Posts tagged 1893
Not too long ago, I wrote about Fr. Christopher Jabara, an Antiochian priest who visited America in 1893-94. Jabara preceded St. Raphael Hawaweeny, but he wasn’t the first Antiochian priest to come to the United States. That title, I believe, belongs to Fr. Constantine Tarazy.
Tarazy was a celibate priest (possibly an archimandrite) from Damascus, and he arrived in America in 1892. He doesn’t appear to have been sent by the Patriarchate of Antioch, or anything — he seems to have come on his own initiative. In June of 1893, he celebrated what appears to be the first Orthodox liturgy in Boston. From the Boston Globe (6/27/1893):
Rev. Constantin Terzis of Damascus, a priest of the Greek Orthodox Church, celebrated mass in the parish rooms connected with St. Paul’s Episcopal church, Tremont st., Sunday morning. This is perhaps the first time such an event has been witnessed in Boston. The ritual is like that of the “high church” Episcopal service. Dr. Terzis is an Arabian, and has been a professor in theology at Athens, Greece. He is quite an elderly man and unmarried.
Tarazy tried to start a church in New York, but the Syrian community was too small to support it. He eventually returned to Syria, where he later became a bishop.
Fr. Christopher Jabara paid a visit to Boston in 1894, but he was speaking with Unitarians about his strange religious ideas, not ministering to the local Orthodox population. I’m not sure when the next Orthodox liturgy in Boston took place, but I suspect it was celebrated by a visiting Greek priest in 1895 or so.
I always laugh a little bit when I hear people complain about Orthodox involvement in things like the World Council of Churches. It’s not that I support such involvement — my position on modern ecumenical relations really isn’t relevant here — but I laugh because I can’t imagine what the present-day anti-ecumenists among us would say about what was going on at the turn of the last century.
For instance, can you imagine what would happen if the World Council of Churches was expanded to include Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists? And if Orthodox bishops and priests were some of the main participants? That’s what happened at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, where the “Parliament of Religions” tried to serve as a veritable United Nations for religion.
In the future, we’ll talk in detail about the Orthodox involvement in this event. For now, though, I’d like to focus on one of the Orthodox attendees in particular — the Antiochian archimandrite Fr. Christopher Jabara, who held the most extreme views of any of the Orthodox who were present.
For a number of years, Jabara had been the head of the Antiochian metochion (representation church) in Moscow. During this period, Jabara happened to meet with the Ecumenical Patriarch, and he helped arrange for an Antiochian student to attend the Patriarchal seminary at Halki. That student? A young monk named Raphael Hawaweeny.
A decade later, Jabara ran into problems in Russia. Apparently, he started talking about all religions being the same — particularly Christianity and Islam. This incurred the ire of the Metropolitan of Moscow, who ran him out of the country. His replacement as head of the metochion? Deacon Raphael Hawaweeny.
I’m not sure exactly where Jabara went after that, but by the end of 1892, he was in New York — one of the first Antiochian priests to come to America. He was carrying credentials from the Patriarch of Antioch (or at least, that’s what he said; unless we can inspect them, we can’t really be certain). The local Syro-Arab Orthodox, who were just glad to see an Antiochian priest, welcomed Jabara, and they set up a temporary chapel at Cedar and Washington Streets in New York City. At some point along the way, Jabara authored a book entitled, The Unity of Faith and the Harmony of Religions. The next year, the Parliament of Religions met in Chicago, and Jabara was there. Among other things, he said,
My brothers and sisters in the worship of God! All the religions now in this general and religious congress are parallel to each other in the sight of the whole world. Every one of these religions has supporters who prefer their own to other religions, and they might bring some arguments or reasons to convince others of the value and truth of their own form of religion.
Therefore, I think that a committee should be selected from the great religions to investigate the dogmas and to make a full and perfect comparison, and, approving the true one, to announce it to the people. This is easy to do in America, and especially in Chicago, as here the means for realization may be found.
First, there is full religious liberty; second, there is great progress in all branches of science; third, there is presence of great learning; fourth, wealth and benevolence; fifth, the piety of the American people in general and their energy in so many things useful to humanity, making this country a refuge to all nations.
Columbus discovered America for the whole world and discovered a home for the oppressed of all nations. As Columbus discovered America, so must Americans show the people of all nations a new religion in which all hearts may find rest.
That wasn’t all. Jabara told the Globe reporter,
I think and believe that when the gospels and the Koran, which are really one, are reconciled and the two great peoples, Christians and Mahometans, are also reconciled, the whole world will come into unity and all differences fade away.
All the human kind will become brethren in worshipping the true God and following Christ, the savior of the world, and I, as a servant of religion during all my life, have come from far away Damascus on my own account and in my poverty pray, in the name of God the omnipresent, that the people may consider my ideas on the unity of religion, especially between the sacred books.
Needless to say, the Syro-Arabs ran Jabara out of New York. There’s a story, probably apocryphal, that when Jabara returned to the chapel, his key didn’t work — somebody had already changed the locks. (This story is printed in the Antakya Press life of St. Raphael.)
Jabara stayed in America, and, as I said, he was in Boston in March of 1894. But he wasn’t there to minister to the Orthodox of the city; according to the Globe, he “came to Boston especially as a center of Unitarianism where the tenets of religion and the principles of his mission can be sifted and appreciated.”
Eventually, Jabara left the US, traveling to Egypt. An American Protestant named John Henry Barrows met him there in 1896-97, and wrote this account:
Two other men, who were present at the Parliament, I unexpectedly met at the Sunday services in the American Mission. One of them is Christophora Jibara, formerly Archimandrite of Damascus. He is still very active and earnest in what he deems his chief mission, persuading Christians to give up the doctrine of the Trinity, which prevents, as it seems to him, their coming into any union with Mohammedans and Jews. He believes that Christ is the Son of God and wrought a gospel of redemption. Jibara is a master of several languages, and I tried in vain to persuade him to employ his powers of speech in preaching a positive gospel, instead of smiting all his life at a dogma which has worn out many hammers.
I don’t know what happened to Jabara after 1897. The last traces I’ve found of him are from 1901, when Gerasimos Messara, the Metropolitan of Beirut, wrote a reply to an open letter by Jabara. (I don’t have copies of either Jabara’s letter or Met. Gerasimos’ reply; all I’ve found is this Google Books reference.)
With Jabara out of the picture, the Syro-Arabs in America still needed a priest. In 1895, they finally got one. His name? Fr. Raphael Hawaweeny.
Sometimes, we historians deal with big, important issues. Other times, we obsess over minutae. Today is one of the latter occasions.
Chicago’s OCA cathedral, known for the past century as Holy Trinity, had a lot of names in its early years. It’s a pretty convoluted history, and I am attempting to unravel it. Here’s what I’ve got so far.
The parish was formally founded as St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church on May 18, 1892, and it was originally located at #20 North Peoria. By the next spring, the church had moved to #13 South Center Avenue, and in May, we find the first reference to the parish as St. Vladimir Russian Orthodox Church. It’s possible that the name was changed along with the location.
Most of the time, the newspapers didn’t bother to refer to the parish name at all, instead just calling it the “Russian Church,” or something like that. But it was clearly just “St. Vladimir” into 1895. Then, on November 23, a new name appears: St. Ivan Russian Orthodox Church.
But the parish didn’t just become “St. Ivan.” In the years that followed, both names were used in the newspapers. “St. Vladimir” tends to be the dominant name, but “St. Ivan” pops up a number of times as well. It’s a bit of a mystery. The priest of the church was, of course, Fr. John (Ivan) Kochurov, so it’s possible that his own name got mixed up with that of the parish. But “St. Ivan” appeared numerous times, in multiple newspapers, over a period of several years, so it hardly seems like a simple error. Perhaps some of our readers associated with Holy Trinity Cathedral could shed some light on this.
In any event, in 1902, the parish broke ground for a new cathedral on Leavitt Street. While the new structure was being built, the community continued to be called, “St. Vladimir,” but once the move was complete, the name was changed one final time, to Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral.
Another interesting wrinkle is the persistence of the original name, ”St. Nicholas.” While the parish was never called that after 1892 or so, the it did have a “Brotherhood of St. Nicholas.” I’ve found references to this brotherhood in 1899 and again in 1902, but I don’t know exactly what its function was.
The 1890s witnessed the initial proliferation of Orthodox churches in the contiguous United States, and most of those early parishes are still with us today — both Greek churches in New York City, the Greek and Russian churches in Chicago, St. Alexis Toth’s parishes in Minneapolis and Wilkes-Barre. But one early effort didn’t make it to the 21st century; in fact, it didn’t even make it to the 20th. The first Orthodox church in Baltimore, Maryland — founded in 1893 — died in infancy. It’s a story that’s easily forgotten.
Today, Baltimore has a thriving Greek cathedral, Annunciation. It also happens to have perhaps the preeminent Orthodox parish historian in America, Nicholas Prevas. Prevas has written several books on the Greek Orthodox community in Baltimore; most recently, he authored the outstanding House of God… Gateway to Heaven. In that book, Prevas writes the following about the first church in Baltimore:
In Baltimore, the first meaningful attempt to fill the religious void came in or about 1895. The first Greek Orthodox place of worship was established at Bond and Gough Streets through the financial support of Christos Tsembelis (Sempeles) and his five brothers, George, Nicholas, Peter, Sarantos, and Theodore, who were prospering confectioners at 427 Colvin Street near the Belair Market. One of the brothers, George Sempeles, would later have the distinction of being elected the first parish council president.
This event was consistent with the fact that the Greek Orthodox Church in America originated from the actions of the immigrants themselves, and not by the directive of the church authorities in Athens or Constantinople — the latter being the world center of Orthodoxy. Living in a new land, religion played an important factor in uniting the Greek immigrants. A missionary priest, Reverend Theodoros Papaconstantinou, was brought to Baltimore to conduct services, and for the first time Greek Orthodox chanting was heard in the city. Unfortunately, the timing of the venture was not right. The small number of Greeks, unable to keep up with the expense of maintaining a house of worship, soon abandoned this attempt. It would be another decade before regular church services would be conducted in Baltimore.
This early Baltimore parish was actually organized in the latter part of 1893. On December 18, 1893, the Baltimore Sun reported that the community, named for St. John the Baptist, had been formed a few weeks earlier. After spending those initial weeks worshipping in a parishioner’s house, the community moved to an “improvised chapel” at 403 South Bond Street. The priest, according to the Sun, was “Rev. Constantinus Pappagorgu, of Athens.”
At the Divine Liturgy the day before, 51 people were present: 50 men and one woman. There were, said the paper, around 200 Greeks in the city. A week later, two children were baptized — the first documented Orthodox baptisms in Baltimore.
The Baltimore parish was only a year and a half younger than the Greek churches in New York and Chicago, but both of those communities took an interest in the goings-on in Baltimore. On January 6, 1894, the Sun reported that the Chicago Greek parish had promised to send $1,000 to Baltimore; for its part, the New York congregation would contribute $500.
The priest of St. John the Baptist church, listed in the papers as “Constantinus Pappagorgu,” appears to be listed on this Port of New York passenger manifest (3rd line from the top). From the manifest, we learn that Constantine Papageorgios, a clergyman from Greece, came to America on December 26, 1892. He was 45 years old, and his initial destination was New York. He didn’t bring a wife or children, which suggests that he might have been a monastic priest. I’m not sure what he did for most of 1893, but he appeared in Baltimore in the autumn of that year to start a Greek church. And I don’t know what happened to him after the parish closed; my best guess is that he returned to Greece.
St. John the Baptist church first appears in the newspapers in December 1893, and it’s gone after January 1894. A year later — January 14, 1895 — the following notice appeared in the Sun:
The Greek Catholics of Baltimore yesterday celebrated the beginning of their new year. There was no public celebration of the event as there is no Greek Catholic Church in Baltimore. About a year ago the Greek Catholic congregation on South Bond street, which was organized by John Mitchell, of 1630 Thames street, was disbanded for want of support.
Eleven years later, Evangelismos (Annunciation) Greek Orthodox Church was formed in Baltimore.
The first Greek Orthodox church in New York City – named for the Holy Trinity — was formed in January of 1892. It was organized by a group called the Society of Athena, which, as the name suggests, was composed mainly of Greek immigrants from Athens. The community’s first priest, Fr. Paisios Ferentinos, was sent by the Archbishop of Athens, apparently in consultation with the Ecumenical Patriarch.
By the end of 1893, though, many of the Holy Trinity parishioners wanted to start a second church. The reasons are not entirely clear. The New York Times (January 8, 1894) reported at the time that Holy Trinity was “attended chiefly by the up-town colony of Greeks, and did not fully meet the wants of those who live at the lower end of the city.” The president of the Society of Athena, Solon Vlasto, made direct contact with the Ecumenical Patriarch. In response, the Patriarch sent Archimandrite Kallinikos Delveis to New York, authorizing him to found Annunciation, the city’s second Greek Orthodox church.
Now, it’s not entirely clear why exactly the Society of Athena made this request. There were, by most accounts, something like a thousand Greeks in New York City at the time, and the newly-formed Annunciation parish claimed 300 or 400 members. In his book Orthodox Christians in America, Fr. John Erickson writes that a “dissatisfied group wrote to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, rather than to the Holy Synod of Greece, asking for ‘an educated priest.’” But, as I’ve noted in an earlier post, the priest of Holy Trinity, Fr. Paisios Ferentinos, was in fact quite well-educated. There must have been some sort of dispute, but at the moment, I don’t know the details.
The Times described the new priest, Fr. Kallinikos, in this way:
The Rev. Kalinikos Dilveis is a man of striking personality. He is thirty-two years old, of medium height, olive complexion, and long black hair and beard. He was born in Constantinople, and was educated in the theological seminary of Halki, in that city. His voice is resonant, and he is reputed to be a preacher of great eloquence.
The new parish had a little trouble in finding a building, but eventually made arrangements to rent space in the basement of Judson Memorial Baptist Church, located in Washington Square. And as things worked out, the first church service was the Divine Liturgy on Christmas Day.
Later that year, when Tsar Alexander III died, both Greek churches in New York held memorials for the Emperor. The older church, Holy Trinity, drew some 300 people to its memorial, including the Russian consul. Annunciation’s service had around a hundred people in attendance. Holy Trinity clearly remained the “main” Greek church in the city, and it seems likely that most of the Russians in New York attended Holy Trinity, rather than Annunciation.