16124Eastern Orthodox members trying to grow in Jacksonville
- Feb 27, 2012http://www.sj-r.com/features/x1288987190/Eastern-Orthodox-members-trying-to-grow-in-Jacksonville?zc_p=0
Eastern Orthodox members trying to grow in Jacksonville (Illinois)
JACKSONVILLE — For Karen Woods of Jacksonville, attending Divine
Liturgy, the primary worship service in the Eastern Orthodox Christian
tradition, has meant making a 90-minute trek one way to Quincy’s St.
Raphael of Brooklyn Mission Church each Sunday.
Woods, a convert to Orthodoxy along with her husband, Martin, and son,
Andrew, 18, is hoping to generate interest in the faith in her community
of about 20,000, 35 miles west of Springfield.
The idea, says Woods, who operates a publishing business out of her
home, is to form a parish, but she admits that might be down the road.
Currently, a dozen or so members — numbers have reached as high as 20 —
gather monthly in a small chapel inside Grace United Methodist Church
for Vespers, or evening prayer.
On a recent Sunday, the faithful, a mix of full Orthodox members and
inquirers, cross themselves and venerate icons of Christ and the Virgin
Mary on stands flanking the altar.
Prayers for a litany of hopes — for bishops and clergy, for civil
authorities and armed forces and “for seasonable weather, for abundance
of the fruits of the earth and for peaceful times” — are chanted with a
response of “Lord, have mercy.”
As three members take turns singing the apostikha — literally “hymns of
the verses” — the Rev. Thaddeus Nielsen uses incense in the entire
chapel, an ancient ritual symbolic of offering up the prayers of the
saints to God.
“We have something to offer,” says Woods in a church parlor afterward,
over a light meal of soup and bread, “and what we have to offer is Jesus
“Orthodoxy is nothing more and nothing less than the authentic church
Christ founded, proclaiming the gospel from the apostolic age until
today. Christ is present here, and he is present strongly.
“That is the heart of Orthodoxy. It’s a faith one lives.”
‘A well-kept secret’
Peyton Tosh, 18, of Jacksonville is, like Karen Woods, a convert to
Orthodoxy, which she calls “a life-changing experience” for her and her
family — father, Peter, mother, Jennifer, sisters, Lydia, Rebekah and
Daphne, and brother, Gabriel.
“It really is a beautiful faith,” says Peyton, who regularly attends St.
Anthony’s, a Greek Orthodox church in Springfield. “Unfortunately, it is
a well-kept secret in this country.”
Worldwide, there are about 250 million adherents of Orthodoxy, with
about 5 million in the U.S., where ethnic enclaves started many
churches: for example, Greeks in Springfield and Russians in Benld, a
town an hour south of Springfield.
“Orthodoxy is not all that visible (here in the U.S.),” Woods says,
“probably because ethnic communities are somewhat, to outright, insular.”
Woods claimed the Orthodox faith after growing disenchanted with the
Episcopal Church. A 2010 study by the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox
Institute in Berkeley, Calif., revealed that half the members of the
Orthodox Church in America are converts mostly from Roman Catholic and
evangelical Protestant backgrounds.
Like Peyton Tosh, Woods got in on “the secret” of Orthodoxy, a faith she
finds both exuberant and demanding.
“It’s not something you put on on a Sunday and take off an hour later,”
Woods says. “God calls us to sanctification; in Orthodoxy, we call it
deification. Not that we become God, but we become more God-like, more
dedicated to the faith.
“In the liturgical cycle, the church gives us periods of feasting and
fasting, periods of deep introspection. All of the senses are engaged:
the incense of the prayers offered up, the beauty of the icons. It’s a
Adds Tosh: “We asked the harder questions of other faiths and would get
vague answers. We pretty much found the answers here.”
‘Up to God’
Rev. Nielsen, the priest-in-charge at St. Raphael, a mission church
located in a storefront in downtown Quincy, has been driving to
Jacksonville to tend to the needs of the Orthodox community here.
Nielsen and others might know more about the future of the movement in
the coming weeks when Bishop Matthias (Moriak) of Chicago and others
take up the matter.
The bishop may give the community permission to celebrate Divine
Liturgy, in addition to Great Vespers. He could assign a priest, send a
rotating or supply priest from the area, or wait until numbers grow.
“The possibilities are endless,” Woods says.
Nielsen knows a little bit of what the Jacksonville group is going
through. The Quincy group had a similar grassroots beginning going back
to 2000 before the mission was designated in 2004. Nielsen came to
Quincy in 2005 from northwestern Wisconsin.
The next step for St. Raphael’s, Nielsen says, is for it to be
designated a parish.
“We’re flying by the seat of our pants,” Nielsen says. “The Orthodox
(Church) has not been historically strong in reaching out to people.
We’re trying to show the faith can be meaningful here.”
For now, Woods is networking around the area and has established a
website. Numbers-wise, she likes the group’s chances.
“Where it will go from here,” she says, “is up to God.”
Steven Spearie can be reached at spearie@... or at 622-1788.
A brief history of the Eastern Orthodox Church
Adherents see the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church with lineage
to Jesus Christ and the apostles. It has a shared history with the Roman
Catholic Church; in 1054, though, Pope Leo IX excommunicated the
Patriarch of Constantinople, who issued a mutual excommunication that
wouldn’t be removed until 1965. Two primary disputes were the primacy of
Rome, and the insertion of the “filioque clause” (essentially, the
phrase “and the Son”) to the Nicene Creed.
Although there are ethnic distinctions, Eastern Orthodox churches are
Eastern Orthodoxy came to North America in 1794. Easter dates differ
with the Roman Catholic Church for a number of complex reasons. Some
churches, such as Holy Dormition in Benld, part of the Russian
Patriarchate, use the Julian calendar, meaning Christmas is celebrated
-- Steven Spearie
CENTRAL ILLINOIS EASTERN ORTHODOX COMMUNITIES
St. Anthony’s Hellenic Orthodox Church
Jurisdiction: Greek Archdiocese of America
Where: 1600 S. Glenwood Ave., Springfield, 522-7010
Services: Divine Liturgy Sundays at 10:30 a.m.
Holy Dormition of the Theotokos
Jurisdiction: Patriarchate of Moscow
Where: 300 S. Fourth St., Benld, 835-2202
Services: Divine Liturgy Sundays at 9:30 a.m. (Note: Priest is not in
residence. Call ahead for schedule.)
Skete of the Holy Apostles
Jurisdiction: Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America
Where: Nokomis, www.easysite.com/holyapostlesauoca or 563-2899
Services: information not available
Orthodox Christians of Jacksonville
Jurisdiction: Orthodox Church in America
Where: Meets at Grace United Methodist Church chapel, 400 W. Morgan St.,
Jacksonville. www.orthodoxjacksonville.org or 473-1474
Services: Vespers service monthly at 5:30 p.m. Sundays. Future dates:
March 25, April 29, May 27, June 24, July 22, Aug. 19, Sept. 16, Oct.
28, Nov. 25, Dec. 30.
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