9 October/7:30 am/West Point, VA
Well, it is here … sort of. I am taking the midnight bus from Richmond. So, I am giving something of a prelude as to what in the world I am stepping into and why am I going in a direction so radically different than the western Christianity I was born in raised into.
I have to thank God for the way I was raised and the church that brought me up. I still remember my grandmother telling bedtime stories to my brother and I. My parents were devout in raising Jason and I in the love of Jesus Christ. We went to church diligently. Even when we were away from our beloved Baptist Liberty Baptist Church in King William, we went somewhere. Had it not been for the Baptist Church, I would have never known and grown in God’s grace and mercy. My life would have been a bus accident without it. So, I praise God for all who have played a role in my Christian journey.
But, I feel there is something deeper that we are missing out on in the black Baptist (or any ethnic Protestant tradition). Not to sound like a broken record. But, it amazes me how little we know of our contribution to the early Christian faith. It’s like … an African carried the cross for Jesus at his crucifixion, there was a Negro with Paul in Antioch, Philip baptized an Ethiopian, and then came Richard Allen and the establishment of the AME Church. From the time of the apostles to Colonial America, it is as if there was no black presence in Christianity and no need to learn about them.
Talking with Bishop Thomas of the Antiochian Church, we were too busy with our struggle against segregation to learn that there was still a church in Antioch. It wasn’t until 1987 that some 2,000 American Evangelicals came into the Diocese. With the work of Father Moses Berry and the Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black, African-Americans are discovering what Greeks, Russians, Serbs, and the like have known all along. Africans were among the great men and women that established the Orthodox faith. The Egyptian Coptic and Ethiopian Churches still exist. That missing gap between Simeon called Niger and Absalom Jones is there for us to learn about. Now that we live in an age where we can have a black man in the White House and another as the head of the opposition party, the door is open for us to learn about, tap into, and even convert to this ancient and active version of Christianity called the Orthodox Church.
I guess I like taking risk, or whatever. But, black people (and small town whites as well) aren’t going to hear the message of Orthodoxy unless someone of their own kind is willing to take the plunge and tell others of what a marvelous gift it is. So, here I am. I hadn’t even packed yet. I missed those really good Greyhound discounts. Yet, I know my wife will be well taken care of. No, I don’t expect, nor can I afford, to convert to Orthodoxy when I get back home. I don’t expect to do so next year. But, the path is before me.
I gotta get ready for work.