To shave or not to shave?

For three tumultuous decades — 1907 to 1938 — Fr. Basil Kerbawy was the dean of St. Nicholas Syrian Orthodox Cathedral in Brooklyn. Apparently, in 1911, he was having some issues related to his beard, and things got so bad that he wrote to William Gaynor, the mayor of New York. I can’t resist reprinting their…

Cassocks or Collars?

It’s a common debate within American Orthodoxy: should our priests wear cassocks, or should they wear suits and collars like their Roman Catholic and Protestant counterparts? One side rightly argues that cassocks are the traditional and virtually universal style of dress for Orthodox clergy. The other side just as correctly points out that even some American saints wore…

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…

1905: The busiest year in American Orthodox history

2009 has been an eventful year for American Orthodoxy — perhaps the most eventful in our history. But it’s got competition. The year 1905 may well have been even crazier. Here is a list of the major happenings of 1905, in no particular order: The headquarters of the Russian Mission were transferred from San Francisco…

The Feast Day of St. Raphael

Tomorrow, the first Saturday in November, is one of St. Raphael’s two feast days. The other, February 27, is the OCA’s feast day for him, and takes place on the day of his death. This November feast is celebrated in the Antiochian Archdiocese, and takes place on roughly the day of his birth (November 8).…

A Russian Church in New York, 1895

Since the closing of Fr. Nicholas Bjerring’s chapel in 1883, New York City had been without a Russian Orthodox place of worship. Greek churches were founded in the city in 1892 and ’94, and by 1895, there were Russian parishes in Minnesota, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. Finally, in April of 1895, the Russian Mission returned to…

The Prophet of American Orthodoxy

Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine, the great convert priest who was ordained by St. Tikhon in 1905, may well be the most quotable figure in American Orthodox history. You can expect lots of Irvine-related material on this website well into the future, but I thought that today, I might offer some particularly great quotations from the…

The Ordination of the Rev. Ingram N.W. Irvine, D.D.

The following article appeared in the English-language supplement to the November 1905 issue of the Russian Orthodox American Messenger, the official publication of the Russian Mission: The Rev. Ingram N.W. Irvine, D.D., was, on St. Mary’s Day, Nov. 4th, received into the Holy Orthodox Church by our beloved Archbishop the Most Rev. Tikhon, D.D. and…