said, “Roddy, what’s up?”

And he said, “Buddy, I love you. This medicine’s not going to make me better. It’s just going to prolong things. I’m so tired. And I’m done.”

So I told him I’m on my way to see him and I came off the road, went back to Ackworth, Georgia, where he was living at the time—and he and his wife and his three sons. All grown up, thank God. They were there with their dad as well. I walked in the door and he smiled real big and he told me—he said he loved me and he said, “You know, Barnabas—you know what’s really great about all this?”
I said, “I’m confessing to you buddy, I’m looking for some brightness and I don’t see a thing. I don’t see anything good about this at all. I’m broken hearted, I’m scared. You’re not only a friend; you’re my best friend. You’re a mentor, you’re a big brother, you’re a dad, and I’m afraid.”

He said, “Son, there is something really good about all this.”

I said, “I’m all ears.”

He said, “I’m dying in the arms of the Church.” Isn’t that wonderful?

Frederica: Oh, isn’t that wonderful?

Dn. Powell: I said, “Ok.” He went into a coma on that Wednesday and he died Friday, that Friday.

He was at peace. He was at peace. He was fine. And I remember one of our Orthodox priest friends came over to the house and gave him Communion and right after they gave him Communion he breathed his last. And he was done.

Frederica: Wow. Sounds like a chosen death.

Dn. Powell: Yeah. It was very hard, very difficult, very beautiful, very wonderful, very terrible; all of those things. All of those things Orthodoxy gives me a freedom to feel at the same time.

Frederica: Yes, yeah.

Dn. Powell: And blesses every bit of that, saying, “Yes, grieve; yes, rejoice; yes, weep; yes, smile, laugh, cry.”

Frederica: That’s the great thing about arms—they can take it all in.

Dn. Powell: That’s exactly right.

Frederica: Wrap the arms around the whole thing.

Dn. Powell: It’s big enough for the dignity of the human soul. It’s big enough to deal with the human condition. That’s the faith.

Frederica: In a way, Pentecostalism is a good preparation for Orthodoxy.

Dn. Powell: You better believe it.

Frederica: Sometimes I’ve thought—having seen people convert from so many different backgrounds—sometimes I think Pentecostals have the easiest transition.

Dn. Powell: They can, yeah.

Frederica: Because they believe in miracles, they believe—and they love the Lord with a heartfelt passion. It’s not as much intellectual.

Dn. Powell: It really isn’t. The challenge that I do see is that—especially if you’re a life-long Pentecostal—if you’re a life-long Pentecostal there tends to be a period where I have even told people, “You need a 12-step program.” And all kidding aside—

Frederica: Wean you off of—

Dn. Powell: —to really just kind of wean you off of the Jesus-as-heroin model. The Jesus- or Christianity-as-drug. “I really need to pray through because I’m feeling bad.” “I really need to go to church so I can get recharged.” “I need to get my tank filled up again.” Or “I need to get my battery recharged again.”

Frederica: So faith is like a tool?

Dn. Powell: Faith is a tool for my own personal well-being.

Frederica: Right. To keep you exactly the way you are.

Dn. Powell: Exactly. And that’s death.

Frederica: Functioning as perfectly as you are right now.

Dn. Powell: Exactly. And to be successful as you possibly can be. So there is a time where you kind of have to say, yeah I understand—there’s some really things there. The other side, the weakness of not being connected to an apostolic understanding of the faith can create a model where Jesus is—and religion and faith—is basically a medication. Just one more medication in my medication of—whether I’m using money, or I’m using physical intimacy, or if I’m using prestige, or fame, or intellectual information gathering or anything else that I use to medicate myself to feel or to hide from my own poverty.

Frederica: Isn’t it an idea that we just have to get through this life. Whatever gets you through the night. And then we’ll be in heaven. So there isn’t any concept of transformation, or not an expectation of it I guess. They sort of acknowledge there’s maturity in the Bible but something like theosis—

Dn. Powell: But not transfiguration. Yeah. There is the element of sanctification in the Pentecostal world—and it comes right from the Holiness movement—the whole second blessing, holiness thing, and all of that. So there is an idea of sanctification. But even sanctification can be reduced to an almost self-centered how-is-this-going-to-benefit-me kind of mentality. Instead of saying, “You know what? I’m going to Calvary. I’m going to Calvary and I’m going to die there. And it’s not going to be fun and it’s not going to pleasant. But I will get the Resurrection but I’m not going to get to the Resurrection until I get through Calvary, get through the Garden—do this process. And I’m going to do this over and over and over in my life until the character of Jesus Christ is formed inside of me.” And the language is there in my Pentecostal past to talk like that. The tools weren’t. The wisdom, the discipline of fasting and feasting, and feasting is as much a discipline as fasting. But we don’t know how to do it. We don’t know how to feast. Because we don’t’ know how to fast.

Frederica: Yeah. We know how to gorge.

Dn. Powell: We know how to gorge. Thanksgiving was just a little while ago. So—and I already made my confession so I’m not going to say anything else!

But all those things—those tools necessary to actually bring me to Mount Tabor—to the place where I can participate in the transfiguration of Jesus Christ—not for my own benefit per se but to just become who I am. You see what I’m saying?

Frederica: To restore us to—restoring the portrait, as St. Athanasius says. So as opposed to an idea that we go through all this so we’ll be better citizens, better husbands—

Dn. Powell: —better wives, how to keep your kids on your team, and let’s do all of these things. All that good stuff—

Frederica: —which is good, yeah it is good stuff. Wonderful things.

Dn. Powell: It’s not bad stuff. The problem is if you don’t get to the root of the problem, you’re just putting lipstick on a pig. You’re just kind of trying to put a new varnish of paint on things.

Frederica: Putting snow on a dung hill.

Dn. Powell: Exactly.

Frederica: Luther’s phrase.

Dn. Powell: Exactly. So what you have to do is you have to kind of—at least from me, I came to the point where I said, “I am no longer capable of being a Christian by myself. I can’t do this. And if I try I’m going to make a mess of things even more than I have.” So I have to find a place where I can learn how to be Christian with the widest number of influences that will help me to see things in as clear and as wide a range as possible, and not limit myself. So that I can not just hear the people who are living, but to the people who are already in Christ—to what G.K. Chesterton said—“the radical democracy of giving our ancestors a vote.” So I think when I came to that point, Rod and I both did, we said, “We’ve got to do this. We’ve got to do this work.” So here we are.

Frederica: And do you find that this is something that—when you’re talking to people who are Pentecostal—do they get this? Do they have this hunger, the deep hunger of the soul, which is obviously there in everybody? But can they make that leap to understanding that here is a way, a path, whereby they can be profoundly transformed? Or do they think it’s just sort of all nice, you know, pietistic words?

Dn. Powell: Yes and no.

Frederica: Or do they see what you’re saying and they want to run the opposite direction?

Dn. Powell: I’ve had every one of those experiences and seven more. It’s just, it’s—

Frederica: It’s person by person.

Dn. Powell: It really is person by person. It depends on how the Holy Spirit has formed a person and what they’ve said yes to throughout their lives. It’s just—we’re never going to get beyond the Theotokos. Where the messenger comes with good news and then the moment of truth—let it be done to me as you have said. I am the Lord’s servant. Every place where a person has had that confrontation with good news from the messenger of God—whether it be from the Spirit calling inside, or another person, or just from life’s circumstances—when they’ve been able to say, “Let it be done to me as you have said, I am the Lord’s servant—we’re never going to get beyond the Theotokos. The Theotokos is our model of Christianity.

Being with her—learning from her, this is tough for an old Pentecostal to talk about. Although, once I saw the icon of Our Lady of the Sign, all my questions were answered. It was a mystical, instantaneous clarity that no one else in the journey had but me. And I was by myself for eight years! Everybody was saying, “We just don’t understand why this comes so easy for you.” I don’t understand it either. It really bugs me a lot. But I get it.

Frederica: Just that arrow into the heart.

Dn. Powell: Yeah, it was just like, “Ok.”

Frederica: Of course, yeah.

Dn. Powell: There it is.

Frederica: Isn’t that wonderful? Why the icon of the Sign in particular?

Dn. Powell: I think because—

Frederica: Or was there a particular icon of the Sign?

Dn. Powell: No, no, it wasn’t a particular icon—just the concept. When I saw the Theotokos with arms outstretched, and her inside larger than her outside, containing—the icon had stars around Christ. Here He is Christ, Christ is a baby, He’s blessing—

Frederica: The whole cosmos…

Dn. Powell: —the whole cosmos is inside her. And it was like somebody just flipped a switch. Of course she’s Theotokos. She can’t be anything else but Theotokos. To call her anything else but Theotokos puts everything at risk.

Frederica: Yes, yes. The whole foundation of Christianity.

Dn. Powell: You must call her Theotokos. You must call her blessed. It’s not an option. It’s not an option.

Frederica: Oh wow that’s—Mary is the biggest hurdle for a lot of Protestants.

Dn. Powell: She is, but I’ll tell you what—but she becomes the dearest intercessor and friend. When we are able to make this leap to say—to put to ease the Protestant fears that oh, well, they’re trying to make her into co-redemptrix; or they’re trying to make her you know, another member of the Godhead and blah blah blah blah blah. All that kind of stuff. I understand those fears.
But there is a reason why, centuries before Christianity—that there was this whole idea of mother goddess and all this stuff already being built into the human race in every tribe and every place, everywhere you go in anthropology you find this picture. And so it isn’t so much an expression of our holding on to paganism as it is a clear indication of the Holy Spirit preparing humanity to see this profound truth that one of our race, one of us, became the gateway that let the Uncreated into the created.

Frederica: Ah, yeah. That’s so great.

Dn. Powell: He took flesh from one of us! One of our folk. I mean, I’m a good southern boy. I know what it means to say, “One of my kin did well.” And that’s—to get that—to think—there’s a prayer I learned to pray, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, that we might also conceive in us the body of Christ, an that we might also attain unto God.” So she becomes the human model of what Jesus plans to do with every one of us. That’s who we’re supposed to be. It’s wonderful.

Frederica: That’s pretty terrific.

Dn. Powell: It’s wonderful.

Frederica: I’ve never seen the icon of the Sign that way before. It really transforms my way of looking at that icon.

Dn. Powell: It blew me away. It blew me away.
Frederica: And where was this on your journey? Before your chrismation?

Dn. Powell: This was about—oh yes, many years before my chrismation. I was the only Pentecostal church in Woodstock, Georgia, that had an icon of Christ and the Theotokos behind the pulpit! Trust me. It’s hilarious.

Frederica: I can believe that!

Dn. Powell: It got to the point where, on our journey, we had several families—we’d bought a building, we were doing well and all this kind of stuff—and I got to the point where I’d tell folks, “Folks, I know you hear me preaching and I know this sounds kind of strange, but don’t leave skid marks in the parking lot, we’re trying to sell the building. Let’s at least preserve the real estate value.”

But it was a long time after—it was a long time before our chrismation that this really kind of came home to me.

Frederica: And then you were waiting for your people to come.

Dn. Powell: Waiting for my—and you know what? And my best friend was so wise, because, if it were up to me, after my initial connection with Orthodoxy in 1992, I’d have converted then. I really would’ve. But Rod reminded me—and I was pasturing this church, and we were growing and doing well—and he said, “You know, Barnabas, you need to probably remember the story of Jacob and Esau.”

After Jacob and Esau reconciled, Esau said, “Jacob, just bring your people, come on, go with us. Just be with us, we’ll be a family, and just be with us.”

And Jacob was saying, “Yeah brother, I want to do this, but my folks are camped far away, and I have little ones. And if I push them, they’ll die.”

And so he reminded me of that and it was very wise. And so I remember him telling me that and I remember it really being clear to me that it was wise—it would have not been a good time for me to convert because I would have become just a Protestant Orthodox. Because I was interested in being right. I want to finally get into the right church, with the right theology because being
right is what I really need to be. You know.

Frederica: Oh boy. I’m just now discovering that’s one of the keys of transformation in Orthodoxy is being willing to not be right.

Dn. Powell: Mmhmm. Mmhmm.

Frederica: If I had known this sixteen years ago, I’m not so sure…

Dn. Powell: Amen! Amen.

Frederica: I have to what?! Not be right?!

Dn. Powell: That’s the whole point. If I’m not right, what am I? Then I’m wrong. And if I’m wrong, then God’s upset with me!

Frederica: It’s terrible! And then you have to go right back into that—

Dn. Powell: And if God’s upset with me, then I don’t get the goody, and you get—“bad boy.” What if I lose my salvation?

Frederica: Yeah, and won’t get that Cadillac you asked for.

Dn. Powell: Exactly. And I don’t be able to finally cross the finish line into Heaven and finally get this God off my back. Finally, I’ve done all the stuff you asked me to do, now would you leave me alone?

Frederica: That’s great.

Dn. Powell: So it was wisdom. It was wisdom. It was good formation, and then in 2001 we converted. It’s always been a transition. It’s always a mixture of going to Calvary and experiencing the Resurrection. But that’s the Christian life—

Frederica: Now how many were you able to bring with you?

Dn. Powell: Twenty families.

Frederica: Twenty families.

Dn. Powell: Twenty families out of two hundred and fifty.

Frederica: That’s good. You did a lot better than we did.

Dn. Powell: Yeah, well twenty families. So—

Frederica: They’re singing, singing…

Dn. Powell: Yeah, the kids are singing… But it was traumatic and wonderful and terrible and joyous and scary and—and it still is. Still is.

Frederica: 2001. So here, eight years later you are in seminary. In fact, is this your third year?

Dn. Powell: This is my third year. In fact, I’m coming up on my last semester.

Frederica: Really?

Dn. Powell: I’m coming up on my last semester, God willing. And the faculty says ok, I’ll graduate in May, and I will be in the metropolis of Atlanta with his Eminence, Metropolitan Alexios. And looking forward to that a great deal. In fact it was a joy to be ordained in my hometown of Atlanta by Metropolitan Alexios on the eight to the deaconate.

Frederica: That’s a wonderful thing. You have unique gifts, I think. Well I think you have a wonderful gift of speaking. I really enjoy listening to you. You have a wonderful singing voice. I got to hear a bit of that. And a gift for being—

Dn. Powell: Don’t tell my chant leader that. He’ll disagree with you. I can’t get my mouth around some of these Byzantine sounds. I’m sorry, I just can’t do it.

Frederica: Is that right? Too many notes. It’s like the emperor in Amadeus. “Too many notes.”

Dn. Powell: Exactly, too many. Not only too many notes, but you know what, it’s just a different language than I’m used to.

Frederica: It is, it is.

Dn. Powell: And I’m learning a lot languages, for heaven’s sake! One of them’s going to suffer and I think it’s going to be Byzantine chant, Lord have mercy!

Frederica: I’m hoping that, as you have so many more years of ministry ahead of you, that God will be able to use these gifts you have of understanding. You know a great deal about Protestantism in general, not just your Pentecostal background. Do you think you’ll be a priest in a parish, or—how do you see your future ministry? Or do you even know?

Dn. Powell: It’s a wonderful question. I know his Eminence has some plans for me. I confess to you that I said something to him at my ordination that I meant with all my heart. I basically said, “[Greek phrase],” which means, “Do with me what you will.”

Frederica: Ah that’s good, yeah.

Dn. Powell: And I really have come to have confidence in him and love him as a spiritual father and a wise leader. That’s not just politics talking. I really have been amazed at how well he’s been able to place several friends of mine in parish settings that were just perfect fits. And so it built a great deal of confidence into me and Connie’s heart to just simply say to him, “Whatever you want, whatever you need, and I’ll trust that.” And he’s got some plans. And I certainly hope to be—I want to be a parish priest. That’s what I love doing. I love being with people. I love being in a community. That’s what I want. That’s how I’m going to be a Christian is in the midst of community. It’s not going to be by doing anything else other than dealing with other human beings in community.

Frederica: Yeah, that’s true.

Dn. Powell: That’s the Faith.

Frederica: That’s how God plans to polish the stones that we are—is to use other people. I wish there was another way sometimes.

Dn. Powell: You and me both, sister. I wish there was a pill or maybe a salve you could put on. I don’t know! Anything. We’re just going to have to rub shoulders with folks.

Frederica: Wouldn’t that be great? That’s so true.

Dn. Powell: God help us.

Frederica: Alright. Thanks so much.

Dn. Powell: My pleasure.

Frederica: Deacon Barnabas Powell.

Dn. Powell: Thank you, thank you very much.

Frederica: Congratulations on your ordination.

Dn. Powell: Thanks.

Hat Tip: OBL Articles

Written by Stephen

May 16, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Pascha in Kolwezi, Congo

with 4 comments

A little something as we come to the end of Paschal-tide.

This Paschal celebration took place at the Cathedral of Saint George.

Kolwezi is in the Holy Diocese of Katanga under the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa. It is served by monks from the Holy Monastery of Gregoriou on Mount Athos.

This is a very active Orthodox diocese, with 105 parishes, 40 priests and over 2000 youth attending its ecclesiastical schools, and its own ecclesiastical radio station among other things. It baptizes an average of 1200-1500 people a year.

Source: Mystagogy

Written by Stephen

May 8, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Posted in Africa, Congo, Pascha

Interview: Contemporary Orthodox Turks

leave a comment »

A Сonversation with two Orthodox Turks, Achmet and Nejla


In Turkey, which is the canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, there are very few Greek parishioners left. The Orthodox community has been supplemented to some degree by Russians who have taken up permanent residence there. However, there are also some Turks who have become Orthodox in the Patriarchate. Lately their numbers have grown. Orthodox literature is being printed for them in Turkish, and articles about the newly-converted are being published. Achmet and Nejla are two of the thousand or so Turks who have changed their faith; and unlike others, they do not hide this at all. They related their stories to one Bulgarian website, ”Dveri na Pravoslavieto”—their spiritual searches which led them to Orthodoxy, and what it means to be a Christian in Turkey. We offer the text of this conversation to the readers of

The Turkish press explains the current numbers of Baptisms in their country as a ”return to their own roots” by Turkish citizens of Greek or Armenian extraction. Did your own nationalities play a decisive role in your conversion to Christianity?

Achmet: Ethnic origin has played a role in some cases, but not in ours. I myself was born in Cappadocia, and I have relatives who came from the Caucasus. As far as I know, I have no Christians in my family background. Joining the Orthodox Church was the result of my own personal choice.

Nejla: My mother is from Kavala, and my father is a Pontian. Some people in my family speak Romeian (the local Greek dialect spoken among the Islamacized population. –Y. Maximov). But the decision to leave Islam and become Orthodox was my own personal choice, regardless of my origins.

Historically, Turkish identity was so tightly bound with Islam that many Turks are completely unable to accept the idea that it is possible to be a Turk without being a Moslem. How do you view this?

N.: It’s true, many people do not consider you a ”Turk” if you confess a different religion; especially if you are a Christian or a Jew. They think that you not only belong to another religion, but to another nationality.

A.: This can be explained by historical causes. The Ottoman order divided ethnic groups into millets along religious lines. For example, all the Orthodox comprised an ”Orthodox ethnos,” and the administration did not assign any meaning to their nationality, be it Bulgarian, Serbian, or Greek. In Cappadocia, where I come from, religion was what divided inhabitants between Romeians and Turks. The Orthodox people in the state of Talas, my native land, spoke Turkish as their native language, and even served the Liturgy in Turkish. But their membership in the Orthodox Church is what categorized them as the ”Romeian people.”

Just the same, Turkish history knows other, excellent examples. In the past, in various parts of the Turkish diaspora, Turkish communities accepted Christianity. There are Christian Turks in Central Asia, there are the Orthodox Gagauzians,[1] and there are thousands of Turks who have become Christian in Turkey. That they are Christian does not mean that they are not Turks. I am also a Christian now, but I am also one hundred percent Turkish, and Turkish is my native language. So, this division of people according to religious orientation is becoming more and more outdated. People are still surprised when they hear that one or another Turk is a Christian, but little-by-little, this is becoming more normal.

What is your occupation?

N.: I am a dietician, and I do volunteer work.

A.: I was a manager in a large government company, and lived for a while in the United States. Later, I had a business in Belgium.

Achmet, probably your desire to become a Christian arose while you were living and working in a Christian country?

A.: No, the ground had been cultivated much earlier. Unfortunately, Christianity in Turkey is viewed as something that comes from the ”outside.” This is a mistake, because Orthodoxy is a part of our land’s history. This can be seen from the privileges that Mehmet the Conqueror gave to the Constantinople Patriarchate.

I had some idea of Christianity from childhood, although it was through the prism of Islam. Many Moslems have great respect for Christians, which is bound up with the fact that the Koran accepts Jesus as a prophet. In general, Moslems also respect the Most Holy Mother of God. I think that you have seen the crowds of faithful Moslems who gather in the Romeian churches of Istanbul in order to venerate the holy shrines, and ask for help. In Turkey, we are prepared to accept the message of Christianity.

If there are problems, they are bound up with the education that both sides receive, and with ignorance. For example, many Moslems do not understand the meaning of the teaching on the Holy Trinity and think that we worship three gods, and that Christianity is a political religion. I do not say this as a criticism of Islam, but only present the fact as an example to show how uninformed they are.

Nejla, did your search also begin in Turkey?

N.: Yes, when I was studying in the university. My family was on the whole religious, but without following all the precepts of Islam to the letter. I considered myself a Moslem until I began to distance myself from Islam during my studies in Ankara. My parents allowed me the freedom to decide my relationship to religion. While I was in Islam, I felt an emptiness that demanded fulfillment. I read, and searched. I entered upon a path that led me to Orthodoxy.

It would follow that your path to Orthodoxy was the result of ”local” experience, without any influence from outside of Turkey?

A.: Any influence from American or European Christianity can only do harm. I never felt comfortable with the Christians there. They repelled me from Christianity by turning it into psychotherapy. They go to church on Sundays to talk. However, religion has an aim of filling a certain other emptiness. In Europe, Christianity has been relegated to holidays without any connection to religion. Take the Nativity of Christ, for example. Many people greet each other with the words, ”Happy holidays,” instead of Happy Nativity.” In Europe, people have a superficial connection to Christianity, without an understanding of its spiritual meaning.

How do the Christians in your country differ from Europeans?

N.: In that they are much closer to the essence and traditions of Christianity.

A.: And in that they are more religious.

N.: We go to church every Sunday, read the Holy Scriptures every evening, pray together, and strive to fulfill all the demands of our religion.

Are you in contact with the local Orthodox community?

A.: We are in close contact, because we are in church every Sunday. There are many nice people in the Romeian community, and we have found friends. Every person has something to share with us. Liturgy is served in various churches. We often visit the church in Nihori. Lakas Vingas, the president of the community, lets us say the ”Our Father” in Turkish.

N.: Yes, I read for the Turkish-speaking people (she laughs).

Is it hard for you to follow the services when they are in Greek?

A.: We prepare for each service at home. We also have a dual-language New Testament, so that we can follow the service using the Turkish text. It is important to understand in order to participate.

The tragic schism of Fr. Euphemios from the Constantinople Patriarchate in the 1920’s and the founding of the schismatic ”Turkish Orthodox Church”[2] made it much more difficult to introduce the Turkish language into the parishes of Constantinople, although this has been done long ago by other Christian denominations.

A.: Yes, that is so. We hope that with time there will be services in the Orthodox Church in the Turkish language. Today, only the Symbol of Faith is read in Turkish. It is also necessary that the problem with Fr. Efthimiou’s successors be resolved—there can’t be enmity between the Churches. All the Orthodox in Turkey should be under the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Have you encountered any negative reactions from people in your society after you were baptized? Does anyone harass you?

A.: I have not experienced anything negative and I can’t say that I have been harassed.

N.: I have not met with any negative reactions. My family was surprised, but they respect my choice.

Do you consider that there are many others who would follow your example and convert to Christianity?

A. and N.: Yes, many

Nevertheless, so far very few have been baptized.

N.: The fact is that there are many more who have been baptized than those who ”show” that they have been baptized. They are afraid of the reaction of those around them. These are secret Christians.

A.: Yes, there is fear. But this should change, just as the attitudes in society toward those who change their religion should change. In any case, the Orthodox Church does not proselytize. To the contrary, there are strict requirements demanded of those who want to come in from another faith. These people have to go through a long catechism, and their sincerity is tested.

Does that mean that it is not easy to enter the Orthodox Church?

N.: Yes, in past years, but we really pressed for it.

Do the attacks against Christians, like for example the murder of the Catholic priest, Fr. Santoro, in Trabzond, and the killing of Christians in Malatya make you fearful? Who do you think is behind these attacks?

A.: I do not think that something like that could happen in the capital. The country is visibly changing as the talks concerning the acceptance of Turkey into the European Union continue. Turks are becoming more open and tolerant. Naturally, however, certain radical groups are reacting to these changes. These are dark forces who have nothing in common with the government, and are on the periphery of society.

Original interview in Bulgarian from: Как едно турско семейство откри православието // Двери.Бг
Russian translation by Yuri Maximov
English translation from the Russian by Nun Cornelia (Rees)


[1] The Gagauz people descend from the Seljuk Turks that settled in Dobruja, together with the Pechenegs, Uz (Oghuz) and Cuman (Kipchak) people that followed the Anatolian Seljuk Sultan Izzeddin Keykavus II (1236–76). More specifically, one clan of Oghuz Turks migrated to the Balkans during the inter-tribal conflicts with other Turks. This Oghuz Turk clan converted from Islam to Orthodox Christianity after settling in the Eastern Balkans (in Bulgaria) and were called Gagauz Turks. A large group of the Gagauz later left Bulgaria and settled in southern Bessarabia, along with a group of ethnic Bulgarians. — Trans., from,

[2] The so-called “Turkish Orthodox Church” was begun during the war between Greece and Turkey, by a supporter of the Turkish nationalists named Pavlos Karahisarithis (he later changed his name to Zeki Erenerol). He formed a schismatic church (calling himself “Pope” Eftim (Efthimiou) with the backing of Kemal Ataturk, who used the group as a tool against the Greek population and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The church has very few followers at present, and its spokeswoman, the granddaughter of Pope Eftim, was arrested in 2008 for alleged links with a Turkish nationalist underground organization. It was also suspected that the Turkish church served as headquarters for the organization.

Hat Tip: Mystagogy

Written by Stephen

May 7, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Interview: “Many Clergymen and Laity of the South American Diocese are Isolated from the Rest of the Church”

leave a comment »

A conversation with the First Hierarch of ROCOR,
His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York.

Your Eminence, when did you first visit Latin America?

I first became acquainted with the Latin American region in 1987. The South American Diocese was ruled at the time by Bishop Innokenty (Petrov, 1902-1987). He led an interesting life. Vladyka Innokenty fought in the Russian Civil War and participated in the seizure of Ekaterinburg in July 1918. He was inside the infamous Ipatiev House soon after the execution of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. In 1948, Ivan Petrov (his lay name), made his way to Argentina. In 1957, he became a priest, Fr John. Following the death of Archbishop Afanassy (Martos, 1904-1983) of Buenos Aires, Argentina and Paraguay, he was tonsured a monk and was given control of the orphaned diocese.

Bishop Innokenty spent most of his time in Asuncion, Paraguay, which was why the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Metropolitan Vitaly (Oustinov, 1910-2006) sent me to Argentina. I remember that trip fondly. The greatest impression was made by the ceremony of renaming one of the streets of the Argentinian capital in honor of Holy Prince Vladimir, Equal-to-the-Apostles.

I traveled to the Misiones Province together with the Rector of Holy Trinity Church in Buenos Aires, Protopriest Valentin Iwasjewicz, where the Russian Church Abroad has two parishes. Visiting with an elderly Ukranian man known as Don Juan, who grew mate tea, which we tried passing around the calabash gourd with a metal pipe called a bombilla. At a luncheon in the town of Tres-Capones, women sang Ukrainian folk songs, which reminded me of my youth, which I spent among Ukrainian emigres.

In addition to Argentina, I made visits to Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. In Santiago I was escorted by the Rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity and the Mother of God of Kazan, Archimandrite Veniamin (Vozniuk). He showed me the house of Archbishop Leonty (Filippovich, 1904-1971), the Ruling Bishop of Chile and Peru from 1953-1969, and gave me his vestments, sewn of Japanese silk and embroidered with flowers. In Asuncion, I concelebrated with Vladyka Innokenty at Protection Church, and in Montevido, I celebrated Divine Liturgy in Resurrection Church, the only Russian Church in Uruguay.

In your opinion, when did the South American Diocese reach its historic peak?

The blossoming of this diocese lasted a fairly long time. In the 1920’s, when a wave of immigrants fleeing the Bolsheviks in Russia reached the New World, a flurry of construction of Orthodox churches began. In the 1960’s, there were four episcopal cathedras: Argentina and Paraguay, Brazil, Chile and Peru and Venezuela. It is interesting that Metropolitan Vitaly, Primate of ROCOR between 1985-2001, was the Bishop of Montevideo and Vicar of the Sao-Paolo and Brazil Diocese in the early 1950’s. He established a monastery in Sao Paolo dedicated to St Job of Pochaev, established an orphanage for boys and set up a publishing concern.

What is the current state of affairs in the diocese, in your view?

The South American Diocese is undergoing a profound crisis. There are reasons for this: the lack of clergymen, the infrequent divine services, the dearth of necessary ecclesiastical knowledge, especially in the provinces. All this has had troubling consequences. For instance, in Paraguay, dozens of Russians have married Catholics and now attend Catholic churches. Fortunately, they have not forgotten their roots yet, and when they have the opportunity, they attend Orthodox services.

The problem of not having enough clergymen is an onerous one. The Seminary at Holy Trinity Monastery has had dozens of graduates from Latin America, yet a large number of them settled in the USA. Of course, the Church Abroad has people who wish to serve in the South American Diocese, but some do not speak Spanish or Portuguese, others don’t speak Russian, or, in fact, even know Church Slavonic.

In January 2010, we suffered a serious loss: a young priest, Fr Rodion Aragon, died, who was recently ordained to the priesthood and appointed Rector of the Mother of God of Vladimir Church in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. Before then, we had no resident priests of the Russian Orthodox Church in Costa Rica. Now the parishioners there are left without a pastor once again.

Maybe the crisis of this diocese is a reflection of the difficulties endured by the Russian diaspora in general?

Without a doubt, the two are related. In 1987, I visited that Russian colony in what was a difficult period. Its membership had fallen significantly. Hundreds of Russians, due to material difficulties, left for other places, mostly to the US. Russian organizations faded. The publication of Russian-language newspapers and magazines has almost ceased. Books are no longer being published. Since then, little has changed.

But no matter what, Russian people have not lost their firm faith. The new generations are reason for a great deal of hope. During my first visit to Buenos Aires, I met with Russian youth and saw that they are striving to immerse themselves in the Russian spiritual tradition and learn more about the Russian Orthodox Church. Young people are well aware that the only place around which they can come together is the Orthodox parish. I shared my thoughts on this with them. Several years went by, and Sao Paolo then held the first youth conference of the South American Diocese.

The South American cathedra had remained empty for three years since the death of Bishop Alexander (Mileant, 1938-2005). In June, 2008, Vladyka John (Berzins) was appointed to it with the title Bishop of Caracas, and later Bishop of South America. What changes have taken place in the Diocese during his rule?

The very presence of a bishop is extremely important. As a result of the age and illness of Mitred Protopriest Vladimir Skalon, the only priest of Resurrection Cathedral in Buenos Aires, Bishop John regularly conducts services at that church. The prayers of the Vladyka bolster the spiritual strength of his parishioners.

In September, 2009, the news came that the Argentinian authorities came down in favor of the community of Resurrection Cathedral over the property quarrel with a group of people who went into schism following the reestablishment of canonical communion within the Russian Church in 2007. The schismatics tried to change the Regulations of the Russian Orthodox Association in Argentina, presenting themselves as the juridical person of the Russian Church Abroad with the aim of seizing its property. They removed the President of the Association, Protopriest Vladimir Skalon and introduced new members. Fr Vladimir and Protopriest Igor Bulatov, Rector of Protection and St Germogen Churches in the outskirts of Buenos Aires lodged a complaint against the schismatics with the Ministry of Justice of Argentina. After two years of litigation, the Inspector General restored Fr Vladimir to his post and declared the decisions of the association meetings of 2007-2008 invalid.

What in the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion with the Moscow Patriarchate evoked the dissatisfaction of most of the parishes of the Russian Church Abroad in Latin America?

Many clergymen and laity of the South American Diocese have been isolated from the Church. They are little interested in what is happening in their historic homeland and live with outdated conceptions of the Moscow Patriarchate. Therein lies the reason for the fact that more than half of the South American parishes rejected obedience to the hierarchy and joined the so-called “Temporary Supreme Central Administration of the Russian Church Abroad” headed by “Bishop” Agafangel (Pashkovsky), who was suspended by our Synod of Bishops and defrocked. The parishioners of Sao Paolo have found themselves in a quandary: they are forced to seek spiritual ministry from schismatics, since there are simply no canonical parishes in the city.

What means do you see in healing this ecclesiastical division?

The chief way is to pray for those who separated from fullness of the Church. Schismatics must learn to follow decisions adopted by the one Church inspired by the Holy Spirit. In my opinion, in the near future our erring brethren will recognize that being in schism is a spiritual dead end.

How has the appearance of a “South American Diocese” with its own “bishop,” Gregory (Petrenko) exacerbated the schism?

I think that essentially nothing has changed. “Bishop” Gregory of Sao Paolo and South America bears no animosity towards the Russian Church Abroad. He is taking a wait-and-see approach, and I pray that the Lord shows him the right path.

How important were the Days of Russia celebrated in Latin America in October-November 2008?

This was a very important event for the participants. The bishops and priests from Russia got to know the life of the parishes of the Church Abroad. The Russian-speaking diaspora were able to pray at divine service celebrated by clergymen of both branches of the Russian Church for the first time. Thousands of Latin Americans, through the exhibition “Orthodox Russia,” concerts given by Sretensky Monastery Male Choir and contact with Russian priests, came to behold the riches of Russian Orthodoxy.

How is the relationship between the Russian Church Abroad and the Christian churches of the region developing?

In Latin America, we have good, neighborly relations with the heterodox Churches. These are mostly Roman Catholics, and we cannot ignore the Catholic Church. But the Church Abroad rejects any ecumenical initiatives or joint prayers.

Do you maintain contact with government organs in Latin America?

Yes, the Russian Orthodox Church has contact with government offices as needed. During the Days of Russia in Latin America, the ecclesiastical delegation was received by the political leaders of a number of countries. But mainly, we work with embassies and consulates of Russia, which always help us.

Miguel Palacio interviewed His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion
22 / 04 / 2010

Source: ROCOR
Hat Tip: Byzantine, Texas

Written by Stephen

May 2, 2010 at 7:08 pm