Fr. Ambrose Vretta: pioneering priest in Chicago & Seattle

In the past, I’ve mentioned the Russian Mission’s practice of employing “client clergy” — non-Russian priests with ties to Russia, who served multiethnic or non-Russian parishes in America. St. Raphael and Fr. Sebastian Dabovich are perhaps the most famous examples, but there were many more. One of the earliest of these client clergy was Fr. Ambrose…

St. Innocent’s Vision

On October 18, 1867, the Russian Empire formally ceded Alaska to the United States. The next month, St. Innocent was elected Metropolitan of Moscow. Shortly after this, Innocent sent the following letter to the Ober-Procurator (the Tsar’s representative) of the Holy Synod.[*] Rumor reaching me from Moscow purports that I wrote to someone of my great unhappiness…

The First Black Orthodox Priest in America

On today’s episode of the American Orthodox History podcast, we’re running a lecture I gave at the Brotherhood of St Moses the Black conference in Indianapolis at the end of May. The subject is Fr Raphael Morgan, the first black Orthodox priest in America. The text of the lecture is below. Also, later this year, St.…

The Failed Mission of Fr Stephen Hatherly

From 1870 to 1883, Fr Nicholas Bjerring was pastor of a Russian Orthodox chapel in New York City. Bjerring was a convert from Roman Catholicism, and he basically operated an “embassy chapel.” He held services for Russian and Greek officials stationed in America, he ministered to the few Orthodox Christians living in New York, and…

A Letter to President McKinley

In my latest American Orthodox History podcast on Ancient Faith Radio, I spoke with Eric Peterson about Alaskan Orthodoxy in the period following the 1867 sale of Alaska by Russia to the United States. This was a tragic period, and for decades, a Presbyterian missionary named Rev. Sheldon Jackson ruled Alaska with an iron fist. He…

“He kindles its very snows with his warm zeal…”

On my Ancient Faith Radio podcast, I’m in the midst of a three-part interview series with Eric Peterson on the subject of Alaskan Orthodox history. Today, AFR aired Part 2 of that series, focusing on the period from 1824 (St. Innocent) to 1867 (the sale of Alaska to the United States). Below is an article…