New Orthodox Christian bishop says modern worshippers like ancient rites

Posted: June 09, 2014

BISHOP MARK Maymon - recently installed as the new Bishop of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania for the Orthodox Church in America - is a convert to Orthodox Christianity.

So is Father Victor Gorodenchuk, dean of St. Stephen Orthodox Cathedral in Bustleton, the region's central Orthodox Christian church, where Bishop Mark was enthroned in May.

Converts becoming Orthodox Christian leaders is not unusual, the bishop told the Daily News.

Former Catholics, like himself, as well as former Episcopalians and Evangelical Christians have flocked to the Orthodox Church in America for decades, he said, attracted by its religious rites that have remained unchanged for 2,000 years.

Except for conducting services in English as a nod to modern times, the church hasn't ventured from its first-century roots. People find this comforting, Bishop Mark said.

"Some churches' roots are not deep, so people pass through those churches like water through a pipe," he said. "People drift from church to church. Some may come to feel that the church they are attending is not the church they grew up with, that somehow the rug's been pulled out from under them."

But the Orthodox Church today is much the same as it was during earliest Christian times, Bishop Mark said.

"Our roots are deep," he said. "There have been few attempts at reforming anything. We are concerned with doctrinal correctness, not political correctness. We keep things intact, stable."

And, he said, the Orthodox Church in America has expanded beyond its traditional base of Russians, Greeks and other ethnic groups.

Father Victor, dean of St. Stephen Orthodox Cathedral on Verree Road near Bloomfield Avenue, where Bishop Mark was installed, said there is a heavy presence of Russian-speaking people who attend services. They offer a service in Russian at 8:30 a.m. on Sundays, followed by one in English at 10 a.m."So many people who are not ethnically Russian enjoy the depth of spirituality from ancient centuries that the Russian church has preserved," Father Victor said.

Bishop Mark said that before converting to Orthodox Christianity, "I believed that God was out to get me. He was waiting for me to slip up so he could crush me. So many people live in dread or in paranoia of their sins."

But in Orthodox Christianity, he said, "We view the church as a hospital, not as a courtroom. We realize that we live in a fallen world and that all of us are, in some way, sick.

"But God doesn't want us to wallow in self pity or beat ourselves up," Bishop Mark said. "The church is here to help people, not to judge them."

Father Victor said the help comes through the spirituality of ancient Christianity.

"You don't have to wear the same robes that people wore in the early days of Christianity in order to worship like they did," he said. "Our church has continuity with the ancient past, but also adaptation to the modern day. The ancient Christians did not have cars. We do have a parking lot."

On Twitter: @DanGeringer

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