Posts tagged Statistics
Recently, I did a study of the most common names of American Orthodox parishes. In response, Christopher Orr commented, “I wonder what a similar study of clergy (bishop, priest, deacon) names would show. My guess would be Michael, John and George, and perhaps also Nicholas, with Alexander also very popular among Russians.”
I realized that I could actually do that sort of study. For several years now, I’ve been compiling an Excel file with the names of thousands of American Orthodox clergy (mostly priests) and the parishes in which they served. The focus is on past, rather than contemporary, priests, but given that the data is already in a sortable format, I figured I could use it to answer Christopher’s question — what are the most common names of American Orthodox clergy?
2,069 clergy were included in the study. The actual file has more than that, but for a lot of historical clergy, I only have a last name, or a first initial — not enough to conduct a study like this. So, a little over two thousand made the final cut. Also, keep in mind that there are lots of spelling and linguistic variations on a given name. So Elijah, Ilyas, Ilie, and Ilja were all counted as, “Elias.” Every version of Demetrios / Dimitri was labeled, “Demetrios.” And so forth — you get the idea.
Here’s the top 10 list:
- John (9.6%)
- George (6.2)
- Michael (5.0)
- Nicholas (4.7)
- Peter (3.7)
- Constantine (3.6)
- Basil (3.4)
- Joseph (2.6)
- Stephen (2.5)
- Alexander (2.4)
So Mr. Orr was right on the money — he pegged the top four. The next eight, all between 1.6 and 2.2%, are Demetrios, Paul, Theodore, Andrew, Anthony, James/Jacob, Elias, and Gregory.
I then looked specifically at the three largest jurisdictions — Greek, OCA, and Antiochian. For the OCA, I focused only on the clergy of the Russian Archdiocese / Metropolia / territorial OCA; I didn’t include the OCA’s various ethnic dioceses. Here are the most common OCA names:
- John (11.8)
- Michael (5.7)
- Joseph (5.1)
- Nicholas (5.1)
- Peter (5.0)
- Basil (4.7)
- Alexander (4.5)
- Paul (3.9)
- Vladimir (3.3)
Alexander is indeed a popular name for OCA clergy, but John is way ahead of the pack, with twice as many as the next most-common name.
As you would expect, George is wildly popular among the Antiochians:
- George (12.1)
- John (10.2)
- Michael (7.9)
- Anthony (4.9)
- Elias (4.6)
- Nicholas (3.9)
Also predictable was the popularity of the name Constantine among the Greeks:
- George (9.o)
- Michael (8.5)
- Constantine (7.6)
- Nicholas (5.8)
- Demetrios (3.3)
- Peter (3.0)
Eventually, it would be nice to do a more systematic study, looking at the names of all current SCOBA clergy. But I suspect that the overall conclusions would be similar — John, George, Michael, and Nicholas are by far the most common names for American Orthodox clergy.
Here’s a trivia question for you: What is the most common name for an Orthodox parish in the United States?
This isn’t really an historical question, and it’s opening what is not strictly an historical article. But, to answer the question: the most common parish name is “St. Nicholas,” followed closely by “St. George” and “Holy Trinity.”
If you’ve been Orthodox for very long, this little nugget shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. But I tend to find such information fascinating, and recently, I decided to systematically study the question of parish names and patrons. I took all the parishes, missions, and chapels in the United States, listed on the SCOBA website, and plugged them into a spreadsheet.
A few disclaimers, before we jump into the numbers: I didn’t include Canada, or monasteries, or any of the Moscow Patriarchate’s “representation” parishes. I’m sure I made some data entry errors, and of course, the numbers are only as good as SCOBA’s database, which I know isn’t perfectly up-to-date.
There were 1,842 parishes in the study. Here is a list of the 10 most common parish names:
- St. Nicholas (142 parishes / 7.7%)
- St. George (139 / 7.5)
- Holy Trinity (136 / 7.4)
- Dormition or Assumption or some other name for that feast (77 / 4.2)
- St. John the Baptist (69 / 3.7)
- Ss. Peter & Paul (66 / 3.6)
- St. Michael (63 / 3.4)
- Ss. Constantine & Helen (39 / 2.1)
- Annunciation (39 / 2.1)
- St. Andrew (37 / 2.0)
The top three — Nicholas, George, and Holy Trinity — represent 22.6% of all American Orthodox parishes. But while those are the most common parish names, they aren’t the most common parish patrons. Here’s that Top 10 list:
- Theotokos (273 / 14.8)
- Lord Jesus Christ (154 / 8.4)
- St. Nicholas (142 / 7.7)
- St. George (139 / 7.5)
- Holy Trinity (136 / 7.4)
- Ss. Peter & Paul, or just St. Peter or St. Paul (89 / 4.8)
- One or more of the Archangels (76 / 4.1)
- St. John the Baptist (69 / 3.7)
- Three Hierarchs (Basil, John, or Gregory, or all three together) (44 / 2.4)
- Ss. Constantine & Helen (39 / 2.1)
As you can imagine, the churches dedicated to Christ or his mother have a host of names and feast days. There are, for instance, 28 parishes named “Christ the Savior” (or, once in a while, “Christ the Redeemer”). Another 25 are named for one of the many wonderworking icons of the Theotokos. As you might expect, given the special Russian affection for such icons, most of these parishes are either OCA or ROCOR.
There was a good deal of variance among the different jurisdictions. Here are the most common patrons of OCA parishes:
- Theotokos (12.6 %)
- Lord Jesus Christ (11.7)
- St. Nicholas (9.4)
- Holy Trinity (6.0)
- Ss. Peter & Paul (5.9)
- St. John the Baptist (3.9)
- St. Michael (3.6)
The five most common OCA patrons represented 45.7% of their parishes. This is nearly identical with the overall national average (45.8%). The Ukrainians, on the other hand, were far more top-heavy, at 63.4%:
- Theotokos (19.8%)
- Holy Trinity (15.8)
- Ss. Peter & Paul (9.9)
- St. Vladimir (or Volodymyr) (9.9)
- St. Andrew (7.9)
Of course, the Ukrainian jurisdiction has far fewer churches than the OCA – 101 Ukrainian, 562 OCA, based on the SCOBA database — which means that a few parishes make a bigger difference. The Ukrainians are understandably devoted to St. Vladimir, with 10 of their parishes named in his honor. The OCA and ROCOR have a combined total of 715 parishes, compared to the Ukrainians’ 101; nevertheless, of the 20 American Orthodox churches named for St. Vladimir, 10 are Ukrainian, and only 5 OCA and 5 ROCOR.
Like the Ukrainians, 19.8% of Greek churches have the Theotokos as their patron. Here’s the Greek leaderboard, out of a total of 525 parishes:
- Theotokos (19.8%)
- Holy Trinity (11.4)
- St. George (10.3)
- St. Nicholas (6.9)
- Lord Jesus Christ (6.1)
- Ss. Constantine & Helen (5.9)
- St. Demetrios (5.3)
- St. John the Baptist (3.9)
Of the Greek parishes dedicated to the Theotokos, they are pretty evenly divided between the feast of the Annunciation (52 parishes) and that of the Dormition / Assumption (42). St. George is also very popular among the Greeks, but not as popular as he is among the Antiochians. Check out the Antiochian list (out of 250 parishes):
- St. George (17.6%)
- Lord Jesus Christ (8.4)
- Theotokos (8.4)
- St. Nicholas (5.2)
- St. Michael (4.4)
- St. Elias or Elijah (3.6)
- St. Andrew (3.2)
- St. John the Theologian (3.2)
That figure for St. George — 17.6% — is the highest mark for any saint in any jurisdiction, other than the Theotokos. There are more Antiochian churches named after St. George than are named for the Theotokos and Christ put together. Also, while Ss. Peter and Paul didn’t make it onto the above list, if you combine the Antiochian parishes named for one or both of those Apostles, they represent 6% of all Antiochian churches in the US.
Among all the jurisdictions, the Serbs have the lowest percentage of parishes dedicated to the Theotokos — 4.1%. Here are the most common Serbian parish patrons:
- St. George (14.8%)
- St. Sava (13.9)
- Lord Jesus Christ (7.4)
- St. Michael (7.4)
- Holy Trinity (6.6)
Nearly 29% of all Serbian parishes are named for either St. Sava or St. George. But the Carpatho-Russians have them beat: 32.5% of their 80 churches are dedicated to either St. John the Baptist or St. Nicholas. That’s the highest percentage of two saints (other than the Theotokos) in all of American Orthodoxy. Here’s the Carpatho-Russian list:
- St. John the Baptist (16.3%)
- St. Nicholas (16.3)
- Theotokos (15.0)
- St. Michael (11.3)
- Lord Jesus Christ (8.8)
I haven’t mentioned the Romanian or Bulgarian Patriarchal jurisdiction, simply because, with only 25 and 22 parishes, respectively, the sample sizes are too small to mean much. The most common patron of a Romanian Patriarchal parish is the Theotokos, with four total churches. The most common patrons for Bulgarian parishes are Christ and the Theotokos, with three apiece.
As I’ve said before, parishes named for a particular icon of the Theotokos tend to be either ROCOR or OCA. There are also a lot of Slavic churches named for the Protection of the Theotokos. Churches named for her Nativity are usually OCA; on the other hand, the Greeks tend to like the feasts of her Annunciation and Dormition / Assumption.
Finally, I wondered, what American saints have been especially honored with parishes? Obviously, these parishes would be of recent vintage, and as new missions are established, these numbers are going to change quite a bit. But, so far, here are American saints with the most US parishes:
- St. Herman (20 parishes)
- St. Innocent (13)
- St. Raphael (7)
- St. John Maximovitch (5)
- St. Tikhon (4)
Ss. Herman and Innocent were both canonized in the 1970s, so there has been plenty of time for parishes to be dedicated to their memory. St. Raphael, on the other hand, was glorified only a few years ago; that he is already the patron of seven churches is rather amazing.
Every ten years, from 1906 to 1936, the US Census Bureau compiled a Census of Religious Bodies. These censuses are gold mines of information on early American Orthodoxy. Also, unlike so many of the inflated numbers that you’re likely to see floating around, the census data is reliable. With its considerable resources, the Census Bureau was able not only to work with the jurisdictions themselves, but to contact individual parishes for precise information. The result is a thorough, well-researched, and generally unbiased collection of statistics and other information.
What can we learn from the censuses? Loads of things. For instance, we can track the growth of the various Orthodox groups and jurisdictions in the United States:
The Russian spike in 1916 was most likely caused by Uniate conversions. Overall, the Orthodox population grew from about 130,000 in 1906 to almost 350,000 thirty years later:
- 1906: 129,606
- 1916: 249,840
- 1926: 259,394
- 1936: 348,025
As you can see, the 1916-1926 period was rather stagnant; in fact, aside from the Albanians and Romanians, every jurisdiciton declined in that period. World War I probably had something to do with it, as well as the new immigration quotas imposed by the US government in 1924. It’s also likely that the various jurisdictional schisms of the 1920s – Russy-Antacky, Royalist-Venizelist, Metropolia-Living Church — affected the ability of the Census Bureau to collect data. (That is, there were probably more Orthodox than were reported in 1926.)
One of the things I’ve found most interesting about the census data are the gender ratios. In 1906, men represented 85% of all American Orthodox Christians. That is, for every woman, there were almost six men. Here are the percentages of women in each year:
- 1906: 15%
- 1916: 28%
- 1926: 40%
- 1936: 46%
By 1936, every group was between 42 and 51 percent female. For most of this period, the Greeks were the most overwhelmingly male jurisdiction (with female percentages from 1906-36 of 6, 17, 34, and 43 percent). Until ’36, the Syrians were the most balanced group, with 40% women in 1906, and 45, 49, and 47 percent in the years that followed.
The Serbian male population actually declined considerably from 1906-26, due most likely to the Balkan Wars and then World War I, but the female population (not just the percentage) increased dramatically:
- 1906: 2,228 women (14%)
- 1916: 3,301 women (23%)
- 1926: 6,421 women (47%)
The census also kept data on Sunday schools. In 1906, there were just 7 Sunday schools in all of American Orthodoxy. By 1916, there were 162 (of which 126 were Russian). The Russians actually closed a lot of their Sunday schools in the next decade (dropping to 90), but the Greeks and Romanians added a lot more, pushing the total number up to 198 by 1926. By 1936, there were 294 Orthodox Sunday schools in the United States, of which 129 were Greek and 101 were Russian.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s available in the censuses. In the future, we’ll continue to unpack the data.
To our New Calendar readers: Christ is born!
The following article was originally published on August 21, 2009. If you’re interested, you might check out the comments to that original posting. We’ll be back with brand-new material on Monday, December 28.
As you might expect, most American Orthodox parishes in 1916 used foreign languages. From that year’s Census of Religious Bodies, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, we find the following unsurprising information:
- Both of the Albanian parishes used exclusively Albanian.
- The four Bulgarian parishes used Bulgarian and Slavonic.
- The 87 Greek parishes used exclusively Greek.
- Both of the Romanian parishes used exclusively Romanian and Slavonic.
- 166 of the 169 Russian parishes used exclusively Slavonic. Of the other three, two used a combination of Slavonic and English, and one used exclusively English.
- 11 of the 12 Serbian parishes used exclusively Slavonic and/or Serbian. One Serbian parish used exclusively English.
In total, there were 276 parishes in the United States in 1916, not counting the Syrians. 272 of those 276 (98.55%) worshipped entirely in foreign languages, and just two used English only.
None of this should come as a surprise. The vast majority of American Orthodox Christians in 1916 were either immigrants, or the children of immigrants. And the vast majority of American Orthodox clergy were also immigrants, most of whom had been educated and ordained in the Old World.
Now we come to the Syrians… and as we’ve seen before, the Syrians are an outlier. This is what the 1916 Census has to say:
Of the 25 organizations, 13, with 4,361 members, reported services conducted in English only; and 12, with 7,230 members, reported services conducted in foreign languages alone or with English. Of these, 4 organizations, with 1,230 members, reported the use of Arabic alone or with English; 5, with 2,900 members, Arabic, Greek, and English; and 3, with 3,100 members, Arabic, Greek, Russian, and English. In 1906 all the organizations then represented reported the Syro-Arabic language only.
This is stunning. Ten years earlier, in 1906, the Syrians were like everybody else, worshipping exclusively in their native tongue. In 1916, everybody else was pretty much the same — 98.55% foreign. But in just a decade, the Syrians had changed dramatically. By 1916, at least 21 of the 25 Syrian parishes (84%) used at least some English in their church services, and over half (13 of 25) were entirely in English.
How on earth did this happen? I don’t have a clear answer; however, there is one clue. In 1905, an Episcopal priest named Ingram Irvine converted to Orthodoxy. He was ordained by Ss. Tikhon and Raphael, took the name “Fr. Nathaniel,” and for about two years, he served in the Russian Mission. His purpose was “English work.” He wrote articles in English, published a couple of small books, and conducted an English-language Vespers service on Sunday nights. He also helped St. Tikhon with English-language administrative work, and advised him on Anglican-Orthodox relations.
Irvine is one of my favorite figures in American Orthodox history, and we’ll talk about him in great detail in the future, but for now, it’s enough to know that he transferred to St. Raphael’s jurisdiction after St. Tikhon returned to Russia in 1907. And Irvine’s transfer also meant the transfer of the “English work.” Now, his English articles appeared in the otherwise all-Arabic Al Kalimat (The Word). He made it his special mission to reach out to the English-speaking children of Arabic immigrants to America. He taught Sunday School, ghostwrote letters for St. Raphael, and generally promoted the use of English in the Syrian Mission. He did this at the direction and with the encouragement of St. Raphael; when St. Raphael died in 1915, Irvine wrote, “With Bishop Raphael’s death ended the initiatory Chapter of English Orthodox Church work in America.”[*]
I don’t think Irvine alone was responsible for the great proliferation of English in the Syrian Mission in the years 1906-1916, but he must have played a major role. Just thinking out loud, another factor may have been the weaker national identification with Orthodoxy among the Syrians. What I mean is this: to be a Russian, a Greek, or a Serb was to be Orthodox. National identity and religious affiliation were intimately intertwined, to the point that they were one and the same. But it was not so among the Syrians. They came, not from their own nation-state, but from the Ottoman Empire. And they also came from a region of great religious pluralism — back in Syria, they lived alongside Melkites, Maronites, Muslims, and Druze. In other words, while Slavonic, Greek, and Serbian culture (and language) was closely identified with Orthodoxy, the same could not be said of Syro-Arab culture and language. And it’s possible (though I can’t prove it) that this distinction was a major factor in the spread of English among the Syrians, while the rest of American Orthodoxy was still firmly attached to foreign languages.
Finally, Fr. John Erickson offered this comment upon seeing the language data:
In light of the very large number of parishes St Raphael’s Syrian mission that used only English or predominantly English, another question that might be interesting to explore would be the extent to which, in the years immediately following, the “Antacky” advocated the use of Arabic or otherwise resorted to identity politics.
At present, I don’t have any idea whether the Russy-Antacky divide involved language, but it is a question I will have to explore (and if anyone wants to help, please let me know!)
[*] Ingram N.W. Irvine (Fr. Nathaniel), “Bishop Raphael, In His Relation to the English Work of the Archdiocese of North America,” Russian Orthodox American Messenger 19:5 (March 15, 1915), 72.
There is an argument, made by many, that the first autocephalous Church to expand into a new territory “gets” that territory. I call it the flag-planting theory, because it reminds me of 15th century European explorers who reached the shores of undiscovered (for them) lands, stuck a flag in the sand, and claimed that piece of earth for their nation.
I don’t mean to denigrate this position; while I personally think the flag-planting theory oversimplifies things, it certainly has its merits, as well as many supporters. A lot of people make an argument along the following lines: “The Russian Orthodox Church was the first Orthodox Church to establish itself in America; therefore, it had jurisdiction over all of America. And since it granted autocephaly to the OCA in 1970, now the OCA has exclusive canonical authority over the entire North American continent.”
It occurred to me that much the same argument could be made on a state-by-state basis. The United States is, after all, a “federal” country, right? (Or at least, we’re supposed to be, according to our Constitution.) Couldn’t you make the argument that while the Russian Church (and, by extension, the OCA) may have flag-planting rights in Alaska and California, the other 48 states are up for grabs?
I don’t actually think this is a viable theory, but I thought it might, at minimum, be interesting to see what exactly such a theory would mean. For instance, the Greeks established the first Orthodox parishes in Georgia, Missouri, Idaho, and twenty other states. The Syrians were the first in Nebraska, the Serbs in Montana. (And, yes, I realize that the Syrians and Serbs were technically a part of the Russian Mission in the early 20th century.)
My research is far from complete; I’m presenting what amounts to partial results thus far. For some states, I’m not yet entirely certain who was the first. I would very much appreciate help from any readers who might have additions or corrections.
With that out of the way, here are the fifty U.S. states (plus the District of Columbia) and their first Orthodox parishes:
Alabama - Greek (Birmingham, 1909). Another possibility is an early Russian parish in Brookside, which began sometime between 1906 and 1911. (For a discussion of the Brookside parish, see the comments below.)
Alaska - Russian (Kodiak, 1794). Of course.
Arizona – Serbian (Globe, by at least 1916).
Arkansas – Russian or Greek (Slovak, ca. 1895-1918?, or Little Rock, 1913). Slovak (or Slovaktown) was a town of Eastern European immigrants to Arkansas, and it was founded in 1894. I’ve heard rumors that a Russian church was founded not long after the town itself, but I can’t find it on the official Russian lists of parishes in 1906, 1911, or 1918. The last service inthe Slovak church took place in 1948. (See the update at the bottom of this article for more information.) The oldest surviving Orthodox church in Arkansas is the Greek parish in Little Rock, founded in 1913. Depending on when the Slovak parish was established, it’s possible that the Little Rock Greek church was the first in Arkansas.
California – Russian (Fort Ross, 1825 or San Francisco, 1868). There was a Russian chapel at Fort Ross from 1825 to 1841. During this period, California was a part of Mexico; it wouldn’t become an American territory until 1847. The first parish in the American period was begun in San Francisco in 1868, and it still exists (after numerous name and building changes) as Holy Trinity Cathedral (OCA).
Colorado – Russian (Denver & Pueblo, 1903). Both parishes joined the Russian Mission in 1903. I’m not sure when the Denver Greek cathedral was founded; it’s possible that it predates the Russian churches.
Connecticut – Russian (Bridgeport, 1894).
Delaware – Russian (Wilmington, ca. 1911-1913).
District of Columbia – Greek (Washington, 1904).
Florida – Greek (Tarpon Springs, 1907).
Georgia – Greek (Savannah, 1900).
Hawaii – Russian (Fort Elizabeth, 1815). That’s right, 1815. For a good history of Orthodoxy in Hawaii, check out this Orthodox Wiki article.
Idaho – Greek (Pocatello, 1915).
Illinois – Greek & Russian (Chicago, 1892). We’ve discussed the early Chicago parishes in earlier posts, and we’ll continue to do so in the future.
Indiana - Greek (Indianapolis, 1910).
Iowa – Greek & Syrian (Waterloo & Cedar Rapids, 1914). Both parishes began in 1914, and when the founding dates are in the same year, I’m calling it a tie.
Kansas - Serbian (Kansas City, 1904). Of course, in 1904 the Serbian churches were technically a part of the Russian mission, but many (including Kansas City) functioned almost independently, obtaining their priests directly from Serbia and being run, for all practical purposes, by lay boards of trustees.
Kentucky – Greek (Louisville, 1927). There were Greeks in Kentucky by the turn of the century, and there may have been a parish prior to 1927.
Louisiana - Greek (New Orleans, 1865).
Maine – Greek (Saco, 1909).
Maryland - Greek (Baltimore, 1894 & 1906). A Greek parish was founded in Baltimore in 1894, but it lasted only a few months. The next Orthodox church in Maryland – also Greek, and also in Baltimore — was established in 1906.
Massachusetts – Greek & Syrian (Lowell & Boston, 1900).
Michigan – Russian (Detroit, 1907).
Minnesota – Russian (Minneapolis, 1892). This was the parish of St. Alexis Toth.
Mississippi – Syrian (Vicksburg, 1906). [The founding date was originally listed as 1908. Thanks to Fr. John Morris for the correction.]
Missouri – Greek (St. Louis, 1904).
Montana – Serbian (Butte, 1904).
Nebraska – Syrian (Kearney, 1903).
Nevada – Greek (McGill/Ely, 1910). As I indicated in the 2/24/10 update (below), St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church began in McGill in 1910. Early sources list it as being located in nearby Ely, but it was actually located in McGill. In 1940, a separate church was founded in Ely. Dianna Callaway explains:
The Greek people of Ely had always traveled to McGill for church. St. Barbara’s had decided to build a fellowship hall in Ely around 1940. At the last minute the Ely people decided that they wanted to build their own parish. Hence, the beginning of St. Alexios Greek Orthodox Church in Ely, Nevada.
Both churches are still in operation, though neither has a resident priest.
New Hampshire – Greek (Manchester, 1905).
New Jersey – Russian (Garfield, 1898).
New Mexico – Greek (Albuquerque, 1944).
New York – Russian (New York City, 1870). That parish was really more of an embassy chapel, and it closed in 1883. The oldest surviving parish in New York is Holy Trinity Greek Cathedral, founded in 1892.
North Carolina – Greek (Asheville, 1922). One of the other Greek parishes may predate Asheville. The 1916 Census of Religious Bodies lists no Orthodox churches in the state, so the first parish would have been sometime after that.
North Dakota – Russian (Wilton, ca. 1913-18).
Ohio – Russian (Cleveland, 1896).
Oklahoma - Russian (Hartshorne, by at least 1906). This was founded as a Uniate parish in 1897. I don’t know the precise date when it joined the Russian Mission, but it would have been close to the turn of the century.
Oregon – Russian (Portland, 1895). The Russian chapel in Portland fell into disrepair, and by 1907, the Greeks founded their own church, which is the oldest surviving parish in Oregon.
Pennsylvania – Russian (Wilkes-Barre, 1892).
Rhode Island – Greek (Providence, 1905).
South Carolina – Greek (Charleston & Spartanburg, 1911).
South Dakota – Greek (Sioux Falls, ca. 1959). There might be something earlier, but as of the 1936 Census of Religious Bodies, there were still no Orthodox churches in South Dakota.
Tennessee – Greek (Memphis, ca. 1915-16). The Greeks also started a parish in Nashville in 1917.
Texas – Russian (Galveston, 1895). The Galveston parish, Ss. Constantine and Helen, is now under the Serbian Church.
Utah – Greek (Salt Lake City, 1905).
Vermont – Russian (Springfield, 1906).
Virginia – Greek (Norfolk, 1911).
Washington – Russian (Seattle, 1892).
West Virginia – Syrian (Charleston, 1905).
Wisconsin – Not sure. I know that Greek parishes in Milwaukee and Sheboygan both existed by 1911. According to the OCA website, its parish in Lublin was founded in 1908, though I’m told that the oldest parish in Wisconsin is St. John the Baptist (Russian?) in the small rural town of Huron. The official Russian Archdiocese list of parishes, published in 1911, includes none in Wisconsin. It’s possible that Lublin and/or Huron began as Uniate communities and later became Orthodox, but I can’t confirm this. In any event, by 1916, there were three Russian parishes in Wisconsin. At the moment, who got there first is unclear.
Wyoming – Greek (Cheyenne, 1922). I don’t know when the Greek churches in Rock Springs and Casper were founded, and it’s possible that one of them predates Cheyenne. Regardless, I’m confident that the first Orthodox parish in Wyoming was Greek. In 1916, there were no Orthodox churches in the state. By 1936, there were two — both of them Greek.
Adding it all up, that’s (roughly) 22 states for the Greeks, 18 for the Russians, 3 for the Syrians, and 3 for the Serbs, plus several states with ties (that is, multiple first parishes in the same year).
Another interesting way to look at this is to divide the states into regions – say, East, Midwest, South, and West. In the East, Midwest, and West, the Greeks and Russians are basically even. In the South, the Greeks dominate, with 9 of 13 states. In fact, the Syrians and the Russians are even in the South, with two states apiece.
Let me be clear: I am not arguing that one or another jurisdiction has special rights to any given state. I am simply pointing out 1) what the first parishes in each state were, and 2) which jurisdictions might theoretically have claim on which states, if the flag-planting theory were applied to states rather than the entire continent.
As I said earlier, the above list is far from complete. If you have any information at all that would make the list more accurate, please comment below or email me at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.
UPDATE (9/1/09): Isa Almisry points out that I have the wrong date for the Chicago parishes, which were founded in 1892 (not 1894, as originally reported). I’ve corrected the entry above.
Also, thanks to Stephen Smith for sending some interesting articles on the history of Slovak/Slovaktown, Arkansas. One of these articles, from the Stuttgart Daily Leader (May 16, 1980), indicates that Slovak’s first Russian church building was constructed in 1918. A Roman Catholic church (Ss. Cyril & Methodius) was founded in the town’s early years, near the turn of the century, but the Orthodox church seems to have come along later. As I originally noted, the Slovak parish does not appear on the official Russian Mission lists of 1906, 1911, or 1918. I have heard rumors that St. John Kochurov of Chicago visited Slovak; St. John returned to Russia in 1907, so obviously, such a visit must have taken place before then. But the fact that he visited doesn’t necessarily mean there was a parish; it simply means that there were Orthodox Christians present. Given the lack of evidence for a parish in Slovak prior to 1918, I’m inclined to say that the Greek church in Little Rock (founded in 1913) is the first Orthodox parish in Arkansas.
Finally, thanks to Kathleen Barngrover, who, on our Facebook page, made the following comment:
St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church in rural Huron, WI is the oldest in WI. The area was settled by Russians, Ukrainians in the logging industry. Holy Assumption in Lublin, WI just celebrated their centenial last year 2008.
The Wisconsin entry has been updated to include this information.
I will post any further updates in this space. Keep the corrections coming in!
UPDATE (2/26/10): I’ve updated the entry for Wyoming. Previously, I had said that the first church was Greek, but I wasn’t sure about the city; now, I’m pretty sure that the first one was Ss. Constantine & Helen Church in Cheyenne, founded in 1922. I also made a minor adjustment to the Wisconsin entry, indicating that there were three Russian parishes in the state by 1916.
UPDATE (3/4/10): I’ve been learning a lot about the Greek parishes in McGill/Ely, Nevada, thanks to Dianna Callaway, and I’ve updated the entry for Nevada to include that new information.