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Friar Moses Berry

an ordinary or extraordinary man?

Ozarks African American Heritage Museum
Theotokos Unexpected Joy Mission
14617 West Farm Rd. 74
Ash Grove, MO 65604
credits at bottom of page.

Article from the Joplin, MO. Globe Sunday, July 16, 2000, page 4A:
this article is located off site, please use your "back" to return here.

Rev. Moses Berry, an extraordinary man.

The Philadelphia Sunday Sun, a african-american newspaper published an article relating the ancestry of Rev. Moses Berry.

" The stories of many of these Missouri African Americans have been passed down and have become part of individual family heritage. Through the vision of Father Moses Berry, one family memories have become a lens through which we can examine aspects of the Black experience from its roots in slavery, through reconstruction and into the twenty-first century.

Wallace White was a fourteen year-old slave when Union troops happened upon him as he was plowing in a field. Members of Missouri Sixth Cavalry invited Wallace to join them and, without hesitation, he joined the troop, riding off on his master’s mule with the padlock from his chains as his only possession.
He served with the Union forces but in the end was the only troop member to be denied a pension.

After the war Wallace settled in Missouri, where he was a carpenter and builder, and he and his wife Daisy had five children. Their daughter, Mamie, wed Luther Berry and moved to a forty-acre farm in Ash Grove, Missouri that had been purchased by Luther’s father, William Berry, in the 1870s. William, who was free-born, had married Caroline Boone from the plantation of Nathan Boone, son of frontiersman Daniel Boone.

William’s grandson, Father Moses Berry, inherited the farm in 1996. As the heir to the family homestead he also become the owner of numerous artifacts and the repository of countless stories and memories of the African Americans who populated the area. Family members had managed to maintain numerous documents, photographs, textiles and artifacts, some dating from the eighteenth century. Realizing that these items where both personally and historically significant, Father Berry began to work toward the creation of a museum that would present a more inclusionary Ozarks history.

The Ozarks African American Heritage Museum (OAAHM) began as portable display of photographs and artifacts that was exhibited around the state. Early on it became apparent that the pieces were, because of both their uniqueness and age, extremely fragile and were in dire need of a museum quality exhibition space. In October of 2002 Father Berry’s hard work came to fruition and the Ozarks African American Heritage Museum opened for its first visitors.
The museum, while small, has an outstanding collection of rare photographs, crafts, textiles, clothing and handcrafted furniture. Every single item is a gem beyond price, but as always, I have a few real favorites.

The quilt collection alone is worth the trip. The oldest is a telling quilt that dates from the 1790’s, the most unusual is a yoyo quilt. The yoyo pattern is extremely time-consuming and complicated and for that reason this pattern was used most often in runners, rarely in quilts.
An unfinished quilt, sewn in the double wedding ring pattern, was the most poignant for me. Caroline Boone began sewing the quilt while she was enslaved and freedom came before she completed it. She refused to finish the quilt after the war and when asked she stated that she would not complete in freedom anything begun in slavery. This beautifully crafted quilt, because it is unfinished, offers the visitor an opportunity to carefully examine the stitches on the underside of the piece.
The collection of slavery era artifacts includes neck chains, a screw lock, ankle irons and a heavy iron ball used to limit a slave’s mobility.
An authentic slave tag was donated to the museum and the tag proved to be from lot number five of a group of slaves sold in Alexandria, Virginia. As it turned out, this is the very lot in which Daisy was sold.
Several pieces of handmade furniture are not to be missed. A wooden cabinet given to Caroline’s mother, Marie Boone, by Nathan Boone, who is believed to have been her father, is an intriguing piece of the collection. Two chairs, a child’s chair crafted by African American artisan L. Snowden, renowned for his skill in the 1870s and a slave chair are equally arresting. The chair made for a use in a slave residence is noticeably smaller than average chair.
This is reflective of the fact that materials, even those as accessible as wood, were often difficult to obtain.
There are many more things to see including a first edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and an 1890s, hand-tatted topsy-turvy doll. The doll, with a slave on one end and a Caribbean female on the other, has an outstanding example of rare double tatting on the blouse of the island lady.
Photographs, eight of ex-slaves, and portraits that precede the art of photography, fill the walls of the museum. Many of the pictures are family members but there are a number of non-related individuals who lived in the area.

The museum is located at 107 W. Main Street in Ash Grove, MO, twenty miles northwest of Springfield. It is open Tuesday through Thursday from 9-1 and on Saturdays from 10-2. Private and group tours are by appointment.

Nearby is the Old Negro Cemetery, listed on the Greene County Register of Historic Sites and the Missouri State Historical Registry. Dating from 1875, the year in which William Berry designated a portion of his land for the burial of slaves, Indians and paupers, it is one of the oldest African American owned cemeteries in the United States. The cemetery contains forty-eight graves, some belonging to relatives of Harriet Tubman, and three Osage Indian burial mounds.
The Old Negro Cemetery can be reached by traveling north on Main Street to Frasier Street. Turn left onto Frasier and travel to Woodbine Road. Turn right onto Woodbine Road and follow the road until you see the entrance to the cemetery on the right."

The other side of his life, his Eastern Orthodox ministry, was related in articles from the Rural Missourian; January 2002, the Midwest Diocese Theotokos "Unexpected Joy" Mission article


Theotokos "Unexpected Joy" Mission
Rev. Moses Berry, Priest-in-Charge

From I-44
Take Willard/West Bypass exit West towards Willard. Continue through Willard to Ash Grove. Continue through Ash Grove past stop light to railroad crossing at Frazier St. Left on Frazier to Woodbine. Right on Woodbine 1/2 mile to Church.

Parish Background

Theotokos "Unexpected Joy" Mission was founded in 1998 when Fr. Moses returned to his family home in Ash Grove in order to maintain an historic cemetery on the family property. The parish was received into the OCA in 2000. Members come from Springfield and surrounding communities. We follow the Julian calendar, and all services are in English.

Missouri Mission Literally "Out of Room! ASH GROVE, MO - Faithful at the Theotokos "Unexpected Joy" Mission here have good reason to appeal for funds to build a new church.  With as many as 100 people attending services on major feasts and Pascha,    the mission's current building - a pre-fab structure measuring a mere 30' x 15' - is simply too small! "We hope to raise $70,000 to construct a simple but attractive temple and hall," says Father Moses Berry.  "The foundation and flooring for the new building have already been donated, along with a lot of `sweat equity.'  But we welcome any assistance faithful throughout the diocese could offer." Located on property that also serves as home to an historic cemetery dedicated in 1875 for the burial of "slaves, paupers, and Indians who were not permitted in the town's main cemetery," according to Father Berry, the mission has attracted a great deal of attention since it was received into the Orthodox Church in America several years ago.  Father Berry also maintains the Ozarks Afro-American Heritage Museum, which provides a unique venue to introduce the public to Orthodox Christianity.



From the Northwestern Indiana (nwitimesonline )

Descendant of slaves conducts Lenten series at Virgin Mary Orthodox

Moses Berry, a priest with the Orthodox Christian Church in America, will conduct a series of Lenten talks, open to the public, next weekend at The Protection of The Virgin Mary Orthodox Church, 8600 Grand Blvd.,Merrillville.

While researching the roots of Christianity in Africa, Fr. Berry, then a third-generation African Methodist Episcopal pastor, discovered that the Orthodox Church has sustained a significant presence in Africa since the first century. Further studies led him to convert to Orthodoxy where he has been a pastor of various congregations for more than 20 years.

In 1998, Berry returned to his family home in the small community of Ash Grove, Mo., where he founded Theotokos "Unexpected Joy" Mission, a tiny 30- by 15-foot church. In his frequent talks around the country, Berry shares his experiences with many people and organizations, especially encouraging children to believe in themselves and to believe that they can achieve their dreams.

Berry, whose ancestry can be traced to Daniel Boone's youngest son Nathan, also is dedicated to the preservation of a treasury of inherited family artifacts -- including slave neck irons, shackles, more than 100 photos and quilts -- and the restoration of an historic cemetery located on his property in Ash Grove. The plot of land was set aside in 1875 by his great-grandparents, former slaves William and Caroline Berry, for the burial of slaves, American Indians and paupers. The cemetery has been recognized by the Missouri State Historical Registry as one of the Midwest's oldest slave cemeteries. The artifacts and cemetery have become part of the Ozarks Afro-American Heritage Museum, which opened in Ash Grove last October.
The mission, the museum and the cemetery have attracted many celebrity visitors from nearby Branson. National Geographic recently filmed and televised a program entitled "African-American Heritage Museum of the Ozarks."

Berry, in his early 50s, is founder and president of the Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black, an Orthodox society whose mission is to bring the faith of Orthodox Christianity to African Americans and others of African descent. Berry also has served as a contributing writer of the book "An Unbroken Circle," and is co-publisher of "The Path to Confession."

Credits: All information above is used for educational purposes only. Philadelphia Sun