Thus far, on the third Thursday of each month this year, I have written a post concerning Orthodoxy and higher education in America. I conclude this half-year mini-series by announcing that the authors and titles of the papers to be delivered at this fall’s symposium are now online. In addition to the four keynote presentations, we will have fourteen other papers:
The topics, institutions represented, and authors speaking are all diverse in a most intriguing way and a testament to the breadth of American Orthodox history. I am very truly thankful to Seraphim Dankaert at Princeton Theological Seminary and to all the scholars who submitted abstracts for this year’s event. It is my hope and prayer that this will become a regular gathering for SOCHA and all who may be interested in American Orthodox history.
I hope my adding this post will not damper people’s interest in Fr. Andrew’s book. I have listened to some of his podcasts and they are good. Nonetheless, it’s time for my regular monthly post . Each monthly post in 2011 has concentrated on Orthodoxy and higher education in America and this one will continue that theme, though not in quite the same way.
In this post, I thought I’d mention the People’s University in Chicago and put out a “call for more information.” I do not know much about this school and therefore would greatly welcome any reader from Chicago (or elsewhere) who has more information on this. What I do know is that it lasted from 1918 until 1920. It was a night school that met in public school classrooms with the twofold purpose of Americanizing Russian immigrants and teaching Russian to Americans for business purposes. Boris Bakhmeteff, the ambassador for the provisional government in Russia, had allocated $10,000 from embassy funds to start this venture. The financial aspects were overseen directly by the Russian consul, Antoine Volkoff. Although this venture did not last I find it quite intriguing. Perhaps others know more about it than the bare-bone basics I’ve been able to find. I should note I haven’t scoured the Bakhmeteff archives as I maybe should, though a quick skim through the contents (as available online) did not jog anything in my mind. Nor have I had a chance to figure out what archives in Chicago might contain information on this enterprise. If someone knows better, please do let me know. This is no do or die matter but I suspect that a fuller history of the Russian People’s University in Chicago could offer a unique view into the world of the Russian emigre community and those who fled turmoil of Russia for the safe haven of America.
Those interested in Russians in Chicago more generally might wish to start here, though one would have to go far beyond this to learn more:
During this Holy Week time, I am going to shift just a bit on my running series regarding Orthodoxy and higher education here in America. Instead of mentioning an historical event, I thought I’d share something from Fr. Georges Florovsky. If you need to know a little something about his life, go here:
The following quote is from “Faith and Culture,” St. Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly 4:1-2 (1955-56), 44.
“Either Christians ought to go out of the world, in which there is another master besides Christ (whatever name this master may bear: Caesar or Mammon or any other), and start a separate society. Or again they have to transform the outer world and rebuild it according to the law of the Gospel. What is important, however, is that even those who go out cannot dispense with the main problem: they still have to build up a “society” and cannot therefore dispense with this basic element of social culture. “Anarchism” is in any case excluded by the Gospel. Nor does Monasticism mean or imply a denunciation of culture. Monasteries were, for a long time, precisely the most powerful centers of cultural activity, both in the West and in the East. The practical problem is therefore reduced to the question of a sound and faithful orientation in a concrete historical situation.
Christians are not committed to the denial of culture as such. But they are to be critical of any existing cultural situation and measure it by the measure of Christ. For Christians are also the Sons of Eternity, i.e. prospective citizens of the Heavenly Jerusalem. Yet problems and needs of “this age” in no case and in no sense can be dismissed or disregarded, since Christians are called to work and service precisely “in this world” and “in this age.” Only all these needs and problems and aims must be viewed in that new and wider perspective which is disclosed by the Christian Revelation and illumined by its light.”
Definitely wise words to heed as we continue to plan and develop Orthodox engagement with higher education. Definitely fitting words for this time of year.
With a couple of the latest posts by Matthew, the comments section has become dominated by people concerned with his research. I have read through them up to this point, and I thought maybe it would be helpful to people to see how I view orthodoxhistory.org.
On the one hand, I do not think Orthodoxhistory.org is intended to publish, regularly, with the same level of detailed investigation that is required for a peer reviewed article. I am in the process of putting together Prairie Parish Press, which will publish the Journal of American Orthodox Church History. So, God-willing, we will have such a journal publicly available in a few months.
On the other hand, Orthodoxhistory.org isn’t mere opinion, and certainly is not intended to be armchair opinion. To me, I see Orthodoxhistory.org as having three possible goals with any post:
1) Publication of something researched nearly to the point where it could be submitted for peer review. With my Archbishop Arseny posts, I did that. No, I never wrote an article that could be submitted (for I would never submit something I write online anyhow), but the research into his trial was a serious beginning of something that could have been developed in that direction with some additional work. So, sometimes, we will post on new primary source research that is analyzed in detail. That is one possible goal any given post may have.
2) Publication of a piece with commentary that simply points to a larger issue without making any strong claims about anything in too much detail. I did that in my last post on SVS’s beginning. I didn’t research the whole beginning. I simply posted a single newspaper article and then pointed to the larger picture. So, sometimes, we will write posts that do little else than point to a larger area of investigation or interest that others might want to pursue. These are reminder pieces, I suppose, and for some people, maybe new info, but not overwhelming info.
3) Publication of preliminary research intended for engagement by our readers. This is probably the main kind of posting that Matthew does (though he also does sometimes do 1 and 2 too). I think sometimes we might forget that. We might think he simply describes what he found so quickly that he must mean it to be comprehensive. That’s not entirely fair to him, though. And, to be fair, I did something similar with my post on the OrthCathA collection at the University of Buffalo. I didn’t actually go there and look at the collection before I posted, so I couldn’t have told you specifically what kind of volumes were donated by Fr. Michael Gelsinger and Fr. Boris Burden. I certainly would not have minded had someone done that. That would have been fine. Likewise, Matthew is open to people providing information that may change his conclusions.
So, those are the three main goals I see. I may tend toward goals one and two, but that does not mean goal three ought to be suspect. I think it’s venerable to want engagement from our readers in furthering research and discussion. In a way, goal three is like “peer reviewing,” at least peer review in a blog context. This makes the discussions in the comments section so important. Should more non-English sources be scoured? As a general rule, of course, but I also hope we don’t presume that people writing tentative conclusions are simply dismissed because they did not have the time and money to do so. Also keep in mind, that tentative research is still research. It may only be the very beginnings, but throwing that stuff out there can lead to engagement, which can lead to new leads. Some of our posts will be attempting to do little more than that. I hope, though, that that will not dissuade people from reading nor turn people away but, rather, encourage people to join us in our journeys.
This article was written by Fr. Oliver Herbel.
In my last two posts this year (2011), I have highlighted something from Orthodoxy’s engagement with higher education here in America. In one case I mentioned SVS obtaining some new facilities and I mentioned the beginning of the Byzantine collection at the University of Buffalo. Here I thought I’d offer a nice little piece on one of the meetings that helped conceive of the development of seminary education in the Metropolia.
This was necessary because St. Platon’s seminary had been closed finally and officially in 1924 (after having been moved to New York from its original location in Tenafly, NJ in 1922). The financial problems following the Russian Revolution and Civil War had been extreme and the Russian Mission suffered significantly. This would affect the mission as it later became the Metropolia. By the 1930s, though, the need for a seminary was significant. In 1937, real headway was made on this front.