Posts tagged Portland
March 10, 1866: The future Archbishop Arseny Chagovtsov was born in Kharkov, in what was then the Russian Empire and what is today Ukraine. A widowed priest, he became a monk and came to America in 1903 to serve in the Russian North American Mission. He was instrumental in the establishment of St. Tikhon’s Monastery in 1906, and in 1908 he was assigned to be the administrator of Russian churches in Canada. Arseny — at this point an archimandrite — returned to Russia in 1910, fled to Serbia after the Revolution, and, in 1926, was chosen to return to Canada as the Bishop of Winnipeg. In 1936, he was apparently shot (I don’t really know about the details of his incident). After this, he retired from the episcopate and ultimately moved to St. Tikhon’s Monastery in Pennsylvania, where he was involved in founding what became St. Tikhon’s Seminary. Archbishop Arseny died in 1945.
March 10, 1895: Fr. Sebastian Dabovich dedicated Holy Trinity Orthodox chapel in Portland, OR. The small Portland community included Greeks, Syrians, and Russians, among others. The man most responsible for its establishment was a layman named Lavrenty Chernov. An Alaskan Creole, Chernov was born in 1848 and eventually moved to Portland. The ramshackle chapel was used for perhaps a decade, but it eventually fell out of use. In the first decade of the 20th century, the Greeks of Portland began using it for their own church, which was also called Holy Trinity.
March 5-7, 1907: The Russian Archdiocese held its first “All-American Sobor” in Mayfield, PA. A few years ago, OCA archivist Alex Liberovsky gave a nice lecture on the Sobor, which you can read on the OCA website. The Sobor was held concurrently with the convention of the Russian Orthodox Catholic Mutual Aid Society. And while it was called “All-American,” it was a purely “Russian” affair: the other ethnic groups affiliated with the Russian Archdiocese, such as the Syro-Arabs and the Serbs, were not included. That said, the Sobor was a major step for the Russian Mission in America.
March 7, 1915: The funeral for St. Raphael Hawaweeny was held in his Brooklyn cathedral. Something interesting, which I’d never noticed before: St. Raphael was apparently friends with an American named Gary Cronan, who got permission from the New York Heath Administration to have St. Raphael buried in a crypt in St. Nicholas Cathedral. Cronan reportedly built the crypt himself. (My source for this is the unpublished St. Vladimir’s Seminary M.Div. thesis by A. Issa.) St. Raphael actually didn’t rest in the crypt for very long — Bishop Aftimios Ofiesh acquired a new cathedral in 1920, and St. Raphael’s relics were transferred to Mount Olivet Cemetery in 1922. Today they rest at the Antiochian Village in Ligonier, PA. Anyway, I’m really curious to learn more about Gary Cronan.
Back in December, we reprinted Isabel Hapgood’s very good New York Tribune article on Raphael’s death and funeral.
March 6, 1921: Fr. Kallinikos Kanellas, one of the first Greek Orthodox priests in America, died in Little Rock, AR. Kanellas came to America from India, where he had been the priest of the Greek Orthodox church in Calcutta. He initially came to America just for a visit, but he fell ill and was forced to stay for awhile. He became affiliated with the Russian cathedral in San Francisco, which had a very large Greek population. He made at least one major mission trip through the country, visiting Georgia, New York, and Chicago, among other places. He was one of the first Orthodox priests to visit Chicago. In 1892, Bishop Nicholas Ziorov took over the Russian Diocese, and he released Kanellas, who then traveled to the eastern part of the United States. He eventually spent eight years as rector of the Greek church in Birmingham, AL, which was under the Church of Greece. Later, he became the first priest in Little Rock, where he died in 1921. Toward the end of his life, the Greek-American Guide described Kanellas as “a very sympathetic and reverend old man.”
UPDATE: To listen to a podcast based on this article, click here.
February 20, 1874: The future hieromartyr Vasily Martysz was born in Poland. He served in America — first in Alaska, and then in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, and Canada — from 1901 to 1912. He died in 1945 and was canonized by the the Orthodox Church of Poland in 2003. To read a biography of St. Vasily, click here.
February 20, 1900: At the behest of Bishop Tikhon, the Russian Holy Synod officially changed the name of its North American missionary diocese, from “Diocese of the Aleutians and Alaska” to “Diocese of the Aleutians and North America.”
February 21, 1923: Serbian clergy held a meeting in Gary, Indiana, where they formally declared their independence from the Russian Church and their affiliation with the Serbian Church.
February 23, 1934: The Ukrainian Bishop Joseph Zuk died.
February 23, 1984: Archimandrite Serafim Surrency died in New York, at the age of 58. He was a historian, best known for his important work The Quest for Orthodox Church Unity in America (published in 1973). Until recently, Surrency’s book was the source for information on many American Orthodox historical subjects, including the American Orthodox Catholic Church, the Federation, and the early years of SCOBA. And, despite its limitations, the book remains an essential resource. One mystery which Fr. Oliver and I have been trying to solve for years is what became of Surrency’s personal files — we think they’re full of important material, but we don’t know what happened to them after he died.
February 24, 1904: The newly-consecrated Bishop Innocent Pustynsky arrived in America to take up his post as auxiliary bishop of Alaska. As Scott Kenworthy recounted in an interview with me last year, Bishop Tikhon had been trying for years to get an auxiliary to help govern his immense diocese. Eventually, Tikhon just went to Russia and refused to leave until he had a duly consecrated bishop in hand for his return voyage to America. Very soon after Bishop Innocent’s arrival, he and Tikhon consecrated Fr. Raphael Hawaweeny to the episcopate — the first Orthodox consecration in the New World.
February 24, 1931: The newly-elected Archbishop Athenagoras Spyrou arrived in America to take charge of the Greek Archdiocese.
February 25, 1896: The future hieromartyr Alexander Hotovitzky was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Nicholas Ziorov. Fr. Alexander was assigned as rector of the fledgling St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in New York.
February 26, 1895: Fr. Sebastian Dabovich celebrated the first Orthodox services in the newly established multiethnic chapel in Portland, Oregon. (To read more, check out my 2009 article on early Orthodoxy in Portland.)
In my recent lecture on Orthodoxy in Chicago, given at Holy Apostles Greek Orthodox Church in Westchester, Illinois, I cautiously addressed the still-controversial issue of the 1897 split in Chicago’s Greek Orthodox community. Let me go over the basic details very briefly, before moving onto the broader question of what constitutes a parish.
In 1892, Fr. Panagiotis Phiambolis came to Chicago and founded the city’s first Greek Orthodox church, Annunciation. This community met in a rented space and existed for at least five years. Of that, there is no dispute. In 1897, for various reasons which I won’t get into right now, the parish divided. The Archbishop of Athens had sent Fr. Theodore Papaconstantine to replace Fr. Phiambolis as priest of Annunciation. Fr. Phiambolis refused to step down, and Fr. Papaconstantine led part of the Annunciation community away to start a separate parish, Holy Trinity. Fr. Phiambolis remained in Chicago for a couple of years, until about 1899, after which he moved to Boston.
This is where things get complicated. Some contend that Annunciation closed when Fr. Phiambolis left in 1899 (or even earlier — some date its closure to 1897). These folks say that there was no Annunciation Church in Chicago from then until 1907, when the current parish of Annunciation (now a cathedral) was established. Thus, according to this narrative, there were two Annunciation parishes — we’ll call them Annunciation 1892 and Annunciation 1907.
Others have a different story. They say that while Annunciation did lack a priest from 1899 (or whatever) until 1907, it continued to exist, serviced by visiting priests. At my lecture, a woman in the audience even said that she had a photo from her grandparents’ wedding, taken on the steps of Annunciation’s building in 1902 or thereabouts. A parish can still exist without a resident priest, and the argument here is that the present Annunciation Cathedral is identical to the original Annunciation Church from 1892.
I should also mention a third, related argument, brought up to me by a gentleman after my talk. This man suggested that, actually, Holy Trinity itself, while technically founded in 1897, may reasonably be dated to 1892. After all, the founders of Holy Trinity were all previously members of Annunciation. Holy Trinity could, according to this interpretation, be considered merely a continuation of Annunciation 1892, under a different name.
All of this caused me to take a step back and ask, “What is a parish?” We can say what is definitely a parish — a cohesive community of Orthodox Christians with a permanent place of worship, a resident priest, and regular church services. But beyond that, there’s a huge gray area. I’ve come up with several factors and sub-factors to help define a parish. The list isn’t exhaustive, and you could have a parish with only a couple of these elements.
An Orthodox community. This is the most essential element. On the OCA website, many former Greek Catholic parishes which converted to Orthodoxy date their foundings to the year they were established as Greek Catholic communities. I don’t do that; I would date their foundings as Orthodox parishes to the year when they converted to Orthodoxy. Before that, they may have been parishes, but they weren’t Orthodox.
A cohesive community. In other words, the Orthodox people must think of themselves as being part of a community. You could have 100 Orthodox in a city, and a priest could occasionally visit them, but if they don’t think of themselves as being a community, it’s hard to argue that a parish is present.
A priest. Most normatively, an Orthodox parish has a resident Orthodox priest. However, this element can be satisfied with something less than that. Many missions are serviced by priests who care for multiple churches, or by priests assigned to other parishes. Throughout history, some communities have relied, at times, on the services of itinerant clergy.
Worship space. Again, the norm here would be a permanent Orthodox temple, owned by the parish. Alternatively, a parish might rent its building. This could be broken down further — the parish could rent the building every day of the week, or only on certain days (e.g. Sundays).
Regular church services. The basic standard is a Sunday liturgy each week, but of course many parishes do a lot more than that. However, you could have a parish that meets less often (only once or twice per month). And while priest-led services are the norm, in theory, regular meetings of the laity for prayers might suffice.
Incorporation. Most parishes are incorporated as legal entities with the state. However, it’s also true that parishes usually predate their incorporation. After all, until you have at least some of the basic elements of a parish, how could you take the steps to incorporate? Incorporation helps us identify a parish, but lack of incorporation doesn’t mean there isn’t a parish.
A parish council or board of trustees. This isn’t absolutely essential, but it’s the norm for Orthodox parishes in America.
Hierarchical oversight. Today, to be an Orthodox parish in America, you pretty much have to be under a bishop. That wasn’t always necessarily the case. I mean, I guess you could argue that some of the early American Orthodox parishes weren’t really Orthodox, because they were established in an ecclesiologically irregular manner, but I don’t take that approach myself. At the very least, there usually was some minimal tie to a bishop or “mother church.”
A common name: Having a common name doesn’t mean a community is a parish, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a parish that didn’t have a name along the lines of “Annunciation,” “Holy Trinity,” or “St. Nicholas.” I’ve heard of fledgling missions called, “Orthodox Mission of [City],” but they usually get a name pretty soon after their establishment.
Self-identity as a parish. This is actually kind of a big one. In Chicago, prior to the 1892 founding of Greek and Russian parishes, the city had a cohesive community of Orthodox Christians. These people had organized themselves into a “society” for the purpose of starting a parish. They elected officers. They seem to have had a name (St. Nicholas), may have rented worship space, and may have had something resembling regular services. Yet, they clearly didn’t consider themselves a parish. In 1888, they met to decide whether to start a parish, and as late as 1892, there was still talk of starting a multiethnic parish. They obviously didn’t consider themselves to be a parish, even though they had a lot of the fundamental elements. In some cases, we might look back with hindsight and say, “That was a parish,” even if the community didn’t say so at the time. But the burden of proof is higher, I think.
In sum, then, we can say for certain that an Orthodox parish exists if there is a cohesive Orthodox community with a common name, self-identifying as a parish, under the jurisdiction of a bishop, incorporated with the state, with a board of trustees, and holding regular church services with a resident priest in a permanent worship space. But lots and lots of parishes don’t have one or more of those elements, and they’re still indisputably parishes.
I think the mimimum to call something a parish has to be a cohesive Orthodox community, but even that may not be enough. Consider: I was once a part of a cohesive Orthodox community which held regular services in a permanent worship space, led by a resident and full-time Orthodox priest. We had a name, a patron saint. We didn’t self-identify as a parish, and while our priest was under an Orthodox bishop, our community was technically an OCF (Orthodox Christian Fellowship, a campus ministry) not under any one hierarch. We didn’t self-identify as a parish; we called ourselves an OCF, even though we had many regular worshippers who weren’t actually OCF members. Later, our priest left his jurisdiction for another, and our community was converted into a mission parish under a specific bishop. At that point, we incorporated ourselves and elected a parish council. Were we a parish at the beginning, when we self-identified as merely an OCF? I don’t think we were, but looking back, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for someone to say, “Hey, that’s a parish, whether you say it is or not.”
Another interesting question, this one from history, concerns the original Orthodox community in Portland, Oregon. In the 1890s, an Orthodox chapel called Holy Trinity was established in Portland, under the oversight of the Russian Diocese. The community had a permanent building and was served by priests who visited from the larger Orthodox parish in Seattle. The Russian Diocese, and perhaps the local community, referred to it as a “chapel.” Was this a “parish,” or was it something else — to steal a term from others, a “proto-parish”? Later, the Greeks formed their own parish, which was also called “Holy Trinity” and, at the outset, rented the original Holy Trinity chapel building. This raises another question: was Holy Trinity Greek parish a continuation of Holy Trinity Russian chapel? After all, at least some (and perhaps most) of the Holy Trinity Greek founders had previously attended Holy Trinity Russian chapel. It’s a gray area.
Returning to the original issue: did Annunciation parish of Chicago persist during the early 1900s, or did it close? Put another way, was the present Annunciation founded in 1892, or 1907? There is, I’m afraid, no single answer. Let’s do the analysis:
- An Orthodox community: The key question here is whether there were Greek Orthodox people in Chicago who weren’t members of Holy Trinity. I think the answer is yes.
- A cohesive community: Again, I think the non-Holy Trinity Greeks continued to exist as a cohesive community, as evidenced by the existence (or founding) of Annunciation in 1907.
- A priest: No, there was not a resident Greek priest in Chicago apart from Holy Trinity in the gap period.
- Worship space: I think the original Annunciation worship space continued to be maintained. I haven’t verified this, but if true, it is a key argument in favor of Annunciation’s claim.
- Regular church services: I don’t think there were regular services. I’ve heard that visiting priests occasionally held services for the Annunciation survivors.
- Incorporation: I’m not sure, but I don’t think the community was incorporated prior to 1907. I hope readers will correct me if I’m wrong.
- Board of trustees: I don’t know about this. I strongly suspect that there continued to be officers, but I don’t know for sure. This would be another good argument that there was a parish.
- Hierarchical oversight: Bishops had little practical oversight of Greek parishes in America at the turn of the last century, and without a resident priest, I can’t imagine the Annunciation survivors had much contact with a hierarch.
- A common name: The argument here depends a lot on this element. The claim is that Annunciation’s survivors continued to refer to themselves as “Annunciation” during the gap period.
- Self-identity as a parish: This is another critical element, and Annunciation partisans would certainly argue that this self-identity existed.
This leaves us with some basic questions, and perhaps someone in Chicago could look into them:
- Did Annunciation’s building continue to be maintained and used by a Greek Orthodox community?
- Were the members of that community not members of another Orthodox parish (i.e. Holy Trinity)?
- Did that community have a board of trustees?
- How often did the community meet for services? How often did a priest visit them? (One place to start looking would be state marriage records.)
- Did the parishioners in 1907 understand themselves to be (re-)founding the parish, or did they think that the parish had continued to exist during the gap?
We’ll continue to explore the issues of parish identity in the future, but the whole Chicago debate reminds me that we must always ensure that we define our terms. We can’t take for granted that we all know what a “parish” is, because, as I think I’ve demonstrated, there’s a lot more gray area than we might initially assume.
This article was written by Matthew Namee.
It’s been a week since we last posted new material, and for that, I apologize. I’ve been in Portland with my wife and kids, visiting the in-laws. Portland has a rich, fascinating Orthodox history, and I plan to discuss it in detail in future articles. In the meantime, I thought I’d share a few of the many Orthodox history-related photos I’ve taken while here:
To read my article on that original multiethnic Portland chapel, click here.
As I said, we’ll have lots more to come on Orthodoxy in Portland, but I thought I’d share these photos first.
– Matthew Namee
Orthodoxy has been in Portland, Oregon for well over a century, and its history is of particular interest to me, as my in-laws live in the city, and I have visited there many times. Today, we’re going to look at the beginnings of organized parish life in Portland.
According to Brigit Farley, there are records of some sort of Orthodox religious activity in Portland dating to at least 1881. That year, Fr. Vladimir Vechtomov, the rector of the San Francisco cathedral, visited Portland to bury a Russian woman. That said, organized church life didn’t begin until the 1890s. In November of 1892, 29-year-old Fr. Sebastian Dabovich baptized two Greek children, in what the Oregonian (11/7/1892) called “the first ceremony of the kind that ever took place in this city.” The service was held in the St. Charles Hotel, the first brick hotel in all of Portland. The paper went on,
The Greek colony in this city only comprises about 20 members, but they are very active in church matters. They are at present contemplating the building of a church on the East side, and have purchased half a block of land at Twentieth and East Morrison streets. The structure will cost $5000, of which $1000 has already been raised. The Russian government contributes about $400,000 annually to the support of the Greek church in North America, and part of this fund will be available for the construction of a church in Portland. The bishop, of San Francisco, will furnish the chancel, pictures and other fixtures for the church, and will be present at the laying of the cornerstone.
I’m not sure how many actual Orthodox Christians were in Portland. The article says that the city’s Greek colony had only 20 people, but there were surely Orthodox of other nationalities, and there were also Greeks in neighboring communities. In fact, I’ve found evidence that at least one member of the Dabovich family was living in Portland at the time. In any event, Fr. Sebastian was convinced that Portland was the right place for an Orthodox chapel.
In March of 1894, Bishop Nicholas Ziorov, accompanied by Dabovich and Fr. Alexander Pustynsky, paid a visit to Portland. It was his first stop in the city, but he actually wasn’t the first Orthodox bishop to set foot in Portland. In 1890, Bishop Vladimir Sokolovsky had spent a night in Portland while en route from Alaska to San Francisco, but there’s no evidence that he interacted with the small Orthodox population of the city.
Anyway, Bp Nicholas made another visit in June, on his way to Seattle. Then, in July and August, Fr. Sebastian Dabovich spent three weeks in Portland, raising money for the chapel. Instrumental in this was an Alaskan Creole named Chernov, who was living in the city and apparently had some means. By August 15, construction had begun at East 20th and Morrison. The chapel’s name would be “Holy Trinity Greek Russian Mission.” Dabovich was telling the locals not just that it was an Orthodox chapel, but that it was a part of the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.”
With things going smoothly in Portland, Dabovich then left for Seattle, where he hoped to replicate his success. The pattern repeated itself the following spring: Dabovich visited Portland to dedicate the new chapel in March, and then traveled to Seattle to perform the same service. The two communities, Portland and Seattle, would be closely linked years to come. The Russian diocese never assigned a priest to the Portland chapel, so it operated as a sort of dependency of St. Spiridon Church in Seattle.
It’s often said that the current OCA parish in Portland, St. Nicholas, is identical with this original Holy Trinity chapel, which was founded in the 1890s. This isn’t really accurate… By the early 1900s, the original chapel had fallen into disrepair, and the Greeks organized their own parish in 1908. There wouldn’t be a Russian church in the city until 1927, when St. Nicholas Church was founded.