permitted to practice Christianity at all (as allowing them to do so would acknowledge their humanity) or not allowed to pray without white oversight (so as to monitor what they were praying for), slaves would sneak away to “hush harbors” (secret prayer meeting places) and pray throughout the night. Even though they worked from sun up to sun down, slaves would continuously slip off in the night while singing the Negro Spiritual “Steal Away to Jesus” and pray that, as they would describe it, their hearts be filled with the Holy Spirit. In the “hush harbors” African-Americans would make Christianity their own, and testimony after testimony bears witDespite the history of pain ness that it was only in Christ that which Fr. Moses so charismatically African-Americans would find true shared, the greater story was one of peace and joy. immense triumph in which every Orthodox Christian can find hope. To be caught praying in As he would explain, it was not the secret was an outcome that carried pain of captivity that would define with it severe consequences. Fr. the countless African-Americans Moses would share examples of who had themselves been slaves. slaves who were persecuted for their Rather, it was the witness of faith Christian faith. Slaves found in borne in the slave quarters which prayer would be whipped and torexpressed a divine sublimity that tured and in some instances killed deeply overshadowed the brokenness for their Christian faith. The result of this fallen world. The Christian was the emergence of an “invisible faith which poured forth from the institution,” catacomb Christianity slave quarters was a faith forged in that would come to define the Black suffering which in the end bears wit- Church. The many instances Fr. ness to the victory of the Cross. Moses related whereby AfricanThus Fr. Moses shared with us a Americans longingly sought Christ, grand story of hope and triumph despite severe consequences, that is the spiritual inheritance of revealed to many in the audience the African-Americans. measure of conviction which marked African-American spiritualiDuring the lecture, there was ty in the antebellum period of much amazement at the wondrous American history. testimonies Fr. Moses shared of slaves whose hearts were transFather Moses also shared formed while living the mystery details of his personal life which led of the Cross. Although African- him to the Holy Orthodox Church. Americans were generally either not Among the most dramatic testimony Tikhon’s when Fr. Moses delivered his lecture. Bringing with him many artifacts demonstrating the reality of slavery, he shared with us the brutality of that abhorrent institution. What a touching moment it was when he lifted a neck shackle from a table covered with items that told a story of suffering. Placing the shackle around his neck, Fr. Moses then placed through the clasp a device which can only be described as weighted iron balls chained to the neck and designed to restrain the enslaved. It was a moment in which the past suffering of AfricanAmericans came to life for all who attended.
he shared was his recollection of one night he spent in prison during which he listened to prison guards beating an inmate they called “Pretty Boy Floyd from Illinois.” Fr. Moses recalled the intensity of his prayer while he listened to the futile pleas of Pretty Boy Floyd to end the assault. Filled with terror at the thought of sharing a similar fate, Fr. Moses prayed that night as he had never prayed before. He promised the Lord his life if only He would deliver him from this horror. The next day, a prison guard opened his cell and commanded him to gather his things. He was to be released over a technicality found regarding evidence the police had collected. In disbelief, Fr. Moses eventually regained his composure and thanked his Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ for answering his prayer. When Fr. Moses returned home, he had another interesting encounter that again demonstrated to him the power of prayer. While giving testimony of his deliverance in his boyhood church, an elderly African-American woman stood up in the back and yelled, “I’m the reason you were saved!” Not knowing exactly what she meant, Fr. Moses paused, allowing her time to explain. She continued, “I never gave up on you! I just kept praying for you, praying that the Lord would straighten your crooked ways. And He did!” The example of love found in that woman, who no matter how hopeless it seemed never gave up on him, would stay with Fr. Moses. As time went on, Fr. Moses was invited by a friend to attend an Orthodox church. Recalling his first encounter with Orthodoxy, Fr. Moses remembered being brought
The Tikhonaire from 2010