Bringing the Orthodox Faith to the African-American Community – From the OCA Diocese of New York and New Jersey





Bringing the Orthodox Faith to the African-American Community

From the OCA Diocese of New York and New Jersey


Bringing the Orthodox Faith to the African-American Community


“We would love to reach out to African-Americans in our community, but we don’t know how.”

“I don’t know where to begin.”

“I’m afraid we’ll be seen as too white and too exotic.”

“How do we merge the Black church and culture with [fill in Orthodox ethnic group of choice]?”

Sound familiar? Orthodox parishes across the country struggle with outreach to various ethnic groups — wishing to expand the parish’s evangelistic efforts in bringing Holy Orthodoxy to Blacks, Latinos, and Asians — but lacking the knowledge, insights, and tools to do so. With the biggest of hearts and greatest of desires, this area of evangelism … bringing and sharing Orthodoxy with ethnic minority groups … can nevertheless seem daunting enough to persuade many to never even begin the effort.

To address these concerns and provide information, ideas, and tools to train and equip clergy and laity to begin effective outreach to African-Americans, the Diocese’s Commission on Mission and Evangelism sponsored a one-day training workshop called “Bringing the Orthodox Faith to the African-American Community.” Thanks to the gracious hosting of Saints Peter and Paul Church in Manville NJ on Saturday, 16 July 2016, the workshop brought together over 40 people from across two deaneries as well as outside of the diocese to hear and learn from two outstanding speakers on African-American outreach: Father Alexii Altschul (a founder of the Brotherhood of Saint Moses the Black), and Father Deacon Turbo Qualls (the Brotherhood’s Chapter Development coordinator).

Father Deacon Turbo spoke first in the morning, following a Molieben (prayer service) for the “Beginning of Any Good Work.” He addressed a powerful theme: Orthodoxy is not “the White Man’s Religion” and was never imposed on Africans brought to America via the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (and, further, that Orthodoxy, unlike virtually all of Western Europe and Western Christianity, was never involved in the evil of such human trafficking). Rather, Orthodoxy is an historic African faith that has had roots in Africa since the time of the Apostles: the Acts of the Apostles notes the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch by Saint Thomas; and Church Fathers, many of whom lived and were from northern African nations like Libya, Egypt, and Carthage.

Father Alexii spoke in the afternoon about his experiences as a white man married to a black woman, raising a blended family, who ultimately found and embraced the ancient Orthodox Christian Faith. He began “Reconciliation Ministries” (now known as Reconciliation Services, it continues to serve the poor and marginalized of the Troost Avenue neighborhood of Kansas City). He, his late wife, and community started Saint Mary of Egypt Orthodox Church, now a parish of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North America.

After deliberating further opportunities for mutual discussion and networking, the workshop ended with another Molieben “For the Cessation of Strife” as found in the Great Book of Needs, Volume IV.

Plans are underway for more conferences in this outreach series beginning later this year.


OCA – Find an Orthodox Parish in USA, Canada & Mexico


OCA – Find an Orthodox Parish in USA, Canada & Mexico

The parish is a local community of the Church having at its head a duly appointed priest and consisting of Orthodox Christians who live in accordance with the teachings of the Orthodox Church, comply with the discipline and rules of the Church, and regularly support their parish. Being subordinate to the Diocesan Authority, it is a component part of the Diocese.

Facebook: Holy Cross Monastery in East Setauket, New York, USA



East Setauket, New York, USA


Holy Cross Monastery

in East Setauket, New York, USA

Holy Cross Monastery
140 Main St
East Setauket, NY 11733-2834

Fr. Parthenios


tel.: (631) 681-5319

Holy Cross is an Eastern Orthodox (ROCOR) monastery, located on 140 Main Street in East Setauket, New York, consists of monastery church, residence, hall-and-bookstore, candlehut and lawn. Services are in English, with a smattering of Greek, Church-Slavonic, Romanian, Georgian, Arabic and Spanish.

Click HERE

Journeying East: Spiritual Sanctuary in the Orthodox Church – Forrest Long, USA





Alabama, USA


Journeying East:

Spiritual Sanctuary in the Orthodox Church

by Forrest Long, USA




The pungent aroma of incense fills the air. In the dim candle light, smoke ascends high toward the domed ceiling and, as the eye follows its upward spiral, one can imagine gazing into heaven itself. The architecture, the icons, the aroma, the awesome silence — the sensory perception of all that surrounds you transports you into another world. No, this is not your typical Baptist church, far from it.

So what is a Baptist pastor with over twenty-five years of ministry doing in a Russian Orthodox chapel? The male choir is in place and the priest comes out to begin the evening liturgy of vespers, all in Church Slavonic, the language of the “old country.” Not a word is understood as I listen intently to the progression of the liturgy, yet deep in my soul there is a sense that I have entered heaven itself. For an hour and a half the service continues and no one seems to mind standing through it, even the frail old monks who have experienced this for a lifetime.

This was my first experience of an Orthodox vespers and it was a life-changing experience, an affirmation that I was on the right path.

Going back to the question, what was I as a Baptist minister doing in a Russian Orthodox vesper service at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York?

And why over the past several decades have so many evangelicals in North America made the journey to the Eastern Orthodox Church?

I have read the personal pilgrimage of others, Peter Gillquist, Frederica Mathewes-Green, Jaroslav Pelikan and others, but I can only write out of my own experience.

As I look back now over my training in preparation for ministry I realize I learned nothing about the Eastern Orthodox Church; as I have talked with other Protestant ministers, for the most part their knowledge runs between minimal and non-existent. If I were asked I suppose I would have said that it was some ancient Eastern form of the Church, just another denomination but comparable to the Roman Catholic Church. The architecture and vestments may have been different, but apart from that I knew nothing about it. To be honest, its existence probably never crossed my mind. But other things did and that is where the journey began.

Coming out of ministerial preparation and being thrust into pastoral ministry, I was an idealist filled with answers, cutting-edge techniques and right theology. I was ready to ignite my first church with new life.

The early 70’s was a time of change in the church. New winds were blowing. Contemporary theology was challenging how we thought about God and the church; charismatic teaching and practice were challenging how we worshiped and “did” church; the “Jesus movement” was challenging the church to a more vibrant life. Changes were coming in worship, early stirrings that have led to where we are in the contemporary worship scene today.

As a pastor, part of my responsibility was to give leadership in worship; the more I read about and viewed the changing scene, the more I was coming to understand that modern worship could be just about anything you want it to be, just about anything was pleasing to God.

The walls were being pushed outward, sometimes beyond the limits in the minds of an older generation who sometimes were resistant to change. But the doors of change were open and a new contemporary breeze was blowing in, perceived by many as salvation for churches in decline that were running out of ideas of how to attract the un-churched.

During these early years of my ministry I began to broaden my reading as I focused on the church and on worship. I came across the writings of Robert Webber, who opened a new door for me and challenged me with a whole new perspective on worship and the church. It was a challenge to look beyond the familiar, not to discredit the old, even ancient forms of Christian worship, expressed in various liturgies.

I was a novice in this area, being immersed in the simplicity of non-liturgical Baptist worship. Slowly I began to open my thinking to a form of worship that was so rich with meaning and theological depth.

As a “good Protestant,” I had always considered such worship as being “too Roman Catholic.” In searching, I came to see the depth of my prejudice and my bias toward one particular form of worship, a perspective which would change gradually over time.

About the same time I read a book by another author previously unknown to me, Peter Gillquist. In The Physical Side Of Being Spiritual, Gillquist, who was himself on a spiritual quest that would eventually lead him into the Antiochian Orthodox Church, pushed my inquisitive door open a bit wider. He challenged me to think deeper about worship in its physical forms and symbols and challenged me to explore spirituality from a perspective previously unknown to me. The journey continued.

Over my years of ministry, as I sought to give spiritual leadership to the congregations I served, I was at the same time on my own spiritual pilgrimage. Many times I was uncertain of where I was going, but I kept pushing doors and exploring different pathways. As I looked around me at contemporary church life, I was disheartened by the all too-visible “easy-believism” and “cheap grace” that Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote so disparagingly about in his Cost Of Discipleship.

I came to realize that the church was so often a follower of trends and “here-today-gone-tomorrow” ideas on methodology, ministry, worship, church growth and spirituality. Everyone seemed to have their own concept of the “New Testament Church,” resulting in a dizzying array of books and programs offering the answer.

Sadly I watched as many well-meaning, but I believe misdirected leaders divided churches (yes, often Baptist churches) and went off with a handful of followers to build their own version of “the New Testament Church.”

My quest was never an obsession, but always in my field of vision as I read and thought in areas of worship, personal spiritual development and the church. I always believed there had to be answers to my questions. I never thought that those answers would take me back beyond the Reformation and my divided Protestant heritage, to a time when the church spoke with one voice. I began reading some of the early church documents as well as writings of the early Church Fathers, all of which opened a whole new world to me.

Time moved on. It was not until the late 90’s, after twenty-five years of pastoral ministry, that I was introduced to the Eastern Orthodox Church. One Sunday morning before worship, one of our couples came through the door with a friend who was visiting for the first time.

The introductions were made and there before me stood an imposing and impressive gentleman about my age, but with a long flowing, graying beard and long hair, dressed in a “ministerial” black suit. I had no idea at the time that he was a Russian Orthodox priest and I couldn’t see the clerical collar under his beard. He appeared to be intently interested in our worship and to my surprise remained after the service to join in my Sunday School class.

I was teaching a series of studies on the spiritual disciplines and happened that morning to be teaching on the discipline of prayer. Here I was, the “expert” with all the answers. My class was very interactive and discussion played a key role in the learning process.

Our guest felt very comfortable to enter into the discussion, and I discovered as I listened to him that here was a man with an understanding of our topic that ran deeper than the level at which I was teaching that morning. I found that my heart was hungering for a deeper experience of the spirituality of prayer and here was someone I wanted to get to know better. It was only after the morning was over that I was told this visitor, a quiet and unassuming man who displayed a sense of deep spirituality, was Father Innocent, a Russian Orthodox priest.

The friendship that developed out of this initial encounter led to many visits to his home, times of question and discussion, good conversation that gently nudged me toward the Orthodox Church.

Never once did I ever hear him criticize the Baptist church or put down my theology or practice. But gradually and gently he led me far beyond where I was. I would come home with a book to read, an Orthodox magazine or some article he felt I would find interesting.

My questions were being answered, the issues were being diffused and in the depth of my soul I knew I was on the right path. But it took moving from Nova Scotia to Birmingham, Alabama to actually become Orthodox.

In 2005 at Pascha, I was chrismated into the Antiochian Orthodox Church at the Church of the Annunciation, under the spiritual leadership of Father Nabil Fino, who brought me as a catechumen into the Church. From Father Innocent to Father Nabil, God has graciously led me step by step into the Church.

There was a time when I was so theologically opinionated and narrow in my views, that I wouldn’t have given a thought about moving toward the Eastern Orthodox Church. In my Protestant frame of mind I wouldn’t exercise such freedom. God does work in mysterious ways.

Today, in the Eastern Orthodox Church, my questions have found answers and I have discovered a well-grounded, unchanging liturgy, theology and spirituality that have stood the tests of time, being rooted in the Apostles, the Early Church Fathers, the Desert Fathers and Mothers, as well as the saints through the ages. The rich spiritual heritage of the various forms of the Eastern Orthodox Church enrich my soul, as I have come to understand and appreciate those ancient forms that are so spiritually relevant for our world today.

My journey has led me to a true spiritual sanctuary.

Cerșetorul Japonez a devenit Călugăr ╰⊰¸¸.•¨* Romanian


Cerșetorul Japonez a devenit Călugăr

As vrea sa va dau un mic exemplu de activi­tate misionara. Noi avem un mic metoc in New York. El este asezat intr-o parte foarte saraca a ora­sului, unde traiesc in general vorbitori de spaniola si afroamericani; de jur imprejur droguri, alcool, oameni fara adapost. Cred ca jumatate din popu­latia zonei traieste din alocatiile statului. Pentru adolescenti, in aceasta zona, sa nasti un copil la 14-15 ani este un motiv de deosebita mandrie. Nu, nu sa ai grija de acest copil, ci pur si simplu sa il nasti. De aceea, in cadrul acestei populatii, foarte putini vad pentru ei anumite perspective in viata. La fiecare al doilea colt de strada se afla o biserica romano-catolica sau protestanta, o sinagoga si asa mai departe, toate goale.

In fata casei noastre este o mica adancitura, pe care noi o numim fantana. Aceasta exista pentru a se putea ajunge prin ea la subsol. Odata, pe la mijlocul lui februarie, ningea cu ploaie si era frig. Deodata, printre tomberoanele de gunoi pe care, de asemenea, le tinem in acest put, am auzit un zgomot. Eu m-am gandit ca, asa cum se intampla deseori, vreun cersetor scormoneste in gunoiul nostru si cauta sticle goale. Eu nu sunt impotriva ca cersetorii sa stranga sticle goale, dar ei, de obicei, arunca peste tot gunoiul care le cade in mana, si aceasta nu am vrut s-o permit.

Asadar, deschid usa si vad in fata mea un om cu infatisare asiatica. Il intreb:

– Ce faci?

– Iertati-ma, va rog, raspunde el, caut si eu ceva de mancare.

– Pai, de ce scormonesti in gunoi? Haidem in casa!

– Nu-nu, nu pot, zice el, sunt murdar tot si mi­ros urat.

– Haide-haide, ii zic eu.

In timpul scurtei conversatii, i-am povestit ca noi avem o incapere in care poate face dus, isi poa­te schimba hainele si poate manca.

Omul s-a speriat:

– Ce vrei de la mine? Pentru ce faci toate astea?

Eu zic:

– Nu vreau sa imi arunci gunoiul in prag. Atat si nimic mai mult.

Dupa ce a mancat, m-am asezat langa el si a inceput discutia. Parea un om destul de destept. L-am intrebat:

– Unde locuiesti?

– Niciunde.

– Adica nu ai unde?

– Ei, zice el, in fiecare noapte faceam curat intr-un restaurant japonez, si ei imi dadeau voie sa locuiesc la ei la subsol.

– Dar cum ai ajuns fara adapost?

Si el mi-a povestit ca era inginer si ca a venit din Japonia. La inceput, lucrurile i-au mers foarte bine, dar apoi a inceput sa fie atras de droguri, co­caina, heroina, si in scurt timp a pierdut tot.

Eu i-am propus sa ramana la noi.

– O, nu, nu pot, a raspuns el.

– Dar de ce?

– Pentru ca eu caut adevarul! a spus omul.

Eu zic:

– Nu trebuie sa mergi nicaieri, adevarul este aici!

– Toti zic asa, a raspuns el. Am fost la catolici, la mormoni, la martorii lui Iehova, la iudei, la budisti. Toti promit unul si acelasi lucru, dar nu dau nimic.

– Bine, zic eu, totusi, mai ramai putin!…

Si a ramas sa stea la noi cateva zile. Am ince­put sa discutam. Apoi el s-a botezat si l-am numit in cinstea Sfantului Nicolae al Japoniei. Acum s-a intors deja in Japonia si a primit acolo calugaria intr-o manastire ortodoxa. Dar totul a inceput pen­tru el cu faptul ca noi i-am dat posibilitatea sa devina o parte din obste, ca i-am ingaduit sa vietuias­ca impreuna cu noi. El a vazut Evanghelia inainte de a o auzi sau de a o citi.


(Schiarhimandrit Ioachim Parr, Convorbiri pe pământ rusesc, Editura Egumenita, 2015)


Μοναχός Νικόλαος: Ο Ιάπωνας άστεγος της Νέας Υόρκης που έγινε Ορθόδοξος Μοναχός στην Ιαπωνία


Μοναχός Νικόλαος:

Ο Ιάπωνας άστεγος της Νέας Υόρκης που έγινε

Ορθόδοξος Μοναχός στην Ιαπωνία

Θα ήθελα να δώσω ένα μικρό παράδειγμα ποιμαντικής δραστηριότητας. Εμείς έχουμε ένα μικρό μετόχι στην Νέα Υόρκη. Βρίσκεται σε μία πολύ φτωχή συνοικία της πόλης όπου ζουν κυρίως ισπανόφωνοι και μαύροι: Παντού ναρκωτικά, αλκοόλ, άστεγοι. Πίστευω πως πάνω από τους μισούς κατοίκους της περιοχής ζουν από τα επιδόματα του κράτους.

Για τους εφήβους της περιοχής το να γεννήσεις ένα παιδί στα 14-15 σου χρόνια είναι λόγος να υπερηφανεύεσαι. Όχι να το φροντίζεις, απλώς να το γεννήσεις. Γι᾽ αυτό πολλοί λίγοι ατενίζουν το μέλλον με κάποια προοπτική. Σε κάθε δεύτερη γωνία θα βρεις μία Ρωμαιοκαθολική ή Προτεσταντική εκκλησία, μία συναγωγη, αλλά όλες είναι άδειες.

Μπροστά από το οίκημά μας βρίσκεται ένα βαθούλωμα, το οποίο εμείς ονομάζουμε “πηγάδι”. Χρησιμεύει για να κατέβεις σ’ένα υπόγειο μέρος. Μία φορά, μέσα Φεβρουαρίου ήταν, έριχνε χιονόνερο και έκανε κρύο. Ξαφνικά ανάμεσα στους κάδους των σκουπιδιών, που επίσης βρίσκονται σε αυτό το βαθούλωμα, άκουσα ένα θόρυβο. Σκέφτηκα πως κάποιος ζητιάνος ψάχνει μέσα στους κάδους άδεια μπουκάλια και όπως συνήθως γίνονταν, θα πέταγε τα σκουπίδια έξω από την πόρτα μας. Αυτό δεν ήθελα να το επιτρέψω.

Ανοίγοντας την πόρτα είδα έναν άνθρωπο με ασιατικά χαρακτηριστικά…

-Τι κάνεις;

-Συγχωρέστε με. Ψάχνω κάτι να φάω.

-Γιατί ψάχνεις τα σκουπίδια; Έλα μέσα

-Όχι. Δεν μπορώ, είμαι βρώμικος και μυρίζω.

-Έλα, έλα μέσα, του λέω εγώ

Κατά την διάρκεια του σύντομου διαλόγου μας του εξήγησα πως έχουμε ένα δωμάτιο όπου μπορει να κάνει μπάνιο, να αλλάξει τα ρούχα του και να φάει κάτι.

Ο άνθρωπος φοβήθηκε:

-Τι θέλεις από μένα;

Του λέω:

-Δεν θέλω να πετάς τα σκουπίδια στο κατώφλι μου. Αυτό μόνο, τίποτα περισσότερο.

Αφού έφαγε, κάθησα κοντά του και αρχίσαμε να συζητάμε. Φαινόνταν ένας άνθρωπος έξυπνος. Τον ρώτησα

-Πού μένεις;


-Δηλαδή δεν έχεις που;

-Να, κάθε βράδυ καθάριζα ένα γιαπωνέζικο εστιατόριο και μου επέτρεπαν να κοιμάμαι στο υπόγειο.

-Πώς έφτασες χωρίς στέγη;

Μου διηγήθηκε πως ήταν μηχανικός και πως ήλθε από την Ιαπωνία. Στην αρχή τα πράγματα πήγαν καλά, αλλά έπειτα έμπλεξε με τα ναρκωτικά, κοκαΐνη, ηρωίνη και σύντομα τα έχασε όλα.

Του πρότεινα να μείνει σε εμάς.

-Ω, δεν μπορώ, απάντησε.


-Επειδή ψάχνω την αλήθεια!, απάντησε ο άνθρωπος

Του λέω τότε:

-Δεν πρέπει να πας πουθενά, εδώ βρίσκεται η αλήθεια!

-Όλοι έτσι λέτε, μου απάντησε. Πήγα στους Καθολικούς, στους Μορμόνους, στους Ιεχωβάδες, στους Βουδιστές. Όλοι υπόσχονται το ίδιο πράγμα αλλά δεν δίνουν τίποτα.

-Καλά, του λέω εγώ, Μείνε ωστόσο λίγο..!

Έμεινε λίγες ημέρες σε εμάς. Αρχίσαμε να συζητάμε. Έπειτα βαπτίστηκε και πήρε το όνομα του Αγίου Νικολάου Κασάτκιν, του Φωτιστή των Ιαπώνων. Τώρα επέστρεψε στην Ιαπωνία και έγινε Μοναχός σ’ ένα Ορθόδοξο Μοναστήρι. Όλα όμως άρχισαν επειδή του δώσαμε την δυνατότητα να γίνει μέρος της Αδελφότητάς μας και του επέτρεψα να μείνει μαζί μας. Είδε το Ευαγγέλιο πριν το ακούσει ή το διαβάσει.

Από το βιβλίο του Μεγαλόσχημου Μοναχού Ιωακείμ Πάρρ
«Συνομιλίες στη Ρωσική Γη»
Απόδοση στα ελληνικά π. Γεώργιος Κονισπολιάτης



Fr. James Bernstein, New York, USA: Surprised By Christ – Priest’s Conversion from Judaism to Christianity Documented in New Memoir



Fr. James Bernstein, New York, USA:

Surprised By Christ


Priest’s Conversion from Judaism to

Christianity Documented in New Memoir


Surprised By Christ


Conciliar Press Ministries is pleased to announce the release of a new spiritual memoir of a man’s conversion from Judaism to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Raised in Queens, New York by formerly Orthodox Jewish parents whose faith had been undermined by the Holocaust, Arnold Bernstein went on a quest for the God he instinctively felt was there. He was ready to accept God in whatever form He chose to reveal Himself—and that form turned out to be Christ.

But Bernstein soon perceived discrepancies in the various forms of Protestant belief that surrounded him, and so his quest continued—this time for the true Church. With his Jewish heritage as a foundation, he came to the conclusion that the faith of his forefathers was fully honored and brought to completion only in the Orthodox Christian Church.

Surprised by Christ combines an engrossing memoir of one man’s life in historic situations—from the Six-Day War to the Jesus Movement in Berkeley—with a deeply felt examination of the distinctives of Orthodox theology that make the Orthodox Church the true home not only for Christian Jews, but for all who seek to know God as fully as He may be known.

The Rev. A. James Bernstein was a teenage chess champion whose dramatic conversion experience at the age of 16 led him to Christianity. His spiritual journey has included a number of twists and turn: he was chapter president of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship at Queens College, helped found the Jews for Jesus ministry in San Francisco, was a staff member of the Christian World Liberation Front in Berkeley, served as a pastor of an Evangelical Orthodox Church near Silicon Valley, and later became an Eastern Orthodox convert and then priest. He lives with his wife Bonnie outside of Seattle, Washington, where he serves as pastor of St. Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church. Father James is the author of the booklets Orthodoxy: Jewish and Christian (Conciliar Press, 1990); Which Came First: The Church or the New Testament (CP, 1994); and Communion: A Family Affair (CP, 1999). He was also a contributor to the Orthodox Study Bible: New Testament and Psalms (Thomas Nelson, 1993).