Thursday, October 18, 2007

Priests hosts discussion to explain Orthodox Christianity

Sts. Cyril and Methodios Orthodox Church at Camp Nazareth was the site of a weekend talk meant to shed understanding on Orthodox Christianity. Felicia A. Petro/Allied News /
By Felicia A. Petro/Staff writer

A discussion was held Saturday at a Mercer-area church in the hopes of taking the mystery out of Orthodox Christianity.

Father Michael Ellis will led an open, candid discussion at Sts. Cyril and Methodios Orthodox Church at Camp Nazareth, 339 Pew Road, outside Mercer off of Route 58 west.
“We are offering this discussion in the hopes of making people aware of Orthodox Christianity as a whole, and more locally, of course, our specific church community,” he said.

Until Sts. Cyril and Methodios was built four years ago, people had to travel to the Shenango Valley to attend Orthodox services. The local church now holds liturgies at 10 a.m. Sunday, except for the rare weekend Ellis is out of town for camp business.
Sts. Cyril and Methodios is an oddity of sorts, existing among a sea of Protestant congregations in the Mercer-Grove City areas, as well as two strong Catholic parishes.

It is also hidden in Camp Nazareth’s wooded terrain; however, that appears to be the ideal home for the church, which was fashioned after wooden Orthodox structures built in the Carpathian Mountain region dating as far back as the 16th century.
Ellis will give a tour of the church, where the discussion will be held – which he hopes will help clear the enigma surrounding the Orthodox church itself.

Americans generally see Orthodoxy as “some ‘new’ cult or some ‘ethnic only’ church,” he said. “Or, if they know anything about it all, it is only through the glasses of churches who know nothing about it, but are happy to offer their opinions.”
Orthodox followers “are often surprised how little most American Christians in general are aware of the historical beginnings of the Orthodox Church,” Ellis said.

With over 220 million members worldwide, Orthodoxy is second in numbers to the Catholic church.
“The word ‘Orthodox’ is not so much a denomination as it is an expression,” Ellis said. “It comes from two ancient Greek words, meaning ‘right worship’ or ‘true glory.’ This is essentially what we believe.”

Whether it be Greek, Russian, Ukrainian, Serbian or Carpatho-Russian, Orthodoxy is considered one – and in communion together.
“They represent the many parts of the unbroken Orthodox Church,” Ellis said. “The ethnic titles have nothing to do with salvation for the Christian.”

They also represent areas where Orthodox founders have served. The Orthodox regions are led by bishops, rather than a pope – which is central to the break between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, or the “Great Schism” in 1054, according to church history.
Originally, the two were one church.

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