Posts tagged 1925
One of my favorite blogs is the photography blog Shorpy, which specializes in posting glorious, high-resolution photographs largely from the Civil War through World War II, many of which come from the Library of Congress’ online databases of stock photos, government photographs, and newswire shots. They really do fantastic work, and I’ve long looked for a reason to link them here on OrthodoxHistory. Now, opportunity knocks.
A little while back, Shorpy’s editors posted a somewhat morbid, but oddly engaging photograph of a burial near Washington, DC circa 1925, which came from the Library of Congress. The picture had a rather minimal caption, so we have to go by what we see. What appears to be a group of well-dressed immigrants are gathered graveside around a casket. This is all pretty normal, except for the fact that the casket is propped up, and the head and shoulders of the deceased are visible through an opening in the lid. Yikes.
What immediately jumped out at me when I looked closer, however, was the fact that peeking out of the back of the crowd is a priest. Bald, bearded, and wearing a stole and pectoral cross. The wheels started spinning. It certainly looked Orthodox to me, but how could I prove it?
My research interests tend to be with Russian communities during this era, and this priest didn’t look familiar. Nor did the group of people look particularly Slavic to me. I suspected they may have been Middle Eastern, which is a bit out of my expertise. So I dispatched an email to my SOCHA colleague Matthew Namee, and after comparing notes for a little bit, we struck gold. The priest in question is Fr. Job Salloom, who was the pastor of St. George Syrian (now Antiochian) Orthodox Church in Washington, DC. And these, presumably, are some of his parishioners.
There is a surprisingly large amount of information online about Salloom, much of it being oral history by his descendants (including some photographs). Job Salloom came to America in 1904, and was ordained a priest in 1912. He served the St. George parish in Washington for over twenty years, and served itinerantly when needed to communities throughout the general region during that period as well. Fr. Job was apparently kind, well-liked, and had a lively sense of humor. He was beloved by his family, and apparently his congregation as well. According to the 1920 Census, Fr. Job and his wife Deby had five daughters and a son. This picture captures him around halfway through his ministry in America, when he was a little older than 50, and about a decade before his 1936 death.
This little discovery has led to a different project Matthew will be introducing in a few days. We’ve been on the phone about it constantly for the last few days, and I really think it’s going to be something our readers will enjoy. Stay tuned here at the SOCHA blog for that, but in the meantime, do yourself a favor and poke around Shorpy for a while. It’s well worth your time.
Last week, I spent about 2,000 words discussing the question of pews in early Greek churches in America. Based on my findings to date, it seems that pews became popular in Greek churches sometime in the 1920s, for reasons that aren’t yet clear. In Paul Manolis’ indispensible History of the Greek Church of America in Acts and Documents, he reprints a letter — in Greek — written by Archimandrite Kyrillos Papageorgiou to the Synod of the Greek Archdiocese. The date on the letter is February 14, 1925, and Manolis’ brief summary (in English) makes it clear that this letter dealt with the issue of pews. But, since it’s in Greek, I can’t read it.
A regular visitor to our website, Ioannis Fortomas, has very graciously offered to help me with translations from the Greek. Thanks to Ioannis, we now have the following translation of Papageorgiou’s letter:
To the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church in America
Your Eminence, Mr. President,
It is well known to your Eminence that in many American Orthodox Churches they have put seats, instead of the stalls (stasidia) which we have in our churches in the homeland. The seats have been laid out towards the purpose that the Christians may sit during the divine services. A blessed question arises though. Do the Christians know when they should arise and when they should sit? From a first glance, my question may appear to you as being trivial and unworthy of conversation and attention. But if you think a little, you will see that it is worthy of careful thinking, because it pertains to the order and decoration of not one, but of all Orthodox Churches in America. And so that problems do not arise: one Christian from one city traveling to another and seeing a difference in the Church, not knowing himself when he should sit and when he should stand. Therefore, according to my humble opinion, the Synod should publish an encyclical epistle to all the priests in America, setting forth precisely the moments when the Christians should sit and when they should stand. The priests should teach the contents of the encyclical to the faithful.
Finishing with respect,
Archimandrite Kyrillos Papageorgiou
First of all, let me publicly thank Ioannis for his excellent work. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for his assistance.
I don’t have much information about Papageorgiou himself. I think he’s the same person as Fr. Cyrillos Papagregoriou, who had several stints as pastor of St. Vasilios Church in Peabody, Massachusetts in the early 1900s. I don’t know where he was in 1925.
It’s not clear whether the Greek Archdiocese responded to Papageorgiou’s request. If they did, it’s not in Manolis’ book. But the Papageorgiou letter itself is enlightening enough. It confirms that, by 1925, pews were becoming reasonably widespread among Greek churches, replacing the more traditional stalls or leaners. But pews were new enough that the people weren’t quite sure what to do with them. This letter also implies that the Archdiocese had not, up to 1925, directly addressed the pew issue.