The following letter was found in Ingram N.W. Irvine’s file in the OCA Archives in Syosset, New York. The letter is undated (the pre-printed date line “190_” does not have a specific year) and appears under the letterhead of the North American Ecclesiastical Consistory, 15 East 97th Street, New York, N.Y. It is handwritten and appears to be a draft of a letter that was sent to Irvine notifying him of his transfer from the Archbishop Platon to Bishop (now Saint) Raphael. This letter was probably written by Fr. Alexander Hotovitsky. The signature is not very legible, but the first initial is clearly an “A.” The first four letters of the last name are almost certainly “Hoto” or “Hato” or “Hito.”
This is to inform you that by the order of His Grace Archbishop Platon of North America you are […] now transferred to the Orthodox Syrian Mission in Brooklyn, N.Y. to be under […] jurisdiction of Rt. Rev. Bishop Raphael and perform such missionary work […] as His Eminence Bishop Raphael would desire for you within his diocese with understanding that all your service in N.Y. St. Nicholas Cathedral since now shall be discontinued and your connection with […] Cathedral cease, your name having been taken away from the list of clergy of the Russian Cathedral.
Therefore you have to remove your mailing box, etc. to any other address you wish and to make all necessary changes in your cards, letterhead, […], etc. without fail.
As to details in connection with this order please apply to the Bishop Raphael […] has a copy of this […]
[signed] A. Hoto[vitsky?]
Irvine is listed among the Syrian Orthodox clergy in the (Episcopalian) American Church Almanac & Year Book for 1912. Thus, the letter can have been written no later than 1911, when the book was published. In addition, the OCA archives have a letter from Irvine to the North American Ecclesiastical Consistory dated May 25, 1909 in which he talks about the Holy Synod blessing him to establish an English-speaking chapel in New York. More importantly, the archives also include a letter dated just one day earlier (May 24) from the Coudert Brothers law firm to Archbishop Platon regarding a lawsuit against St. Nicholas (Russian) Cathedral. The dispute involved a transaction between Irvine and a printing company. The Cathedral had won, but the printers were appealing, In a postscript, there is the following: “We understood from Dr. Hotovitsky that he had gone over this matter fully with you and that you were fully advised of the situation.”
I don’t think the printing company dispute related above would have been sufficient to precipitate Irvine’s transfer out of the Russian jurisdiction, but it was probably one of several factors. (Notice how strongly the letter’s author emphasizes that Irvine’s connection with the Russian cathedral has “ceased.”)
Irvine was a forward-thinking visionary, and that fit in well when St. Tikhon was in charge. But St. Tikhon was replaced by Abp Platon in 1907, and… well, let’s just say that Platon was no Tikhon. Abp Platon was probably far less encouraging of Irvine’s English work, and far less patient with Irvine’s idiosyncracies. On the other hand, St. Raphael was much more in like with St. Tikhon’s mindset, and would have welcomed a talented priest like Irvine. (In fact, even before he joined the Syrian diocese, Irvine had been writing articles for St. Raphael’s Al Kalimat journal.)
UPDATE: Since this article was published, we have verified that the above letter was, in fact, written by St. Alexander Hotovitzky.
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]