What's that church near Rogue River with the distinctive look?

Plain, heavy doors open to reveal a church resplendant in 1st century designs, art, and spiritual tradition in Rogue River's newest St. Innocent's Russian Orthodox Church, temporarily located near Pleasant Creek Road. 1/3/05 Denise Baratta

The little white church with sky-blue onion domes and unusual golden crosses catches the eye of many a motorist on Interstate 5 near the town of Rogue River.

The converted barn serves as a house of worship for about 30 people who follow the Russian Orthodox faith, part of Eastern Orthodoxy — the second-largest Christian community in the world after the Roman Catholic Church.

Many members of St. Innocent Church are drawn to the faith for its ancient traditions, says the Rev. Seraphim Cardoza, who was raised as a Catholic and preached in Protestant churches before he became an Orthodox priest.

Thousands of Christian denominations use the same Bible as their religious text, but the Orthodox Church considers itself the original church founded by Jesus Christ, and its name, "orthodox," is derived from a Greek word that means "correct."

"The Orthodox Church gave us the Scriptures," Cardoza said. "A lot of people are going back to the roots (of Christianity) to get some stability about what to believe."

The Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church were essentially one and the same until the 11th century, although language differences and the geographical distances across what had been the Roman Empire were gradually transforming them into two distinct entities.

The church split in 1054 in a dispute over who would wield authority over the Christian community, but Orthodox believers share the same core beliefs as Roman Catholics.

There are some differences between the two traditions, however. Orthodox priests, for example, may marry, unlike their Catholic counterparts.

The Orthodox cross has three bars. The top bar represents the sign that Romans put above Jesus on the cross proclaiming him the king of the Jews. The middle bar is the bar on which Christ's arms were nailed, and the crooked, bottom bar represents the platform to which his feet were nailed.

The Orthodox Church still follows the Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar and replaced in the 16th century by the modern Gregorian calendar across most of the Western world. The differences between the two calendars mean that Easter, for example, sometimes falls on different days.

The Orthodox Church is perhaps best-known among non-members for its religious icons, highly stylized paintings of saints, Jesus and Mary that adorn the sanctuary.

Cardoza said Orthodox services tend to be longer than Catholic Mass, and congregations stand for the full term of services, which may run more than two hours.

"When it's over, no one ever wants to leave," he said.

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