Posts tagged 1916
Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine has probably had more of his letters published in the New York Times than any other Orthodox clergyman. Just in the period from 1907-1918, the Times published no fewer than six Irvine letters. One of them appeared in their March 17, 1916 issue — that is, exactly 94 years ago:
To the Editor of The New York Times:
It is with no desire for controversy or of a lack of tender feelings toward my fellow-countrymen of Irish birth or their descendants of every religious persuasion that I write to you on the subject of some Hibernian fallacies.
While St. Patrick’s Day has passed beyond the vulgar ridicule of former years, yet it still remains a day of questionable sincerity toward unqualified American citizenship. It is still observed in a too sectarian spirit and with hatred of Great Britain.
I may remark, however, and I am not a Protestant Irishman, but a Russo-Greek Catholic, that nothing touched me more respectfully than to have seen a great United States flag hanging between the two spires of the Roman Catholic Cathedral on last St. Patrick’s Day. There was no other emblem there. That flag was an object lesson to Irishmen in the parade, viz., that the Stars and Stripes recognized no other authority or prejudice, either ecclesiastical or national, but those which could live in peace and toleration beneath its sway. That flag welcomed the sons of Irish birth and blood to the full and free use of Fifth Avenue. But, on the other hand, it frowned upon any man in the St. Patrick’s Day procession who dared to carry the Irish flag merely to dictate to our Government or disturb our neutrality.
I am convinced that after this terrific European strife is over we shall be apt to see fewer foreign flags borne in processions. Hyphenism in nationality will be so abhorred in the United States that those who carry an emblem to proclaim it will meet with the same welcome (?) as those who bear the red flag of anarchy.
St. Patrick was the great Celtic missionary to Ireland. In this broad and yet strictly orthodox Catholic way there is no sect, party, or, if the title “Church” is more desirable, which does not own St. Patrick and which ought not here in America and elsewhere honor his name and keep his natal day as one of the greatest sub-apostolic missionaries of Christian civilization.
Every Irishman and every person benefited by what Irishmen have done to advance morals, Christianity, and good government in the world can and ought to celebrate. But if the keeping of the day as sacred means hyphenated nationality or anything un-American, then let the sons of Ireland remember that they have no place in the respect or love of this great Republic, and especially in these trying times for our Government. We want no flag but the Stars and Stripes. No “Irish-Americans,” but American citizens.
INGRAM N.W. IRVINE.
St. Mary’s College, Brooklyn, N.Y., March 13, 1916.
I should note that Irvine himself was from Ireland. He immigrated to America with his mother and siblings when he was a teenager. His comments should not be taken as anti-immigrant or nativist; indeed, he worked closely with immigrants from Syria and Russia. Irvine grew up Anglican, not Roman Catholic, so his position that no Church “owns” St. Patrick is understandable. That said, from his other writings, it is clear that he viewed the Orthodox Church as the Church, so he wasn’t espousing some sort of relativist ecclesiology.
It’s interesting to note that Fr. Patrick Mythen, who joined the Russian Archdiocese a few years later (in 1920), was a leading proponent of Irish independence from Great Britain. That is, Mythen (who at the time was an Episcopal priest) was one of those people Irvine decried as trying “to dictate to our Government or disturb our neutrality.” Both Irvine and Mythen were outspoken Irish Episcopalians who converted to Orthodoxy, but they were as different as night and day.
Fr. Sebastian Dabovich was a monumental figure in American Orthodox history. An American-born Serb, he founded numerous parishes — Serbian and otherwise — under the auspices of the Russian Mission in America. He is currently being considered by the Serbian Orthodox Church and the OCA for glorification as a saint.
Dabovich knew Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine rather well. He was serving in Philadelphia when Irvine, who was also in that city, decided to convert to Orthodoxy in 1905. Dabovich was instrumental in arranging a meeting between Irvine and St. Tikhon, which ultimately led to Irvine’s ordination in November of that year. Nevertheless, Irvine, who was nothing if not bold, felt compelled to rebuke Dabovich in 1916, for the latter’s relations with the Episcopal Church. A former Episcopalian himself, Irvine felt that Dabovich was going too far in his ecumenical activity, and he wrote a strongly-worded letter. It’s rather long, but I am reprinting it in full below. The letter is dated September 16, 1916, and was found in the OCA archives.
Very Rev. and dear Brother:
I am very much perplexed and no one but you can give me a satisfactory explanation. However, I am sending a copy of this letter to our Archbishop for fear that, your acts are authorized by him, and, therefore I may have from him through you a sufficient answer.
You will surely remember that, when I was about to enter the Holy Orthodox Eastern Catholic Church, I called upon you in Philadelphia, and through you and by your kindness and courtesy, I transmitted my credentials and applications as an Anglican to the Most Reverend, and ever dear to America, Archbishop Tikhon. You, My Very Rev. and dear Brother, were my first door to a Church, wherein I am happy and for whom I am ready to live and die as well as serve in the humblest capacity.
Now, I entered the Holy Orthodox Russo-Greek Catholic Church believing that she, waiving all and every political and worldly consideration, brought my mind, soul and convictions nearer to God’s peace, “which passeth all understanding” than Anglicanism or any other portion of the Church founded by the Great Head of the Church, our one and only Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In the Russo-Greek Church My Soul is at peace with the whole family of God in Heaven and Earth, my only aim is to prove by a loving heart that, within her fold we see revealed as the Mother Church of Christendom, the “Faith once for all delivered unto the Saints” and held in trust to be transmitted, age after age, to a world hungry for the Bread of Life and the Living Water which alone are found in the Incarnate One’s bosom the Son of the Ever Virgin Mary and only Begotten of her and the Eternal Father by the operation of the Holy Spirit.
But, Very Rev. and dear Brother, though my peace, personally, is satisfactory I am anxious about what you are doing and what the results may be, for it seems to me that you are, unintentionally, tearing down the house which you helped to build as a refuge of Souls.
I read in the “Churchman” of September 16th, that you, clad in the Clerical Robes of the Orthodox Church attended both the Morning and Evening services of the Protestant Episcopal Church at Bar Harbor, Maine, and preached to large congregations. Is this true? Is it true that, you took part with the Rector of a Protestant Episcopal Church, a Clergyman whose Holy Orders are not acknowledged by the Holy Orthodox Church? I need not remined you of the Apostolical Canons. You are too well versed, I am sure, for me to quote any of them to you and show wherein you have overlooked the seriousness of your act.
But I need say no more on the following points, permit me only to add the facts as follows, namely: –
There is no intercommunion between the Holy Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion. This you surely know. Then think of the incongruity of any Orthodox Archimandrite standing at or near the Altar of a Church, side by side of one of her priests, which one half of whose clergy look upon as more benighted than the Church of Rome and only a relic of the dim past of Christianity and Icon Superstition! Think of the perplexing thoughts of the summer guests of Bar Harbor and the Laymembers of the Protestant Episcopal Parish, but, alas, think of the disturbed feelings of the members of the Holy Orthodox Church if any were present in that Congregation or in that watering place!
Perhaps, I may be pardoned if I remind you that, while the Protestant Episcopal Church may welcome you personally as a priest of the Holy Orthodox Church at her Altar and likewise any of our Bishops, she honestly and sincerely in her heart of hearts has no use for our Bishops. Why should she? Will you not please read again if you have before the Appendix written to my Booklet on “Anglican Claims” by t he Rev. William J. Seabury, D.D., late Professor of Canon Law in the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church. The Anglican Church claims full jurisdiction in the United States. Of course her claims and the Preface to her Book of Common Prayer contradict each other, for while in the former she claims full jurisdiction, in the latter she only speaks of herself as one of the Churches of the Republic. However, our Bishops are regarded as only provisional — Bishops in the United States of a Church whose members can not understand the English language and who in time may be swallowed up in the embrace of Anglicanism and fall under the supervision of the Anglican Episcopate.
Are you, my Very Rev. Brother, willing to concede this?
I believe that, the Orthodox have been led into traps by a certain Society known as the “Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union.” We have been misinterpreted and misrepresented by that Society. Rome, and the unlearned Orthodox surely have misinterpreted our Prelates. And some of our Prelates have made mistakes, and some have seen then after having become members or advocates of such a Society.
We cannot be united with the Anglican Communion if we truly hold the faith fo the Holy Orthodox Church. A fraction of the former believe as we do, but two thirds disagree with us in Matters which we deem essential.
We, as a Church, have but one view of Doctrine, Discipline and Worship. Not so with the Anglican. That Communion, is as varied in views as the Shades of the members of Protestant Sects or Romish perverts who may drop into her fold.
But, Very Rev. Brother, there is something bordering on to an Ecclesiastical tragedy in our hob-nobing with the Anglican Church.
It is cruel to the Anglicans. You know and so do I that, there is no intercommunion. Why should we not be honest and say that while we love all who believe in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, yet there are essentials important to us that are lacking to them, that, it would be cruel to deceive by Society Courtesy those who do not believe in its entirety the “Faith once for all delivered to the Saints?”
But the Tragedy is still more appalling in this respect, namely, we are disturbing the faith of the Youth of the Holy Orthodox Church. Remember, please, that no Anglicans come to us except it be to hear our music, which by some outside and others within the Russian Church is exploited for mercenary purposes. On the other hand, hundreds of our people, and, running up into thousands of our young are being lost to us because of, on the one hand our folly and the superciliousness of some of our Ecclesiastics, and, on the other, our lack of preparation to hold them, our priest being hide-bound to their own foreign language in a Country where nothing scarcely is taught but English to the Young of ever Nationality coming to our shores.
Won’t you, very Rev. and Dear Brother, review the past? Please do. Just think of my coming to the door of the Russian Church through you and knocking for entrance. Think of the day when I was ordained at St. Nicholas Cathedral. Think of the first service ever said in English of the Holy Orthodox Church. You and I said that service in the Russian Cathedral. What now does it all mean that you should help to tear down the house which you had helped to build?
I have prepared a long article on the reunion of Christendom etc., and the great danger in which the Orthodox Church in the United States stands in having any thing to do with such a step, as “Federation” or “Unions” at the present time. I hope some day, when I have the means, to have it published. It will explain fully to my brother priests our dangerous position stoical indifference and in flirting with the Anglican Church.
Trusting that you will pardon my long letter and any unintentional grief which it may give you, I am,
Ingram N.W. Irvine, D.D.
Every ten years, from 1906 to 1936, the US Census Bureau compiled a Census of Religious Bodies. These censuses are gold mines of information on early American Orthodoxy. Also, unlike so many of the inflated numbers that you’re likely to see floating around, the census data is reliable. With its considerable resources, the Census Bureau was able not only to work with the jurisdictions themselves, but to contact individual parishes for precise information. The result is a thorough, well-researched, and generally unbiased collection of statistics and other information.
What can we learn from the censuses? Loads of things. For instance, we can track the growth of the various Orthodox groups and jurisdictions in the United States:
The Russian spike in 1916 was most likely caused by Uniate conversions. Overall, the Orthodox population grew from about 130,000 in 1906 to almost 350,000 thirty years later:
- 1906: 129,606
- 1916: 249,840
- 1926: 259,394
- 1936: 348,025
As you can see, the 1916-1926 period was rather stagnant; in fact, aside from the Albanians and Romanians, every jurisdiciton declined in that period. World War I probably had something to do with it, as well as the new immigration quotas imposed by the US government in 1924. It’s also likely that the various jurisdictional schisms of the 1920s – Russy-Antacky, Royalist-Venizelist, Metropolia-Living Church — affected the ability of the Census Bureau to collect data. (That is, there were probably more Orthodox than were reported in 1926.)
One of the things I’ve found most interesting about the census data are the gender ratios. In 1906, men represented 85% of all American Orthodox Christians. That is, for every woman, there were almost six men. Here are the percentages of women in each year:
- 1906: 15%
- 1916: 28%
- 1926: 40%
- 1936: 46%
By 1936, every group was between 42 and 51 percent female. For most of this period, the Greeks were the most overwhelmingly male jurisdiction (with female percentages from 1906-36 of 6, 17, 34, and 43 percent). Until ’36, the Syrians were the most balanced group, with 40% women in 1906, and 45, 49, and 47 percent in the years that followed.
The Serbian male population actually declined considerably from 1906-26, due most likely to the Balkan Wars and then World War I, but the female population (not just the percentage) increased dramatically:
- 1906: 2,228 women (14%)
- 1916: 3,301 women (23%)
- 1926: 6,421 women (47%)
The census also kept data on Sunday schools. In 1906, there were just 7 Sunday schools in all of American Orthodoxy. By 1916, there were 162 (of which 126 were Russian). The Russians actually closed a lot of their Sunday schools in the next decade (dropping to 90), but the Greeks and Romanians added a lot more, pushing the total number up to 198 by 1926. By 1936, there were 294 Orthodox Sunday schools in the United States, of which 129 were Greek and 101 were Russian.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s available in the censuses. In the future, we’ll continue to unpack the data.
Recently, on our Facebook page, someone left a comment requesting information on Fr. Jacob Korchinsky, who is apparently being considered for canonization. I was vaguely familiar with Korchinsky; I’d read his name before, but knew next to nothing about him. Obviously, I wanted to learn more. Over the past couple of days, I’ve pieced together as much as I can about Korchinsky. My own conclusion: the man is almost certainly a saint.
Just to clear up any confusion up front: if you search for “Jacob Korchinsky” on the Internet, you might find a reference to St. Juvenaly, the hieromartyr of Alaska. Coincidentally, St. Juvenaly’s name before becoming a monk was Jacob Korchinsky. I don’t think he’s related to this more recent Jacob Korchinsky, though.
Here is an account of Korchinsky’s first five decades, from Michael Protopopov’s fascinating 2005 dissertation, The Russian Orthodox Presence in Australia:
Jakov Kosmich Korchinsky was born into a family of landed gentry in 1861, he attended the Elizavetgrad Secondary School and then a four year course to become a teacher. In 1886, Jakov married Varvara Yakovlev. Whilst working in diocesan schools, Jakov was recognized as an excellent teacher by the Ruling Bishop of the diocese, Archbishop Nicandor of Kherson and Odessa, and ordained a deacon on 8 November 1887. Whilst a deacon and still teaching, Fr Jakov enrolled at the Odessa Theological Seminary which he completed in 1895. Fr Jakov was then invited to teach in the missions in Alaska by Bishop Nikolai of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska and the young deacon and his wife set off for the Americas. On 25 March 1896 Fr Jakov was ordained priest and began his missionary work in Alaska. Within two years Fr Jakov had been awarded his first ecclesiastical distinction for “converting to Orthodoxy more than 250 savages.” In 1901, he was again recognised for building a church whilst doing missionary work in Canada. By 1902 the Korchinskys returned to Kherson because of Varvara Korchinsky’s failing health and Fr Jakov was appointed rector of the Resurrection church in Bereznegova on the Black Sea. In 1906 he was appointed rector [of] the Protection church in the Kherson prison.
After two years in the prison church, Fr Jakov reapplied to return to America and was appointed to the St Michael parish in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania. Whilst in Pennsylvania Fr Jakov was awarded the gold pectoral cross by an Imperial Decree. On 25 March 1911, the Korchinskys were relocated to Newark, New Jersey, where Fr Jakov was appointed rector of the St Michael church and visiting priest to parishes in Erie, Carnegie and Youngstown. In the years immediately prior to his appointment as missionary to the Hawaiian Islands and the Philippines, Korchinsky was also Dean of Pennsylvania, a trustee of the Orthodox Orphanage of North America, Vice President of the Russian Emigre Society of North America and a member of the Imperial Russian Palestine Society.
And he still had another 30 years to go. Korchinsky was one of the jewels of the Russian Mission in America, one of those super-priests who covered vast territories and founded numerous churches. In 1900, he was sent to Edmonton, Alberta to become the first permanent parish priest in Canada. The same year, he visited Shandro, Alberta, and baptized 33 children in a single day. You get the sense, from reading about Korchinsky’s life, that this sort of event was rather commonplace for him. In his November 26, 1906 report to the Holy Synod, St. Tikhon wrote of Korchinsky, “He did much to convert the heathens to the Christian Faith and returned many Uniates to the Orthodox Church. He set the foundation for parish life in many places, built churches and assisted the unfortunate with his acquied medical knowledge.”
He founded churches in the United States, too. At the very least, I know that he was the founding priest of the Nativity of Christ Church in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1915. The same year, Korchinsky was elevated to Archpriest, and he relocated to Hawaii. From Orthodox Wiki’s excellent article on Hawaiian Orthodox history:
In 1915, an official request by the Russian Orthodox community in Hawaii and the Episcopal Bishop of Hawaii, Henry B. Restarick to the Holy Synod in St. Petersburg; a priest was dispatched that same year to Hawaii (with the blessing of Archbishop Evdokim (Meschersky) of the Aleutians) to pastor the large population of Orthodox Russian faithful. He establishsed permanent liturgical services in Hawaii and on Christmas December 25 (O.S.) / January 7 (N.S.) 1916, Protopresbyter Jacob Korchinsky celebrated the Divine Liturgy at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral in Honolulu. Thus Orthodoxy was re-established in Hawaii.
While in Honolulu, writes Protopopov, Korchinsky happened to meet a group of Russian Latvians who were sailing from Australia to Egypt via Honolulu and the brand-new Panama Canal. They told him that there were Russians in Australia; not long afterwards, Korchinsky read this in the Vestnik (the official publication of the Russian Mission in America, January 1916):
[I]n Australia, there live thousands of Russian people, who are spiritually ministered to by a Greek priest who visits once a year. His services are conducted unwillingly and without a sense of piety, even though he receives a large amount of money for his services. It has also been reported that a self-styled “priest” has arrived in Australia from North America who has exploited the unsuspecting Russians with excessive fees for baptisms and weddings, so much so, that they complained to the police and the “priest” was arrested.
Korchinsky had heard enough. He wrote to the Russian Consul-General in Melbourne, who asked Korchinsky to come to Australia immediately. He arrived in March of 1916. In the months that followed, he visited 750 families and 500 isolated individuals, baptizing 16 children along the way (all these numbers are from Protopopov). But he contracted malaria due to the excessive heat, and in July, he returned to Russia. He wrote this to his bishop, Archbishop Evdokim Meschersky:
We have elected a committee to oversee church life, but my illness brought on by the excessive heat, has caused me to take to my bed and has deprived me of being of any further use… I most respectfully plead that Your Grace does not forsake the Russian Orthodox in Australia and especially their next generation of youngsters. I beg that Your Grace may raise the question of the Church in Australia at the forthcoming All Russian General Council and if it be appropriate to appoint me as the permanent priest for Australia.
The Holy Synod ended up placing Australia under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Tokyo. Korchinsky, meanwhile, needed money. He had spent all his own funds on his missionary work. All the while, his wife and three-year-old daughter had remained in America, and Korchinsky wanted to go to them. He was given permission, and money, but then World War I intervened. Korchinsky was assigned to be a chaplain at the military hospital in Odessa, serving there from December 1916 to August 1917. From Protopopov:
Upon being demobilised from military service, Korchinsky was again faced with the problem of having nothing to live on. On 29 August 1917, he again wrote to the Holy Synod asking that he be assigned a pension, as he was so poor that he needed to live in a rural village where the folk fed him out of compassion. A second resolution was made by the Holy Synod for a pension to be granted to Korchinsky, but no documentary evidence is available to confirm a pension ever having been paid. Nor is it known if he returned to his family in Pennsylvania.
One way or another, Korchinsky’s family made it back to Russia. About his family… At some point amidst his travels, probably in 1913 or 1914, Korchinsky spent some time in Mexico City. While there, he adopted an orphaned infant named Dominica. Here is the story, told by the girl’s daughter in Faith, a Russian religious periodical, dated May 2006. The original in Russian, which I can’t read, so I used Google Translator:
Jacob Korchinsky was not the actual father of my mother, he was her adoptive father. In 1912-1916. He was the rector of the Orthodox Church in Mexico City, the capital of Mexico. There he gave the girl in foster homes, from a poor family of Spanish origin. In 1916-1917 grandfather returned to his home in Odessa, along with a girl (my mother was then year 3-4).
The translation obviously isn’t great, and the dates aren’t precise, but the gist is clear enough. (And there are more details if you follow the above link and can read Russian. Google Translator has some issues with Russian, unfortunately.)
Korchinsky stayed in Russia through the Revolution and the terror that followed. He was arrested on June 23, 1941. Two months later, like so many of his fellow priests, he was executed. He was 80 years old.
Based on all this, it seems to me that Fr. Jacob Korchinsky was indeed a saint, just like his fellow American priests and Russian hieromartyrs Alexander Hotovitzky, John Kochurov, and Seraphim Samuilovich. Korchinsky’s is a remarkable, multicontinental story which has not yet been told. If any of you have more information on Korchinsky, please email me at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.
UPDATE (1/6/10): A reader named Michael informed me that St. Juvenaly’s surname was “Govorukhin” (or “Hovorukhin”), not “Korchinsky.” He sent along numeous source which testify to this, and I have no doubt that he is correct. Just for the record, I found the reference to St. Juvenaly’s name being “Korchinsky” in Fr. Michael Oleksa’s 2008 commencement address at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. It’s possible that Fr. Michael just mixed up the two missionary-martyrs’ names. My thanks to Michael for pointing this out to me.
To our New Calendar readers: Christ is born!
The following article was originally published on August 21, 2009. If you’re interested, you might check out the comments to that original posting. We’ll be back with brand-new material on Monday, December 28.
As you might expect, most American Orthodox parishes in 1916 used foreign languages. From that year’s Census of Religious Bodies, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, we find the following unsurprising information:
- Both of the Albanian parishes used exclusively Albanian.
- The four Bulgarian parishes used Bulgarian and Slavonic.
- The 87 Greek parishes used exclusively Greek.
- Both of the Romanian parishes used exclusively Romanian and Slavonic.
- 166 of the 169 Russian parishes used exclusively Slavonic. Of the other three, two used a combination of Slavonic and English, and one used exclusively English.
- 11 of the 12 Serbian parishes used exclusively Slavonic and/or Serbian. One Serbian parish used exclusively English.
In total, there were 276 parishes in the United States in 1916, not counting the Syrians. 272 of those 276 (98.55%) worshipped entirely in foreign languages, and just two used English only.
None of this should come as a surprise. The vast majority of American Orthodox Christians in 1916 were either immigrants, or the children of immigrants. And the vast majority of American Orthodox clergy were also immigrants, most of whom had been educated and ordained in the Old World.
Now we come to the Syrians… and as we’ve seen before, the Syrians are an outlier. This is what the 1916 Census has to say:
Of the 25 organizations, 13, with 4,361 members, reported services conducted in English only; and 12, with 7,230 members, reported services conducted in foreign languages alone or with English. Of these, 4 organizations, with 1,230 members, reported the use of Arabic alone or with English; 5, with 2,900 members, Arabic, Greek, and English; and 3, with 3,100 members, Arabic, Greek, Russian, and English. In 1906 all the organizations then represented reported the Syro-Arabic language only.
This is stunning. Ten years earlier, in 1906, the Syrians were like everybody else, worshipping exclusively in their native tongue. In 1916, everybody else was pretty much the same — 98.55% foreign. But in just a decade, the Syrians had changed dramatically. By 1916, at least 21 of the 25 Syrian parishes (84%) used at least some English in their church services, and over half (13 of 25) were entirely in English.
How on earth did this happen? I don’t have a clear answer; however, there is one clue. In 1905, an Episcopal priest named Ingram Irvine converted to Orthodoxy. He was ordained by Ss. Tikhon and Raphael, took the name “Fr. Nathaniel,” and for about two years, he served in the Russian Mission. His purpose was “English work.” He wrote articles in English, published a couple of small books, and conducted an English-language Vespers service on Sunday nights. He also helped St. Tikhon with English-language administrative work, and advised him on Anglican-Orthodox relations.
Irvine is one of my favorite figures in American Orthodox history, and we’ll talk about him in great detail in the future, but for now, it’s enough to know that he transferred to St. Raphael’s jurisdiction after St. Tikhon returned to Russia in 1907. And Irvine’s transfer also meant the transfer of the “English work.” Now, his English articles appeared in the otherwise all-Arabic Al Kalimat (The Word). He made it his special mission to reach out to the English-speaking children of Arabic immigrants to America. He taught Sunday School, ghostwrote letters for St. Raphael, and generally promoted the use of English in the Syrian Mission. He did this at the direction and with the encouragement of St. Raphael; when St. Raphael died in 1915, Irvine wrote, “With Bishop Raphael’s death ended the initiatory Chapter of English Orthodox Church work in America.”[*]
I don’t think Irvine alone was responsible for the great proliferation of English in the Syrian Mission in the years 1906-1916, but he must have played a major role. Just thinking out loud, another factor may have been the weaker national identification with Orthodoxy among the Syrians. What I mean is this: to be a Russian, a Greek, or a Serb was to be Orthodox. National identity and religious affiliation were intimately intertwined, to the point that they were one and the same. But it was not so among the Syrians. They came, not from their own nation-state, but from the Ottoman Empire. And they also came from a region of great religious pluralism — back in Syria, they lived alongside Melkites, Maronites, Muslims, and Druze. In other words, while Slavonic, Greek, and Serbian culture (and language) was closely identified with Orthodoxy, the same could not be said of Syro-Arab culture and language. And it’s possible (though I can’t prove it) that this distinction was a major factor in the spread of English among the Syrians, while the rest of American Orthodoxy was still firmly attached to foreign languages.
Finally, Fr. John Erickson offered this comment upon seeing the language data:
In light of the very large number of parishes St Raphael’s Syrian mission that used only English or predominantly English, another question that might be interesting to explore would be the extent to which, in the years immediately following, the “Antacky” advocated the use of Arabic or otherwise resorted to identity politics.
At present, I don’t have any idea whether the Russy-Antacky divide involved language, but it is a question I will have to explore (and if anyone wants to help, please let me know!)
[*] Ingram N.W. Irvine (Fr. Nathaniel), “Bishop Raphael, In His Relation to the English Work of the Archdiocese of North America,” Russian Orthodox American Messenger 19:5 (March 15, 1915), 72.