How It Should be Done — More from Byzantine, TX

St. Innocent Orthodox ChurchMacon, Georgia

St. Innocent Orthodox Church
Macon, Georgia

St. Innocent Orthodox Church
Macon, Georgia[/caption]A little pick-me-up as we go through Lent. Courtesy of the ever-delightful Byzantine, Tx.

How it should be done: St. Innocent Church in Macon, GA

Source: Byzantine, TX

(Vimeo) – Filmed, edited, produced and directed, by Ted Liedle. This has been one of the most interesting and fun projects I have done in over 40 years of production. I have grown to love these people.

Prior to my experience with this Orthodox community I had some previous glimpses. I led a film team into Eastern Slovenia in 96 and we filmed a procession through a Balkan village to the local Orthodox church–very lovely and impressive. In 2011 I was embedded as press in Afghanistan where I met a US Army Reserve Chaplain setting up for an Orthodox service in a chapel at Bagram Airfield. I found him kind and articulate about Orthodoxy, and noted the lack of polemics in our discussion. My many conversations with Fr. Theophan at St. Innocent were also void of polemics, and very interesting.

I filmed mostly using a Sony NEX VG20 large chip camera with an f 3.4-5.6 18-200mm lens. Slo-Mo of the censer was shot with a Panasonic Lumix FZ200 at 120 fps. The Lumix has an f 2.8 25-600mm lens, and I will take this small camera with me to film a documentary while I thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, northbound, 2013.

I used a CamCrane jib with remote Pan Tilt Vista Head for some shooting. Sticks for some. High Hat for some. No handheld. Natural light except for a few interviews. All interviews were extempore, no scripting.

Grateful appreciation to the church members who assisted both with the production and as interviewees.

Copyright 2013, Liedle Films, All Rights Reserved.


  1. Fr. Peter Dubinin says

    Awesome. I celebrated Divine Liturgy for the Macon community when they were still using an area Episcopal Church to meet and I was at airborne school in 1999. So good to see God blessing this community and may He grant them many blessed years of faithful service to Christ and His Church.

  2. Sean Richardson says

    Very nicely done, and this church has a wonderful vision for Christ and bringing the Kingdom of God to people. Thank you for sharing. May God grant many churches who present Christ to the people. I’d like to attend and belong to a church like this.

  3. Tim R. Mortiss says

    A very fine film.

    When I saw the photo of the church, I thought it had an Armenian look to it; then I realized, it’s Georgian Orthodox architecture– in Georgia, USA! What a great idea!

  4. Christ's unprofitable servant, Seraphim says

    A welcomed breath of fresh air! Inspirational in so many ways!

  5. I can’t tell who’s child belongs to who

    So true! I’m going to be forwarding this video to my protestant relatives and friends, its a pretty good picture of an Orthodox Church.

  6. Also Anonymous says

    I’m curious for your take on the latest information from the OCA on Met. Jonah.

  7. Pere LaChaise says

    Please, stay on topic. Here is a nice picture of normative Orthodoxy that has evangelistic zeal for Christ on its face and at its root. Let’s not spoil it by talking church politics. The success of this one OCA community – and there are plenty like it – moots the worth of all that kvetching. Jonah or no Jonah, Christ is the Lord and master of our churches. Remember that, emphasize it and maybe it will grow. Focus on what should have been and nothing will work.

    • for Father Chair says

      There are many successful OCA communities. There are many successful communities in other Orthodox Church jurisdictions, also. Metropolitan Jonah is a part of the success of our Holy Church and not someone who should be ignored. Rather, he has much to continue to give our Holy Church. If the OCA loses him, it will be a great loss.

      • Tim R. Mortiss says

        Yes, but there are many other threads on this blog on that subject. This is about this church in Macon.

        • Dear Ed,

          I pray that you finally decide to join the Orthodox Church. Whatever jurisdiction you choose, I pray you have the guidance and inspiration of someone like Metropolitan Jonah. I think then you will understand the importance of each and every person to a healthy jurisdiction.

          • Tim R. Mortiss says

            Yo, I am most grateful for your prayers, and those of anybody else!

            I’m just back from vespers at St. Nicholas. This was the first Orthodox church I ever went to, over 30 years ago. A Pascha vigil and liturgy– what an introduction! I have been to many Pascha services there since.

            I made a decision many years ago, after much study and thought (and maybe not enough prayer) not to convert to Orthodoxy. I, however, have continued to attend Orthodox services various places a few times a year. Much of the reason has to do with the fact that my church is the one I was baptised into, learned and professed the Christian faith in; all five of our children were baptised there, all three of our daughters were married there, the memorial services of my grandparents and my parents were preached there, on and on. It is the only church I have ever belonged to (not just the denomination- the church itself), and I live 6 blocks from it!

            I am not so much seeking conversion as seeking refugee status! This, I recognize, is not an ideal frame of mind, or of spirit.

            As for “jurisdictions”, I don’t even want to think about it. That was always one (not the only one) of my stumbling blocks. The way I figure it, if I belong to one of them, I’ll belong to them all.


            • In one church one side of my family since at least the beginning of that religion (for there is a court record in existence to prove it) my family was in one protestant religion. My sisters and I were baptized in that church, my parents married in that church, my nephews and neices, and grandnieces.

              Still, I found Orthodoxy and I made my choice. After a couple decades, you will see that your family will find the maturity to accept your adult choices. I pray for you, my brother, that you will lose the cowardice associated with the choice of others and make your own choice. Many many kinda sorta Orthodox have been on this path before you. When you realize your soul is at stake, you will finally decide, and I will pray for you daily!

              • Tim R. Mortiss says

                As the oldest member of my family, and with 5 children and 12 grandchildren, I have no doubt whatever that my family will accept my adult choices.

                If I’m still here in a “couple decades”, I will be grateful! And I am grateful now for the prayers.

  8. Ladder of Divine Ascent says

    “In 2011 I was embedded as press in Afghanistan where I met a US Army Reserve Chaplain setting up for an Orthodox service in a chapel at Bagram Airfield. I found him kind and articulate about Orthodoxy, and noted the lack of polemics in our discussion. My many conversations with Fr. Theophan at St. Innocent were also void of polemics, and very interesting.”

    There’s little reason for “polemics” when the fish has sought you out.

    Nice building.

    Noticed that the church’s sign says “Saint Innocent” with “Orthodox Church” in smaller text below it, and not “Orthodox Church in America.”

    Also noted that this church has had interaction with Abbot Gerasim and Met. Jonah (and therefore some degree of contact with the “golden chain” of Blessed Seraphim Rose, St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, etc.)

    Abbot Gerasim Visit – 07/02/12

    On Monday July 2nd we were blessed to have Fr. Gerasim as a guest at our parish. Fr. Gerasim is one of the episcopal candidates for the Diocese of the South:

    Metropolitan Jonah Visit July 2010:

  9. Tim R. Mortiss says

    I have a question, and this non-controversial thread would seem to be the place to ask it!

    I went to St. George Antiochian OC in Portland Or. on Tuesday; the Compline. This is only the second Antiochan church I’ve been to, the first being a year ago at Holy Cross in Yakima, Wa. I was struck by the beauty of Holy Cross, built in the last ten years or so.

    But I was stunned by the beauty of St. George, built about 7 or 8 years ago. Very large, with a full transept, too. Magnificent.

    Here’s the question: both are new buildings, not all that far away from each other; but Holy Cross has no pews, and St. George does, with a sloped sanctuary to boot. Is this “local option”?

    Another question. In those Orthodox churches with pews, why are there not “pewless” areas, to facilitate prostrations, for example?

    This is genuine curiosity on my part.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Tim, you will generally find pews in Antiochian parishes, although there are some that don’t have them. You will generally not find pews in parishes of Russian or Russian descended jurisdictions but there are exceptions. Same thing in other jurisdictions.

      For some people the existence of pews is proof that the parish is worldly and without virtue, but for most people that is not the case. Sometimes it is a matter of taking over a building from another communion that comes with pews. Some take them out, some leave them, some take out part of them.

      So, in essence, yes it is pretty much “local option”

      I like your idea of having an area with not pews — a mix so to speak. Although even those parishes that don’t have pews, there are places to sit for those, like me, who have difficulty standing.

      Even though my home parish has pews in the main temple, we have a small chapel that does not have pews. I tend to like the openess without the pews myself as it does give more freedom to do the prostrations.

      • Tim R. Mortiss says

        Thanks for the reply. Yes, I’ve never been in a Greek church in this country that didn’t have pews, or an OCA one that did. I know something of the historical reasons amongst the Greeks here.

        A couple years back I was in Washington,DC, and I went to a Sunday liturgy at Hagia Sophia, then, walking down the hill, to the service at St. Nicolas, the OCA cathedral. The two architectural poles of the Church!

        But I was especially interested in this recent experience with Holy Cross and St. George, these two Antiochian churches. Both in the Pacific NW, both beautiful new temples, purpose-built as AOC churches, and one without pews and one with. Very high-quality ornate pews, too.

        Another thing of interest I have noticed lately, too. Twenty-five years ago, I didn’t see prostrations in my local Greek church. As I’ve started to attend lately, I see lots of them now, in the aisles and up front, to get around the pews.

        I wonder: are there Orthodox churches with the pew-no pew section plan?

        • Heracleides says

          “I wonder: are there Orthodox churches with the pew-no pew section plan?

          Holy Transfiguration of Christ (OCA) in Denver, Colorado. Whether by design or happenstance, who knows.

      • Archpreist John Morris says

        This evening as is customary according to our Antiochian tradition, I served Little Compline with the Akathist Hymn. The Akathist Hymn is a very ancient text and is the only example of a complete Kontakion from St. Romanos still used regularly. However, there are those who dispute St. Romanos’ authorship. Since then other Akathist Hymns have been written for various Saints.
        The original Akathist Hymn was first sung in 625 in celebration of the defeat of a Persian attack on Constantinople. Because the people were so joyful because they had been spared a Persian occupation, they stood during the chanting of the hymn. The title Akathist literally means not sitting. That means that in 625 they sat at least part of the time during services.
        Some people need to sit. I am still recovering from a total knee replacement and still have to sit, even during parts of the Divine Liturgy when I am able such as during the Antiphons, the Epistle and sometimes for a few seconds before the Great Entrance while the choir continues to sing.

    • Archpreist John Morris says

      The people go into the aisles or the area between the pews and the solea for the prostrations during Great Lent.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Fr if you don’t mind, I’d like to take your accurate observation to make the following point: At the risk of opening up this whole can of worms, I’d like to state generally that those of us who despise pews are not anti-sitting down during the services. We just despise pews because they make kneeling and prostrations next-to-impossible and they encourage in a passive way sitting down during most of the services.

        Even in the most rigorous parishes throughout the world there are benches for sitting but even here they are (or can be) aids to standing as well.

        • Tim R. Mortiss says

          I note in looking at their website histories that Holy Cross in Yakima grew directly out of an evangelical/EOC group, while St. George in Portland had a many decades-long prior history as an Arab-planted church. If the Antiochians in the US, like the Greeks, had pews in the past, this is perhaps the explanation.

          I remember also that all women at the Holy Cross service wore headcoverings. This was the first day of Lent, 2012, the Great Canon. I must say that that service made an especially strong impression on me.

        • Archpriest John W. Morris says

          At the risk of reaching into the can of worms that you have opened, do not be so judgmental of other Orthodox and their customs. Orthodox do not kneel on Sunday anyway. That is what is so offensive to me about some Orthodox, they judge other Orthodox if they do not follow exactly the same customs as they do. Throughout the centuries different expressions of the same truth have evolved in different societies.

          • George Michalopulos says

            Fr bless. Actually in GOA parishes kneeling happens all the time on Sundays. Growing up, we used to kneel twice. Some stand during this time, as some stand during the entire Liturgy, but this is sometimes the occasion for scandal.

            • Archpriest John W. Morris says

              Canon 20 of the First Ecumenical Council, Nicea I in 325 forbids kneeling on Sunday

              Forasmuch as there are certain persons who kneel on the Lord’s Day and in the days of Pentecost, therefore, to the intent that all things may be uniformly observed everywhere (in every parish), it seems good to the holy Synod that prayer be made to God standing.

              Some people make a prostration or kneel during the Epiklesis, however. I did not say anything to the people about it, but I noticed that during the Procession with the Holy Cross last week, the people did kneel. Of course we kneed during the kneeling prayers of Pentecost. Naturaly people do prostrations as they say the Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian and kneel during the Great Entrance of the Presanctified Divine Liturgy.

            • At some Carpathorussian parishes, you will see kneeling on Sundays because that used to be their practice when they were Uniates.

    • Archpriest John W. Morris says

      Pews are common and are even found in Balamand Monastery and the Churches in Syria, including the Patriarchial Cathedral, but I personally feel that a sloped nave is wrong, because nothing should be above the altar, not even the back of the nave. The temple is not a theater.

      • Again-Were the pews always there or put in as the movement in this country around the 20th c. where pew were added to the Churches.

        • Monk James says

          colette says (April 16, 2013 at 2:12 pm):

          Again-Were the pews always there or put in as the movement in this country around the 20th c. where pew were added to the Churches.


          Reading into early christian literature, especially the homilies of St John Chrysostom, it’s clear that the default position for us orthodox at worship is standing. Still, there is ample evidence that some sort of seating was always provided for those who could not stand. Monastic architecture from earliest christian times includes seating in church, but against the walls — and used only during appointed sections of the services. In parish churches, there’s always seating available for the aged and infirm, for pregnant women and even for people who are just tired — and that’s as it should be.

          To my knowledge, fixed seating (pews) was unknown among Christians until the ‘protestant reformation’.

          This was a natural sort of progression, since in protestant services,the sermon (as distinguished from a homily) became the major component of their assemblies, and sermons often went on for hours. Since these events were more lectures than worship, it was expedient that people sit. Thus, the ‘meeting house’ model came to be accepted not only for protestant churches, but for civil court houses. Hasn’t anyone noticed the similarity?

          Without being too facile, I’d suggest that early arrived Christians from Russia were less interested in making their temples ‘american’ than were their greek relatives in faith.

          As a result, russian-american parishes tended not to have pews, and greek-american parishes tended to have them. And organs, too.

          In their homeland, Greeks were used to making two prostrations during the Divine Liturgy, even on Sundays: one at the Epiklesis, and another when the Holy Gifts were brought forth for the communion of the laity. To this day, there are some greek priests who recite the prayers of the Epiklesis on their knees.

          But in America, they built temples with pews which had kneeling rails, trying to be ‘american’ in imitation of their catholic and protestant neighbors.

          What to do?

          Having no authority over the design and construction of parish churches in his far-flung eparchy during the 1950s, Archbishop Michael Constantinedes, in a very kind exercise of pastoral oikonomia, told his people to kneel at least during the Epiklesis. Many stayed — and still do — near the aisles so that they could make the prostrations they learned from their yiayias.

          This ‘kneeling on Sunday’ is just an adaptation to the reality of people’s stubbornness.

          They wanted pews and they got them, no matter what the Tradition teaches us, so they could not make the appointed prostrations. The saintly Abp Michael made it possible for them to do SOMETHING rather than nothing, and the rest is history.

          It’s a shame, though, that reductionism almost always becomes the new normal.

          Prostrating ourselves on Sundays at the Epiklesis and before Holy Communion is NOT the same as kneeling, and we should do it.

          Out with pews! In with prostrations!

          • George Michalopulos says

            They’re still evil. Schmemann was right. “Either you will have pews or you will have Orthodoxy, you cannot have both.” I would ask all who read this blog and have been to Europe and seen some of the great cathedrals: do a thought experiment. Imagine Notre Dame, St Peter’s, Durham, Westminster, Cologne, Rheims, etc. Now imagine if they had been built with pews in mind. Ugh.

            Look, I was born in the Buckle of the Bible Belt. I’ve been raised on Billy Graham Crusades and wanted to get up and jump for Jesus afterwards. But a revival or a sermon is one thing. You gotta be able to sit and listen to the Preacher, it’s education after a fashion. But liturgy is another thing. It is the work (ergos) of the people (laos). As long as I’m able to ambulate, I want to participate in the Work of the People, not be spoon fed revelations from an MDiv.

            • Anonymous says


              I’m very sure Fr. Schmemann never said, “Either you will have pews or you will have Orthodoxy, you cannot have both.” He didn’t think like this. Someone made this up and attributed it to him, I’m sure. The point is, Orthodoxy has nothing to do with EXTERNALS. In fact, Fr. Schmemann railed against those who “played church” with all kinds of externals trying to be Orthodox yet had no real understanding of Orthodoxy. You know, those who always want to wear kamalavkas, cassocks in public, long hair and long beards, insisting on women wear scarves and long dresses, pretend accents, throwing out pews, 3 hour services, etc. Pews or no pews does not make an Orthodox church.

              • M. Stankovich says

                Better you pointed this out than me! While I would love to hear I am wrong, I strongly suspect that his persistent requirement to read such classics as Mircea Eliade’s classic The Sacred & the Profane are gone:

                The heavenly Jerusalem was created by God at the same time as paradise, hence in aeternum The city of Jerusalem was only an approximate reproduction of the transcendent model; it could be polluted by man, but the model was incorruptible for it was not involved in time.

                This building now built in your midst is not that which is revealed with Me, that which prepared beforehand here from the time when I took counsel to make Paradise, and showed Adam before he sinned, but when he transgressed the commandment it was removed from him, as also Paradise. And after these things I showed it to My servant Abraham by night among the portions of the victims. And again also I showed it to Moses on Mount Sinai when I showed to the likeness of the tabernacle and all its vessels. And now, behold, it is preserved with Me, as Paradise. (II Baruch 4:3-6)

                That a “sacred space” is set apart in sanctified time, a doorway from chaos into eternity, was infinitely more a concern of Fr. Alexander’s “Orthodoxy” than the furnishings.

              • Why is it that the shaven, shorn, scarf-denouncing, pew-promoting, clerical-collar wearing clergy with their thirty-minute Vespers once a week and one-hour Liturgy on Sunday never get charged with playing at being Orthodox?

          • Thank you Monk James. I had posted on this site somewhere the recorded history of when some of the oldest Orthodox Churches in this country put in pews to their Churches originally built without them (I am not mentioning the side benches- they must be there, or the leaning? chairs in the monasteries on the sides of the Church). I don’t think this is the most urgent issue of the day but feel as some do here that pews need to go. I wouldn’t care If I didn’t understand or see a difference in worship, but it does alter the way we worship, it alters our role in worship and is a conversation that we should not let go away, as with many other conversations . . . .. The Orthodox in this country -many don’t understand that what they have here is not all from Orthodoxy and has never been vetted. We are experiencing the chipping away of our faith by allowing and not thinking about what has been lost. Our job as the faithful is to pass on the faith, live it, know it. If we are not doing that we have failed in carrying on the most precious gift to mankind. Arguments and hashing this all out are welcome to me, understanding often comes in time and for me with reasonable proof. How we battle really matters-just thought I’d throw that in. Information is however vital to the arguments. What you grew up with or what you know may need to be checked and changed. What’s important is not what WE want but what does it mean to carry on this faith and how best do we do that without eventually compromising it?

            • Tim R. Mortiss says

              It is most interesting! Especially am I interested in what the discussions of the “pew subject” may have been in my two Antiochian examples, Holy Cross in Yakima and St. George in Portland, not much more than 100 miles away. And the new churches built at much the same time.

              I’ll make it a point to ask when business next takes me by one or the other!

      • nit picker says

        You sure about that Father? Then why is the iconography depicted in such a way as to make the worshiper feel as though they are in a spiritual arena and the Saints are the spectators cheering us on? We the worshipers are the ones wagging spiritual battle. This image that I am employing is not original. Many theologians have employed it. There was one book entitled “The Arena” by St. Ignatius Bryanchaninov (it has little to do with iconography admittedly). The point is the image of Orthodox Christians as warriors in a spiritual amphitheater – the church.

  10. hi, my wife and i just started attending st innocent in macon. we moved to the area this winter from northeast georgia and another oca parish there, st timothy church.
    the church in macon is truly awesome, from the very first time that we went, on a sunday morning, they were so welcoming and friendly and instantly put “the new people” at ease. as a reader and choir person, they have included me in everything that i could be there for in the last four months. we live 55 minutes from the parish so unfortunately we arent at evert service because we both work nights and weekends now.
    if your ever in the area, please visit the parish. fr. theophan has the normal services on the weekend and normally a couple at least during the week.

    its also kind of cool how much this video has been picked up, ive seen it all over Facebook and on several other blogs and links.