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Orthodox tradition finds new home in Edenton

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://hamptonroads.com/2008/11/orthodox-tradition-finds-new-home-edenton Orthodox tradition finds new home in Edenton The Virginian-Pilot © November 2, 2008
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      http://hamptonroads.com/2008/11/orthodox-tradition-finds-new-home-edenton

      Orthodox tradition finds new home in Edenton

      The Virginian-Pilot
      © November 2, 2008
      Frank Roberts

      EDENTON, N.C.

      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."
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