Crossing borders to create a small-town Orthodoxy

Todd Moe, in Canton, NY

The single most important day in the Orthodox calendar – Easter, or Pascha, is this Sunday. Many Orthodox churches base their holiest days on the Julian calendar, rather than the Gregorian calendar.

Historically, Orthodox communities in the United States have been defined largely by ethnicity and found mostly in urban areas. But a group of Orthodox Christians in the Canton-Potsdam area has created a mission that brings diverse groups together. They don’t have a permanent worship space, sometimes share priests with the Greek Orthodox Church in Watertown, and even visit a small monastery in Ontario. Their membership includes students, families and seniors. This Sunday will mark the group’s first Easter service, or Great Vespers, and a meal of festive foods.

Worshippers from the Canton-Potsdam community, passports in hand, often travel across the Ogdensburg-Prescott bridge to the Monastery of St. Silouan the Athonite, near Prescott. Services are held in English and Greek. Todd Moe joined them on a recent Friday night for a service during Orthodox Lent.

A distinct feature of Orthodox worship is the music of Byzantine chant. Todd spoke with the Potsdam mission’s “chanter” — a lay person who chants responses and hymns during services — about her feelings on faith and creating a small-town Orthodoxy.

For more information about the Orthodox Christian Mission of Potsdam, contact Jessica Suchy-Pilalis at, or go to Orthodox Christian Mission of Potsdam on Facebook.