The 23rd Annual Conference fo the Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black was held at the Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Church in Indianapolis last weekend. I had a lively drive with Sarah Motley and Johanna Hargraves from Charlottesville. I was excited to be there serving as a member of the National Board and one of the panelist of young Orthodox preachers (with my non-ordained self). This year, Paul Abernathy was coming with a bride and in priestly vestments. Turbo Qualls as well was part of the Diaconate. I was to meet the rising president of the Atlanta Chapter, Cecil Mitchell and become friends with a Ugandan Seminarian, Simon Menya and Kenya-born professor Willis Mwangola. Fr. Justin Mathews’s son is taller than he is. I enjoyed talking with the man who welcomed me stumbling into St. Marys in 2013 crawling off the bus, Hieromonk Alexi. All of my warm, God-fearing St. Moses family, except Robert and Fr. Moses Berry were present.
His Grace, Bishop Neofitos of Kenya
The presence of our guest speaker, Bishop Neofitos of Kenya (Alexandria Patriarchate) gave this year’s conference very special light. Not only because of the fact that he was an African from a diocese who found Orthodoxy from the Marcus Garvey influenced African Orthodox Church. His Grace was very approachable with a genuine compassion for us and warm wit and wisdom. His sermon was taken from the Gospel lesson as after teaching a multitude from the shoreline, Christ told the fishermen to go out into the deep for a catch. Peter did offer a word of doubt, but obeyed Christ at His word. The result was a net about to break with so many fish. As Peter recognized the holy power of this Teacher and bid Him to leave his sinful presence, Jesus responded that from now on he would fish for men. As I approached the chalice of the eucharist, the Kenyan Bishop gave me the same words my father instilled in me. Aim high.
The National Board of the Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black (l-r): Fr. Paul Abernathy, Dcn. Turbo Qualls, Mother Katherine Weston, Fr. Roman Star, John Gresham, Dr. Carla Thomas, Bishop Neofitos, Fr. Justin Mathews, Fr. Jerome Sanderson, Hieromonk Alexi
No doubt, the call to aim high has to do with my academic pursuit. I am into my second year of the Antiochian House of Studies with reading requirements that could qualify me to locked in Sketis or the Northern Thebaid. A couple of people are hinting that they would like to see me in a cassock soon. My blog articles have given me something of a reputation as a writer. Surprisingly, I have recently been invited to speak at a conference of young Orthodox professionals in New Mexico next year. So, yes. I have some fairly high targets to aim for.
2016 Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black Conference
A wonderful Ethiopian sister, Rashida Belachew, gave me a fantastic tool in which to aim with. I had heard of the Coptic Orthodox Prayer Book of the Hours, the Agpeya. It was a free gift from her as she felt that I’d put it to use. While it isn’t even a full week from meeting her in person last Saturday, I have decided to put the book to use. I want to add a Psalm or Gospel reading to my standard prayer of the hours, observe the 11th hour (5pm) to help keep me from wasting time online, and give myself a word when I wake up in the middle of the night. I will continue with my Antiochian Service Book and the St. Philips Prayer Manual for most of my worship. The Jordanville Prayer Book is my favorite for Vespers and useful for Compline. But, this copy of the Agpeya fits in my pocket with scripture I need to deepen my awareness of God’s presence a the hours of prayer.
Mother Katherine Weston, Bishop Neofitos, Photios Mierthew, and Rashida Belachew
The way I see it, Christ gave the key to aiming high, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and more will be added to you.” The Desert Fathers prefered to be left alone to pray rather than seek the adoration of men. Both Hieromonk Alexi and Fr. Nathaniel Johnson (he was also absent from the weekend) had previously lectured that if we are to grow outward and upward, we must first grow inward. Even more so is the word from our Lord Himself, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things and more will be given to you.” The wisdom of Bishop Neofitos was in line with this holy truth.
Willis Mwangola, Fr. Paul Abernathy, Simon Menya, Cecil Mitchell, Fr. Roman Star
So, yeah, I guess I am aiming for the priesthood. Sure, I think I’d like to be recognized as an accomplished speaker, writer, even a half way descent chanter. None of these things or anything else will be achieved unless I commit myself to prayer, struggle against my sins, and compassion towards others. Even if I were to remain an lay chanter with a jack-legged blog; my aim for the kingdom and God’s righteousness is essential to my spiritual growth and survival. May God keep my rule of prayer consistent and growing in-depth. May he grant me wise counsel in my spiritual journey from my priest and living and past saints. May I always aim for the highest things of the world to come. Whatever He blesses me with in this world will come.