In Memoriam: Archpriest Moses Berry

Fr. Moses grew up in Missouri but traveled and lived across the country in his youth. After a trying experience with the law, he strengthened his faith in God, joining a national spiritual community where he would eventually become a minister, and later meet his wife.

As their studies deepened, many members of the community became interested in Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Fr. Moses was eventually received into and ordained a priest in the Orthodox Church in 2000, becoming a spiritual father to hundreds.

In 1998, Fr. Moses returned to Ash Grove after inheriting the farm built by his great-grandfather in 1873 — a homestead his ancestors started after being freed from enslavement following the Civil War. Fr. Moses donated some of his family’s land to establish Theotokos Unexpected Joy Church, an Eastern Orthodox Church he grew from a mission to a full congregation, introducing many in the Ozarks to the faith.

The acreage also includes the family’s cemetery, which was established in 1875 and dedicated to “Slaves, Indians and Paupers”- people who were excluded from burial in traditional, segregated resting places. The cemetery, reconsecrated as Holy Resurrection Cemetery, is now on the national and Greene County registers of historic places. This is also where Fr. Moses will be laid to rest on Tuesday, January 16, 2024.

Fr. Moses was known for his impact as a spiritual leader, often combining a deep love for African American cultural heritage with a deep knowledge and commitment to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. He was a founding member of the Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black, an organization in support of African Americans in the Eastern Orthodox Church, leading their annual conference for decades. Fr. Moses was instrumental in making hundreds of African Americans who were interested in Orthodoxy but concerned about inclusion feel more comfortable in pursuing the faith.

In 2002, Fr. Moses opened the Ozarks Afro-American Heritage Museum on Main Street in Ash Grove with more than 100 artifacts and heirlooms, many of which were saved and preserved by his own family. He was a nationally popular speaker and advisor on African American history and issues of spirituality, often using stories of his mother and grandmother’s strong faith as examples. A New York Times story once referred to Berry as a “one-man racial reconciliation committee.”

Fr. Moses is survived by his wife, Magdalena Berry; son, Elijah Berry; daughter, Dorothy Berry; brother, Keith Berry; sister, Darla Jackson; other family and many friends.

Fr. Moses is preceded in death by his parents, Charles Berry Jr. and Wanda Lee Berry and brothers, Charles and Gary.

Visitation will be from 3:00PM Monday, January 15, 2024, at Theotokos Unexpected Joy Church, Ash Grove, MO, followed by Funeral Vigil Services at 6:00PM. The following day, Divine Liturgy will begin at 10:00AM, at the church, with burial to follow at Holy Resurrection Cemetery, Ash Grove.

In lieu of flowers memorial donations can be made to Holy Resurrection Cemetery and may be left with the funeral home or mailed to Wilson-Griffin Funeral Home, PO Box 217, Ash Grove, MO 65604.

May Fr. Moses’ memory be eternal.

Article from local paper.

Monday, January 15
6:00 PM Funeral Service of a Priest

Tuesday, January 16
10:00 AM Divine Liturgy and burial, followed by a meal

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