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One of our advisory board members, Deacon Andrei Psarev of Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY, operates the excellent church history website ROCORStudies.org. As the name suggests, the site is devoted to studying the history of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). Recently, we asked Deacon Andrei to provide a summary of the site for our readers. He offered the following:
Our Website, Historical Studies of the Russian Church Abroad, is a meeting place for people concerned with the past and present of the ROCOR.
- Posted materials are in English and Russian.
LIVES OF BISHOPS
Hitherto unpublished biographies by Michael Woerl and photos of all bishops who served in the ROCOR, however briefly (e.g., Archbishop James Tooms of the American Orthodox Mission)
Serialization of ROCOR history by Dr. Gernot Seide, bios of clergy and laity, canon law issues, relations with non–Orthodox. Your comments are welcome!
Sister Vassa Larin on theology and education, interviews with historians and witnesses to key developments in ROCOR history
Excerpts from liturgical services of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY
Photographs, including archival and rear images, documenting the history of the ROCOR
ARCHBISHOP LEONTII OF CHILE (1904-1971)
Photos and documents pertaining to a man who was a confessor of the faith in the USSR and became a controversial bishop of the ROCOR 1904-1971 in South America
The Web site is updated once a month. Subscribe to our free newsletters!
A variety of opinions is encouraged as long as academic standards are upheld: claims should be supported by evidence and controversial views must be couched in an inoffensive tone.
Jim Lucas is the president of the Greek Historical Society of the San Francisco Bay Area, a non-profit corporation based at Annunciation Cathedral in San Francisco. The organization is dedicated to the preservation of Greek history and culture in the San Francisco area. Jim has been actively researching the history of the Greek community for several years and is writing a book “The Greeks of San Francisco” which will be released at a future date.
The Orthodox faith has had a presence in San Francisco since at least 1857, and the first Russian Orthodox church was founded in 1868. The Greeks that settled in San Francisco during those early years worshipped at the Russian Orthodox Church until Holy Trinity was founded in 1904.
Those of you that live in the San Francisco area are familiar with two Greek churches in San Francisco, Holy Trinity and Annunciation Cathedral. Holy Trinity is the oldest Greek church west of Chicago and Annunciation Cathedral was founded in 1921. Most Greeks are very surprised to learn that there was a third Greek Orthodox Church that existed for a brief period.
In 1908 there was a disagreement over parish council elections and the handling of money at Holy Trinity. The disagreement turned violent on July 12, 1908, when police were called to Holy Trinity (San Francisco Call, 7-13-1908, “War Raged at the Door of the Sanctuary”). A faction led by Ioannis Kapsimalis (former parish council president and Greek Consul) decided to start their own church. They acquired land on Rincon Hill (35 Stanley Place), built a church which they named St. John Prodromos (see photograph). They built offices and a meeting hall which they named the “Alexander the Great Meeting Hall.” They hired Father Constantine Tsapralis as their first priest (There is a common misunderstanding that Fr. Tsapralis’ service at Holy Trinity was continuous from 1903 – 1936 which is not true). The Holy Trinity community in turn hired Fr. Stefanos Macaronis as their next priest.
On December 2, 1909, the factions resolved their differences and St. John Prodromos ceased to exist. Fr. Tsapralis was rehired by Holy Trinity and Fr. Stefanos Macaronis moved to a parish in Oregon. From 1910 until Holy Trinity was raised to install a meeting hall in 1922, this property served as the offices and meeting hall for the community. There are numerous news articles in the San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Call relating to Greek community events that were held at the Alexander the Great Hall. This building was a vital part of Greek community life.
Mr. Peter Bergevin, the owner of the property, passed away at December 27, 1911 at the age of 68. Mr. Bergevin willed the property to Holy Trinity. On June 23, 1915, a hearing was held regarding Mr. Bergevin’s estate. His daughter, Mrs. Adeline Telfer, deeded the property to Holy Trinity on July 20, 1915 pursuant to a court order regarding the estate of her father. (Click here to view the document).
The property was later sold to the State of California to make room for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge closing this early chapter San Francisco Greek history.
Jim Lucas is the President of the Greek Historical Society of the San Francisco Bay Area and can be reached by email at email@example.com. More San Francisco Greek historical material can be found at www.sanfranciscogreeks.com.
Editor’s note: The following article was provided by Magdalene Spirros Maag of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in New Orleans. As most of our readers know, Holy Trinity, which was founded in the 1860s, was probably the first Orthodox parish in the contiguous United States. In its early years, the community was multiethnic, and it was loosely affiliated with the Church of Greece. The archival work being done at the Cathedral today is incredibly exciting, and I thought that our readers would appreciate an update. We’ll continue to follow this project in future articles.
Hurricane Katrina severely flooded the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in New Orleans with waters entering the Cathedral and the Hellenic Center Fellowship Hall leaving behind devastation that is all too familiar to Gulf residents. Of particular concern was the collection of religious artifacts the Greek Orthodox community had safeguarded since 1865 when the church was first established on N. Dorgenois St. Many items were lost and other relics were damaged in the flood waters. The collection includes icons, Bibles, priests’ vestments, liturgical objects, photos and church documents. In the fall of 2010 a major effort was launched to retrieve, assess and identify priority items for restoration and conservation.
Holy Trinity congregants have always safeguarded this collection throughout the century and a half since its beginning. Because of the foresight of Karen Clark, cathedral member and textile conservator, and the combined efforts of Cathedral members, most of the collection had been archived and stored on the second-floor of the Fellowship Hall the year before Katrina struck. But the dispersal of members and the rebuilding of the Cathedral and Hellenic Center structures, located in severely-hit Lakeview, took precedence for several years.
The reunification of the historic collection with its worshipping community was launched with a small display of key items during the 2010 Greek festival. The campaign to restore the collection began. Funds were raised to pay for the restoration of key items. Some of these items are:
- The Holy Kouvouklion cited in a New Orleans guide in 1885 with 12 priceless painted icons that depict our Lord’s Paschal death and resurrection
- Blessed Mother of God Icon, gifted to Holy Trinity by the Russian imperial family in 1872, was exposed to excessive moisture from flood waters for several weeks.
- The flooded Sacramental Journals had mold threatening the Greek handwritten data inscribed by priests beginning in 1880.
- Holy Trinity’s first Greek Orthodox Bible crafted in Agia Lavra Monastery where the Greek war for independence from the Ottoman Empire launched was falling apart.
On March 10, 2012, the Archives Committee of Holy Trinity will hold its first public exhibition of key artifacts. This event is a fundraising effort to pay for the continued restoration of priority items. A joint effort of the Cathedral’s Archives Committee and their charitable arm, Ladies Philoptochos Society, fifty percent of the ticket sales will support several regional nonprofit organizations that serve our fellow residents who are in need of social services and basic needs. Members of the Archives Committee accept memorial donations. See contact information below.
Please see the attached flyer for information on date, cost, location and highlights of the Keepers of the Faith: The Beginning 1865 – 1915 Exhibition. Please call Magdalene Spirros Maag @ 504-780-9165 and Connie Tiliakos @ 504-885-0206 for more information. The information is also posted on the Holy Trinity website, www.holytrinitycathedral.org.
To download the flyer, CLICK HERE.
Editor’s note: The following article was written by Daniel Silliman, who teaches American Religion and Culture at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. The article originally appeared on Mr. Silliman’s blog, and I thought our readers here at OrthodoxHistory.org would find it interesting. – Matthew
Watch American Religious Studies and American Religious History for even a little while, and you’ll see a developing, evolving way of talking about different groups. Go back — not too far, even — and one finds almost all the attention given to denominational organizations, and everything framed in terms of continuity or discontinuity with Boston Puritanism.
It’s not like that anymore.
Just in recent years, the account of Islam in America is growing and changing. It’s now de riguer to note that the first Muslims came to America with the importation of slaves from Africa. Added to that is a new emphasis on the various ways Islam has come to the US: with the slaves, emerging out of the 20th century African American community, with immigrants from South East Asia, with immigrants from the Middle East, etc.
A similar turn has happened in accounts of immigrants in general. Talk about Judaism, talk about Catholicism, and you have to talk about immigrant communities. One of the results of this has been to break up the homogenity of these religious identities. One looks today, for example, at Catholics, plural, focusing on the practices and behaviours of lay Catholics, the way religion functioned in their lives and in their sense of themselves, rather than focusing on Catholicism as an abstraction.
One blank spot, right now, however, is the Eastern Orthodox in America.
This blank spot kind of gets poked at, but there doesn’t seem to be a standard way to talk about this religion and this religious experience yet.
Part of this may be the numbers. Pew puts all the Orthodox Christians in America today at about .6%. Muslims also come in at about .6%, though, Orthodox Jews are half that, and Buddhists and Jehovah’s Witnesses are only slightly larger, with .7%. All those groups have more established narratives, it seems to me.
When the Eastern Orthodox are talked about, it’s often with this very general rubric of “immigrant,” without any specifics as to how their experiences and histories were different, if at all, from other immigrant groups.
Charles Lippy, in his brief Introducing American Religions gives two paragraphs to the “wave” of Eastern Orthodox Christians who came in the years between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of World War I, “Adding to diversity.” “Adding to diversity” is Lippy’s thing, so by the time one is 100, 150 pages into his book, saying that this is what the Orthodox did is only slightly more enlightening than “they existed.”
Most of his two paragraphs are dedicated to noting the countries the different groups came from, as well as the economic draws that brought them to where they ended up.
This is symptematic, more than a problem specific to Lippy. It seems like there’s not really a story about the Orthodox that anyone knows. Where, with Jews in America, one talks about the Hassids, or Reform Judaism and Isaac Mayer Wise, with the Orthodox Christians, there’s no standard story, no genrally know starting points, public moments or figures.
The second volume of Edwin Gaustad and Mark Noll’s anthology, A Documentary History of Religion in America since 1877 has the start of a story, and focuses on one very public moment in the Orthodox’s American history. They give 6 1/2 pages to Russian Orthodoxy in Alaska. This is a major improvement, though obviously still really limited. They include two documents, one Father John Veniaminov’s “The Condition of the Orthodox Church in Russian America,” the other a report on religion in the Russian American colonies and the Russian American Company, which was published in Overland Monthly in 1895. Both documents are really interesting — Veniaminov, for example, writes that at first the Aleuts only believed in and prayed to “an unknown God” about whom they knew little — but still only offer the tiniest sketch.
One would even be forgiven for thinking the Orthodox churches in America died out with “Russian America,” or, that if it do still exist, it’s in the form of left overs. In one editorial notes, Gaustad and Noll write “Russian Orthodoxy continued to be a major religious force in Alaska through the nineteenth century,” and “Russian Orthodoxy was planted with sufficient nurture to endure to the present day.”
Oddly, these are both statements sort of directed towards establishing the importance of the Orthodox in America. But kind of do the opposite.
I’m not knocking Gaustad and Noll. It’s actually a really excellent anthology. The point is not that they somehow failed, but that, really, there’s at best only a really limited and sketchy narrative of Eastern Orthdox Christians in America.
There’s basically nothing, it seems, when it comes to contemporary times.
There’s just sort of not a narrative here, and certainly not one that fits into any larger, broader narrative about religion in America. There’s precious little actually on this subject (exceptions: John H. Erickson’s Orthodox Christians in America; Alexei D. Krindatch’s work, including “Orthodox (Eastern Christian) Churches in the United States at the Beginning of a New Millennium: Questions of Nature, Identity, and Mission“).
There should be, though. The more recent history of Eastern Orthodoxy in America is particularly interesting, I think (and not just because a number of good friends of mine are a part of it) and yet it seems basically absent from scholarly work on religious culture and recent history. The evangelical press, by contrast, has paid attention to and noted the movement of evangelicals converting to Eastern Orthodoxy since at least the ’80s. Yet there’s no standing, standard account of these conversions, and why (in aggregate) they happened, and what that says about American religion at the turn of the 21st century, and what that says about American culture in general.
Instead of a good account that takes this movement seriously (while not, as is sometimes the wont of the converts themselves, over-estimating it as seismic and history-altering), what one gets is along these lines:
“Some years ago a sizable number of American Evangelicals, perhaps in search of a more colorful version of Christianity, became Eastern Orthodox as a group. For some reason they chose to join the American branch of the Patriarchate of Antioch, one of the most ancient Christian bodies in the world. (Its liturgical language is traditionally Arabic. You can’t get much more colorful than that.) Apparently these refugees from Billy Graham embraced their new faith with a fervor that alarmed some who were born Orthodox.”
That is Peter Berger — the great Peter Berger, I would even say — speaking out of the abundance of ignorance.
Even if it were the case these converts were merely seeking colorfulness, that’s a remarkably unsympathetic, un-empathetic way to describe the longings of other people’s souls. He could have easily just said the were “perhaps in search of more depth, history and tradition.”
But, the point is, there’s really no standard narrative of this event in recent religious history that could have been plugged in here by Berger. He’s essentially summarizing word-of-mouth and arguments that have been made in Christianity Today and other such publications. He still could have given a better account — this isn’t an excuse — but at least part of the problem is that the Orthodox story just isn’t told.
Father Michael Oleska, a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, recently issued a call to the Orthodox in America to start telling their stories. To themselves. To each other. He’s urging the religious telling of stories, arguing for the importance of such stories to a community and a culture. He says, in the video-message, that the Orthodox should start telling their stories because “culture is the enactment of a story.”
My hope is that as those stories are told, scholars of American religion pay attention.
This article was written by Daniel Silliman and originally appeared on his blog.
Editor’s note: The following article was written by relatives of Fr. Pythagoras Caravellas, and originally appeared in the 60th anniversary commemorative album for Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral in San Francisco, published in 1996. The article has been reprinted at Annunciation Cathedral’s website, and we present it here courtesy of the San Francisco Bay Area Greek Historical Society. The Society has done outstanding work on the history of Greek Orthodoxy in the region, and its chairman, Jim Lucas, is building a virtual photo album which may be found at this link. The website includes special pages for Fr. Pythagoras Caravellas and St. Sophia/Annunciation Cathedral, where he served as a priest.
We originally ran this article here at OrthodoxHistory.org on August 9, 2010. However, today is the 77th anniversary of Fr. Pythagoras’ repose, and I thought it appropriate to reprint his biography.
Pythagoras Caravellas was born in 1890, in Greece, on the small island of Samos, off the coast of Asia Minor. He was the son of a tobacco and cotton merchant and the youngest of four children.
At the age of 16, he completed his pre-university education at the gymnasium in Karlovassi. His schoolmasters, impressed with the young man’s curiousity and studious inclinations, recommended him for further study at one of the Greek teaching monasteries.
The year that young Pythagoras was cloistered in the mountain monastery, he applied himself diligently to the assigned subjects, religion, science, and the humanities. Perhaps it was the humility with which the monks imparted their wisdom to the young scholars that influenced young Pythagoras to cherish learning. This inspiration was to follow him always.
While under the tutelage of the monks, the Metropolitan of Corfu, Alexander, paid a visit to the monastery. The hierarchy of the Greek Orthodox faith had always taken a personal interest in the education and development of their youth. Alexander was not an exception. A man of deep perception, he was to become the first Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church. If his visits to the monasteries were anticipated by the students, a few requested were granted private audiences. The topics that generated the most interest were students’ personal aspirations.
During one of his private conversations with the Metropolitan whom he had known since childhood, Pythagoras confessed his secret hope to continue his education in the United States and perhaps establish a permanent home there. Expecting a small admonishment or to be dissuaded from his ambition, Pythagoras was pleased with the unexpected approval his received. The full impact of this meeting was not to emerge for twelve years, but its immediate result was that Pythagoras entered the Seminary in Athens to study for the priesthood. After a year, he was uncertain as to the wisdom of his action and decided to enroll in the University of Athens.
During the next four years he earned his degree and received his teaching credentials. While attending the university, he made occasional visits to his family in Samos. He also found time to tutor students, work for a tobacconist and take additional courses in English.
In 1911, he made his big decision to go to the United States. He went to Middleboro, Massachusetts, where a small colony of Greeks had settled, to live with his two brothers, Nicholas and Theodore, who had immigrated there two years before. Convinced that their brother was not interested in their restaurant business, they encouraged him to enter Harvard University with an offer to help him financially.
Before leaving Greece, Pythagoras had already decided to become a physician. Realizing how many long years of study lay ahead, he preferred not to accept his brothers’ generous offer. He considered ways in which he would attend school, allow time for studies, and still be able to earn an adequate income necessary for his tuition and living expenses. He would rely on his knowledge of small business accounting to earn his living and soon had a number of shopkeepers and restaurants as clients.
After graduation from Harvard with a degree in medicine in June, 1917, he became engaged to Evangeline Constantine. They were married in November, 1917. His work as a hospital intern offered some degree of fulfillment, but he was restless.
Recalling his year at the monastery and his communications with Archbishop Alexander, Pythagoras sent a letter to the Metropolitan asking for his guidance. The sincere simplicity of the Archbishop’s reply and his words of encouragement to enter the church convinced Pythagoras to give up medicine and to complete his studies in the priesthood.
Through further correspondence with the Metropolitan, Pythagoras learned of the need for Greek priests in the western part of the United States. As waves of Greek immigrants moved westward across the United States, they were dependent upon a small group of itinerant Greek priests for infrequent church services and the administration of religious rites. More Greeks lived and worked in the western states than the number of churches would suggest.
In 1921, Father Pythagoras arrived in San Francisco. At this time, his wife and daughter Theofani (Faye) were living in Chicago and it would be months later before he had the money to bring them to San Francisco. Once more the question of earning a livlihood and attending school was of immediate concern. Through letters of introduction and recommendation, Pythagoras became an assistant professor of Greek at the University of California, and attended the Pacific School of Religion. He supplemented his income writing for the Greek newspaper and the Christian Science Monitor. Soon, Pythagoras and Evangeline became an integral part of the young Greek community. Their resourcefulness and command of English, attracted the older families. They were often called upon to act as witnesses or interpreters in matters concerning immigration or in matters of law affecting members of the community. The more affluent Greeks were enthusiastic with the qualifications of the young couple and gave their wholehearted support for the erection of a church which would have Pythagoras as its priest.
After his graduation from the Pacific School of Religion in 1927, Pythagoras was ordained into the priesthood of the Greek Orthodox religion by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Metaxakis, and Archbishop Alexander, both of who were visiting in San Francisco at the time. The colorful ceremony was held in the new, small white church of St. Sophia. The presence of these eminent prelates in San Francisco created much interest and served to establish the young church of St. Sophia as a unified and integrated religious community.
With the advent of the Russian revolution, the organizational work of the Russian Orthodox Church in America came to an abrupt halt. In the meantime, the royalist-liberal controversy in Greece had divided event the Greek immigrants in America. The church could nor or would not steer a neutral course in the civil war raging between the forces of King Constantine and Premier Venizelos. This partnership, which had its beginnings in 1916, was to shake the church communities of Greece and United States to their foundation. The reaction in the United States was violent.
Reorganization required a degree of cooperation difficult to obtain. Nevertheless, Father Pythagoras managed to steer his congregation away from the repercussions of the political battles in Greece and toward the establishment of a Greek-American community whose growth would be a blending of the cultural heritage of Greece and the democratic principles of their adopted country, America.
Since coming to San Francisco, Father Pythagoras’ family increased by two daughters, Helen and Joan. After his ordination, Father Pythagoras budgeted his family severely. Occasionally, his small salary was supplemented by farmers; gifts of produce, fruit, and fowl. His parish was a poor one, and living became more difficult during the depression when members of his congregation dwelt on the edge of poverty. He administered to their needs, with words of encouragement and guidance. He would officiate at services during his frequent visits to farming communities. He taught the children of the community Greek after their regular school hours. He found time to program social activities for the community in observation of national and religious holidays. He made his rounds at the hospitals giving communion to the sick, the injured, and the dying. He conducted services every Sunday, every Holy Day and in the Greek church this alone is a rigorous and demanding schedule.
In 1931, the physical strain had taken its toll. Father Pythagoras was will with tuberculosis. He was a patient for three years at the California Sanitorium in Belmont. During his confinement, he continued to read avidly and began work for his degree as a Doctor of Divinity. He looked forward to returning to his church and his congregation. In late 1934, the doctors told him that he was cured and that he would soon be going home. On December 6, 1934, he suffered a heart attack and died. He was mourned by Greeks throughout the nation and his body lay in state in the church of St. Sophia for 7 days to afford his many friends the sad privilege of a final farewell.