FLUSHING - Earl Smith of Flushing was raised in the Disciples of Christ Church but married an Assyrian in 1950 and converted to the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, where he has become the president of the local church and a walking encyclopedia on the faith.
Smith, 73, a retired General Motors employee, is a 55-year member of Mar Shimun Bar-Sabbai Church, 3112 Lewis St., Flint. He can tell you about the origin of the denomination in the old Assyrian Empire in 33 A.D. during the time of the Apostles to the present, when the worldwide church still speaks the Aramaic language of Jesus.
It was quite a switch for the church leader of Scottish-English descent who with his wife, Anna, raised his six children in the church, half of whom still attend locally.
Q. What do you like about the Assyrian Church of the East?
A. The doctrine. I am not belittling anybody else and their beliefs, but our doctrine makes sense to me. That's why I have been there all these years.
Q. With all your knowledge, you must read a lot about your faith.
A. I do. That includes reading about the history of Assyrians and where they live and a book on "What Language Did God Speak?" as well as a lot of information from the Internet. I try to keep current on the latest books.
Q. In what language is the Church of the East Bible written?
A. It has changed over the years but now you can get a version where each line is written in three languages - Aramaic, Assyrian and English. The earliest writings were on clay tablets with the first Bible dating to 464 A.D. Lines in books in Aramaic are printed right to left and you read them from the back to the front of the book.
Q. Is the church growing?
A. Although we don't have as many at our local church, the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East is growing in various parts of the world. Ground was just broken April 17 for a new church in Warren.
Q. How about Mar Shimun Bar-Sabbai Church?
A. We have about 45 families and recently added four families. It's a lot less than when the church was started in 1923, but some have married and moved away or left because of jobs. And we have lost members through death.