by Fr. Matthew Brown | ქართული | Ελληνικά | Русский
Black Americans make up a tiny percentage of Orthodox Christians in the United States. Considering how difficult it is for someone from our American culture to convert to the Orthodox faith, it makes the stories of the seven Black individuals in the most recent issue of Jacob’s Well—a magazine of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey (OCA)—rather amazing. Orthodoxy, from the outside looking in, can seem foreign, complicated, and confusing. But perhaps Black Americans are better positioned than any ethnic group in this country to traverse the convert’s journey. They are a people experienced in being “the stranger.”
Earlier this month, Jacob’s Well published a special issue featuring seven interviews with Black Orthodox Americans. It may be the first publication in more than 20 years devoted to Orthodox Christians who are Black Americans (the last we’re aware of was the essay collection, An Unbroken Circle, published by the Fellowship of St. Moses the Black in 1998). The issue was noteworthy both for the diversity of its interviewees and for the commonality among the stories. There were men and women of different ages, some descendants of American slaves, others recent African immigrants or of Afro-Latino backgrounds. They spoke English, Spanish, and French. Some came from Catholic backgrounds, and others from Pentecostal or traditional Black churches. Yet, threads of shared experience ran through them all.
by Dellas Oliver Herbel
Some of the readers of Public Orthodoxy may have read my book Turning to Tradition: Converts and the Making of an American Orthodox Church. Those who have will have heard of Fr. Raphael Morgan. Others might not have read the book, but may be aware of him, perhaps due to his Orthodoxwiki entry or an essay by Matthew Namee over at orthodoxhistory.org. Morgan’s case is a fascinating one and one that has only become a bit more fascinating both because of what has been recently discovered about him and because of the times in which we live. I’ll first unpack some of his background and what’s now newly known and then offer a word of caution for the Orthodox Church as his story becomes more widely known. Continue reading
by Lydia Kemi Ingram | ελληνικά | ру́сский | српски
In 2016, I began a series of interviews with African American Orthodox Christians in four regions of the United States. An integral component of a wider ethnographic research project (one combining participant observation and digital research) personal narratives offer a necessary depth of insight into an Orthodox community which still remains relatively unfamiliar to many.
While the number of African American Orthodox Christians appears to be growing, research on this particular group remains scant. Focused either on historical figures like Fr. Raphael Morgan, the first African American Orthodox priest— or on narratives gleaned from a “community of elders,” the most prominent exemplary African American Orthodox Christians, existing research can sometimes convey a single-story narrative, one not entirely untrue—but incomplete. There remains, therefore, much to be learned at the intersection of Orthodox Christianity and African American culture. Continue reading