Fr. Moses Berry, descendant of slaves, slated to speak locally
Fr. Moses Berry, founder of the Ozarks African-American Heritage Museum and Pastor of Theotokos “Unexpected Joy” Orthodox Church, Ash Grove, Missouri, will lead a series of seminars and services that will be open to the public:
Lecture on Historic Christianity: Through the eyes of a descendant of slaves. Saturday, April 12 at the Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh at 2 p.m. in Room 324;
Divine Liturgy – 10 a.m ., Sunday, April 13 at Holy Assumption of St. Mary Orthodox Church, 105 South Nineteenth Street, South Side; and,
Mission Vespers: - 5 p.m ., Sunday, April 13 at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, 507 Catherine Street, Duquesne, PA.
While researching the roots of Christianity in Africa, Fr. Moses Berry discovered that the Holy Orthodox Church has been ministering in Africa since the first century. Further studies led him to convert to Orthodoxy where he has been a pastor of various congregations for over 20 years.
In 1998, when Fr. Berry returned to his family home in Ash Grove, Missouri, he founded Theotokos “Unexpected Joy” Mission. In his frequent talks around the country, Fr. Berry shares his experiences with many people and organizations, encouraging children to believe in themselves and to believe that they can achieve their dreams.
Fr. Moses Berry, whose ancestry can be traced to Daniel Boone's youngest son Nathan, is also dedicated to the preservation of a vast treasury of inherited family artifacts - among them slave neck irons, shackles, more than 100 photos and quilts - and the restoration of an historic cemetery located on his property. This plot of land was set aside in 1875 by his great grandparents, former slaves William and Caroline Berry, for the burial of slaves, American Indians and paupers.
The cemetery has been recognized by the Missouri State Historical Registry as one of the Midwest's oldest slave cemeteries. The artifacts and the cemetery have become a part of the Ozarks African-American Heritage Museum which opened in Ash Grove on October 5, 2002. The Mission, the cemetery and the museum have attracted many celebrity visitors from nearby Branson such as Mel Tillis and Yakov Smirnoff. National Geographic has recently filmed and televised a program entitled “African-American Heritage Museum of the Ozarks.”
Fr. Moses Berry grew up hearing his grandmother tell his family's stories of slavery and war and of hardworking men and women, long-ago relatives whose blood surges through his veins, too.
He heard the stories countless times about his great-grandfather, Wallace White, who was the first black man in the Missouri Union Calvary. Although he also was the only soldier who did not receive a military pension, White was known throughout Ash Grove for telling others the proverb: “Bless those who curse you.”
His reasons for establishing the Ozarks African-American Heritage Museum - “Knowing what my ancestors went through and how strong they lived...that strength has helped me in countless ways: I want children to understand they are more than they see or propose to be,... This is not just a black thing. I want children of all races to understand this concept.
“You know, prejudice is learned. And maybe if we can show people how similar they really are, while embracing the past, the world will be a little better for it.”
Fr. Berry is the founder and president of the Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black, an Orthodox society whose mission is to bring the faith of Orthodox Christianity to African Americans and others of African descent. He has also served as a contributing writer of the book An Unbroken Circle, and is co-publisher of The Path to Confession.
For more information on this series of presentations, contact: Father Basil Carpenter, pastor of Holy Assumption of St. Mary Orthodox Church at 105 South Nineteenth Street or call (412) 431-6428.