Posts tagged 1913
Today, of course, is Christmas for those Orthodox Christians on the Old (Julian) Calendar. Until the 1920s, all of Orthodoxy used the Old Calendar, and of course that included all the Orthodox in America. As we’ve discussed, the American media thought that this was thoroughly fascinating, and newspapers often ran articles on “Greek” or “Russian” Christmas. One thing that I’ve noticed, in reading these Christmas accounts, is the diversity of traditions among the Orthodox in various parts of the country.
The Philadelphia Inquirer (12/24/1905) commented on the East-West calendar difference, and then pointed out another distinction:
In the [Western denominations] both the time immediately preceding and the period following Christmas Day are times of feasting. In the Greek Church, on the contrary, the forty days preceding Christmas are set aside as a time of fasting, just as Lent precedes Easter. In the local church the communicants are not required to strictly observe this rule. All that is asked is that they observe the week preceding Christmas as a time of fasting.
I suspect that this laxness in fasting was pretty common in American Orthodox parishes. But people didn’t just universally ignore the fast. The Washington Times (1/7/1912) notes, “Since December Greeks abstained from eating meat.” With the arrival of Christmas, the DC Greeks began to feast, going from house to house. “The most humble peanut vendor is privileged by this custom to enter the home of the wealthiest man in the city and cannot be turned away.”
Children, of course, have always been prominent in Christmas celebrations. On Christmas Eve in the Russian church in Wilkes-Barre, PA, the priest, St. Alexis Toth, held a special event for the children of the parish. From the Wilkes-Barre Times (1/7/1907):
A large Christmas tree, prettily decorated and lighted, had been erected on the platform and after several hymns had been sung the treat consisting of candy and fruit for each child had been distributed by Father Toth, there were several more hymns, including the rendition of “America” in English.
It’s not clear, from the newspaper, whether the Christmas tree was actually inside the temple, or in some other part of the building.
While some Orthodox exchanged gifts on Christmas Day, others waited until Old Calendar New Year’s Day. From the Galveston Daily News (1/8/1913):
Christmas among the members of the Greek Orthodox Church is purely a religious festival. Unlike the Yuletide celebrations of the other Christian churches, it contains no elements of feasting or gift giving. The Greek New Year, which is to be celebrated on Jan. 13, is in commemoration of the circumcision of the Child Christ and is the day of feasting and giving of gifts among the members of the faith. Places of business are closed and every child of the Greeks, rich or poor, great or obscure, is remembered with presents.
The giving is observed in a peculiar form. Santa Claus is not known by name, but the children are told that the “ghost” has come down the chimney and brought the candies, sweets and presents that make them happy. Every child is remembered without any exception, and the parents cloak their giving unselfishly, letting the child believe that the gifts came direct from God, as the ghost who brings them is supposed to be the Holy Spirit.
I’m curious; do any of our readers know about this tradition — both the giving of gifts on New Year’s Day and the Holy Spirit coming down the chimney?
Most Honored Sir — I want to know if it is a crime to wear a beard? I suppose that this may appear to be a foolish question to you, but to me it means a great deal. I am the pastor of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox church on Pacific street, Brooklyn, and my profession calls for the wearing of a beard. When I got out on the street the boys and young men mistake me for a Jewish rabbi and insult and assault me.
They often throw decayed vegetables at me. If I were a rabbi, would that be an excuse for loafers to assault and insult me? I am a citizen and as such should be protected from assault.
I have borne the insults and assaults patiently up to last Saturday night, when an incident occured that made me lose all patience. I was alighting from a car at Seventy-third street and Thirteenth avenue, Brooklyn, when a little loafer hit me with a decayed vegetable, which I believe was a more than ripe tomato. This exhausted my patience. I went for the lad, who, luckily for him, escaped.
Hoping that you will do what you can for me and gain for me the protection I deserve, I am sir,
BASIL M. KERBAWY.
The mayor didn’t take long to reply. On April 12, 1911, he wrote to Kerbawy,
Reverend and Dear Sir: Your letter informing me that as you walk about the city visiting the homes of your parishioners people apply opprobrious names to you, and throw empty cans and rubbish at you, and otherwise assault you, on account of your beard, is at hand. You ask me, “Is it a crime in the City of New York to wear a beard”? No, it is not. I wear one myself and nobody ever takes any notice of it. How is it they take notice of your beard? Have you trimmed it in some particular way, contrary to the Scriptures? For you know the Scriptures say, “Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.”
Yes, if they assault you, and throw cans at you, you have a right to defend yourself to the last extremity; but if you find it necessary I will have a detective go around with you for a few days until we arrest some of those who are wronging you. Are you certain that it is your beard which is the cause of the trouble?
Kerbawy actually took the mayor up on his offer of a detective. From the New York World (via the Washington Post, 4/28/1911):
The clergyman will be a striking figure with his tall, shiny hat and ruddy face almost hidden by the luxuriance of his black beard. It is not of such a length, being very neat in its trimming, but it is so abundant that only mere patches of the priest’s red cheeks show above it. Softly behind Father Kerbawy will tread a sleuth ready to promptly pounce upon the first person long the way who shies sticks, stones, objurgation, tomato, or even a spitball at the worthy priest.
Kerbawy’s reply to the mayor? “It was very kind of the mayor to give such prompt attention to my case. I shall probably write to let him know that my whiskers are trimmed in full accordance with the Scriptures.”
(Alas, I don’t have a good picture of Kerbawy, so I can’t show you his beard, which one newspaper described as being of the “lace curtain” variety. I’ve said it before, but if newspapers today wrote like they did a century ago, they wouldn’t be a dying industry.)
Of course, Kerbawy’s bishop was St. Raphael Hawaweeny, who, in 1895, had arrived in America with a bushy beard and a rather wild head of hair (see above).
But, as we saw on Monday, Raphael soon changed his appearance, cutting his hair, trimming his beard, and, outside of the church, trading his cassock for a suit and collar. In 1904, he told the New York Sun (5/22/1904), “I do not wish to attract attention by any peculiarities. There is no reason why I should be so extreme.” By the end of his life, St. Raphael looked like any other respectable gentleman a hundred years ago.
In the early 20th century, beardless faces were much more common among Russian priests than among their Greek counterparts, who tended to have full beards until around the 1920s. But not all the Russians were thrilled with clean-shaven clergymen. Fr. Joseph Stephanko, pastor of Ss. Peter & Paul Church in Passaic, New Jersey, dared to pick up a razor in 1913. A Russian-language newspaper in Jersey City accused Stephanko of “making void the Orthodox faith because he shaved himself.” The priest responded by filing a $25,000 libel suit against the paper (New York Times, 8/20/1914). A couple of years later, he was awarded $1,000 — a fraction of his original demand, but still a healthy chunk of change in the 1910s.
Pews are a common sight in American Orthodox churches, especially those in the Greek and Antiochian Archdioceses. I remember, as an adolescent in an Antiochian parish, learning that my fellow Orthodox in Greece or Russia or Lebanon don’t have pews in their churches.
When I asked why we had pews and the rest of Orthodoxy (for the most part) did not, I got an answer which I accepted as perfectly reasonable. The way I heard it, when the Orthodox were first getting established in America, they bought old Protestant or Roman Catholic church buildings, and just kept the pews (and organs) that came with the purchase. That, I was told, is how pews came to be in so many Orthodox parishes.
Until a couple of years ago, it had never occurred to me to question this story. But then I started to look for hard evidence, and I was rather surprised at what I found. I should stress that my research on this is far from complete. But I’ve gotten into the habit of sharing my unfinished work with the world, and I figured I’d present some of my initial findings. I’ll actually be doing this in multiple parts, because I’ve got a good bit of information to share.
Today, I’m not going to delve into the data on pews; instead, I want to focus on the underlying assumption: that most early American Orthodox churches were purchased from Protestant or Roman Catholic congregations. Is this actually true?
I decided to focus, initially, on the Greeks. I was able to find hard data on 23 early Greek parishes. The surprise? Of those 23, 14 built their own churches from the ground up, and 9 purchased existing places of worship.
I also looked at Thomas Burgess’ 1913 book Greeks in America. On page 55, Burgess lists the Greek parishes which constructed their own churches, and those which bought former Protestant churches. His numbers? 16 built their own, and 12 bought Protestant churches.
So in both cases, well over half of the early Greek parishes constructed their own churches. And, given that a number of the churches in my count were built or purchased after Burgess’ book was published, there’s not too much overlap between the two sets of numbers.
If the Greeks weren’t just buying old Protestant churches, then the old explanation isn’t sufficient, and there must be some other reason why they adopted pews. More to come.
It’s a common debate within American Orthodoxy: should our priests wear cassocks, or should they wear suits and collars like their Roman Catholic and Protestant counterparts?
One side rightly argues that cassocks are the traditional and virtually universal style of dress for Orthodox clergy. The other side just as correctly points out that even some American saints wore suits and collars. As with so many issues, both camps can cite historical precedent. This is from a New York Sun article shortly after St. Raphael’s consecration (5/22/1904):
The Bishop is only 42 years old. He is a handsome man, with piercing black eyes, a black beard and hair just tinged with gray, which is brushed back from his high forehead in long curling locks. He wears a costume which resembles the cassock of a Roman Catholic priest indoors, and a plain gold cross suspended around his neck by a golden chain. He has a democratic spirit, however, and has cut his long hair, which used to flow down over his shoulders to a more conventional length, and refuses to wear his pontificals in the street.
“I do not wish to attract attention by any peculiarities,” he says. “There is no reason why I should be so extreme.”
In the photo above, you can see St. Raphael and his archdeacon, the future Bishop Emmanuel Abo-Hatab, both wearing suits and holding their hats. Both men have closely-cropped beards and short hair.
That said, St. Raphael did not impose his own preferences on his clergy. For instance, check out the impressive beard on his priest, Archimandrite Meletios Karroum, printed in theÂ Boston Globe (9/18/1904):
Very generally, in the early 1900s, Russian clergy tended to be more “Westernized” in their appearance. Photos of St. John Kochurov from his time in America depict him with no facial hair at all. A lot of early Russian priests had only moustaches or goatees, and many wore suits. Take a look at this photo of St. Alexander Hotovitzky, from 1913:
Meanwhile, Greek clergy tended to be more traditional in their dress. As best I can tell, until the 1920s, Greek priests in America typically wore cassocks and sported full beards. In the ’20s, a general trend towards Americanization (pews, organs, etc) in Greek churches began, and it seems like collars and shaved faces became popular at about the same time.
More broadly, I would emphasize that diversity in clergy appearance has been pretty standard throughout American Orthodox history. Also, whatever their personal preferences, saints like Raphael did not impose their own views on their clergy. Flexibility, it seems, is generally to be preferred.
According to some sources, Archimandrite Kallinikos Kanellas was the first ethnic Greek priest to serve in America. And those sources may be right, depending on your definition of “Greek.” The only other candidates would be from the Greek church in New Orleans. Fr. Stephen Andreades was the priest in the late 1860s, and Fr. Gregory Yayas served there from 1872-74; considering their names, both were almost certainly Greeks of one sort or another. Archimandrite Misael Karydis (or Kalitski) was the priest from 1881-1901, but he was reportedly from Bulgaria. In any event, Kanellas was one of the very first Greek priests in America.
I don’t know anything about Kanellas’ early life. I do know that, before he came to the United States, Kanellas had spent some time in India. From 1880 to 1886, he was the rector of the Greek church in Calcutta (the origins of which dated to the 1700s; see this fascinating history for more information). He first shows up in the US in 1889, as one of the priests of the Russian cathedral in San Francisco. He seems to be the first of several non-Russian priests brought over to America to serve in the Russian Diocese — “client clergy,” as Fr. John Erickson has called them. Soon, he would be followed by people like Fr. Ambrose Vretta, Fr. Theoklytos Triantafilides, Fr. Sebastian Dabovich, Fr. Raphael Hawaweeny, and Fr. Michael Andreades. But Kanellas seems to have been the original.
I’m not sure what Kanellas was doing from 1886 to 1889, but I suspect he might have been in Russia. This would explain his connection to the Russian Diocese in America.
Kanellas appears to have been trusted by Bishop Vladimir Sokolovsky, who appointed him to serve on the Alaskan Spiritual Consistory, the group of clergy which ran many of the day-to-day affairs of the diocese. He was particularly useful in ministering to ethnic Greeks. In 1891, he made a cross-country missionary trip. He stopped in Savannah, Georgia, and baptized a Greek child. The Columbus Enquirer-Sun (6/24/1891) reported that the child’s father spent $650, which presumably included transportation and lodging costs. The paper said that the amount “includes a handsome fee.” $650 seems outrageous, though. I checked an online inflation calculator, and it estimated that $650 in 1891 is equivalent to over $15,000 in 2008.
From Savannah, Kanellas went to New York City, where he baptized the daughter of Anthony Ralli (who was possibly connected with the well-known Ralli Brothers merchant firm). The New York Sun (6/26/1891) said that Kanellas had a “patriarchal beard and jewelled gown.” According to one account, he actually had to bring his own baptismal font — can you imagine taking one of those on a train?
I’ve seen some references to Kanellas having served in Chicago. That’s a bit of a puzzler… In July 1891, the Chicago Inter Ocean (7/11/1891) reported that a certain Archimandrite Lininas, “who presides over a temple in San Francisco,” was visiting Chicago and holding services for the Orthodox there. I haven’t been able to find evidence of this Fr. Lininas being in San Francisco, and it’s very possible that this was actually Kanellas, on his way back from New York to California. However, the Inter Ocean says that Fr. Lininas “is a finely educated gentleman, speaking German, Russian, and French fluently, but his English is best understood through an interpreter.” So according to the paper, he didn’t speak Greek (which, if true, means he wasn’t Kanellas).
In 1892, amid much turmoil and scandal, Bp Vladimir was recalled to Russia and replaced with Bishop Nicholas Ziorov. On July 1 (June 19 Old Style), the members of the Spiritual Consistory (of which Kanellas was apparently no longer a member) wrote to the new bishop,
Today, the Archimandrite Kallinikos was informed that he has to leave the Mission as of July 1. He replied that he has nowhere to go. In accordance with Your Grace’s will, we deemed it was better to say nothing in reply: Your Grace has ordered not to drive him out.
Obviously, something was up, but I don’t know what. The 1893 San Francisco city directory doesn’t list Kanellas among the cathedral clergy, so he didn’t stick around much longer. And for the next 18 years, I can’t figure out he was. I’m pretty sure he stayed in America, and by at least 1911 (and probably earlier), he was pastor of the Greek church in Birmingham, Alabama. In the 1913 book Greeks in America, Thomas Burgess, writing about the Birmingham church, said,
Of its former pastor, says the “Greek-American Guide,” “The Rev. Arch. Kallinikos Kanellas is a very sympathetic and reverend old man of whom it is possible to say that of the Greek clergy in America he is the most—shall we say ‘disinterested’? The Greek word is a dandy, (literally, ‘not loving of riches’). Plutarch used to use that word.
In 1913, Kanellas moved to Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. He spent the rest of his life there. This is from Annunciation’s parish history:
Father Kallinikos Kanellas was brought to Little Rock on a permanent basis in 1913, and services were held in an upstairs meeting hall near 9th and Main Streets for the next eight years. This hall included a small chapel for Liturgies and Sacraments such as weddings, baptisms, etc., as well as a place for social gatherings. Incidentally, research indicates that Father Kanellas probably was the first Orthodox priest of Greek ancestry to come to the United States. When Father Kanellas became seriously ill, young Theo Polychron visited him daily, bringing soup from his little café. Father died in 1921 and is buried at Oakland Cemetery where most of the early Greek immigrants were also interred.
As you can see, Kanellas’ story has a lot of missing pieces. I suspect a lot of the gaps could be closed by a letter Kanellas wrote to Archbishop Meletios Metaxakis on March 16, 1918, in which he gave an account of his career in both the Russian Diocese and the Greek communities in America. That letter appears on page 333 of Paul Manolis’ History of the Greek Church in America in Acts and Documents… unfortunately, though, I can’t read Greek, so for now, I don’t know what the letter says. If any of you out there can read Greek and are interested in Kanellas, email me at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.