Orthodox tradition finds new home in Edenton
© November 2, 2008
About a dozen people are working hard, and
praying hard, to establish an Orthodox church in
a 1902 Suffolk Carolina Railway Co. passenger depot.
Its members represent a variety of religious
backgrounds. Today, they consider themselves
members of a church "that has stayed the same
since Jesus walked the earth," said John
Morehead, who has been instrumental in organizing
St. George's Orthodox Church at 18 King St.
They anticipate growth. "First, you get
accustomed to worshipping in the Orthodox way,"
he said. "Then, the Lord will bring people in on his schedule."
The schedule began in February 2002 because, said
Morehead, an attorney, "He knew there were a few
people here who had become interested in the Orthodox Church."
Morehead's interest moved him spiritually and
physically. "I was living in Georgia at the time.
I came to Edenton to conduct a seminar about
Orthodox Christianity. Then, the mission service was organized."
Initially, it was slow going. The first service
was conducted in February 2003 at the Chowan Life
Center, and in 2006 services moved to St. Anne's Catholic Church.
In late 2007, church members moved to their present location on King Street.
Once a month, a priest conducts the 75- to
90-minute service, which includes time out for
food. Otherwise, the parishioners are led by
Morehead, who has studied the history of the
church. Some people might be surprised to learn
that the services are somewhat informal.
"Orthodoxy is not all rules or judgment," Morehead said.
The music is informal, everyone joining in. The
room where the services are held contains
pictures, thoughts and symbols of the church, and
it offers a relaxing atmosphere.
"The Orthodox Church came about when the Catholic
Church split in 1054. About 500 years later,
Protestants split from the Catholic Church. The
Orthodox Church remained the same," he said.
St. George's is part of the Orthodox Church in America.
Anne Edwards was born a Baptist, then switched to
the Episcopalian church. Then came the switch to
the Orthodox Church because, she explained, "all
of us are looking for something different,
something that can nourish us, something that
furthers Christ. This is the closest way to bond more closely to the Lord."
Jessica Simmons is a convert from Catholicism. "I
came from a Roman Catholic family, but I was
never religious. Then I became a Pagan, but I
felt like I was knocking on a door and no one was
answering. I did a lot of searching. A Catholic
friend told me to pray and ask God to show me the way.
"God said I wasn't on the right path. I was
living like I saw hell. God played back, in my
voice, every crushing thing I had said about Him.
"He said - pray," she recalled. "On the Internet
I saw something about the Orthodox Church. In
other denominations there are different opinions,
different ideas, but I saw consistency and reliability in the Orthodox Church."
Simmons said her husband also started attending
services. "He's beginning to ask questions."
As are others, according to Morehead. "A lot of
people in Edenton have taken an interest in us.
They subscribe to our newsletter, and they're
helping us renovate the building. Everything we have has been donated to us."
Morehead, a Raleigh native who was raised as both
a Methodist and an Episcopalian, was an early
convert. "In the 10th grade it occurred to me
that if Christianity was 2,000 years old, there
must be more to it than I was seeing where I was."
He read a newspaper story about the Orthodox
churches that were organizing in the South. "I
converted. I began going to services in Raleigh.
Soon, I knew this was what I wanted. This was what I was looking for.
"Three things attracted me - the worship, the
fact that this is the original church, and the
fact that they don't compromise on their beliefs," he said.
"The most important thing is that it changes you.
It teaches you to take the Bible seriously, to
become more like Christ teaches us to be."