Posts tagged 1865
Recently, Holy Cross Orthodox Press published the Atlas of American Orthodox Christian Churches, edited by Alexei D. Krindatch. I contributed several pieces to the Atlas, including the article “Ten Interesting Facts About the History of Orthodox Christianity in the USA.” With Alexei’s permission, we’ll publish excerpts from that article over the next couple of months. To purchase your own copy of the Atlas(for $19.95), click here.
2. The first Orthodox liturgies in New York and New Orleans were celebrated by a controversial Ukrainian who claimed to be hunted by Tsarist agents.
Born in what is now Ukraine in 1832, Agapius Honcharenko attended the Kiev Theological Academy and then became a monk at the renowned Kiev Caves Lavra. He was ordained a deacon at 24, and the following year, he was assigned to the Russian Embassy church in Athens, Greece. From the beginning, there was trouble. Honcharenko was insubordinate, and at one point a young boy accused him of making improper advances. Honcharenko also claimed to have secretly wrote articles in a famous socialist journal. At some point, he may have been ordained to the priesthood by a Greek bishop, although the circumstances surrounding this ordination aren’t clear and our only source for this information is Honcharenko’s own later testimony. In late 1864, Honcharenko set sail for America, where he would be subject to much less oversight. He arrived in New York, and in 1865, he celebrated the first Orthodox liturgy in the city’s history. A choir of Episcopalians sung Slavonic words which had been transliterated into English.
Soon, Honcharenko received word that there were Orthodox people in New Orleans. Arriving in the city just two days after the Civil War ended, Honcharenko celebrated the first Orthodox services in the American South, borrowing an Episcopal church that had, during the recent Union occupation, been used as a stable for horses. Honcharenko spent Holy Week and Pascha in New Orleans before returning to New York. But in his short time away from the city, things had changed. As news of his landmark New York liturgy spread around the world, reports of his more controversial activities began to surface. The Orthodox of New York informed the renegade priest that they no longer had any use for him.
Thus began Honcharenko’s life outside of the Orthodox Church. He traveled across the country – marrying an woman in Philadelphia along the way – and he eventually reached San Francisco. There, in 1867, Honcharenko attempted to set up a “Russo-Greek Methodist Episcopal Church.” San Francisco already had a lot of Orthodox residents, who, motivated by the embarrassing activities of Honcharenko, decided to unite and form an Orthodox parish. Led by the local Russian consul, they asked the Russian Bishop of Alaska to send them a priest. This marked the first-ever presence of a Russian parish in an American state.
Honcharenko purchased land just outside of Oakland, and over the coming decades, reporters would occasionally find their way to the Honcharenko ranch. They wrote articles about the “Apostle of Liberty,” and Honcharenko began to make increasingly outlandish claims – that he had been the Russian ambassador to Greece; that he was Leo Tolstoy’s confessor; that he was the first to discover gold in Alaska; and that he was hunted by Tsarist assassins. Honcharenko died on his ranch in 1916, at the age of 83.
This article was written by Matthew Namee.
Recently, Nicholas Chapman published several newly-discovered documents relating to Agapius Honcharenko here at OH.org. A reader named Reg responded with this comment:
This is getting confusing. Matthew since you wrote the original story on Honcharenko, could I ask you to post a timeline on Honcharenko:
Date & place of birth
Date & place of tonsure as a monk
Date & place of ordination as deacon
Date of assignment to Russian Embassy Church in Greece
Date of change of name
Date of ordination as a priest by EP
Date of arrival in America
Date of ministry in NY
Date of connection with New Orleans Church
Date of marriage & I assume leaving the EP jurisdiction
Date of arrival in CA
Date of death.
This would be a great help to all of us.
Let me try to tackle these one by one.
1. Date and place of birth: According to Volume 2 of the Encyclopedia of Ukraine (Univ. of Toronto Press, 1988), Honcharenko was born on August 31, 1832 in “Kryvyn, Skvyra county, Kyiv gubernia.” I’m no expert on Ukrainian geography, but I take it he was born in or around Kiev. I believe the August 31 date is according to the Gregorian Calendar. In an April 9, 1911 article, the San Francisco Call reported Honcharenko’s birth date as August 19, 1832. (August 31 minus 12 days — the difference between the Julian and Gregorian in the 19th century – is August 19.)
2. Education: According to one of the documents found by Nicholas Chapman (“The Case Against Agapius Honcharenko”), Honcharenko was educated at the “Seminary in Kiev,” or the Kiev Theological Academy. This is corroborated by most modern sources.
3. Date and place of tonsure as a monk: I’m not certain of the date, but “The Case” (referred to above) has Honcharenko completing his seminary studies in 1853, entering the Kievo-Pechersk (Kiev Caves) Lavra and being ordained a hierodeacon in 1856.
4. Date and place of ordination as deacon: Honcharenko was ordained a deacon at the Kievo-Pechersk Lavra in 1856.
5. Date of assignment to the Russian Embassy Church in Greece: 1857.
6. Date of change of name: I don’t know. His given name was Andrii Humnytsky, but I don’t know what he changed it to Agapius Honcharenko. Does anyone out there know what “Honcharenko” means?
7. Date of ordination as a priest by EP: I don’t know. In fact, I’m not at all certain that he was ordained by a bishop of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In his 1865 letter defending himself, Honcharenko does claim to have received ordination and an antimens from the “Great Church” (presumably Constantinople), but I would not be surprised if he was actually ordained by a bishop of the Church of Greece. In any event, given the language of the 1865 letter, I suspect that this happened sometime in 1864, not long before Honcharenko sailed to the US.
8. Date of arrival in America: According to Honcharenko’s 1865 letter, he arrived in America on December 21, 1864. He seems to be following the Julian Calendar; according to the Gregorian Calendar, it would have been January 2, 1865.
9. Date of ministry in New York: Honcharenko claims to have served his first American Divine Liturgy (probably in New York) on Christmas Day — January 6, by the Gregorian Calendar in the 19th century. His “ministry” in New York (if you can call it that) lasted until about April, when he left to visit New Orleans. He returned to New York, but was rejected by the Orthodox there, who had learned of his… issues.
10. Date of connection with the New Orleans church: On March 26, 1865, the New York Times reported that Honcharenko would depart for New Orleans “in a few days.” He was in New Orleans by April 11, when he published an open letter to the Orthodox of that city in the New Orleans Times. In the letter, he said that he would stay in New Orleans until April 22. As far as I know, his roughly two-week visit to the city was the extent of Honcharenko’s ministry in New Orleans.
11. Date of marriage: As best I can tell, Honcharenko married a young Italian woman in Philadelphia in the late 1860s, possibly between his departure from New York and his arrival in the San Francisco Bay area in about 1867. He doesn’t seem to have maintained any contact with church authorities in either Constantinople or Athens, and his connection to anything resembling mainstream Orthodoxy appears to have ended shortly after his New Orleans visit in April 1865.
12. Date of arrival in CA: Late 1867, as best I can tell.
13. Date of death: May 5, 1916 in Hayward, California.
UPDATE (9/21/10): In response to an earlier article, a reader named Helen informed me that the University of Minnesota holds materials on the life of Honcharenko. I have emailed the university to request copies of their holdings, and will post something here at OH.org once I get a response.
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
Editor’s note: Over the past several weeks, we have been publishing some historical documents which Nicholas Chapman recently discovered in London. Here are the relevant links:
- Nicholas’ introduction to the documents
- A letter by St. Philaret of Moscow on Orthodoxy in America in 1865
- A letter by Agapius Honcharenko in defense of himself
Today, we’re publishing the final document in this series — a report detailing the case against Honcharenko. We don’t know who wrote this report, but it provides previously unknown details on Honcharenko’s life prior to his arrival in America. This document was translated from Russian by Matushka Marie Meyendorff.
From 1857 to 1860 at the church of our mission in Athens there served the Hierodeacon Agafy. He was the son of a priest. Agafy had completed a course of studies at the Seminary in Kiev in 1853.
He entered the Kievo-Pechersk Lavra. In 1856 he was ordained to the hiero-deaconate. In 1857, according to the testimony of the deceased Metropolitan of Kiev, Philaret, Agafy was sent by the Holy Synod to the post which had opened of Hierodeacon at our church in Athens.
From the beginning of his arrival in Athens, Agafy (as was reported in 1860 by the previous rector of the Church in Athens, Archimandrite Antonin) showed a tendency against the fulfilment of the rules of the life of a monk. He lacked friendliness towards the persons who formed his parish and had an especially negative attitude towards the rector. In January 1860 a boy of around 16 declared to Archimandrite Antonin that Agafy, for a long time, had hounded him with impolite words and at last made an improper proposition. When confronted with the accuser, Agafy agreed and said that he did it with the aim to learn if the rector himself did not have a similar relationship with the named person. After that it was declared to Agafy that he should find another place of work, This is why he was given a position that removed him from the church in Athens. Soon after that was found, glued to the wall of the tower adjacent to the church of the embassy a slander against Archimandrite Antonin. When it was found that a similar slander was written also in the bell; Agafy was sent to Russia. He left on February 2, 1860.
In that same year, 1860, the former ambassador to Greece wrote in a secret letter [?], to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, that the basic idea directing Agafy’s life was that all in the world is a convention and that everything can be understood whatever way one wants to. As a result of this, Agafy had a secret opposition to everything legal and generally accepted. He rejected all order and was repulsed by every constraint. This attitude brought him to the deepest and dirtiest amorality. He showed a noticeable pleasure in the degrading of the motherland, of spiritual knowledge, and of everything in general which is respected. He showed a sympathy to the …….; he presented ideas for the independence of “Little Russia” [Left bank Ukraine]; he expressed a clear dissatisfaction with Orthodoxy; and he rejected the need for confession. In the last period,[xx?] he displayed an unorthodox conviction toward a rapprochement with the American proselytiser of Lutherism in Greece, Ioan Kinlom. With his help, Agafy was supplied at his arrival from Athens with many letters of recommendation.
On his trip to Russia from Constantinople, he xx Malta and from there he removed his diaconal clothing and left for London. In August 1861 the Holy Synod took into consideration this above described action of the former hierodeacon Agafy (the fact that from February 1860 he was in a self decided absence) and decided to consider the designated hierodeacon Agafy as being defrocked and excluded from the clergy.
About the information received in 1864 that Agafy having returned to Athens in the Spring of 1863 continued, by anonymous letters, to bring shame on Archimandrite Antonin, there was a contact with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requesting Agafy be sent from Athens to Russia. The decision was transmitted to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in April 28, 1861 No. 4899.
The ministry responded that they do not have the possibility to forcibly return Agafy to Russia. It asked our Ambassador in Athens to look for ways to remove Agafy from Greece.
In Athens our representative informed us that Agafy (who was living then in Athens in the Greek monastery of Tendely) forcefully denies the anonymous letters about which Fr Antonin complained.
Editor’s note: Today, we present the second of three historical documents recently discovered by Nicholas Chapman. On August 24, we published Nicholas’ introduction to the documents, and last week, we published a letter by St. Philaret of Moscow on the subject of Orthodoxy in America in 1865. Today’s document is an 1865 letter from Agapius Honcharenko to a priest. While the recipient is not identified by name, Nicholas notes that the priest was “most likely the Rev. Eugene Popov, the Russian Priest in London, England.” The initial translation of this letter has been provided by Matushka Marie Meyendorff.
The letter isn’t dated, but we can get a good idea of when it was written from this sentence: “I received today a letter from New Orleans, from the Greek Consul …… to go there and baptize four children and ten Illyrians.” On March 26, 1865, the New York Times reported that Honcharenko was to depart for New Orleans “in a few days.” It is thus probable that the letter was written shortly before that date.
Very Reverend Father,
I have always regretted and wondered why in the new world there is no Catholic Orthodox faith and because of this having prepared myself with the necessary objects for a church service: of course icons, vestments etc. Last fall on October 1 I embarked from Smyrna on an American ship and left for America having received the ordination to the priesthood, the holy antimens and the holy myrrh with a letter from the Great Church. I arrived on Dec 21 and on Dec 25, the day of the birth of Christ, in our Orthodox dogma, among the Greeks, was performed the first liturgy on this continent since the time of Columbus.
In the Republic I find in the official documents seven thousand Orthodox Slavs, (Illyrian Dalmatians of Montenegro) , three thousand Russians and three thousand Greeks. These sheep live from birth without a Pastor. The Slavs and Russians, although they are citizens of the Republic…….. But they ask with all the soul addressing themselves to Russia, asking that the Russian Synod send a blessing for their church meetings and they ask to have the petition at the litany to commemorate the Emperor Alexander II and the Holy Synod of the Church of Russia as a symbol of the unity with the Russian Church. As I am a citizen of Greece, during my services I commemorate the Greek King and Synod and the Slavs do not wish this. During the several days of my stay in New York I baptized a few friendly …. (eight) and two Russians. I received today a letter from New Orleans, from the Greek Consul …… to go there and baptize four children and ten Illyrians.
By birth I am a Russian and I served at the Russian Church in Athens as a deacon. My unfortunate fate…….. (March 15, 1860) Unfairness of people …… made me become a Greek citizen. I am also with my soul and body dedicated to the Russian people…. The Russian government . Prince Gorchokov is convinced of this. But why does not the Russian Holy Synod recognise the truth of what I say?!!!
I am addressing you the deepest request very very Reverend Father. I have heard a lot about the goodness of your soul. Please pay attention to me and to the goodwill of the Orthodox Church and ask the petition for me that I would receive the blessing upon my sheep, both Slavs and Russians, from the Holy Synod, because I am the only and first Pastor of the Orthodox Church on this continent and the Pastor for all the Orthodox sheep of the flock of Christ.
I remain with the deepest respect ,
Priest Agapius Honcharenko
47 Exchange Place, Room 19, New York
Editor’s note: Last week, Nicholas Chapman introduced three documents he found in the National Archives in London, under the heading “The Russian Orthodox Church in America and Its Clergy in 1865.” Today, we present the first of these documents — a letter from His Holiness Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow, to the Ober-Procurator of the Holy Synod of Russia, February 26, 1865. Nicholas Chapman explains, “The author of this document was Metropolitan Filaret (Drozdov) who served as Metropolitan of Moscow for from 1826-1867. Metropolitan Innocent, since canonized as the ‘Apostle to America,’ succeeded him.” This draft translation has been provided by Matushka Marie Meyendorff.
One final note: St. Philaret makes reference to a Christmas liturgy celebrated by Honcharenko in New York. This appears to have been the first Orthodox liturgy in the history of New York City (or, for that matter, the first known liturgy in the eastern United States). It is earlier than the better-known liturgy celebrated by Honcharenko a couple of months later (and discussed here and here).
When the American spiritual leaders first showed the desire to have an Orthodox Church in America it seemed necessary for California but not for New York. Now a new outlook appears.
Already a priest has received from the Holy Church of Constantinople the antimens and the Holy Chrism. He has arrived in America and on the day of the birth of Christ performed there the first Orthodox liturgy from the time of the discovery of America. Then he performed the baptism of eight Slavs and two Russians. He writes, “I found there seven thousand Slavs, three thousand Greeks and three thousand Russians, without a Pastor.” If this is true, it is a strong reason to have in America a Russian Orthodox Church.
We are attaching to this a copy of the letter of Agapius Honcharenko written to the Editor of the newspaper “Orthodox Overview.” Won’t you take the decision if something should be done about this situation?