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WINDOW into HEAVEN

Jodi and Michael Hailey bring a taste of Orthodoxy to western Washington County with art, music and books


Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: JILL REHKOPF SMITH - Ted Deming dresses up as Saint Nicholas and reads the original Christmas Story to visitors at The Ancient Church on Pacific Avenue during Holiday in the Grove Dec. 6. The reading room offers information on Orthodoxy through books, music and art.Using a thousand-year-old recipe, Jodi Hailey breaks an egg into a glass, separates the yolk and mixes it with wine and pigment. The intriguing cocktail is for painting, not for drinking. It will bring out the colors of the icon Hailey is painting at The Ancient Church: Orthodox Christian Art, Music and Reading Room.

Icons are “windows into heaven,” Hailey says. “They reveal to us the profound reality that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses ... that there is absolutely no spiritual separation between the church on earth and the church in heaven.”

As Hailey works, her two youngest children, 3 and 5, come in and out of the room located at 1930 Pacific Ave., next to Bank of the West in Forest Grove. She is patient, listening to their requests before going back to her painting.

Hailey, 41, is not a minister or a religious scholar but she and husband Michael, who works at Nike, rented the space back in September, hoping curious people would stop in and ask about Orthodoxy. Since then, she said, a little more than a dozen have done so.

The couple moved to a rural area north of Forest Grove in 2010 but still attend St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Beaverton.Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: DEBBY DE CARLO - Jodi Hailey pauses her work in the ancient art of iconography as her 5-year-old son, Finan, asks to use her iPad.

“My husband was devoutly Catholic when we met. I was devoutly Protestant and had grown up loving God. I had a longing to be Catholic,” she said, “to connect to what I thought was the original church.” It wasn’t so she could be like her husband, though it was important they share the same religious values.

But she had big problems with Catholicism, in particular the Catholic doctrine that Mary herself was conceived without sin — that she was conceived biologically but her soul was touched by God when she was in the womb.

Then there was purgatory, and the practice that sin could be forgiven through indulgences or cash payments to the church —the very practice that sparked Martin Luther’s departure from the church and the birth of Protestantism.

Finally there was papal infallibility: What about saints and other remarkable people who had communion with God?

“For me, it was a deep spiritual agony. I was reduced to ground zero, theologically and spiritually, to the place of literally crying out, ‘Is there even a God?’”

Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: DEBBY DE CARLO - Her iconic paintings are made by mixing wine with egg yolk and pigment.It was from that low point, she said, that God brought her to a new understanding of him — and to Orthodoxy, which she describes as a loving religion without all the judgment often seen in other Christian denominations.

In addition, she said, the Orthodox Church has carried on the worship traditions of the early Christian church, making it “the unbroken Church of the Apostles,” with no need for a pope or a catechism.

And she likes how Orthodoxy teaches salvation through transformation and “right living,” encouraged by liturgy, fasting (eating a vegan diet twice a week) and exemplified by saints.

Hailey is at the Ancient Church space from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, usually tending her children or painting icons in the absence of visitors. Wednesday nights her family holds a liturgical service at 7 p.m. with candles, incense and the liturgy. It is open to all, although no one else has yet come besides the couple and their five children. If new people do show up, there will be time for prayer or discussion afterward.

Hailey is more comfortable with a lending library than a bookstore, which would require a business license. When visitors do stop in, the conversations are deep. But with five children, the time she can spend there is limited.

Still, she manages to keep her children busy and happy, parenting them the way she feels God “parents” her and her Orthodox brethren, with patience and acceptance.Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: DEBBY DE CARLO - The candlelit prayer room at The Ancient Church reading room features an iconic painting of Jesus.

When 5-year-old Finan whispers in her ear, Hailey pauses, paintbrush in hand, then hands him the iPad he wants before returning her attention to the icon.

Note: The Ancient Church is closed for the holidays until Monday, Jan. 5.

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