The first Greek Orthodox church in New York City – named for the Holy Trinity — was formed in January of 1892. It was organized by a group called the Society of Athena, which, as the name suggests, was composed mainly of Greek immigrants from Athens. The community’s first priest, Fr. Paisios Ferentinos, was sent by the Archbishop of Athens, apparently in consultation with the Ecumenical Patriarch.
By the end of 1893, though, many of the Holy Trinity parishioners wanted to start a second church. The reasons are not entirely clear. The New York Times (January 8, 1894) reported at the time that Holy Trinity was “attended chiefly by the up-town colony of Greeks, and did not fully meet the wants of those who live at the lower end of the city.” The president of the Society of Athena, Solon Vlasto, made direct contact with the Ecumenical Patriarch. In response, the Patriarch sent Archimandrite Kallinikos Delveis to New York, authorizing him to found Annunciation, the city’s second Greek Orthodox church.
Now, it’s not entirely clear why exactly the Society of Athena made this request. There were, by most accounts, something like a thousand Greeks in New York City at the time, and the newly-formed Annunciation parish claimed 300 or 400 members. In his book Orthodox Christians in America, Fr. John Erickson writes that a “dissatisfied group wrote to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, rather than to the Holy Synod of Greece, asking for ‘an educated priest.’” But, as I’ve noted in an earlier post, the priest of Holy Trinity, Fr. Paisios Ferentinos, was in fact quite well-educated. There must have been some sort of dispute, but at the moment, I don’t know the details.
The Times described the new priest, Fr. Kallinikos, in this way:
The Rev. Kalinikos Dilveis is a man of striking personality. He is thirty-two years old, of medium height, olive complexion, and long black hair and beard. He was born in Constantinople, and was educated in the theological seminary of Halki, in that city. His voice is resonant, and he is reputed to be a preacher of great eloquence.
The new parish had a little trouble in finding a building, but eventually made arrangements to rent space in the basement of Judson Memorial Baptist Church, located in Washington Square. And as things worked out, the first church service was the Divine Liturgy on Christmas Day.
Later that year, when Tsar Alexander III died, both Greek churches in New York held memorials for the Emperor. The older church, Holy Trinity, drew some 300 people to its memorial, including the Russian consul. Annunciation’s service had around a hundred people in attendance. Holy Trinity clearly remained the “main” Greek church in the city, and it seems likely that most of the Russians in New York attended Holy Trinity, rather than Annunciation.