Posts tagged 1894
Tsar Alexander III of Russia died on November 1, 1894. A week later (and 116 years ago today), on November 8, two memorial services for the Tsar were held in America. Both were of note, for various reasons.
New York had no Russian church in 1894, so the Russian consul and numerous other dignitaries converged on the Greek church of Holy Trinity, on West 53rd Street. Here is how the New York Times described the event the next day:
The church was draped in black and white, and the walls were covered with a background of white, relieved at intervals with white crosses. Flags of Russia, Greece, and the United States hung in the forward part of the church, and in front of the altar was a canopy of black crepe, with a wreath of violets on one side, and another of white roses on the other side.
Father Matrofani, a Russian monk, conducted the services, partly in Greek and partly in Russian, and Father Agathadora, the pastor of the church, assisted him. An introductory prayer in Russian opened the service, and then Father Matrofani appeared before the altar clad in full golden sacerdotal robes, accompanied by Father Agathadora, who wore a black surplice.
Both priests carried lighted candles, and Father Matrofani led the chant choir, which consisted of Mme. Eugenie Lineff, Mlle. Chacquin, and Peter Popoff. Two Greek gentlemen who stood to the left of the altar responded to some of the Greek chants.
A portion of the service which seemed queer to the Americans present was the eating of a portion of rice and a raisin by Father Matrofani at the conclusion of the singing. This is an old custom in the Greek Church, commemorative of the early Christianity, when the priests were fed by their congregations.
Following the Russian custom, the women were separated from their escorts upon entering the church, and were conducted to their seats in the aisle to the left of the altar by Consul General A.E. Alarovesky of the Russian Consulate.
The Times went on to list the many notable people who attended the service, including Russian officials, representatives of numerous countries, the granddaughter of the last Tsar of Georgia, and future St. Nicholas Cathedral founder Barbara MacGahan. The article concluded, “Father Matrofani, who is on his way from San Francisco to Russia, sailed on the Columbia yesterday. Before going he expressed the hope that a Bishop of the Greek Church, now on his way to this country, would establish a Russian congregation here.”
The Times was slightly misinformed, as the bishop in question, Nicholas Ziorov, was already in America and had, in fact, conducted a memorial for the Tsar in Washington, DC on the very same day. This service is especially notable because it was attended by the President of the United States, Grover Cleveland. The following account is reprinted from the Daily New Mexican of Santa Fe (11/9/1894):
Profoundly impressive ceremonies were held at the Russian legation to day in memory of the late czar, Alexander II [sic]. President Cleveland and his entire cabinet, except Postmaster General Bissell, attended, accompanied by Mrs. Cleveland and the cabinet ladies. Foreign ambassadors and ministers, with their extensive suites, wearing their rich official and court costumes, were present in a body, lending a brilliant color to the solemn occasion. Ambassador Bayard and ex-Secretary of State Foster were also there. The service began at 9 o’clock with mass celebrated by Bishop Nicholas, of the Russian Greek church, assisted by a Greek monk and two attendants. These services lasted until 10 o’clock and were held in private, being attended only by Prince Count Cresene, Russian minister, his daughter and the officials of the Russian legation. At 10 o’clock, chants and prayers for the repose of the czar’s soul began in the presence of the president, the members of the cabinet and the diplomatic corps. Each participant held a wax candle throughout the service.
I’m not certain, but this may be the first Orthodox church service ever attended by a US President. When the previous Tsar, Alexander II, died in 1881, Fr. Nicholas Bjerring held a memorial in Washington, but President Garfield was unable to attend (Washington Post, 3/16/1881).
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
As we’ve discussed several times in the past, in 1893, a Greek archbishop visited the United States. His name was Archbishop Dionysius Latas of Zante, and he came to America to attend the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago. That’s where we last saw him; today, we’ll pick up Abp Dionysius’ trail after the Parliament concluded.
The Parliament ended in late September, 1893. In October, Abp Dionysius was present in Boston for the consecration of an Episcopalian bishop (Boston Globe, 10/6/1893). The next month, he went to St. Louis and was the guest of the Episcopal Bishop George Seymour, who happened to be a friend of the future Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine. A couple of days after that, Abp Dionysius made his way back to Chicago, where he delivered a speech at an Episcopal Church conference. In fact, that speech is a good deal more interesting than anything Abp Dionysius said at the Parliament of Religions, and we’ll reprint the text in its entirety here. From the Galveston Daily News (11/12/1893):
My brethren in Jesus Christ: I consider myself again very happy in presenting myself before this most reverend council of the eminent divines and minsiters of your holy church. (You will excuse me if I make any mistakes in a language which is foreign to me, and in which of necessity I am obliged to speak before you.)
It is not the first time that a Greek archbishop approaches the Episcopal church and enters into the temples of this church, so eminent a member of the Christian body, a member of the Christian family. I am not the first and I think I shall not be the last. Twenty years ago another Greek archbishop, the archbishop of Syra, Alexander Lycurgus, was in London, when the Anglican clergymen and the archbishop of Canterbury solemnly and demonstratively received him and introduced him in the cathedral church of St. Paul, where the Greek archbishop, standing on the platform of the church, had the honor to give the blessing to the clergymen and laymen of the Anglican church.
By the opportunity of my invitation and my presence at the religious congress in this city, I have also had the great honor to present myself more than once in your churches, on your tribunes and platforms; and I am not only invited to this honor, but I also come self-invited and quite voluntarily, from the feelings which I have, with other bishops of Greece, toward your holy church. And I thank your dignified bishops, especially Henry C. Potter, bishop of New York, who not only opened to me, with brotherly feelings, the doors of the churches, but at the same time opened their arms and embraced me and conducted me to the most honorable places of your temples.
As self-invited also, and as voluntarily coming into the presence of this eminent council of your church, I speak before you to-day sincerely and with heart full of love, as a brother in Christ, as a friend in the love of the divinely inspired Gospel.
I approve and admire your practical work, your struggle and perseverance, and your great expenditures for the diffusion and propagation of Christian doctrine in every part of our globe; and lastly, for the pure moral Christian education, without distinction, to all members of Christian communities. We have such an instance and testimony in our country — the school established under the direction of the persons of happy memory, the Rev. Mr. Hill and Mrs. Hill, the Americans who sacrificed their lives while working incessantly for their lovely Greece. This school was the first girls’ school in our classic land after the freedom of Greece, which gave, nearly fifty years ago, many well brought up mothers to many families, rich and poor, without any distinction; and for that reason the entire Greek nation expresses her gratitude especially to your Christian association and generally to your American people. We regard not with indifference your church, but we look always to your work with the deepest interest, with hearts full of love, and also with hope for the future.
As regarding this hope for the future, it suffices me to repeat here before you, word for word, my address which I pronounced in Trinity church, at Boston, during the holy service of the consecration of the new Bishop Lawrence. “It is certainly,” I said, “a great pleasure for you to see a new bishop in your circle, but your pleasure can not be greater than the one I experience in being here and looking at your reverend persons and listening to the divine service of your church. For in your church, and in the eminent divines of that church, one can see concentrated the hopes of the union in the future of all the Christian churches in the world. Surely you are Protestants, but at the same time you are also Catholics. You are Protestants on the one hand; you only can embrace all the other Protestant bodies. And, on the other hand, as Catholics, you alone can command the attention of the Catholic churches. For wh ile you have protested, you alone have retained a great part of the rites of Catholicism, and you have not rejected all the traditions of the Catholic church.
“Hence your church, sister to the one on account of protesting, sister also to the other on account of the Catholic traditions, is the center toward which all the eminent persons of the distinctive churches will cast their eyes in the future, when, by the grace of God, they will decide to take steps for the union of all the Christian world into one flock, under one shepherd or pastor. In this pre-eminent idea and hope for the future, I embrace the new bishop and all the other bishops here present as my brethren in Christ. I embrace your church, the pen and ink of which anxiously awaits a bright page in the future history of the Christian religion.”
Needless to say, this sort of speech was music to the ears of the Episcopalians who heard it. Abp Dionysius expressed exactly the sort of role that so many Episcopalians envisioned for their Church: the great center towards which the Protestants and the “Catholics” (Orthodox and Roman) would ultimately move. It is quite possible that Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine, then an Episcopal priest, was present at Abp Dionysius’ speech. Years later, Irvine expressly rejected the idea that Anglicanism was the platform for Christian unity, instead arguing that Christian unity was possible only in the Orthodox Church — the “Mother Church of Christendom,” as he called it, the true Church from which all others had deviated. That Abp Dionysius adopted, not the Irvinian position (which really is the Orthodox position), but rather the standard Anglo-Catholic one, is rather remarkable.
After the Episcopal conference in Chicago, Abp Dionysius traveled west, visiting San Francisco in early December (Los Angeles Times, 12/17/1893). It isn’t clear whether he met with the Russian Bishop Nicholas Ziorov, but he almost certainly encountered some of the hundreds of Orthodox Christians in the city.
On his return trip to Greece, Abp Dionysius went across the Pacific. On a train ride from Singapore to Calcutta, he happened to run into a Methodist bishop, who invited him to attend a Methodist conference in Calcutta. Abp Dionysius accepted. According to one American periodical, “Although he remarked privately that Bishop Thoburn was not a real bishop, he bestowed upon him when taking leave the apostolic kiss” (Congregationalist, 4/26/1894). At his host’s request, Abp Dionysius delighted the Methodists by delivering St. Paul’s Mars Hill sermon in its original Greek. (Christian Advocate, 4/5/1894)
Abp Dionysius made it home to Greece by the middle of 1894, but soon thereafter, late in the summer, he died. The New York Observer and Chronicle (1/24/1895) offered a fine obituary:
Some interesting details connected with the death of Archbishop Dionysios Latas of Zante, who died last August, and whose name is familiar to Americans since his visit to Chicago the year before, have very recently been sent to this country by Bishop Potter. Archbishop Latas was greatly beloved by the people of Zante. As a preacher he was eloquent and tireless; and in his work as a leader of the clergy he was most efficient, giving to the island good priests, and developing those whom he had found already there.
His own training was well rounded. Besides his native tongue he was a master of German, Italian and English. He was distinguished by his fine presence and sonorous voice and by the gentleness and sweetness of his manners. Though far past the prime of life he had still before him many years of work. A writer in one of the Athenian journals, referring to the time of the late earthquake in Zante, says: “I remember him when the island was shaking and the houses falling in ruins, going about in his carriage through the narrow roads of the settlements from morning till night, comforting and advising, cheering and inspiring confidence in divine help, the only hope of people in the perilous state of the hapless Zacynthians. And I saw him, as they grasped his hand, secretly giving material help along with his prayers.”
The funeral took place with great magnificence, and in the midst of great emotion and sorrow, the people all through the two days previous flocking in crowds to the central church of the town, where the body had been placed, and reverently kissing the hand of their beloved priest.
A British writer, in the journal Academy, offered these comments (reprinted in The Dial, 10/1/1894):
A greater breadth of thought — acquired probably from his long studies in Germany — brought him closer to the intellectual classes in modern Greece than most of his brethren. Whenever he preached in the Metropolitan Church of Athens, the building was closely packed. When it was my privilege to hear him, his restrained yet burning eloquence and the but half suppressed applause of his hearers brought to my remembrance the accounts that are extant of the effect of the preaching of the Golden-mouthed [Chrysostom] at Constantinople, fifteen centuries ago.
Archbishop Dionysius Latas was 58 when he died, and had served as bishop of Zante (Zakhynthos) for ten years.
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.
Orthodoxy has been in Portland, Oregon for well over a century, and its history is of particular interest to me, as my in-laws live in the city, and I have visited there many times. Today, we’re going to look at the beginnings of organized parish life in Portland.
According to Brigit Farley, there are records of some sort of Orthodox religious activity in Portland dating to at least 1881. That year, Fr. Vladimir Vechtomov, the rector of the San Francisco cathedral, visited Portland to bury a Russian woman. That said, organized church life didn’t begin until the 1890s. In November of 1892, 29-year-old Fr. Sebastian Dabovich baptized two Greek children, in what the Oregonian (11/7/1892) called “the first ceremony of the kind that ever took place in this city.” The service was held in the St. Charles Hotel, the first brick hotel in all of Portland. The paper went on,
The Greek colony in this city only comprises about 20 members, but they are very active in church matters. They are at present contemplating the building of a church on the East side, and have purchased half a block of land at Twentieth and East Morrison streets. The structure will cost $5000, of which $1000 has already been raised. The Russian government contributes about $400,000 annually to the support of the Greek church in North America, and part of this fund will be available for the construction of a church in Portland. The bishop, of San Francisco, will furnish the chancel, pictures and other fixtures for the church, and will be present at the laying of the cornerstone.
I’m not sure how many actual Orthodox Christians were in Portland. The article says that the city’s Greek colony had only 20 people, but there were surely Orthodox of other nationalities, and there were also Greeks in neighboring communities. In fact, I’ve found evidence that at least one member of the Dabovich family was living in Portland at the time. In any event, Fr. Sebastian was convinced that Portland was the right place for an Orthodox chapel.
In March of 1894, Bishop Nicholas Ziorov, accompanied by Dabovich and Fr. Alexander Pustynsky, paid a visit to Portland. It was his first stop in the city, but he actually wasn’t the first Orthodox bishop to set foot in Portland. In 1890, Bishop Vladimir Sokolovsky had spent a night in Portland while en route from Alaska to San Francisco, but there’s no evidence that he interacted with the small Orthodox population of the city.
Anyway, Bp Nicholas made another visit in June, on his way to Seattle. Then, in July and August, Fr. Sebastian Dabovich spent three weeks in Portland, raising money for the chapel. Instrumental in this was an Alaskan Creole named Chernov, who was living in the city and apparently had some means. By August 15, construction had begun at East 20th and Morrison. The chapel’s name would be “Holy Trinity Greek Russian Mission.” Dabovich was telling the locals not just that it was an Orthodox chapel, but that it was a part of the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.”
With things going smoothly in Portland, Dabovich then left for Seattle, where he hoped to replicate his success. The pattern repeated itself the following spring: Dabovich visited Portland to dedicate the new chapel in March, and then traveled to Seattle to perform the same service. The two communities, Portland and Seattle, would be closely linked years to come. The Russian diocese never assigned a priest to the Portland chapel, so it operated as a sort of dependency of St. Spiridon Church in Seattle.
It’s often said that the current OCA parish in Portland, St. Nicholas, is identical with this original Holy Trinity chapel, which was founded in the 1890s. This isn’t really accurate… By the early 1900s, the original chapel had fallen into disrepair, and the Greeks organized their own parish in 1908. There wouldn’t be a Russian church in the city until 1927, when St. Nicholas Church was founded.
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.