A faith with very deep roots has been established in Davenport as part of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in North America.
Local followers celebrate their ability to worship locally and in the English language. That's especially important because they've been driving west to Iowa City for the past few years to St. Raphael Orthodox Church.
"It's very exciting to have this church in our hometown," said Jared Johnson, Davenport. Johnson, his wife, Beth, and their four children are members of the Quad-Cities Orthodox Mission. "The community is stronger when you all have the same background. It's very fulfilling."
Getting the church established has taken time, said Sue Swanson, LeClaire, Iowa. Swanson, the Johnsons and others met one another while attending services in Iowa City. They set up a meeting in Bettendorf in 2009 to see about starting a new church in this part of the state, and the effort got rolling last year.
Roots trace to 33 A.D.
Orthodox believers say the church was founded in 33 A.D. by Jesus Christ and the apostles.
The Great Schism, or divide between the East and West happened in 1054, when Pope Leo IX and Eastern Patriarch Michael I excommunicated each other. The primary causes were a dispute over papal authority and the conduct of the crusaders.
Orthodoxy spread through eastern Europe, while Catholicism took hold in the West.
The Nicene Creed is key to the church theology, and the liturgy is sung. The Davenport church does the service in English because it's Antiochian Orthodox, according to the Rev. James Mackoul, St. Louis.
Mackoul comes to Davenport at least once a month to help get the church established. "This is a testament to the people's dedication," he said.
The music is complicated, and there is a need for more people to come to learn how to sing the liturgy, Swanson said.
There are Byzantine tones to the music and it is more of a chanting process, rather than like singing a song.
Swanson, a registered nurse, got interested in Orthodoxy about eight years ago. She believes she now has a better understanding of God and of salvation. "There's less focus on payments for sins, and more focus on a full revelation of God," she said.
Johnson, who works for the Quad-City Symphony, converted to Orthodoxy several years ago when he and Beth lived in Chicago. The Johnsons now live in Davenport; both were raised in East Moline.
Johnson appreciates that the liturgy is very consistent across geographic lines. "I like the
consistency of the Orthodox faith," he said.
Mackoul flies into Moline from St. Louis. He stays near the airport and drives over to Davenport on Saturday afternoon to lead a class on Orthodoxy with several people who are seeking to join the faith. On Sunday, services are 8:30 a.m. and a liturgy at 10 a.m.
Mackoul's work is to help establish Orthodox churches in the region. He started one in St. Louis and is helping to start another one in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Getting the church up and running in Davenport is a lot of work, and there is a fear of failure, Swanson said.
"But that is overshadowed by having Orthodoxy in Davenport," she added. Other Iowa Orthodox churches are in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Pella and
"The Midwest really lacks in Orthodoxy, but it is much more common in other parts of the world and in metropolitan areas of the nation," Swanson said. "Here, it's our best-kept secret."
IF YOU GO
The Quad-Cities Orthodox Mission is located at the Institute for Massage Therapy, 1730 Wilkes Ave., Davenport. The institute is the former Johnson Elementary School.
The entrance is through the main door, and directional signs are posted indoors.
Introduction to Orthodoxy class is
4 p.m. Saturday, followed by vespers prayers at 5 p.m. Matins prayers are Sunday, 8:30 a.m., and the divine liturgy is offered at 10 a.m.
The next scheduled services are the weekend of March 5-6, the first week of Lent.
Services are not yet held every weekend. Call (563) 210-4983 for exact dates or check the calendar at www.qctimes.com.