Christians choose ancient faith
A new Ukrainian Orthodox mission gathers members.
By KAREN MULLER
Daily Record staff
Monday, December 9, 2002
Paul Kuehnel - YDR
A ray of sunlight filters through the smoke of incense as Nick Bernhardt
listens to the sermon Sunday at a new Ukrainian Orthdox Church in Bel Air,
Md. The Four Evangelists Orthodox Mission hopes to attract residents of
Maryland and southern York County.
Voices chanted the prayers of an ancient faith Sunday as a priest robed in
gold swung a golden incense burner that spewed a thick, spicy haze,
conjuring images of a spiritual realm.
The followers of tradition, about six families from southern York County and
northern Maryland, are members of the Four Evangelists Orthodox Mission, a
parish of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.
It’s the first Orthodox church serving Maryland’s Harford and Cecil
Beginning in September, members have arrived before 8 a.m. each Sunday to
set up for services at the Rockfield Manor mansion in Bel Air, Md.
Members take down floral prints and hang crosses and pictures of Jesus, Mary
and the apostles. They set up folding chairs and large painted icons on
easels — a gift from an Ohio Orthodox parish.
They arrange small tables for bulletins, liturgy books and candles to light
The church brings a new choice for York County’s Orthodox believers, who
have worshipped at the 175-family Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation
in York Township, founded in 1922, and the 85-family St. John Chrysostom
Orthodox Church in Springettsbury Township, founded 10 years ago.
Members of Four Evangelists — half of whom formerly attended Catholic and
Protestant churches — also hope to reach people from other faith
The McKee family of Hopewell Township travels about 45 minutes to attend
services. Jeannie McKee teaches Sunday school and bakes the altar bread.
Vince McKee assists the Rev. Gregory Czumak with Holy Communion.
The family helped start an Orthodox mission near Baltimore-Washington
International Airport a few years ago.
Jeannie McKee, who was raised Roman Catholic, said Orthodoxy is not for
wimps. “It’s not what’s easy; it’s what’s right.”
Members follow a two-hour scripted liturgical service that has been followed
for more than 1,000 years.
Musical instruments are forbidden, along with the singing of hymns.
Dress is formal. Confession is expected at least four times a year, or you
may be turned away from the chalice at Holy Communion, Czumak said.
The Orthodox denomination, one that is proud of its resistance to change, is
one of the fastest growing denominations, Czumak said. Membership in
Orthodox churches is about 5 million nationwide and between 200 million and
300 million worldwide, he said, making the denomination the second-largest
Christian denomination in the world — behind Catholicism.
Orthodox churches are growing as more people shun contemporary worship
styles and question more liberal practices — including the ordination of
women and homosexuals, said the Rev. Christos Christofidis of Annunciation
in York Township.
Young families form the congregation at St. John Chrysostom in
Springettsbury Township. About 60 of the 140 people who attend each week are
children, said the Rev. Peter Pier.
Pier was a Lutheran pastor for six years before he and his wife discovered
Orthodoxy and divine liturgy.
At first, he wasn’t enthusiastic. But he changed his mind.
“Once you get past the strangeness, it’s beautiful,” Pier said.
Reach Karen Muller at 771-2024 or firstname.lastname@example.org