As you may (or may not) know, regular OrthodoxHistory.org author Nicholas Chapman — the man who has single-handedly rewritten our understanding of early Orthodoxy in America — hosts a podcast on Ancient Faith Radio, called Speaking of Books. For his most recent episode, Nicholas reviewed an intriguing volume: The Russian catechism, composed and published by order of the Czar. To which is annex’d, a short account of the church-government, and ceremonies, of the Moscovites. Illustrated with cuts.
As the title suggests, this isn’t a new book. In fact, it was published in the early 18th century. In English. And it was advertised in the New England Courant — a Boston newspaper — in 1723. All of which cuts against the notion that Orthodoxy was virtually unknown in America until the 19th century.
To listen to the podcast, CLICK HERE. It’s 17 minutes long, and definitely worth your time.
1911 membership certificate from Ss Peter & Paul Russian Church in Lorain, OH
First of all, let me apologize for being away from this site — and from the podcast — for so long. My wife gave birth to our third child a few weeks ago, and I’ve been buried in gainful employment, so my historical work has been forced onto the back burner for a little while. (For those who aren’t aware, I’ve got one semester of law school left, and I’m already doing a lot of work for the firm that’s hired me. My focus is on employee benefits, which means that the recent Supreme Court decision on “Obamacare” directly affects my day-to-day activities. So I’ve been obscenely busy, even apart from the new baby and my two other kids.)
Anyway, the other day I took a few minutes off to clear my head, and for some reason I visited eBay (which isn’t a habit of mine or anything). As it turns out, eBay has some very interesting items related to Orthodox history in America, and I thought I’d share a few of them here. This might turn into an occasional feature on the site; we’ll see.
The coolest, and oldest, item I found is a framed membership certificate from Ss. Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Church in Lorain, Ohio, dating to 1911 (and pictured above).
L-R: Met. Benjamin, Abp Athenagoras, Maj. Gen. Watson, Met. Antony, and Bp Dionisije (1943)
A 1943 press photo of four Orthodox bishops and a US general. The bishops — Benjamin (Moscow Patriarchate), Athenagoras (Greek Archdiocese), Antony (Antiochian Archdiocese), and Dionisije (Serbian Diocese) were the core members of the Federation, the original pan-Orthodox hierarchical body in America. They were on a visit to the White House to meet with President Franklin Roosevelt.
The 1956 Yearbook and Church Directory for the Russian Metropolia (today’s OCA). The 100+ page book is full of articles and lists, including a directory of every parish in the Metropolia, a list of ordinations for 1955, an account of the Ninth All-American Sobor, and an obituary for Bishop Jonah of Washington (no, not that one).
The book Father Agapius Honcharenko: First Ukrainian Priest in the United States, by Theodore Luciw and published in 1970. This is an admiring biography of one of the strangest figures in American Orthodox history. I borrowed a copy from the library several years ago, and while it’s an invaluable resource, it’s also written by someone who views Honcharenko as rather heroic, so that affects the way he’s presented. Anyway, the book is almost worth buying for the cover art alone (and you probably won’t see that cover art on a library copy).
This is one of my favorite finds: a coin from 1977 commemorating the 60th anniversary of the re-established Moscow Patriarchate. The coin features the images of all four Patriarchs up to that point — Tikhon, Sergius, Alexei, and Pimen. As you might expect, the coin is from Russia, but of course Tikhon was previously Archbishop of North America and the other Patriarchs had a major impact on Orthodoxy in America. The coin was given to people who attended the official anniversary ceremony, and it’s still in its original wooden case.
A key chain from 1982, commemorating the 75th anniversary of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Portland, Oregon. These sorts of trinkets are really common today, but I’d wager there aren’t too many that still survive from 30 years ago. Holy Trinity is one of the oldest Orthodox parishes in the Pacific Northwest, and was the successor to the earlier Holy Trinity chapel, which operated under the Russian Diocese.
If any of our readers buys one of these items, please let us know!
If you’ve seen the Atlas of American Orthodox Christian Churches, edited by Alexei Krindatch, you know that it’s an indispensable and utterly fascinating wealth of information on Orthodoxy in America, both past and present. I was honored to play a small role in creating the atlas, writing two articles, compiling a timeline, and providing the historical census data. But the atlas is much, much more than just that — it features profiles and statistics on every single Orthodox jurisdiction in the United States, including not only the member jurisdictions of the Assembly of Bishops, but also the Oriental Orthodox (or “Non-Chalcedonian”) churches.
Today, Ancient Faith Radio aired the latest episode of my American Orthodox History podcast, which is available HERE and is basically an audio version of my “This week in American Orthodox history” article (with some ad-libbing). And in case you missed it, last week, I revived the podcast with an episode discussing Fr. Kallinikos Delveis, one of the first Greek Orthodox priests in New York and Massachusetts (listen to that episode HERE).
Today’s episode is the first of an experimental new format, using the whole “This week” theme as a framework to discuss all sorts of stories. But, as I said, it’s experimental, so if you want to offer any feedback, I’d love to hear it. My plan is to release a new episode pretty much every Monday. They’re shorter than the old ones (today’s is 13 minutes long), but I hope they’re still (perhaps more?) worth your time.
Click the image to order a copy of Nicholas Chapman's lecture on Philip Ludwell III.
Nicholas Chapman recently gave an hour-long talk on Philip Ludwell III, the first Orthodox convert in American history. The lecture is now available for purchase, and you’ve got two options: an MP3 download for $4.95, and a boxed CD for $9.95. The boxed CD includes a newly-discovered portrait of Ludwell as a young man, and also the Ludwell family book plate. Both options — MP3 and CD — are available through Orthodox Christian Recorded Books, which features this summary:
Recent research has brought to light the existence of an Orthodox presence in colonial Virginia more than half a century before the arrival of the Russian Orthodox missionaries in Alaska. The Virginian believers were centered on Colonel Philip Ludwell III, who was the largest landowner in British Virginia. How did he come to the Faith and what did he do to bring others to the Church? Why is his story important for us today, and what can we learn from it to inspire our own love for God and desire to serve Him? Nicholas Chapman addresses these questions and others in this presentation, using materials from his upcoming book on the subject.