Posts tagged John Kochurov
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.
Sometimes, we historians deal with big, important issues. Other times, we obsess over minutae. Today is one of the latter occasions.
Chicago’s OCA cathedral, known for the past century as Holy Trinity, had a lot of names in its early years. It’s a pretty convoluted history, and I am attempting to unravel it. Here’s what I’ve got so far.
The parish was formally founded as St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church on May 18, 1892, and it was originally located at #20 North Peoria. By the next spring, the church had moved to #13 South Center Avenue, and in May, we find the first reference to the parish as St. Vladimir Russian Orthodox Church. It’s possible that the name was changed along with the location.
Most of the time, the newspapers didn’t bother to refer to the parish name at all, instead just calling it the “Russian Church,” or something like that. But it was clearly just “St. Vladimir” into 1895. Then, on November 23, a new name appears: St. Ivan Russian Orthodox Church.
But the parish didn’t just become “St. Ivan.” In the years that followed, both names were used in the newspapers. “St. Vladimir” tends to be the dominant name, but “St. Ivan” pops up a number of times as well. It’s a bit of a mystery. The priest of the church was, of course, Fr. John (Ivan) Kochurov, so it’s possible that his own name got mixed up with that of the parish. But “St. Ivan” appeared numerous times, in multiple newspapers, over a period of several years, so it hardly seems like a simple error. Perhaps some of our readers associated with Holy Trinity Cathedral could shed some light on this.
In any event, in 1902, the parish broke ground for a new cathedral on Leavitt Street. While the new structure was being built, the community continued to be called, “St. Vladimir,” but once the move was complete, the name was changed one final time, to Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral.
Another interesting wrinkle is the persistence of the original name, ”St. Nicholas.” While the parish was never called that after 1892 or so, the it did have a “Brotherhood of St. Nicholas.” I’ve found references to this brotherhood in 1899 and again in 1902, but I don’t know exactly what its function was.
Yesterday, I wrote about St. John Kochurov’s arrival in Chicago, which followed on the heels of Fr. B.A. Bouroff’s expulsion by Bishop Nicholas, on the grounds that Bouroff had taken classes at the University of Chicago. But who was this Fr. Bouroff, and what was his story?
As it turns out, the September 2, 1895 issue of the Chicago Tribune — which is my main source of biographical information on Fr. Ambrose Vretta — also gives some valuable background on Fr. Bouroff. From the Tribune:
… In the meantime Bishop Nicolaus appointed the Rev. Ambrose Wretta, D.D., as pastor of the Russian colony in Chicago and the mission at Streator, Ill. He requested the Holy Synod at St. Petersburg to send an assistant to Dr. Wretta as teacher for the Russian children and Superintendent for the Sunday-schools to be established. The synod at once acted on his suggestion and the present Superintendent, Mr. Basil A. Beuroff, a graduate of the Imperial Theological Seminary of St. Petersburg, and for many years stationed in London at the Russian Church establishment there, was ordered to Chicago.
This article is recounting events that took place a few years earlier, so it’s not clear how long Bouroff was in Chicago, or when he became a priest. But just two months after this article was written, Bouroff was out, and Fr. John Kochurov was in.
Why was Fr. Basil Bouroff’s attendance at the University of Chicago such a problem? In the comments to yesterday’s article, Isa Almisry said,
For one thing, it could be the school’s Protestant connections: the Old University of Chicago had been founded as a Baptist College by Stephan A. Douglas. He had offered its facilities to the Presbyterian Church, but the Baptist were the ones who managed to raise the funds, and its board’s rules required a Baptist majority. Rockfeller, a Baptist, incorporated the new (present) University as a secular school, but the co-founder, William Rainey Harper, was another Baptist whose field was OT, in particular Hebrew studies. In 1895 the University was less than 4 years old, and had the Old University had failed less than a decade before. Given the prior failure and the Protestant connections, and how Fr. Bjerring ended, it could have been more of a gamble than Bishop Nicolai was willing to tolerate.
It’s also possible that Bouroff was simply becoming too immersed in academia to adequately fulfill his priestly duties. In 1900, he was still a graduate student at the University of Chicago, and he published a book called, The Impending Crisis: Conditions Resulting from a Concentration of Wealth in the United States. Here’s a contemporary summary of the book:
The book consists largely of compilations of facts concerning the distribution of wealth in America and as such will constitute a valuable book of reference. These are summarized and arranged in various forms to make them more vivid but there is little that is new either in matter or manner of presentation.
Bouroff seems to have been a Progressive. In a 1905 article, “Freedom of the Press in Russia,” he concluded,
Moreover, as a result of the recent rescript giving religious liberty to all, the freedom of the press is greatly extended. New dailies and periodicals are now rapidly established. It is quite natural that the clerical censorship has fallen of itself, and organs of publication for various non-orthodox religious communities are expected soon to take existence in Russia. Now Russia begins to live a natural life in the sense of progress which can never be smothered. But the great work of her progress is just beginning, and how great a role the Russian press must play in it can be easily imagined. The Russian press now is the most interesting press in the world.
Finally, I found a couple of tantalizing snippets on Google Books, from the 1924 book Greater Love Hath No Man, by Alexander Marshall. Unfortunately, Google won’t let you view the whole text, but I was able to make out a couple of sections:
BASIL BOUROFF was born and brought up in the city of Rostock [i.e. Rostov], on the river Don, Southern Russia. At the age of fifteen he was awakened by the Holy Spirit to an apprehension of his guilt and peril. [...]
When Basil Bouroff learned that salvation was not of works, and could not be procured by the observance of forms or ceremonies, he began to think that help might be obtained in the Scriptures. [...]
At this point, all we can do is make an educated guess based on bits and pieces of information. Fr. Basil Bouroff, the assistant priest of the Russian church in Chicago, apparently began attending the brand-new University of Chicago (which had Protestant connections), and also became involved in the Progressive political movement of the day. It seems quite likely that Bouroff eventually became a Protestant himself, especially given the language of the Greater Love Hath No Man snippets quoted above.
This past weekend, those of us on the New Calendar celebrated the feast day of St. John Kochurov, the Russian New Martyr and former priest of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Chicago. With that in mind, I thought I’d talk a bit about St. John’s arrival in Chicago.
John Kochurov was just 24 years old when he became a priest, in the summer of 1895. The ordination took place in Russia, but it was done by the visiting Bishop Nicholas Ziorov, the head of the Russian Mission in America, and Fr. John was to accompany Bishop Nicholas back to the United States. They arrived in November, just as Fr. Raphael Hawaweeny was getting settled in Brooklyn.
The young Fr. John was entering a bit of a sticky situation. From the Chicago Tribune (11/25/1895):
Nicholaei of St. Petersburg, Archbishop of All America, held solemn mass in the Greek [that is, Orthodox] Church, at No. 13 South Center avenue, yesterday morning for the installation of Father Kochureff as assistant priest of the parish. He was assisted by the local priest, Father Kazantsier, and assistant, and two pages from St. Petersburg. The vacancy of assistant priest was caused by a difference of opinion between Archbishop Nicholaei and R.A. Bouroff, late assistant pastor, who has come under the displeasure of his superiors by attendance at the University of Chicago.
Nearly 100 persons were crowded into the little room reserved for the congregation of the Greek Church in Chicago. It is the front room of a ground flat in a modest three-story building erected for a dwelling. The chancel occupies an adjoining front room. The service is more elaborate than that of the Roman Church, and differs radically in much of the ceremony, being conducted behind a high chancel screen, sometimes with the single entrance closed. All the appointments of the altar and chancel are different. The service is unique in many ways.
A pretty standard description of vestments, candles, etc. follows. Then, we read,
There is a division in the Greek congregation owing to the retirement of Assistant Priest Bouroff. It is said that a wing of the congregation is at outs with the authorities because of loyalty to the younger priest, who persists in carrying on his studies at President Harper’s institution. These members credit Archbishop Nicholaei with having caused the exile of more students to Siberia than any man in Russia. On this account it is easy to believe, they declare, that the Bishop of All America will never forgive the independence of ex-Assistant Pastor Bouroff.
About a dozen clergy from all over the country came to Chicago for Bishop Nicholas’ visit; these included Fr. Alexis Toth of Wilkes-Barre, Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky of New York, Fr. Anatolii Kamenskii of Sitka (the future bishop and confessor), and Fr. Theodore Pashkovsky of Jackson, CA (the future Metropolitan Theophilus).
Several things, right off the bat: Bishop Nicholas was not actually an archbishop, and his title was “Bishop of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska,” not “Bishop of All America.” Other newspapers give various names for the other Chicago priest; the most accurate rendition is probably “Fr. Pavel Kazanski.” Also, the Chicago Inter Ocean says that the parish is called “St. Ivan.” Originally it was “St. Nicholas,” and this was soon changed to “St. Vladimir” and later “Holy Trinity.” I’m not sure if, at some point, “St. Ivan” was used, or if this was a reporter’s mistake.
In the Tribune article quoted above, Fr. John Kochurov is named as the assistant priest, with Fr. Pavel Kazanski as the parish rector (having apparently replaced Fr. Ambrose Vretta, who was transferred to Seattle). However, I’ve found several reports from 1896 which put it the other way round, with Kochurov as the rector and Kazanski as his assistant. It’s possible that the earlier Tribune article got it wrong; certainly, it would be odd to have a formal “installation” for an assistant priest. Most probably, Kazanski held down the fort until Kochurov arrived, at which point the former became the latter’s assitant.
In any event, the most interesting part of this story is the Fr. Bouroff, who was apparently removed from his post for daring to attend the University of Chicago. I know some of our readers here have connections to that institution; perhaps there is something in the school’s archives which could shed more light on this episode?
Of course, for the Chicago parish, everything worked out fine in the end. Kochurov would prove to be a dedicated and exemplary pastor, and he would lead the community for more than a decade. It’s interesting; recently, we discussed the fact that Fr. Evtikhy Balanovitch, in New York, got into trouble and was replaced by a saint, Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky. Here, at exactly the same time, Fr. Bouroff got into trouble and was replaced by another saint, Fr. John Kochurov.