ROCOR to offer an annual memorial service for Philip Ludwell III

Today being a Monday, I normally would publish the next edition of my “This week in American Orthodox history” series (in which I would say, among other things, that today marks the 97th anniversary of St. Raphael Hawaweeny’s repose). But that will have to wait until tomorrow, because I need to report on a pretty exciting development.

On Friday, ROCOR’s Eastern American Diocese announced that Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of ROCOR, has blessed the parishes of his diocese to hold an annual panihida (memorial) service for Philip Ludwell III on March 14, the anniversary of his repose. (ROCOR being on the Old Calendar, the panihida will take place on March 27 — that is, March 14 according to the Old Calendar.) Regular readers of are no doubt familiar with Ludwell, the first known Orthodox convert in American history. Here is how the ROCOR article describes him:

He converted to the Orthodox faith at the Russian Church in London on December 31, 1738, several days after his twenty-second birthday. He was blessed by the Holy Synod of the Russian Church to return to Virginia with the Holy Gifts and increasing evidence now points to the existence of a lay Orthodox community headed by him in mid-eighteenth century Williamsburg.

Beyond dispute, he brought his three daughters up in the faith, and they were formally received into the Church in London in 1762. Some of their descendants also appear to have remained in the Church for several generations following Ludwell’s repose. He died in 1767 while resident in London. His funeral was served at the Russian Church in London on Monday, March 19/30, 1767 (at that time the calendar difference was only 11 days.)

Whilst still in Virginia, Ludwell translated The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom as it is performed without a deacon and The Liturgy of St. Basil the Great as it is performed without a deacon. He also translated The Orthodox Confession of the Catholic and Apostolic Eastern Church, which was published in 1762, and penned what appears to be a short work of his own, entitled How to behave before, at, and after the Divine Service in the Church.

In all of these labors, he demonstrated an evident love for God and the Orthodox faith. He was also known for his cheerful and vivacious disposition, given to hospitality and to contributing to the needs of the poor. He also played a vital role in strengthening the defense of the Commonwealth of Virginia through tireless intercession with the British military authorities in his capacity as a member of the Royal Governing Council.

Ludwell’s story was uncovered by the indefatigable researcher and columnist Nicholas Chapman. To read Nicholas’ articles about Ludwell (plus a couple less impressive pieces by me), click here. Also, be sure to visit the Eastern American Diocese website to read the full story on the upcoming panihida.

All of this prompts me to ask: are any other jurisdictions, bishops, or priests interested in participating in this annual memorial? I mean, Ludwell is, in a real sense, a forefather for all of American Orthodoxy, regardless of jurisdiction. If you’re a priest, would you consider serving a panihida (or pannikhida, if you prefer), or a trisagion service, for Ludwell’s soul? I’d love to see others in American Orthodoxy follow the lead of Metropolitan Hilarion and ROCOR.

Leave a Reply