Posts tagged Chicago
September 11, 1893: The World’s Parliament of Religions opened in Chicago. I’ve written quite a bit about the Parliament in past articles, and you can read all of them by clicking here. The super-short version: In conjunction with the Chicago World’s Fair, representatives from every major world religion convened in Chicago for the mother of all ecumenical gatherings.
Among the most impressive figures at the event was a Greek Orthodox archbishop, Dionysius Latas of Zante, one of the best known hierarchs in the Church of Greece. Archbishop Dionysius attracted a lot of press, but the most interesting Orthodox figure at the Parliament was Fr. Christopher Jabara, an Antiochian archimandrite who rejected the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and wanted to create a single world religion. To read more about Jabara, click here.
September 10, 1900: Nicholas Bjerring died in New York. Bjerring had converted from Roman Catholicism to Orthodoxy in 1870. He was immediately ordained a priest in Russia and sent back to America to establish the first Orthodox chapel in New York City. Bjerring’s chapel was one of only three Orthodox houses of worship in the contiguous United States (the others being in San Francisco and New Orleans). And while there was a Russian bishop living in California, Bjerring and his chapel were directly under the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg.
Things didn’t work out all that well. After sputtering along for 13 years, the chapel was closed by the Russian government, and a disenchanted Bjerring converted to Presbyterianism. A few years before he died, Bjerring re-converted to Roman Catholicism, as a layman.
September 12, 1912: Fr. Demetrios Petrides arrived in Atlanta to become the priest of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. Petrides had been in Philadelphia, where he clashed with a rich Greek tobacco magnate. It’s a crazy story — the millionaire layman wanted Petrides to bow to him and follow his every order, and Petrides flatly refused. The rich guy got Petrides fired from the parish (that was how things worked back then), and Petrides moved to Atlanta. One newspaper dubbed him the “stormy petrel of the cloth,” and he continued his distinguished career until his untimely death from diabetes in 1917.
Another interesting aspect of Petrides’ career is that he was the priest who recommended that the Ecumenical Patriarchate ordain Fr. Raphael Morgan, who became the first black Orthodox priest in America. For a time, Morgan — who had a troubled marriage that ended in divorce — actually lived in Petrides’ house.
September 13, 1921: Two big events on this day: the birth of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, and the opening of the first Clergy-Laity Congress of the Greek Archdiocese.
The Clergy-Laity Congress accomplished the legal incorporation of the Archdiocese, and many date the beginning of the GOA to this date. It’s sort of arbitrary, though — you could pick any number of dates between 1918 and 1922. I think the Congress itself, rather than the act of legal incorporation, is ultimately more historically significant.
As for Fr. Alexander Schmemann, he was one of the most famous and important figures in late 20th century American Orthodoxy. What did he do? What didn’t he do? He’s probably best known for his writings — seminal works like For the Life of the World, The Eucharist, Great Lent, and many, many more. Or maybe he’s best known as a professor and longtime dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, where he educated hundreds of future church leaders. Or perhaps it’s his role as a churchman: he played a key role in the establishment of the OCA, and the founding of SCOBA. He attended Vatican II as an observer, and he advised the Evangelical Orthodox Church on its path to conversion to Orthodoxy. After the death of Metropolitan Leonty in 1965, the Metropolia/OCA lacked a dominant hierarchical presence. Schmemann, a married priest, filled that role, and was for the OCA what Archbishop Iakovos was to the Greek Archdiocese, and Metropolitan Philip Saliba was for the Antiochians.
September 11, 1927: Fr. Emmanual Abo-Hatab, former archdeacon to St. Raphael Hawaweeny, was consecrated a bishop for the newly established American Orthodox Catholic Church. The AOCC was led by Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh, and it was fringe from the beginning. Bishop Emmanuel eventually split from Aftimios and went to the Russian Metropolia, where he succeeded Aftimos as leader of the “Russy” (pro-Russian) faction of the Arab Orthodox in America.
September 14, 1931: Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of New York Governor Franklin Roosevelt, attended the cornerstone-laying ceremony at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in New York. The ceremony was performed by Archbishop Athenagoras, the new head of the Greek Archdiocese. From the following day’s New York Times:
Mrs. Roosevelt said that the members of the Greek congregations had expressed their worship of God by means of beautiful edifices erected in this city. She added the hope that their fine spirit would be carried on by the new members of these congregations.
Members of the Holy Trinity congregation, whose church was destroyed by fire several years ago, and those of the congregation of the Church Evangelismos [Annunciation] will be amalgamated into one congregation in the new edifice which is expected to be completed in April at a cost of $600,000.
$600 grand in 1931 is equivalent to roughly $8.5 million today — a decent chunk of change in any era, but particularly during the Great Depression.
September 10, 1933: Fr. Benjamin Basalyga was consecrated a bishop in Pittsburgh, for the Russian Metropolia. The 46-year-old bishop was born in a Pennsylvania coal town, and as a child, he was one of the first students at the Russian missionary school in Minneapolis and then at the Minneapolis seminary. Later, he became a hieromonk and served in parishes all over America and Canada, without spending much time in any particular community. For a while in the 1920s, he was the personal secretary to Metropolitan Platon, head of the Russian Metropolia.
After being consecrated, Benjamin served as Bishop of Pittsburgh for about a dozen years, after which he led the Orthodox Church of Japan from 1946 to 1953. He then returned to his see in Pittsburgh for another decade before his death in 1963.
September 11, 1948: Bishop Alexis Panteleyev (or Panteleev), the Russian Metropolia’s Bishop of Alaska, died. I know next to nothing about Bishop Alexis, but I can tell you that he was originally consecrated Bishop of San Francisco in 1927, and served in that post until 1931. In 1934, he became the Bishop of Alaska. Then, in 1945, he was sent by the Metropolia to attend the enthronement of Alexei I, the newly elected Patriarch of Moscow. In this period, there was some hope that Moscow and the Metropolia could reestablish communion. As it turned out, the Metropolia couldn’t accept Moscow’s terms, and reunion didn’t happen.
The next year, though, Bishop Alexis decided to join Moscow himself. He explained his reasoning in this way: “In order to be in unity with the Eastern Orthodox Church, it is necessary for the Russian Orthodox clergy to be under the Patriarch of Moscow.” (New York Times, 4/20/1946) Bishop Alexis died two years later, in 1948.
September 16, 1949: St. John Maximovitch, then the ROCOR Bishop of Shanghai, spoke before the United States Congress. This article is getting a bit long, and St. John’s visit to Congress is really interesting, so I think I’ll save this one for another day.
September 14, 1951: Fr. Demetrios Makris was consecrated a bishop for the Greek Archdiocese, with the title “Bishop of Olympus” (yes, that Olympus). This was back when the GOA had a single Archdiocese composed of a series of “Archdiocesan Districts,” each overseen by a titular bishop but ultimately answerable to the Greek Archbishop. Later, those Districts became Dioceses (and their leaders diocesan bishops), and today they’re Metropolises with Metropolitans. Anyway, Bishop Demetrios was initially assigned to the massive First Archdiocesan District, which included New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, and more. Later, he headed up the Districts based in San Francisco and then Boston.
To be honest, I know even less about Bishop Demetrios than I do about Bishop Alexis Panteleyev (above). I’m not even sure when he died, though I’d guess it was in the 1970s (his tenure in Boston ended in 1973). If anyone out there can fill us in, please do.
That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading, and for your patience during this period of irregular output here at SOCHA.
May 4, 1793: Empress Catherine the Great of Russia granted the Holy Synod permission to establish an Orthodox mission in “Russian America” (Alaska). The following year, the first eight missionaries, including St. Herman, arrived on Kodiak Island.
May 3, 1870: Nicholas Bjerring, a convert from Roman Catholicism, was received into Orthodoxy by chrismation in St. Petersburg, Russia. He was then ordained a priest and sent to New York, where he established a Russian Orthodox embassy chapel in the city. Bjerring, the first significant Orthodox convert in the United States, served the chapel for 13 years, acting as a kind of religious ambassador to America. But by 1883, the Russian government decided to cease funding the chapel, and Bjerring was offered a teaching position in St. Petersburg. He declined and instead became a Presbyterian minister. At the end of his life, he re-converted to Roman Catholicism.
May 5, 1892: St. Vladimir’s Russian Orthodox Church was established in Chicago. This came just weeks after Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church was founded in Chicago, and it marked the first instance of “overlapping jurisdictions” in the same city — a trend that became ubiquitous in the decades that followed. A few years after this, a young priest named John Kochurov was assigned to the church; in Kochurov’s tenure, the parish name was changed to Holy Trinity, and a magnificent new cathedral (designed by famed architect Louis Sullivan) was constructed. Kochurov eventually returned to Russia and was martyred by the Bolsheviks, and has since been canonized. As for his old parish, it survives today as the seat of the OCA Bishop of Chicago, and is one of the oldest continuously functioning Orthodox parishes in the Western Hemisphere.
May 5, 1902: This was the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Chicago Russian parish, but nobody was celebrating that day, because the church’s quarter-ton bell was stolen. The whole Orthodox community of Chicago — including the Greek parish — searched for the bell, but as best I can tell, it was never recovered. Two years ago, I wrote an article about the bell’s theft; CLICK HERE to read it.
April 30, 1905: Pascha, gunshots, a New York cop, and a mob of Greeks. The short version is that, on Pascha in New York, a Greek man fired a gun in celebration — not exactly a unique occurrence. But a police officer arrested the man and started taking him away, whereupon 500 or so Greeks, who had been in the middle of a Paschal procession, diverted course and followed the officer. The mostly peaceable (but assuredly frightening) mob threw the cop to the ground, freed the prisoner, and then apparently went back to celebrating Pascha. It’s kind of a bizarre story, and I covered it in more detail two years ago. CLICK HERE to read more.
May 2, 1914: Bishop John Mitropolsky, former Russian Bishop of the Aleutian Islands, died. Bishop John was the man responsible for moving the diocesan headquarters from Alaska to San Francisco. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of this move. I don’t know for sure, but it may be the first time that the official seat of an Orthodox diocese was located outside of the formal diocesan boundaries.
Bishop John learned to speak English and even preached homilies in the language. These were at least partly intended to inform non-Orthodox about the Orthodox Church. Bishop John was also a rather prolific author, writing a five volume account of religious sects in America and a 450-page history of the Ecumenical Councils. He seems to have view his role as twofold — to continue the Alaskan mission, but also to act as a religious ambassador to America. In November 1871, the journal Christian Union ran this note:
Bishop Johannes, of the Russo-Greek Church on the Pacific coast, has ordered the prayer for the President of the United States, contained in the Liturgy of the Episcopal Church, to be used by the Greek Priests. The Russo-Greek Calendar has also been modified so as to make it conform to that of Western Christendom in several essential important points.
I’m not sure what those calendar changes were, but these changes were an obvious attempt to find common ground with the West — particularly the Episcopal Church.
According to Fr. Sebastian Dabovich, who was an adolescent in San Francisco during Bishop John’s tenure, later explained that Bishop John was particularly proud of the Orthodox school he established. The school was for the cathedral parishioners and met on Saturdays. In addition to catechesis and Russian, the Saturday school and other weekday classes taught Scripture, music, mathematics, Greek, and English. Bishop John himself taught seven classes per week. Dabovich was one of the school’s most successful alumni, and he later wrote, “The Right Reverend John loved his school, one might say, with a singular love.”
Bishop John was reassigned to a post in Russia in 1877, and he died in 1914, at the age of 77.
May 5, 1916: Agapius Honcharenko, one of the strangest men in American Orthodox history, died in Hayward, CA. We’ve talked about Honcharenko quite a bit on this site, and I did a podcast on him a few years ago.
May 4, 1945: On Holy Friday, St. Vasily Martysz was brutally murdered in Poland. As a young priest, he had served in America from 1901 to 1912. The Orthodox Church of Poland canonized St. Vasily in 2003. To learn more, read this life of St. Vasily, written by Fr. Michael Oleksa.
May 6, 1967: Theodosius Lazor was consecrated Bishop of Alaska in the Russian Metropolia. A few years later, the young bishop represented the Metropolia in Moscow, where he formally received the Tomos of Autocephaly from the Moscow Patriarchate. This created the “Orthodox Church in America,” and in 1977, Theodosius was elected the jurisdiction’s primate. He served as Metropolitan until 2002.
May 6, 2006: A landmark All-Diaspora Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia opened. This council went on to formally approve the reconciliation between ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate, which had been estranged for decades.
Starting up another potentially regular feature here at OrthodoxHistory.org…
This photo, dated 1905, shows Fr. John Kochurov preaching from the pulpit in the newly-constructed Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago. It’s one of several great shots of Holy Trinity to be found in the Chicago Daily News photo collection, available online via the Library of Congress website. We’ll post more of these Chicago photos in the future.
Recently, Holy Cross Orthodox Press published the Atlas of American Orthodox Christian Churches, edited by Alexei D. Krindatch. I contributed several pieces to the Atlas, including the article “Ten Interesting Facts About the History of Orthodox Christianity in the USA.” With Alexei’s permission, we’re publishing excerpts of that article here at OrthodoxHistory.org. To purchase your own copy of the Atlas (for $19.95), click here.
4. In 1888, the Orthodox of Chicago tried – but failed – to establish a multiethnic Orthodox parish.
By 1888, there were about a thousand Orthodox in Chicago. Most of them were Greeks and Serbs, and despite the fact that they weren’t Russian, they petitioned the nearest bishop – who was Russian – to send them a priest. In 1888, Bishop Vladimir Sokolovsky responded to their petition by asking them to hold a meeting, to gauge there was enough interest to support a church. The main speakers at the meeting were a Greek, a Montenegrin, and a Serb. George Brown, who emigrated from Greece as a young man, had fought in the American Civil War. He gave a short speech, saying, “Union is the strength… If our language is two, our religion is one… We will surprise the Americans. Let us stick like brothers.”
Everyone at the meeting agreed to start a parish, with services in both Greek and Slavonic. Bishop Vladimir visited later that year, but unfortunately, he soon became embroiled in a series of scandals in San Francisco. One of his strongest opponents was a Montenegrin whose brother was a leader in the Chicago community. Hearing reports of the crisis, the Chicago Orthodox decided they wanted nothing more to do with the bishop, and instead contacted the Churches of Constantinople, Greece, and Serbia.
Eventually, the Church of Greece sent a priest. He established Chicago’s first Orthodox parish in 1892, specifically for Greek people. One month later, a Russian church was founded. For the first time in American Orthodox history, two churches answering to different ecclesiastical authorities coexisted in the same U.S. city. But despite their separation based on language and ethnicity, the two churches still got along well. In 1894, the Greek and Russian priests served together at the Russian church to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the Russian mission to Alaska. When the Russian Tsar died the following month, both priests held a memorial at the Greek church, which was simultaneously dedicating its new building. When the new Russian bishop, Nicholas Ziorov, visited Chicago, the local Greek priest participated in the hierarchical services. Later on, in 1902, Russian church bell was stolen, and the Greek priest invited his Russian counterpart to come to the Greek church and ask the parishioners for help. The two churches, held a joint meeting in an effort to find the bell. Chicago thus represents both an early manifestation of “jurisdictional pluralism” and a wonderful example of inter-ethnic Orthodox cooperation.
Back in 2009, I wrote an article about a unique Independence Day church service held in Chicago by Fr. Firmilian Drazich of Serbia. I thought it’d be appropriate to link to it today. If anyone out there has more information about this fascinating event, please email me at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.