St. Mary Magdalene Orthodox Church is an Orthodox Christian Church community here in Atwater/Merced, California. That's a mouthful, but what does it mean for folks looking for a spiritual home for themselves and their family? Like never before, finding a church is like living in the wild frontier of the American West. Many churches literally target -- that's the word they use! -- what kind of people they want to reach out to. To be an Orthodox Christian Church community is not like that. We believe that we are a vital part of the historic Christian Church alive with all the vitamins of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We believe that's what we all need. We don't want a partial gospel; we don't want to jump on the bandwagon of the latest church fad. Over a century ago now, a wise English pastor declared that "whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next"! What was true and essential about the Christian life in A.D. 33 is true today.
OK. So what is "an Orthodox Christian Church community"?
And so, St. Mary Magdalene Orthodox Church (SMMOC) is a "mission parish" of the Church, under the care and pastoral authority of a Bishop, who serves a larger territory called a diocese. So, a "parish" is the local church in a given area -- and we are called a "mission" because we are a young church community still in the process of becoming a fully established parish, with our own church building, etc. We deeply believe that we are called to share the Good News of Jesus Christ to all people in our area. You are welcome here to come and explore who we are and what we believe and do -- and to become a part of our mission parish!
Third, we are Orthodox. "Orthodox" is a two-part word that beautifully describes the heart of who we are as an authentic Christian Church community. "Ortho" means straight, or true: the "orthodontist" helps put our teeth in the right place. The other half of Orthodox is "doxa," a word with twofold meaning of both "teaching" and "worship." Put them together, and Orthodoxy means "true belief" as well as "true worship," and this is absolutely crucial. The Orthodox Church is committed to the truth and the worship of the historic Christian Faith. Down through the centuries, even from biblical times, error and spiritual confusion and rebellion arose; Orthodox pastors and believers responded by rejecting heresy and clarifying the truth of the Christian Faith. For example, the ancient Church began to be littered with false Scriptures -- “gospels” and “acts,” etc. So, pastors of the ancient Church (bishops, etc.) gathered together the writings that truly belonged in the Bible; this process took years, though the basic "shape" -- or "canon" -- of the authoritative New Testament books was established rather quickly. Later, in the early 4th century, when some began to teach that Jesus wasn't fully divine, the Church gathered together and formulated the Nicene Creed, clearly expressing the core of Orthodox Christian belief. This pattern of church leadership gathering together in Church Councils, as seen in the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, is a basic structure of our church life. Thus, the Orthodox Church in a conciliar Church, with the bishops coming together in Councils to address various issues of Christian belief and life. In these Councils, the bishops were not relying on their own wisdom, but rather seeking to keep the Gospel of Jesus Christ intact while heeding the Holy Spirit.
The Orthodox Churches continue till this day in countries all around the world, though Orthodox Christianity is a relative newcomer to the western lands of America and Europe, etc. SMMOC is in communion with the historic Orthodox Churches, such as the Russian Orthodox Church and the Greek Orthodox Church. Don't let the ethnic monikers of the different Orthodox churches throw you off: we are one Church, in full communion. SMMOC is a mission parish of the Orthodox Church in America, a self-governing jurisdiction ("autocephalous" is the churchly word) covering North America and Mexico, with roots in the missionary work of the Russian Orthodox Church.
This is who we are at St. Mary Magdalene Orthodox Church. What a privilege is it for us to be here in this area, sharing this precious life in Christ. We would like to share it with you -- we invite you to, in the words of the Apostle Philip to Nathaniel, "Come and see!" (John 1:46). Check out our service schedule and calendar on this website, and feel free to contact our pastor to ask any questions. He'd be glad to get together with you over coffee (or whatever!) and discuss your questions -- not only as a priest and pastor, but also as a friend in Christ.