Honcharenko in San Francisco
From the Congregationalist and Boston Recorder, January 16, 1868:
Many will remember that, some two years ago, a famous service was held in Trinity Chapel, New York city, in which, with a great flourish of trumpets, one “Father Agapius,” who purported to be a Priest of the Greek church, celebrated “the Sacrifice of the Mass” in the Greek tongue; to the great delectation of the High Churchmen, who enjoyed the show intensely, and who feld that they were coming very near, in this performance, to the real thing. Great was the glorification which was made over this manifestation of the “Orthodox Catholic Church.” Father Agapius had the genuine Apostolical succession, and it was a blessed symbol that he should condescend to hold his gorgeous Greek service in an American Episcopal church! Father Agapius, however, soon after mysteriously disappeared. It was darkly hinted, after a time, that he was — tell it not in Gath — a swindler and a cheat; and, most mournful of all, a mere mechanic and prosaic printer. Father Agapius has turned up again, however — this time in the Methodist connection. The Pacific Churchman of San Francisco, Cal., of 28th Nov. last, contains the following advertisement:
“Russo-Greek Methodist Episcopal Church, Rev. Agapius Honcharenko, Pastor. Preaching every Sabbath morning at 9 o’clock in the Vestry of the Howard Street M.E. Church. Services conducted in the Slavonian, Russian and Greek languages. All are invited.”
We hope there is no irreverence in the suggestion; but wouldn’t it be well to have Trinity Chapel disinfected?
And here is the original article in the Pacific Churchman, to which the above article refers:
FATHER AGAPIUS – Some of our readers may recall the name of this individual, who, about two years ago, appeared in New York, claiming to be a priest of the Greek Church. At first his pretensions were received by some of the clergy, and a Greek service was arranged for him. Immediately afterwards, however, he disappeared, and, we believe, subsided into his original employment, which was that of a printer. Since then nothing has been heard of him, until about a fortnight since, when he appeared in this city [San Francisco] as – to copy his card – a member of the “Orthodox Catholic Church.” We find, however, from the following advertisement that he has now transferred his valuable talents to our Methodist brethren:
“Russo-Greek Methodist Episcopal Church, Rev. Agapius Honcharenko, Pastor. Preaching every Sabbath morning at 9 o’clock in the Vestry of the Howard street M.E. Church. Services conducted in the Slavonian, Russian and Greek languages. All are invited.”
As the members of the Greek Church (if there are any here) cannot recognize him, and American Methodists cannot understand “Services in the Slavonian, Russian and Greek languages,” we think his chance is a small one of founding a sect with the “stunning” name of the “Russo-Greek Methodist Episcopal Church.”
As it happened, there were indeed Orthodox Christians living in San Francisco in 1867. They were grouped into two societies — the Russian Slavonian Benevolent Society and the Greek-Russian Slavonian Orthodox Eastern Church and Benevolent Society. Just a couple weeks after the above article ran, the two societies merged, and the Russian and Pan-Slavonic Benevolent Society was incorporated. The Orthodox in San Francisco had initially attended some of Honcharenko’s church services. In a letter in 1868, Prince Dimitry Makutsov (acting director of the Russian American Company) wrote, “Last year Agapius Honcharenko arrived in S.-Francisco, who escaped from a certain monastery. At the beginning, he was conducting divine services here, but, since he is not following the precise rules of our Church, all those who share our faith left him and renounced him as a schismatic.” The realization that Honcharenko was a fraud appears to have been part of the impetus for the San Francisco Orthodox community to form a parish.
One of the immediate goals of the society was to build an Orthodox church. In March of 1868, they sent a petition to Bishop Paul in Alaska, asking that he send Fr. Nicholas Kovrigin to San Francisco. The bishop granted the society’s request, and Kovrigin was in San Francisco in time for Holy Week. This was the first formal Russian parish in the contiguous United States, and Kovrigin was the first resident parish priest.
 The Congregationalist and Boston Recorder (January 16, 1868), 20.
 “Father Agapius,” San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin (reprinted from the Pacific Churchman, November 30, 1867).
 “Russian Benevolent Society,” San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin (December 27, 1867).
 Prince D. Makutsov to Bishop Paul (March 1868). Published at Holy Trinity Cathedral (OCA), http://www.holy-trinity.org/history/1868/03.00.Maksutov-Paul.html.
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