P.T. Barnum’s widow married in NY Greek church

P.T. Barnum was the greatest showman of the 19th century. Today, he’s most closely associated with the circus that bears his name, but in his own day, he was much more than a circus organizer. In an era before blockbuster movies, Barnum was the closest you could get to a larger-than-life Hollywood producer. He was…

Orthodoxy and Theosophy: the Vera Johnston story

In the early 1900s, a woman named Vera Johnston was involved with the Russian cathedral in New York and the seminary in Tenafly, New Jersey. With a name like Johnston, you might think that she was a convert, which is exactly what I thought when I first ran across her name. But Vera Johnston was actually a cradle-born…

A church in New York in 1850?

The first Orthodox place of worship in New York was founded in 1870, when the Russian Church established an embassy chapel under the care of Fr. Nicholas Bjerring. As we’ve discussed before, the idea of a New York chapel originated in 1866, and its purpose was primarily to further relations with the Episcopal Church. A…

Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine on ecumenism in 1907

Recently, I happened to revisit an essay by Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine, published in St. Raphael’s Al Kalimat (The Word) magazine. I don’t have the precise date, but I think it was written in 1907. The whole article is on the subject of “Church Unity” — what, today, we would call “ecumenism.” Irvine’s ecclesiology is interesting. Focusing…

A Jewish convert to Orthodoxy in 1897

Leaving aside Native Alaskans and Uniates, conversions to Orthodoxy in America were quite rare at the turn of the last century. Yes, American women occasionally converted when they married cradle Orthodox men, and there was the odd Episcopalian convert, but even taking those into consideration, conversions were very uncommon. And if Protestants joining the Orthodox…