I’m here in the living
room of my son Stephen Mathewes’ apartment on the
campus of Holy Cross Seminary, Hellenic College, and
he’s a first-year seminarian, starting just a few
months ago. And we have daughter Ruthie who is
almost two and son Lucas who is three months now,
who might be making some sound effects in the
background. My husband is here as well, and little
Alexandra Powell, visiting from upstairs. And
they’re watching Lady and the Tramp
hoping to create a little more quiet in the room
thanks to that.
I’m talking to Deacon Barnabas
Powell, formerly Chuck Powell, and you just became a
deacon—was it two weeks ago?
Dn. Powell: Yeah, exactly.
Actually, November the 8th—Sunday November the 8th—I
was ordained in my hometown, in Atlanta, Georgia, in
Annunciation Cathedral. Pretty cool.
Frederica: Ah, that’s right.
And you’ve been Orthodox since 2001?
Dn. Powell: November 2001.
That’s when we were chrismated: myself, and my best
friend and his family, and twenty families from the
church I was pastoring. We all converted together.
Frederica: Really? Was that in
Dn. Powell: It was in Atlanta,
northern parts of Atlanta. Woodstock, Georgia was
where we were, and we converted in a little OCA
parish there in the metropolitan area
Frederica: Oh really? Yeah? My
son is up in Cumming, Georgia, not too far north of
Atlanta, and going to a little OCA parish—St. Mary.
Dn. Powell Oh sure, yeah,
Frederica: You know that
Dn. Powell: I do.
Frederica: I remember—of course
you pastored—but I remember you also were a radio
guy. Didn’t you help somebody who had a big
Evangelical radio ministry?
Dn. Powell While I was
pastoring I also did some work for “In Touch
Ministries”—Dr. Charles Stanley. And also I did
some consulting work with some other ministries as
well around the country in the Evangelical
Protestant world. Evangelical Protestant media was
and still is very, very big business, if you will.
And consequently it was kind of interesting to be a
part of that. I remember Dr. Stanley, when I was
being chrismated, he found out about it and Dr.
Stanley asked me about it.
He said, “Now, are you
becoming a Roman Catholic?”
“No, no doc, it’s Eastern Orthodox.”
“Ok, fine. As long as it’s not Roman Catholic!”
Frederica: That’s alright
then! As long as it’s not Roman Catholic! ‘Cause
you might pray to the saints or something. I mean,
there’s no telling. You might use incense.
Dn. Powell Or light candles,
for heaven’s sake.
Frederica: You had a church
that was kind of one off, I guess. It was similar
to the seeker-friendly churches, and the Willow
Dn. Powell: Yeah, exactly.
Willow Creek Community churches, and the
metachurch-growth model. We were growing, we were
growing fairly well, actually. And I was pretty
excited about that. And then me and my best friend,
Rod Loudermilk, made the serious error of starting
to get interested in church history, which we’d
already been interested in. Since 1992, he and I
had known each other, been dear friends. We were
very interested in it. But by the time we got ready
to convert, we had been, since 1992, on this
journey—talking, and studying, and thinking, and
meeting people that had become Orthodox—which I
thought I was losing my mind because I was getting
interested in liturgy and I was kind of interested
in all kinds of pageantry-type things. Why—why was
that interesting to me? I didn’t get it. It was
about that same time that a lot of the worship music
was coming in, and the pageantry with the banners.
And I don’t know if you remember in that
Evangelical, charismatic world where we started
Frederica: Yeah, and thinking
of the guy in Chicago…Bob something?
Dn. Powell: And also in Alabama
they formed a…Hosanna…Integrity’s Hosanna Music.
Integrity’s Hosanna Music. They had all this
worship music coming out, and I remember we went to
a “March for Jesus.”
Frederica: Oh yes.
Dn. Powell: And I was still a
Pentecostal pastor, but I had gotten hold of an icon
of All Saints. Don’t ask me how—and it’s a fairly
large icon—a big piece of wood. So I thought,
“Wouldn’t it be cool to process with this icon?”
Frederica: Like a banner.
Dn. Powell: Yeah like a banner.
Frederica: Why not?
Dn. Powell: And I had a guy
marching next to me in this “March for Jesus” in
Woodstock, Georgia. I don’t remember what year it
was—1998, ‘97? Something like that, I don’t
remember. And he said, “These folks in this picture
stern and so somber.
And I said, “I looked at that and I thought about
that same thing.”
And he said, “Why aren’t they smiling and
rejoicing and jumping up and down and being
excited? ‘Wow, we’re in the presence of God! Isn’t
I said, “I know, I really thought about that and
maybe it’s because they’re grown-ups.”
Frederica: Woah, well said!
Dn. Powell: I think it’s
because they really get where they are. And I don’t
want to throw-off on that at all. As anybody around
me five minutes knows, I’m very exuberant. I go to
a ball game and I’m yelling at the top of my lungs
and screaming at the TV when my football team is
messing up and all this kind of stuff. But there
comes a time—and one of the things I fell in love
with about Orthodoxy was the opportunity to sober
up. Yeah, really, it was just absolutely wonderful
to just kind of be there and rest and finally find a
home where I could grow up and be a full, mature
Christian. And be sober. And be sober about the
faith. Not—and a lot of people confuse it. They
think if you get to this point where you become
sober—in fact, in my own Pentecostal background, we
were very suspicious of seminaries, of high
education. Because—in fact, I’ve heard many
preachers call them semitaries. ‘Cause
that’s where faith goes to die.
Frederica: Yeah, yeah. It all
Dn. Powell: It all becomes
“book-learning” or you learn that well, maybe all
these plain things that you thought were so in the
Scripture, well, maybe there are some other ideas
and other ways to look at things that might leave
you with some more questions. And questions, of
course, are dangerous. What if you question—what if
you say the wrong thing? What if you make God mad?
‘Cause you know how delicate He is. But seriously,
you have this mindset that—you have this motivation
to do good works. You have this motivation to obey
Frederica: Well there’s a great
love of the Lord.
Dn. Powell: A deep love. But
there’s also mixed in with that a fear of disobeying
Him. And there’s an ugly side, too. And that is
obedience to God so that I can get God to give me
Frederica: Oh of course.
Dn. Powell: Now you never talk
about it that way, but the whole “name it and claim
it” stuff, and all of that stuff that moves through
is just to—it’s a natural progression from the
philosophical and theological undercurrents of
saying, you know, if I make God happy, He’ll pat me
on the head and say, “Good boy.”
that’s really true. And there was a survey done by
the Pew Foundation a couple of years ago of
Pentecostalism around the world. And one of the
question they asked, “Yes or no, do you agree with
this,” was “God will bless with health and wealth
the person whose prayer is right.” And they found
in Nigeria 97% of the people agreed with that. It’s
scary, because it is the “name it and claim it”
Dn. Powell: Well, it’s a
soul-sickness, because what that does—that reduces
Jesus to Santa Claus. He sees you when you’re
sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows when
you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’
sake. You know what I’m saying?
Dn. Powell: So there certainly
has to be, as you mature through the faith—you know
the Apostle Paul was good about “To the children I
write this,” “To the young men I write this,” “To
the mature men I write this.” And so there’s
obviously there’s a time of maturing. And there’s
nothing wrong with being in the Kindergarten of
spirituality. There’s nothing wrong with
that—unless you’re thirty-five.
Frederica: Right, unless you
Dn. Powell: Yeah, exactly. And
so for me, at least, my journey became “How do I not
reject the day of small things?” How do I not
reject those precious child-like things? How do I
reject childishness and retain child-likeness?
Frederica: Did this question
come to you while you were still a Pentecostal
Dn. Powell: Oh yeah.
Dn. Powell: Because I had come
to the end of my rope, actually. I was terrified I
was going to have to stop being a Christian,
Dn. Powell: Oh yeah, yeah. I
was—because, I had read enough, me and my best
friend had been talking and so on and so forth. And
I thought—because I had not met any Orthodox. And
we’d read about the Orthodox and we thought they’re
wonderful people and this is exactly how it ought to
be, but is anybody—
Frederica: Do they exist?
Dn. Powell: Did they make it?
I remember asking that question. Did they survive
past the fourth century or the fifth century, or
whatever they were? And so I was really
despairing. I thought maybe I’ll look at
Anglicanism. ‘Cause I couldn’t look at Rome. There
was just too much prejudice in my own heart about
that. Lord have mercy. God forgive me.
And so I considered Anglicanism for a while. And
then I saw—well which branch? Which family? Which
flavor? And I thought, you know, I’m not going to
step from the frying pan into the fire. I’ve
already got this where I am now. Which branch,
which flavor? Which, you know, which group? And
depending on what’s going to happen next week, you
know, maybe they’ll shift again. I was tired of the
ground shifting under my feet. So I was looking for
something timeless—not old. If it was old, that’s
fine but just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s
true. There’s old heresies. But I wanted something
timeless. Something that over—that transcended the
power of life and death. I remember telling my dad
when I finally became Orthodox—he was
Dn. Powell: Yeah. Dad’s still
a Pentecostal preacher, actually. He said, “I had
such hopes for you, son. You were going to have a
And then I said, “Dad, that’s what I was afraid
of, too! That’s why I’m so thankful God got me out
of there before that happened.”
But I told Dad, “Dad, I finally found a theology
that is worthy of the dignity of the human soul.”
Frederica Oh, beautiful.
Dn. Powell: It’s big enough.
In fact, it will always be bigger than me always. I
found the borders where I was. When I was a
Pentecostal, I found all the borders. I found
exactly where everything came to an end. And I’m
thinking, if this is it, I’m not going to make it.
Frederica: Do you think the
superficiality that you found has something to do
with the theology of salvation—with the idea that
actually salvation is external. It’s something—it’s
a mark God makes in His book in heaven. When you
say the dignity—
Dn. Powell: Or a contract,
Frederica: A contract, yeah.
The dignity of the human soul—a beautiful phrase,
but that acknowledges that Orthodoxy addresses the
entirety of the person. Even the things we don’t
know about ourselves. Our most profound…the twisted
psychology deep inside. And that’s kind of
glossed-over in a soteriology where it’s merely
Dn. Powell: Exactly. And that
certainly true, but even there, the Holy Spirit did
not leave us without hints. Because even in my
Pentecostal world—the whole Pentecostal, in my
opinion…(someday, God willing I’ll write the
dissertation)—the reason that Pentecostalism is
sweeping the globe, the fastest-growing expression
of Christianity right now.
Frederica: It is?
Dn. Powell: —and the reason why
is because of the failure of western theology to
take into account the concept of mystery and the
concept of “I don’t know.” To be able to say “I
don’t know.” It’s a mystery. It’s beyond us.
Because for the West at least, and those of us who
are children of the Enlightenment, we don’t really
do well with that idea. “Well we just haven’t
learned yet. One day we’ll learn and then
scientific method and…we’ll work it out. We just
haven’t learned that yet.”
The human person knows that’s not true. The
human soul realizes and the human soul hungers for
an unexplainable intimacy. And Pentecostalism
offers that—an unexplainable intimacy that says,
“You know what? This is beyond my control.” I
remember as a Pentecostal, I’d tell people how to
get the baptism and how to speak in tongues. Just
release your control. Just release your control.
Just let the Holy Spirit speak though you. Who knew
that was the natural way, the Holy Spirit nudging us
towards mystery and profundity and amazement.
Frederica: Yes. Wonder.
Dn. Powell: That’s it. And so
that’s why Pentecostalism is so successful.
Frederica: And also because
they’ve got the gifts, they’ve got the fruits to
prove it, that the miracles and signs do follow
them. And that’s been suppressed, and a source of
embarrassment, I think, in much of the West, because
it’s, quote: “anti-intellectual.” But when you’ve
actually got miracles and healings happening—
Dn. Powell: What are you going
to do with that? Exactly. You can’t pretend.
Frederica: Well I guess you
Dn. Powell: You can’t. Well,
you can try. But you will find—
Frederica: Just look the other
Dn. Powell: But even in the
rest of the Evangelical Protestant world, I mean,
you’ve got Baptist churches now—when I was a
kid—they’re raising their hands in worship. Baptist
churches and Methodist churches keeping Advent, for
heaven’s sake, and mixing these two things
together. Then you’ve got the emerging church
movement that’s start that’s trying to throw out
everything and trying to be relational, and all this
kind of stuff. And you get to the point where you
think, you know, these folks are going to stumble
around and find the Faith if they ain’t careful.
Because God loves us and God wants to be found.
Frederica: And it’s a sincere
Dn. Powell: It really is a
sincere seeking and I don’t blame them. And the
thing that they’re reacting to—the things that
they’re reacting to—makes perfect sense to me. I
understand why they’re scared. I understand why
they grieve. Because I do too. I grieve the loss
that I said goodbye to, but I tell you, I’m like the
Apostle Paul in the sense that I look back at that
and it was valuable and I love it but it’s not me
anymore. I’ve grown not beyond it but I’ve grown up
around it. It’s not that it’s bad. It’s just that
it’s never enough. It’s the fullness that we’re
So we became—we entered the Faith and then of
course after we became Orthodox all our problems
disappeared and every problem and every problem I
had is gone!
Frederica: Well of course! The
money’s pouring in.
Dn. Powell: Money’s pouring
in. In fact you know it’s embarrassing for me to
talk about it. I’m kidding! No of course, things
got worse. Things got more difficult.
Dn. Powell: Well I needed a
Frederica: And you said your
friend—was it Rod?
Dn. Powell: Rod Loudermilk, my
Frederica: —discovered a brain
Dn. Powell: Three months after
we converted he found out he had a brain tumor.
Frederica: Thank God you
converted first. Thank God you had Orthodoxy.
Dn. Powell: Amen. It was the
only salvation we had. Eighteen months we fought
and right before he died I got a phone call, I was
traveling with Father Chris Metropolis at OCN. I
got a phone call from his wife saying, “Barnabas,
Photius”—that’s what his name was in the
Church—“won’t go back to the doctor. I said, “OK,
darling, let me talk to him.”
So I got on the phone. I said, “Roddy, what’s
And he said, “Buddy, I love you. This medicine’s
not going to make me better. It’s just going to
prolong things. I’m so tired. And I’m done.”
So I told him I’m on my way to see him and I came
off the road, went back to Ackworth, Georgia, where
he was living at the time—and he and his wife and
his three sons. All grown up, thank God. They were
there with their dad as well. I walked in the door
and he smiled real big and he told me—he said he
loved me and he said, “You know, Barnabas—you know
what’s really great about all this?”
I said, “I’m confessing to you buddy, I’m looking
for some brightness and I don’t see a thing. I
don’t see anything good about this at all. I’m
broken hearted, I’m scared. You’re not only a
friend; you’re my best friend. You’re a mentor,
you’re a big brother, you’re a dad, and I’m afraid.”
He said, “Son, there is something really good
about all this.”
I said, “I’m all ears.”
He said, “I’m dying in the arms of the Church.”
Isn’t that wonderful?
Frederica: Oh, isn’t that
Dn. Powell: I said, “Ok.” He
went into a coma on that Wednesday and he died
Friday, that Friday.
He was at peace. He was at peace. He was fine.
And I remember one of our Orthodox priest friends
came over to the house and gave him Communion and
right after they gave him Communion he breathed his
last. And he was done.
Frederica: Wow. Sounds like a
Dn. Powell: Yeah. It was very
hard, very difficult, very beautiful, very
wonderful, very terrible; all of those things. All
of those things Orthodoxy gives me a freedom to feel
at the same time.
Frederica: Yes, yeah.
Dn. Powell: And blesses every
bit of that, saying, “Yes, grieve; yes, rejoice;
yes, weep; yes, smile, laugh, cry.”
Frederica: That’s the great
thing about arms—they can take it all in.
Dn. Powell: That’s exactly
Frederica: Wrap the arms around
the whole thing.
Dn. Powell: It’s big enough for
the dignity of the human soul. It’s big enough to
deal with the human condition. That’s the faith.
Frederica: In a way,
Pentecostalism is a good preparation for Orthodoxy.
Dn. Powell: You better believe
Frederica: Sometimes I’ve
thought—having seen people convert from so many
different backgrounds—sometimes I think Pentecostals
have the easiest transition.
Dn. Powell: They can, yeah.
Frederica: Because they believe
in miracles, they believe—and they love the Lord
with a heartfelt passion. It’s not as much
Dn. Powell: It really isn’t.
The challenge that I do see is that—especially if
you’re a life-long Pentecostal—if you’re a life-long
Pentecostal there tends to be a period where I have
even told people, “You need a 12-step program.” And
all kidding aside—
Frederica: Wean you off of—
Dn. Powell: —to really just
kind of wean you off of the Jesus-as-heroin model.
The Jesus- or Christianity-as-drug. “I really need
to pray through because I’m feeling bad.” “I really
need to go to church so I can get recharged.” “I
need to get my tank filled up again.” Or “I need to
get my battery recharged again.”
Frederica: So faith is like a
Dn. Powell: Faith is a tool for
my own personal well-being.
Frederica: Right. To keep you
exactly the way you are.
Dn. Powell: Exactly. And
Frederica: Functioning as
perfectly as you are right now.
Dn. Powell: Exactly. And to be
successful as you possibly can be. So there is a
time where you kind of have to say, yeah I
understand—there’s some really things there. The
other side, the weakness of not being connected to
an apostolic understanding of the faith can create a
model where Jesus is—and religion and faith—is
basically a medication. Just one more medication in
my medication of—whether I’m using money, or I’m
using physical intimacy, or if I’m using prestige,
or fame, or intellectual information gathering or
anything else that I use to medicate myself to feel
or to hide from my own poverty.
Frederica: Isn’t it an idea
that we just have to get through this life.
Whatever gets you through the night. And then we’ll
be in heaven. So there isn’t any concept of
transformation, or not an expectation of it I
guess. They sort of acknowledge there’s maturity in
the Bible but something like theosis—
Dn. Powell: But not
transfiguration. Yeah. There is the element of
sanctification in the Pentecostal world—and it comes
right from the Holiness movement—the whole second
blessing, holiness thing, and all of that. So there
is an idea of sanctification. But even
sanctification can be reduced to an almost
self-centered how-is-this-going-to-benefit-me kind
of mentality. Instead of saying, “You know what?
I’m going to Calvary. I’m going to Calvary and I’m
going to die there. And it’s not going to be fun
and it’s not going to pleasant. But I will get the
Resurrection but I’m not going to get to the
Resurrection until I get through Calvary, get
through the Garden—do this process. And I’m going
to do this over and over and over in my life until
the character of Jesus Christ is formed inside of
me.” And the language is there in my Pentecostal
past to talk like that. The tools weren’t. The
wisdom, the discipline of fasting and feasting, and
feasting is as much a discipline as fasting. But we
don’t know how to do it. We don’t know how to
feast. Because we don’t’ know how to fast.
Frederica: Yeah. We know how
Dn. Powell: We know how to
gorge. Thanksgiving was just a little while ago.
So—and I already made my confession so I’m not going
to say anything else!
But all those things—those tools necessary to
actually bring me to Mount Tabor—to the place where
I can participate in the transfiguration of Jesus
Christ—not for my own benefit per se but to just
become who I am. You see what I’m saying?
Frederica: To restore us
to—restoring the portrait, as St. Athanasius says.
So as opposed to an idea that we go through all this
so we’ll be better citizens, better husbands—
Dn. Powell: —better wives, how
to keep your kids on your team, and let’s do all of
these things. All that good stuff—
Frederica: —which is good, yeah
it is good stuff. Wonderful things.
Dn. Powell: It’s not bad
stuff. The problem is if you don’t get to the root
of the problem, you’re just putting lipstick on a
pig. You’re just kind of trying to put a new
varnish of paint on things.
Frederica: Putting snow on a
Dn. Powell: Exactly.
Frederica: Luther’s phrase.
Dn. Powell: Exactly. So what
you have to do is you have to kind of—at least from
me, I came to the point where I said, “I am no
longer capable of being a Christian by myself. I
can’t do this. And if I try I’m going to make a
mess of things even more than I have.” So I have to
find a place where I can learn how to be Christian
with the widest number of influences that will help
me to see things in as clear and as wide a range as
possible, and not limit myself. So that I can not
just hear the people who are living, but to the
people who are already in Christ—to what G.K.
Chesterton said—“the radical democracy of giving our
ancestors a vote.” So I think when I came to that
point, Rod and I both did, we said, “We’ve got to do
this. We’ve got to do this work.” So here we are.
Frederica: And do you find that
this is something that—when you’re talking to people
who are Pentecostal—do they get this? Do they have
this hunger, the deep hunger of the soul, which is
obviously there in everybody? But can they make
that leap to understanding that here is a way, a
path, whereby they can be profoundly transformed?
Or do they think it’s just sort of all nice, you
know, pietistic words?
Dn. Powell: Yes and no.
Frederica: Or do they see what
you’re saying and they want to run the opposite
Dn. Powell: I’ve had every one
of those experiences and seven more. It’s just,
Frederica: It’s person by
Dn. Powell: It really is person
by person. It depends on how the Holy Spirit has
formed a person and what they’ve said yes to
throughout their lives. It’s just—we’re never going
to get beyond the Theotokos. Where the messenger
comes with good news and then the moment of
truth—let it be done to me as you have said. I am
the Lord’s servant. Every place where a person has
had that confrontation with good news from the
messenger of God—whether it be from the Spirit
calling inside, or another person, or just from
life’s circumstances—when they’ve been able to say,
“Let it be done to me as you have said, I am the
Lord’s servant—we’re never going to get beyond the
Theotokos. The Theotokos is our model of
Being with her—learning from her, this is tough
for an old Pentecostal to talk about. Although,
once I saw the icon of Our Lady of the Sign, all my
questions were answered. It was a mystical,
instantaneous clarity that no one else in the
journey had but me. And I was by myself for eight
years! Everybody was saying, “We just don’t
understand why this comes so easy for you.” I don’t
understand it either. It really bugs me a lot. But
I get it.
Frederica: Just that arrow into
Dn. Powell: Yeah, it was just
Frederica: Of course, yeah.
Dn. Powell: There it is.
Frederica: Isn’t that
wonderful? Why the icon of the Sign in particular?
Dn. Powell: I think because—
Frederica: Or was there a
particular icon of the Sign?
Dn. Powell: No, no, it wasn’t a
particular icon—just the concept. When I saw the
Theotokos with arms outstretched, and her inside
larger than her outside, containing—the icon had
stars around Christ. Here He is Christ, Christ is a
baby, He’s blessing—
Frederica: The whole cosmos…
Dn. Powell: —the whole cosmos
is inside her. And it was like somebody just
flipped a switch. Of course she’s Theotokos. She
can’t be anything else but Theotokos. To call her
anything else but Theotokos puts everything at risk.
Frederica: Yes, yes. The whole
foundation of Christianity.
Dn. Powell: You must call her
Theotokos. You must call her blessed. It’s not an
option. It’s not an option.
Frederica: Oh wow that’s—Mary
is the biggest hurdle for a lot of Protestants.
Dn. Powell: She is, but I’ll
tell you what—but she becomes the dearest
intercessor and friend. When we are able to make
this leap to say—to put to ease the Protestant fears
that oh, well, they’re trying to make her into
co-redemptrix; or they’re trying to make her you
know, another member of the Godhead and blah blah
blah blah blah. All that kind of stuff. I
understand those fears.
But there is a reason why, centuries before
Christianity—that there was this whole idea of
mother goddess and all this stuff already being
built into the human race in every tribe and every
place, everywhere you go in anthropology you find
this picture. And so it isn’t so much an expression
of our holding on to paganism as it is a clear
indication of the Holy Spirit preparing humanity to
see this profound truth that one of our race, one of
us, became the gateway that let the Uncreated into
Frederica: Ah, yeah. That’s so
Dn. Powell: He took flesh from
one of us! One of our folk. I mean, I’m a good
southern boy. I know what it means to say, “One of
my kin did well.” And that’s—to get that—to
think—there’s a prayer I learned to pray, “Holy
Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, that we might also
conceive in us the body of Christ, an that we might
also attain unto God.” So she becomes the human
model of what Jesus plans to do with every one of
us. That’s who we’re supposed to be. It’s
Frederica: That’s pretty
Dn. Powell: It’s wonderful.
Frederica: I’ve never seen the
icon of the Sign that way before. It really
transforms my way of looking at that icon.
Dn. Powell: It blew me away.
It blew me away.
Frederica: And where was this
on your journey? Before your chrismation?
Dn. Powell: This was about—oh
yes, many years before my chrismation. I was the
only Pentecostal church in Woodstock, Georgia, that
had an icon of Christ and the Theotokos behind the
pulpit! Trust me. It’s hilarious.
Frederica: I can believe that!
Dn. Powell: It got to the point
where, on our journey, we had several families—we’d
bought a building, we were doing well and all this
kind of stuff—and I got to the point where I’d tell
folks, “Folks, I know you hear me preaching and I
know this sounds kind of strange, but don’t leave
skid marks in the parking lot, we’re trying to sell
the building. Let’s at least preserve the real
But it was a long time after—it was a long time
before our chrismation that this really kind of came
home to me.
Frederica: And then you were
waiting for your people to come.
Dn. Powell: Waiting for my—and
you know what? And my best friend was so wise,
because, if it were up to me, after my initial
connection with Orthodoxy in 1992, I’d have
converted then. I really would’ve. But Rod
reminded me—and I was pasturing this church, and we
were growing and doing well—and he said, “You know,
Barnabas, you need to probably remember the story of
Jacob and Esau.”
After Jacob and Esau reconciled, Esau said,
“Jacob, just bring your people, come on, go with
us. Just be with us, we’ll be a family, and just be
And Jacob was saying, “Yeah brother, I want to do
this, but my folks are camped far away, and I have
little ones. And if I push them, they’ll die.”
And so he reminded me of that and it was very
wise. And so I remember him telling me that and I
remember it really being clear to me that it was
wise—it would have not been a good time for me to
convert because I would have become just a
Protestant Orthodox. Because I was interested in
being right. I want to finally get into the right
church, with the right theology because being
right is what I really need to be. You know.
Frederica: Oh boy. I’m just
now discovering that’s one of the keys of
transformation in Orthodoxy is being willing to not
Dn. Powell: Mmhmm. Mmhmm.
Frederica: If I had known this
sixteen years ago, I’m not so sure…
Dn. Powell: Amen! Amen.
Frederica: I have to what?!
Not be right?!
Dn. Powell: That’s the whole
point. If I’m not right, what am I? Then I’m
wrong. And if I’m wrong, then God’s upset with me!
Frederica: It’s terrible! And
then you have to go right back into that—
Dn. Powell: And if God’s upset
with me, then I don’t get the goody, and you
get—“bad boy.” What if I lose my salvation?
Frederica: Yeah, and won’t get
that Cadillac you asked for.
Dn. Powell: Exactly. And I
don’t be able to finally cross the finish line into
Heaven and finally get this God off my back.
Finally, I’ve done all the stuff you asked me to do,
now would you leave me alone?
Frederica: That’s great.
Dn. Powell: So it was wisdom.
It was wisdom. It was good formation, and then in
2001 we converted. It’s always been a transition.
It’s always a mixture of going to Calvary and
experiencing the Resurrection. But that’s the
Frederica: Now how many were
you able to bring with you?
Dn. Powell: Twenty families.
Frederica: Twenty families.
Dn. Powell: Twenty families out
of two hundred and fifty.
Frederica: That’s good. You
did a lot better than we did.
Dn. Powell: Yeah, well twenty
Frederica: They’re singing,
Dn. Powell: Yeah, the kids are
But it was traumatic and wonderful and terrible
and joyous and scary and—and it still is. Still is.
Frederica: 2001. So here,
eight years later you are in seminary. In fact, is
this your third year?
Dn. Powell: This is my third
year. In fact, I’m coming up on my last semester.
Dn. Powell: I’m coming up on my
last semester, God willing. And the faculty says
ok, I’ll graduate in May, and I will be in the
metropolis of Atlanta with his Eminence,
Metropolitan Alexios. And looking forward to that a
great deal. In fact it was a joy to be ordained in
my hometown of Atlanta by Metropolitan Alexios on
the eight to the deaconate.
Frederica: That’s a wonderful
thing. You have unique gifts, I think. Well I
think you have a wonderful gift of speaking. I
really enjoy listening to you. You have a wonderful
singing voice. I got to hear a bit of that. And a
gift for being—
Dn. Powell: Don’t tell my chant
leader that. He’ll disagree with you. I can’t get
my mouth around some of these Byzantine sounds. I’m
sorry, I just can’t do it.
Frederica: Is that right? Too
many notes. It’s like the emperor in Amadeus.
“Too many notes.”
Dn. Powell: Exactly, too many.
Not only too many notes, but you know what, it’s
just a different language than I’m used to.
Frederica: It is, it is.
Dn. Powell: And I’m learning a
lot languages, for heaven’s sake! One of them’s
going to suffer and I think it’s going to be
Byzantine chant, Lord have mercy!
Frederica: I’m hoping that, as
you have so many more years of ministry ahead of
you, that God will be able to use these gifts you
have of understanding. You know a great deal about
Protestantism in general, not just your Pentecostal
background. Do you think you’ll be a priest in a
parish, or—how do you see your future ministry? Or
do you even know?
Dn. Powell: It’s a wonderful
question. I know his Eminence has some plans for
me. I confess to you that I said something to him
at my ordination that I meant with all my heart. I
basically said, “[Greek phrase],” which means, “Do
with me what you will.”
Frederica: Ah that’s good,
Dn. Powell: And I really have
come to have confidence in him and love him as a
spiritual father and a wise leader. That’s not just
politics talking. I really have been amazed at how
well he’s been able to place several friends of mine
in parish settings that were just perfect fits. And
so it built a great deal of confidence into me and
Connie’s heart to just simply say to him, “Whatever
you want, whatever you need, and I’ll trust that.”
And he’s got some plans. And I certainly hope to
be—I want to be a parish priest. That’s what I love
doing. I love being with people. I love being in a
community. That’s what I want. That’s how I’m
going to be a Christian is in the midst of
community. It’s not going to be by doing anything
else other than dealing with other human beings in
Frederica: Yeah, that’s true.
Dn. Powell: That’s the Faith.
Frederica: That’s how God plans
to polish the stones that we are—is to use other
people. I wish there was another way sometimes.
Dn. Powell: You and me both,
sister. I wish there was a pill or maybe a salve
you could put on. I don’t know! Anything. We’re
just going to have to rub shoulders with folks.
Frederica: Wouldn’t that be
great? That’s so true.
Dn. Powell: God help us.
Frederica: Alright. Thanks so
Dn. Powell: My pleasure.
Frederica: Deacon Barnabas
Dn. Powell: Thank you, thank
you very much.
Frederica: Congratulations on
Dn. Powell: Thanks.