Posts tagged Statistics
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.
Back in June, I wrote a post on parish priest stability in the 1910s, and I found that the Syrians under St. Raphael had a higher clergy retention percentage than any other American Orthodox group. Way higher. Of the 14 Syrian parishes that had resident priests in 1911, 10 of them had the same pastor four years later. That’s 71.4%. Here’s how the various ethnic groups break down:
71.4% Syrian (10/14)
42.9% Serbian (3/7)
20.3% Russian (15/74)
27.5% Greek (11/40)
The Syrians were stable in almost every measurable way. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Census of Religious Bodies, conducted in 1906 and 1916, the Syrians had the most balanced male-to-female ratio of any group. Here are the percentages of women in 1916 (median includes smaller groups such as Romanians, Bulgarians, and Albanians):
The Syrians also had the highest ratio of priests per capita. Here is the number of parishioners per priest for each group:
How about parishioners per church edifice?
I’m probably beating a dead horse at this point, but here are the Sunday School student-teacher ratios:
The Syrians were becoming more established, too. Here is the percentage growth in the number of church edifices from 1906 to 1916:
Bottom line, by any method I can think of to measure stability, the Syrians under St. Raphael were the most stable Orthodox group in America. This makes me curious to learn more about how exactly he functioned as a bishop. The statistics alone suggest that he was doing something right.
Matthew has previously provided for us some tidbits on the ambiguous canonical status of St. Raphael of Brooklyn (Antioch? Moscow? Both? How?)—see especially his post on St. Raphael’s consecration as well as listening to the relevant parts in his “The Myth of Past Unity” lecture.
Here’s another data point that I just discovered indicating that the impression of at least the Episcopalian observers to the situation in 1913 saw it as ambiguous, as well:
These Orthodox, about 33 per cent of the Syrians in New England, are all apparently under Bishop Raphael. This Syrian Bishop derives his authority from the Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, but is closely connected with the Russian Archbishop in New York.
On a relatively unrelated point, it was also interesting to note how spread out the Syrians were by 1913:
Louise S. Houghton in the Survey says: “During the years 1899-1907, in which Syrians have been differentiated from other Turkish subjects, 41,404 Syrians have been admitted to the United States. Although 100,000 is the usual estimate of the Syrian population of this country, 70,000 is that of the best informed Syrians.” This was in the year 1911, and the number now may well be 80,000.
Alaska is credited with 20; California has 8,000; Montana, 200; Nevada, 700; South Dakota, 200; North Dakota, 1,000. Among the most helpful colonies are the; farm settlements in Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, North and South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and Washington, the largest being in North Dakota.
The largest colonies are in the cities. New York has 5,000; Lawrence, 6,000; Boston, 5,000; San Francisco, 2,500; Worcester, 2,000; Philadelphia, 1,500; Pittsburgh, 1,500; Providence, 1,500; Chicago, 1,200; Springfield, Mass., 1,000; Los Angeles, Cleveland, and St. Louis have each 800; Albany has 600. Buffalo, Toledo, Detroit, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati, all have nearly 250 each. Milwaukee and Troy have each 150, and Duluth 56.
These cities representing twelve out of fifty-two states and territories, include about two fifths of the entire Syrian population. The others are scattered among the smaller towns and villages of these and the remaining thirty-nine states and territories. For instance the 200 in South Dakota are divided between Deadwood, Aberdeen, Sioux City, Lead, and Sioux Falls, with a number living on outlying farms. There are 200 in New Mexico, nearly all isolated farmers. There are no Syrians in Baltimore, and a few only in Washington (well-to-do), and in Buffalo a few in a small colony in the outskirts of the city. Dr. H. K. Carroll reports, for the year 1912, 24 organized churches with 43,000 members.[*]
St. Raphael certainly had his work cut out for him.
The whole report is worth reading and includes lots of interesting statistics.
[*]Parker, Rt. Rev. Edward Melville, et al (for the Episcopal Church, Missionary Dept. of New England). The people of the Eastern Orthodox churches, the separated churches of the east, and other Slavs; report of the commission (1913), pp. 34-35
The video takes a few minutes to get going, but here is a roughly 80-minute history of the Russian council of 1917-18, bracketed by history of the Russian Metropolia, entitled True Faith and the Ground of Liberty (subtitled St. Tikhon and the 1917-1918 Council: Architect and Blueprint for the Orthodox Church in America), delivered by OCA chancellor Fr. Alexander Garklavs. It was delivered on June 18 at the recent conference held at St. Vladimir’s Seminary (the same conference which featured our own Matthew Namee).
The first fifteen minutes or so are the conference’s opening talk by seminary dean Fr. John Behr and the introduction of Garklavs by seminary chancellor Fr. Chad Hatfield.
Toward the beginning, Garklavs does include some sidelong remarks indicating he agrees with the conventional depiction of a mono-jurisdictional Orthodox administration prior to 1921, but his narrative largely avoids this question. He does comment at one point when mentioning the Greeks under the Russians that there were also Greeks outside the Russian jurisdiction.
Regarding America, he mainly focuses on the life of St. Tikhon and his work in America, as well as the effect of the Russian council of 1917-1918 on the Russian Metropolia and, subsequently, the OCA (and Tikhon’s effect on it, based on his experience in America). The bulk of the talk is on the council itself, based on reading primary sources coming out of the council. The last fifteen minutes come back to America and cover mainly administrative history.
There’s nothing too controversial here, as the parts of this speech concerned with America revisit well-worn ground regarding one of the great heroes of Orthodox history in America. One controversial comment is his suggestion that Tikhon’s model for administration—independent bishops whose jurisdiction is based on ethnicity rather than geography, but sitting together in synod—might represent a best hope for Orthodox unity in America.
It is probably not terribly controversial when Garklavs hails the 1917-18 Russian council as a proper “blueprint” for the OCA. What is more debatable, of course, is whether the blueprint was followed in the construction. Despite this conventional take on the council, I do recall one of my seminary professors (a cleric of the Moscow Patriarchate), who seemed to believe that the council was largely a failure and that the Bolshevik Revolution was God’s final judgment on such a colossal apostasy. That, I think, is somewhat of a minority view, at least here in America. I’d be interested to read what modern Russian Orthodox have to say about the council. To be sure, its effects are not felt there hardly at all (probably at least partly because of the later association of anything “progressive” with the Soviet-sponsored “Living Church” movement). I imagine American Orthodox talk about it quite a lot more.
Hat tip to Byzantine, TX.