The first Syrians in America

In 1878, the Arbeelys immigrated to the United States. They were the first Syro-Arab family to come to America; or, at the very least, they were the first prominent Syrians in America. Najeeb Arbeely founded the first Arab-American newspaper, Kawkab America, and he also held the post of immigration inspector at Ellis Island. His brother Abraham was…

Fr. Christopher Jabara, the ultra-ecumenist

I always laugh a little bit when I hear people complain about Orthodox involvement in things like the World Council of Churches. It’s not that I support such involvement — my position on modern ecumenical relations really isn’t relevant here — but I laugh because I can’t imagine what the present-day anti-ecumenists among us would…

Inside Bjerring’s chapel

   I got a little tired of quoting long sections of primary sources, and thought I’d try something a little different for a change. Don’t worry, though; I’ll be back with my regular style tomorrow. And if you’re wondering about sources, just let me know — I didn’t make any of this up, or anything.…

Plans for a New York church in the 1870s

Immediately upon Fr. Nicholas Bjerring’s arrival in New York City in 1870, news spread that the Russian Church planned to construct a great temple in the city, on the corner of 51st Street and Lexington Avenue. This is from the Christian Advocate journal (6/29/1871): A magnificent structure is about to be erected by the Russian government…

The New York plan of 1866

In 1870, the Russian Church founded a chapel in New York City, and the priest was Nicholas Bjerring, a new convert from Roman Catholicism. The chapel served the Russian and Greek officials in New York and Washington, as well as the small Orthodox population living in New York City. It also functioned as a sort of…

Three bishops for America in 1870?

Yesterday, in my article on James Chrystal, I mentioned, “In 1870, there were various reports that the Russian government planned to assign a bishop to New York and offered the job to Chrystal. He declined, citing his opposition to icons.” In the comments, Isa Almisry asked, quite reasonably, if I had documentation for this. Here…

James Chrystal: the first convert priest

A month ago, I did a podcast and wrote an article about the first two American Orthodox convert priests, James Chrystal and Nicholas Bjerring. Today, I’m publishing a brief biography I wrote on Chrystal (and which I adapted for use in the podcast). James Chrystal was born in 1831, ordained an Episcopal deacon in 1859…

Jerusalem’s Abp Panteleimon in America, 1924-1931

On October 19, I wrote about Archbishop Panteleimon of Neapolis (today’s Nablus), a bishop of the Jerusalem Patriarchate who was active in America in the 1920s. Since then, thanks to help from some readers, I’ve learned more about Abp Panteleimon’s later years in America. Here’s an update. Abp Panteleimon seems to roughly parallel the Antiochian…