Posts tagged 1939
January 23, 1921: Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine died of heart disease in New York, at the age of 71. Irvine has been a frequent topic on this website. Born in Ireland, Irvine came to the US as a teenager and served as an Episcopal priest for a quarter century before being defrocked by his bishop for “conduct unbecoming a clergyman.” In 1905, he converted to Orthodoxy and was ordained a priest by St. Tikhon, the Russian archbishop. Irvine was put in charge of “English work” in the Russian Church. He continued to attract controversy as an Orthodox priest, alienating most everyone he encountered, although St. Raphael found him useful in promoting the use of English. Needless to say, we’ll continue to examine Irvine’s career in future articles.
January 27, 1939: Fr. Michael Husson died at the age of 79. He was one of the first Syrian/Antiochian clergymen in America, and spent many years as the rector of St. George Church in Worcester, MA. Here is one account of Fr. Michael, quoted in Arab American Faces and Voices by my grandmother’s cousin Elizabeth Boosahda (page 92):
It was Rev. Michael who told my family about their relatives living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa… Father Husson came from Worcester and he would travel all over the West because there was no Syrian Orthodox priest. He went from one town to another to do the duties of a priest. There were very, very few Orthodox priests in this country. Besides, Father Husson once a year would travel — he would wire ahead — and he would go to these different towns. Father Husson baptized my sister Mabel, and she was born in Cedar Rapids. He would go out to these places by train. People would give him a few dollars for all he did and then he would be on his way more informed as to the eligibility of those for marriage.
January 27, 1980: Fr. Basil Essey was ordained to the priesthood. Later, he was consecrated a bishop, and of course today he is the Antiochian Bishop of Wichita and the Secretary of the Assembly of Bishops.
January 29, 1983: Bishop Job Osacky was consecrated as the OCA Bishop of Hartford, CT. He eventually took over the OCA’s Midwest Diocese and became an archbishop, and in his later years, he became famous (and, in some circles, infamous) for his call for openness and transparency in the OCA. He died unexpectedly in December 2009.
If you know of any other important American Orthodox events that took place between January 23 and January 29, please let us know in the comments!
I’ve been looking through a borrowed copy of Fr. Michael Gelsinger’s Orthodox Hymns in English, published by the Antiochian Archdiocese in 1939. This is a significant work, and Gelsinger’s hymns are still used to this day. I’ll write more about this book in the future, but I found the following paragraph, from the Introduction, to be especially interesting:
Other religions in America have hymnbooks containing six hundred or more melodies; Orthodoxy in English, though rightfully heir to the grandest and richest score of music in existence, would only with difficulty command as many as fifty melodies. Our lack of Orthodox hymns that can be sung in English has already encouraged the use of substitutes: rumor tells of Parishes that use Protestant hymnbooks, — in one case, at least, the Billy Sunday collection; and in another a book of “Pentecostal Hymns.” Can we calmly face a future which might add “Brighten the Corner Where You Are” and “Beautiful Isle of Somewhere” to the treasures of Orthodox devotion?
No, Gelsinger answers: “It is, of course, as unthinkable as it is unnecessary that we should permit any such development.” His answer? Translate Orthodox music from all the traditions — Greek, Russian, Antiochian, Bulgarian, Romanian, etc. — into the English language.
Every tradition of our Orthodox music should find a home in every Parish in America; for American Orthodoxy inherits the music of every national Orthodox Church abroad. It is usual to say that our children will all be Americans together; but that is only one face of the truth. It is equally true that each of our children as an Orthodox Christian is as much Russian as he is Greek, as much Greek as he is Syrian, as much Syrian as he is Bulgarian or Rumanian: for he is the rightful heir of everything Orthodox that has ever entered this country.
Here, Gelsinger sounds a lot like Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine and Fr. Leonid Turkevich before him, and like countless people today. But back in 1939, Gelsinger’s views were pretty cutting-edge. They had a substantial influence on the development of American Orthodoxy in the decades that followed.