SOCHA Newsletter, Issue #1 (July 15, 2011)

A few weeks ago, I tested a new OH.org feature, “Friday Links.” The response was generally positive, but the idea has evolved a bit since then. Instead of merely posting links on each (or every other) Friday, we’re going to begin offering a SOCHA newsletter.

At the outset, I’m planning to do this on a monthly basis, but depending on how things go, it may be more often than that. Also, once I can figure out the technical side of it, the plan is both to post the newsletter as a regular article at OH.org and to send it, by email, to anyone who wants a copy. The idea here is that we post quite a lot of material on our website, and not all of our readers check it every day (or even every week). By getting a regular email, readers who forget to check the site can catch up on the highlights of the past month. But as I said, I still need to figure out how to get that set up; for now, the newsletter will just be here on the website.

This is kind of new and inevitably will evolve (and hopefully improve) over time. As always, ideas/suggestions/etc. can be sent to me at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.

WHAT’S NEW AT SOCHA?

  • I’ve revived my American Orthodox History podcast at Ancient Faith Radio. Click here for details, and here to listen to the latest episode.
  • Nicholas Chapman, who uncovered the lost story of Orthodoxy in colonial Virginia, has made yet another remarkable discovery: an Orthodox Christian fired the first shot in the Civil War!
  • Our first-ever SOCHA symposium at Princeton is fast approaching. The dates are September 30-October 1 (Friday-Saturday). As you can imagine, we’re pretty excited about this, and I can say in all honesty that it’s shaping up to be a phenomenal event. One of the coolest aspects of the symposium is that it’s bringing together professional scholars and “amateurs,” and people from all over American Orthodoxy. Check out the list of short papers to get a feel for the kind of diversity I’m talking about. And lest anyone think I’m patting myself on the back, please know that I had nothing to do with planning the symposium — that was primarily the work of SOCHA executive director Fr. Oliver Herbel and Princeton’s Seraphim Danckaert. I hope as many readers as possible will attend!

IN THE NEWS:

  • The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission is trying to have a 15-block section of the city’s East Village declared a historic district. This area includes the OCA’s Holy Protection Cathedral, which was built in 1891 and acquired by the OCA in 1943. It housed the OCA administration until the jurisdiction acquired its present headquarters in Syosset, NY. The Holy Protection parish community is opposing the proposed designation, arguing that “the congregation could not afford to meet standards that landmark designation would impose on repairs and maintenance of the 110-year-old house of worship.” I’m very sympathetic to those concerns. Certainly, as a historian, I love the concept of preserving artifacts and buildings from our past. But preserving history and Historic Preservation aren’t one and the same. The latter involves government-imposed “historic preservation” designations, and while these may seem an attractive way to preserve a venerable building, the practical results can be unjust. Here, the Holy Protection community would be legally obligated to spend more money than it can afford in maintaining the building, not just as a working church, but as a historical landmark. And it would have to go through the government’s historic preservation bureaucracy to make changes to the building in the future. All things considered, Holy Protection is best off preserving its own history without having the government get involved.
  • Another New York Orthodox parish has been having some issues with the government and its church building: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which stood next to the Twin Towers and was destroyed on September 11, 2001, has been negotiating for years with New York’s Port Authority to obtain permission to rebuild. Recently, the Greek-American group AHEPA held a rally calling for the rebuilding of the church.
  • William Kobasz of St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church in Perth Amboy, NJ recently published a history of the church’s bells. The bells are over 100 years old and originally cost $1,734 to cast (equivalent to over $40,000 today). Proceeds from Kobasz’s book will fund the upkeep of the bells.
  • The examiner.com website published a history of St. Andrew Russian Orthodox Church (ROCOR) of St. Petersburg, FL. The parish was founded in 1948.

NOTABLE LINKS:

  • The OCA has launched its redesigned website, which includes a nicer-looking section for its Department of History and Archives. I can’t actually tell if there’s new historical material, though. We can only hope that the OCA (and the other jurisdictions) will someday get around to digitizing their vast archives and sharing them with the rest of the world.
  • On the other hand, if you want some good digital sources, check out the publications of AARDM Press that are now available online. In addition to loads of Russian sources that are begging to be translated (including documents on St. Alexander Hotovitzky), they’ve got tons of English-language collections of St. Alexis Toth’s writings, as well as Bishop Nestor Zakkis (or Zass, the Russian bishop of Alaska from 1879-82). AARDM is just a tiny little publishing house in Minnesota, and it’s nearly impossible to find these materials for sale, so having them available online is especially exciting.

Matthew Namee, Editor