Posts tagged parishes
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.
April 29, 1900: Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Lowell, MA split into two factions. Here’s what I wrote about that schism in my paper, “The Myth of Past Unity”:
[O]ne portion of the parish wanted to discharge their priest, Fr. Nathaniel Sideris, and “hire” another. “We have the right to tell a priest that he is no longer needed and to engage another priest,” one parish leader explained. Other parishioners were appalled at such an approach. “Our complaint,” said the leader of the opposition, “is that the people upstairs are conducting the affairs of a Greek church different from anything to which we have been accustomed, and we do not consider it right. The bishop of the Greek church in Athens alone has the power to assign a priest.”
In the paper, I went on to observe that while one group wanted total independence from the hierarchy and the other recognized the authority of the Church of Greece, neither side said a word about Tikhon, the Russian bishop in America. Of course, that’s because the Lowell Greeks didn’t consider themselves to be under Tikhon — a fact that is perhaps unsurprising today, but which, a couple of years ago, contradicted the commonly held belief that all Orthodox in America recognized Russian authority prior to the Bolshevik Revolution.
April 28, 1901: St. Tikhon, the Russian bishop, celebrated the Divine Liturgy at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Chicago. At least, that’s what some modern sources say; I can’t find any references to the event in the Chicago Tribune, although the newspaper covered a lot of other Orthodox happenings in that era. If anyone has more information, please let me know.
April 27, 1903: St. Alexis Toth, one of the leading priests in the Russian Diocese, was awarded the “Order of St. Vladimir” and received a miter. Toth, of course, had been a Uniate Greek Catholic priest until his conversion to Orthodoxy in 1891. He went on to spearhead the conversion of tens of thousands of former Uniates into the Russian Diocese, until his death in 1909.
April 23, 1917: St. George Syrian Orthodox Church in Worcester, MA became the first official “Antacky” parish, declaring its loyalty to Metropolitan Germanos Shehadi. Informally, the Russy-Antacky schism began immediately after St. Raphael died in 1915, when his priests disagreed on whether to acknowledge the authority of Antioch or Russia. But the Worcester declaration marked the formal beginning of the schism, which divided the Arab Orthodox in America until the mid-1930s.
April 27, 1922: The Holy Synod of Russia named the refugee Metropolitan Platon Rozhdestvensky as the temporary head of the Russian Archdiocese of North America. Soon enough, the Russian Church (under Soviet pressure) changed course and condemned Platon, who led the Russian Archdiocese to declare its independence from Moscow.
April 25, 1926: Archimandrite Mardarije Uskokovic was consecrated in Belgrade to be the first Serbian bishop for America. According to this article, the original plan was for Bishop Nicholai Velimirovich of Ochrid to lead a new Serbian diocese in America, with Archimandrite Mardarije as his administrative assistant. But Bishop Nicholai’s flock in Serbia apparently protested, and Nicholai himself recommended that Mardarije be consecrated in his stead. Thus, in 1923, Mardarije was appointed administrator of the Serbian churches in America, and three years later, he was elevated to the episcopacy.
Bishop Mardarije’s greatest legacy may be his founding of St. Sava Monastery in Libertyville, Illinois. He died in 1935.
April 29, 1933: Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh, of the fringe “American Orthodox Catholic Church,” married a young girl named Mariam Namey (no relation to me) in a civil ceremony in Niagara Falls, NY. This effectively snuffed out any remaining legitimacy Ofiesh had within Orthodoxy.
April 28, 1952: Romanian Bishop Valerian Trifa was consecrated by the Ukrainian Metropolitan John Theodorovich. The trouble was that Theodorovich was a “self-consecrator,” rendering Trifa’s consecration invalid in the eyes of mainstream Orthodoxy. Later, Bishop Valerian was properly consecrated by bishops of the Russian Metropolia.
April 29, 1956: Archbishop Adam Phillipovsky died. He was a colorful character who was, at various times, on seemingly every side of the unending Russian Church disputes of his day.
April 25, 1959: Reginald Wright Kauffman, a noted writer and journalist, died. Kauffman had converted to Orthodoxy four decades earlier in the short-lived convert parish of the Transfiguration in New York. Unlike nearly all of the Transfiguration converts, Kauffman remained Orthodox for the rest of his life.
Jim Lucas is the president of the Greek Historical Society of the San Francisco Bay Area, a non-profit corporation based at Annunciation Cathedral in San Francisco. The organization is dedicated to the preservation of Greek history and culture in the San Francisco area. Jim has been actively researching the history of the Greek community for several years and is writing a book “The Greeks of San Francisco” which will be released at a future date.
The Orthodox faith has had a presence in San Francisco since at least 1857, and the first Russian Orthodox church was founded in 1868. The Greeks that settled in San Francisco during those early years worshipped at the Russian Orthodox Church until Holy Trinity was founded in 1904.
Those of you that live in the San Francisco area are familiar with two Greek churches in San Francisco, Holy Trinity and Annunciation Cathedral. Holy Trinity is the oldest Greek church west of Chicago and Annunciation Cathedral was founded in 1921. Most Greeks are very surprised to learn that there was a third Greek Orthodox Church that existed for a brief period.
In 1908 there was a disagreement over parish council elections and the handling of money at Holy Trinity. The disagreement turned violent on July 12, 1908, when police were called to Holy Trinity (San Francisco Call, 7-13-1908, “War Raged at the Door of the Sanctuary”). A faction led by Ioannis Kapsimalis (former parish council president and Greek Consul) decided to start their own church. They acquired land on Rincon Hill (35 Stanley Place), built a church which they named St. John Prodromos (see photograph). They built offices and a meeting hall which they named the “Alexander the Great Meeting Hall.” They hired Father Constantine Tsapralis as their first priest (There is a common misunderstanding that Fr. Tsapralis’ service at Holy Trinity was continuous from 1903 – 1936 which is not true). The Holy Trinity community in turn hired Fr. Stefanos Macaronis as their next priest.
On December 2, 1909, the factions resolved their differences and St. John Prodromos ceased to exist. Fr. Tsapralis was rehired by Holy Trinity and Fr. Stefanos Macaronis moved to a parish in Oregon. From 1910 until Holy Trinity was raised to install a meeting hall in 1922, this property served as the offices and meeting hall for the community. There are numerous news articles in the San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Call relating to Greek community events that were held at the Alexander the Great Hall. This building was a vital part of Greek community life.
Mr. Peter Bergevin, the owner of the property, passed away at December 27, 1911 at the age of 68. Mr. Bergevin willed the property to Holy Trinity. On June 23, 1915, a hearing was held regarding Mr. Bergevin’s estate. His daughter, Mrs. Adeline Telfer, deeded the property to Holy Trinity on July 20, 1915 pursuant to a court order regarding the estate of her father. (Click here to view the document).
The property was later sold to the State of California to make room for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge closing this early chapter San Francisco Greek history.
Jim Lucas is the President of the Greek Historical Society of the San Francisco Bay Area and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. More San Francisco Greek historical material can be found at www.sanfranciscogreeks.com.
Continuing with the theme from Wednesday…
This photo depicts the burial of Archimandrite Theoclitos Triantafilides, the great priest of Galveston, TX, on October 27, 1916. We actually have several photos of this event — all courtesy of Ss. Constantine and Helen parish — but this one particularly interests me because of the individuals standing on the stairs on the right side of the photo. Look closely, and you’ll see that they are black — possibly Copts or Ethiopians. These Oriental Orthodox Christians were members of Fr. Theoclitos’ flock. In fact, this is the earliest evidence I’ve seen for Copts or Ethiopians attending an Eastern Orthodox parish in America.
In this way, as in so many others, Fr. Theoclitos was decades ahead of his time — today, it’s quite common to meet Copts, Ethiopians, and Eritreans at an Eastern Orthodox church, but that is a relatively recent phenomenon.
In the life of St. Raphael Hawaweeny published by Antakya Press (page 24, to be precise), there’s a reference to an early Syrian/Antiochian chapel in New York, dating to 1893. The story goes that a visiting Antiochian priest, Archimandrite Christopher Jabara, established the chapel at Cedar and Washington Streets in New York City. Unbeknownst to the local Syrians, however, Jabara espoused a radical, heretical theology, rejecting the Holy Trinity and calling for the unification of all religions — and especially a merger of Orthodoxy with Islam. Jabara was a speaker at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago, and his talks were reported in the New York newspapers. Jabara was “compelled to leave the country” and eventually died in Egypt. To read more about Jabara, check out this article I wrote two years ago.
I haven’t been able to find much of anything about that original Syrian chapel, but I did recently stumble upon the following note in the June 12, 1893 issue of the New York Sun:
The members of the Syrian Orthodox Greek Church who have been worshipping in the Greek chapel in Fifty-third street have now a chapel of their own on the top floor of the building at the northeast corner of Cedar and West streets. The chapel was dedicated yesterday morning at 10 o’clock. The service, which was in Greek, Arabic, and Russian, was conducted by Archimandrite Christophoros Jebarah, assisted by two priests from the Russian war ships now in the harbor. The Russian Vice-Admiral and a party of Russian sailors attended the service.
Jabara’s own weirdness aside, this is a really fine example of early inter-Orthodox cooperation. At the time, the only Orthodox church in New York was Greek, so that’s where all the Orthodox went — regardless of ethnicity. (Other sources tell us that the local Russians also attended the Greek church.) And when the Syrians opened their own chapel, the visiting Russian clergy and sailors came out for the dedication. Orthodoxy was small and new in early 1890s America, and the Orthodox, of necessity, had to work together. Of course, once the necessity passed, the Orthodox were content to break up into their respective ethnic groups.
Anyway, the Syrian chapel failed pretty quickly. It’s clear that Jabara wasn’t the right man to lead the church, but two years later, the right man, Archimandrite Raphael Hawaweeny, arrived on the scene, leading the Syrians until his death two decades later.
This article was written by Matthew Namee.