Priest finds faith that looks 'like me'
Saturday, July 01, 2006
By Juanita Westaby
The Grand Rapids Press
GRAND RAPIDS -- When The Rev. Moses Berry was a child, his mother
told him: "We are all flowers in God's garden." But he remembers
thinking: "Where were the flowers in God's garden that looked like
The question was tucked into the back of his mind, when he grew up
as a third-generation African Methodist Episcopal pastor's son.
Today, he is an Orthodox priest who speaks nationwide about bringing
African Americans and people from other ethnic backgrounds into his
adopted faith. He might do it with something simple: prayer cards
with icons that feature saints with dark skin.
Berry, of Ash Grove, Mo., was one of the speakers at the 13th annual
Ancient Christianity and African-American Conference in Detroit last
Berry spoke of his journey to Orthodoxy, which includes jail time.
He said he and his wife, Magdalena, then became "new age,
"Ex-flower children, Jesus freaks," he said.
But a friend, who wanted him to experience something new, asked him
to visit a church in Richmond, Va. There was talk about the Mother
of God. There was a different language at times. There was incense.
"Normally, we would revile against that," Berry said.
But the icons caught his eye, especially one of St. Moses the
"He had nostrils like I had," Berry said. "He had lips like mine. He
had coarse hair."
Then, he looked at the icon of St. Cyprian of Carthage.
"And I thought, 'Oh my goodness, these must be the flowers who
looked like me,'" Berry said. "I knew I was home."