It has come to my attention that people have been confused by our past calls for membership all the while there is nothing concrete by way of that membership. One person asked me what it even meant to acknowledge that he/she would like to be considered a member. This is a fair response and so I thought I would speak to this concern.
First and foremost, please accept our apologies here at SOCHA. It has taken us longer to develop some aspects of SOCHA than we had initially anticipated. In large part, this is because we have limited funds and also time constraints as well. Our requests for “membership” in the past have been to help us get a sense of how many people would actually be willing to become due paying members in time. This information has been helpful to us in our strategic planning.
Secondly, here are some things that we anticipate for the future. We intend to have SOCHA legally incorporated. This necessary step will enable us to collect funds. Once that is done, we will determine what sort of benefit to members could come from our partner journal, the Journal of American Orthodox Church History (JAOCH), published by Prairie Parish Press (http://prairieparishpress.com). Future members will either receive a discount on the journal or receive it as part of their membership in SOCHA. We will also explore the possibility of providing SOCHA members with a discounted registration for our symposia.
Another future project will be an online database of searchable primary sources. That will take quite some time to develop, and we are still debating whether this will be free or available to members only via a password, but we hope that some year down the road, this will come to fruition. Regardless of how we structure this, monies from future membership will help fund this.
In the very long run, we also hope that membership monies will help fund research grants (modest in size). Obviously, all of this takes time to develop and we ask for your patience. It is our hope and prayer that SOCHA will continue to be a beneficial presence to anyone interested in Orthodox Christian history and thought and we assure you that we are doing the best we can.
Yours in Christ,
I haven’t put together a SOCHA newsletter in a while, and this one is kind of sparse, but I didn’t want to wait any longer. If you know of anything we should include in the next issue, or to offer any other feedback about the newsletter, please email me at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.
WHAT’S NEW AT SOCHA?
- On September 30-October 1, SOCHA held its first symposium at Princeton Theological Seminary. Many thanks to Princeton’s Florovsky Society (and especially Seraphim Danckaert), which organized the event, and to all who participated. It was a major moment for SOCHA, and we can’t wait to do it again.
- Immediately after the symposium, SOCHA added a fourth director, Aram G. Sarkisian. For more on Aram, click here.
- Don’t forget to pick up a digital copy of the inaugural issue of our journal, the Journal of American Orthodox Church History. Copies are available for $10 from the Prairie Parish Press website. To learn more about the contents of the journal, click here.
- One of our authors here at OH.org, Nicholas Chapman, was recently featured in a fantastic interview with the journal Road to Emmaus. He discusses his latest discoveries about the origins of Orthodoxy in America. This is a must-read for anyone interested in American Orthodox history. We’ll be publishing an excerpt, along with ordering information, very soon.
- The ongoing research projects here at SOCHA include investigations into Fr. Raphael Morgan (the first black Orthodox priest in America) and the martyrdom of St. Peter the Aleut. In recent articles, we’ve published new information on both of those stories. Click here to read the latest discovery involving Morgan, and click here to read a preliminary translation of the original martyrdom account of St. Peter.
IN THE NEWS:
- At long last, the Greek Archdiocese has succeded in getting permission from the government to rebuild St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, which was destroyed when the World Trade Center was attacked on September 11, 2001
- The OCA’s All-American Council will take place in Seattle from October 31 to November 4, and they’ve planned two excursions to historic Seattle Orthodox churches on October 30. The first trip will go to Holy Trinity in Wilkeson, WA (one of the oldest Orthodox buildings in America, built in 1896). The second will visit St. Spiridon Cathedral (OCA, founded 1895) and St. Nicholas Cathedral (ROCOR, founded 1932). At St. Nicholas, visitors will visit the upstairs room where St. John Maximovitch died in 1966. Each excursion costs $50 per person. If any of our readers attend and take photos, we’d love to publish them here at OH.org. For details on these excursions, click here.
- Parish anniversaries: Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Augusta, GA (100th anniversary). St. George Romanian Orthodox Church in Canton, OH (100th anniversary). Protection of the Holy Virgin Orthodox Church (OCA) in Merrillville (formerly Gary), IN (100th anniversary). St. George Serbian Orthodox Church in East Chicago, IL (100th anniversary). Ss. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church (OCA) in Meriden, CT (100th anniversary). St. Seraphim Orthodox Church (OCA) in Santa Rosa, CA (75th anniversary).
Matthew Namee, Editor
This is the second issue of our SOCHA newsletter, first introduced last month. If you know of anything we should include in the next issue, or to offer any other feedback about the newsletter, please email me at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.
WHAT’S NEW AT SOCHA?
- Today, August 15, is the last day to get the early-bird discount on your registration fee for the upcoming SOCHA symposium at Princeton. The symposium takes place on August 30 and September 1. For more information, see the symposium’s web page or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The first issue of the Journal of American Orthodox Church History (JAOCH) will be launched THIS WEEK. The cost is $10. We’ll have lots more information in the coming days, so stay tuned.
- Things have been rather slow lately here at OrthodoxHistory.org, and for that, I apologize. A brief update on my personal research: As many of you know, my recent studies have been focused on Orthodoxy and the US civil courts. I’ve completed an initial paper on the subject. First, I review the history and existing rules used by courts. I then dissect those rules and (attempt to) demostrate why they don’t work, either constitutionally or in practical application to Orthodox cases. Finally, I propose an alternative approach which (so I argue) avoids the constitutional problems and also works better for the Orthodox Church. I’ll be presenting a short version of my paper at the upcoming SOCHA symposium, although (1) I may focus on the history and current rules rather than my proposed alternative, and (2) I won’t actually be presenting the paper in person. Unfortunately, circumstances prevent me from attending the symposium, so I’ll have a friend present the paper on my behalf. In addition to that short paper, I plan to submit my longer paper to a scholarly legal journal. So, yeah — that’s what I’ve been up to in terms of historical research.
IN THE NEWS:
- In last month’s newsletter, I mentioned the plight of Holy Protection OCA Cathedral in New York City. The cathedral community is in a fight with the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, which is trying to have the cathedral declared a historic landmark against the wishes of the cathedral itself and its diocesan bishop. If the Commission is successful, the cathedral will be forced to get government approval for any changes to the church exterior (anything from replacing a broken window to adding an onion dome). They may also be forced to make “improvements” deemed appropriate by the city. This is an unacceptable infringement on the religious freedom of the cathedral community in the name of “historic preservation.” As I said last month, I’m (obviously) a huge supporter of preserving history, and so are the folks at the cathedral, but we don’t need the government telling us how to do it. Here is an update from Fr. Christopher Calin, dean of the cathedral: “The Community Board #3 voted 32 to 9 to endorse the Landmark District which would include our Cathedral and other houses of worship in the EV [East Village]. We are currently working with a Local Faith Communities group to find alternatives to the forced landmarking of our buildings and have a meeting scheduled for 9/12 with the Commissioner of the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) Tierney. There is support to NOT designate religious institutions as individual landmarks, but the well-funded and staffed preservationists are lobbying the LPC and city council members very hard.” We at SOCHA strongly and officially support the cathedral in its efforts to resist the coerced landmarking. In a future article, we’ll let you know how you can help.
- On August 31, 1963, a major gathering of thousands of Orthodox young people took place in Pittsburgh. It’s an event that we should eventually discuss here at OrthodoxHistory.org. The Orthodox Christian Laity organization (OCL) is looking for video of that event. Here’s a statement from OCL’s executive director, George Matsoukas: “Since December 2010, we have conducted a search that includes contacting most Archdioceses and various dioceses of all Orthodox Jurisdictions, individual hierarchs, clergy, laity and various archives, as well as CBS, looking for the 1963 ‘Lamp Unto My Feet’ Documentary of the CEOYLA Pittsburgh Festival. If you know anyone who has it, please contact me via email@example.com. We want to keep the memory alive of this great event. It is a shame that somehow the video tapes have disappeared. Thank you for your consideration.”
- A Russian expedition to Alaska began on July 16 and continues through the end of this month. From the article: ”During the expedition its participants will be collecting ethnographic material, writing an academic diary, questioning local people and describing the land.” The plan is to make a film and a school manual about Alaska for Russian students.
- Speaking of Alaska, on July 15 in Moscow, an event was held to mark the 270th anniversary of discovery of “Russian America.”
- On September 9-10, St. Theodosius OCA Cathedral in Cleveland will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its construction. The cathedral was founded in 1896, making it one of the oldest Orthodox parishes in the United States, and the current temple was built in 1911.
- Another centennial was celebrated in South Bend, Indiana, where Ss. Peter and Paul Serbian Orthodox Church was founded in 1911.
- The Secretariat of our Assembly of Bishops has begun a series of interviews with the hierarchs of the Assembly. The first five interviews, conducted by Fr. Josiah Trenham, are available on the Assembly website. Eventually, there will be interviews with every active Orthodox bishop in America. Over at the respected Orthodox blog Byzantine, Texas, the author had this reaction to the interviews: “Having listened to some of these talks, let me say they are not fluff. Fr. Josiah Trenham asks direct, probing questions and the bishops answer with great candor.”
- A video in memory of Fr. John Meyendorff was recently produced and is available on YouTube. Meyendorff, a longtime professor and former dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, died in 1992. He was one of the most influential theological writers in American Orthodoxy. To learn more, see this article from the St. Vladimir’s website.
Matthew Namee, Editor
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.
- 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