Father Moses Berry remembered as community, national leader

Ethan Gray

Father Moses Berry

Famed spiritual leader, resident of Ash Grove, descendent of Daniel Boone, and museum founder, Father Moses Berry died on Jan. 12, at the age of 73.
Berry found his faith on a spiritual journey across the country, during which he was ordained as a priest and established multiple shelters. He also opened a church and served in a drug rehabilitation center. Berry was raised in Ash Grove and later returned, opening a church and museum.
Berry was a priest in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and is now known nationwide. He returned to Ash Grove in 1998 to live on land that once belonged to his great-grandfather, now recognized as a Century Farm. On Berry’s land lies a family cemetery dedicated to “Slaves, Indians and Paupers.” This cemetery was created nearly 150 years ago and is now a nationally recognized historic location. He donated a portion of his land to establish Theotokos “Unexpected Joy” Church, which began as a mission, but gathered a full congregation in time.
In Ash Grove, Berry also founded a museum that was free to visitors. The Ozarks Afro-American Heritage Museum consisted of only a few rooms; in what little space there was resided a multitude of artifacts centered around Afro-American life in the rural Ozarks. Though it is no longer available as of 2013, the contents are still available online.
Berry’s daughter, Dorothy Berry, published a statement announcing Berry’s death.
“Having a dad who is also a Very Reverend Father is a particular experience- other folks have dads who are anonymous, dads who belong only to them. It is a gift to have been raised with enormous love, and to have had enormous love demonstrated time and time again,” she said.
Berry was a champion of African American history in the area. He shared stories, often controversial ones, of his family and their ties to slavery. Because of this, Berry was featured in a New York Times article, which was seen nationwide.
Berry contributed his work to “An Unbroken Circle: Linking Ancient African Christianity to the African American Experience.” And has recently been inducted into Missouri State University’s Public Affairs Hall of Fame.
Services for Berry were held at Berry’s own Theotokos “Unexpected Joy” Church in Ash Grove on Monday, Jan. 15. The following Tuesday, Jan. 16, Berry was laid to rest.


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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