Orthodox Christianity is considered by many to be the original Christian Church, forming at the time of Jesus and fundamentally unchanged in doctrine, worship, and governance since the first century. It predates the Great Schism and the Protestant Reformation. With a strong foothold in the eastern regions where Christianity first appeared, Orthodoxy has gradually become more visible in the United States with immigration from eastern Europe, the Middle East, and east Africa, and parishes are often associated with specific nationalities.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has a large presence in Midwestern cities, including St. Louis, Missouri, and Columbus, Ohio. The Ethiopian and Ethiopian-Americans who attend these parishes started arriving in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s – some of them fleeing communist persecution and ethnic conflict, and others filing for asylum after coming to the U.S. for school or work. Specific cultural practices and traditions are nurtured in church, such as playing music on traditional instruments including the kebero and the begena; teaching the Amharic language to younger generations; and cooking meals of injera, zilzil tibs, and other Ethiopian dishes.
In worship Ethiopian Orthodox churches are similar to other Orthodox parishes, following the liturgy that Orthodox Christians worldwide have observed for centuries. One St. Louis parishioner said that it is the ancient and unchanging nature of Orthodoxy that makes this church so important for her, providing a measure of stability amidst the uncertainty of the immigrant experience.