Archimandrite Stephen Andreades was the first priest of Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in New Orleans. He arrived in late 1867, making him the very first resident Orthodox priest in the contiguous United States. Very little is known about Andreades, and most of what we know comes from a short homily he gave upon his arrival. The homily was published in the March 15, 1868 issue of the Alaska Herald (vol. 1, issue 2), a periodical published by the infamous Agapius Honcharenko.
Until recently, I had seen references to that homily, but I had never gotten my hands on the text itself. But a couple of months ago, Maggie Maag, who heads up the great historical work being done at Holy Trinity in New Orleans, sent me a copy. The homily was originally given in Greek, but it was translated into Russian for the Alaska Herald. Maggie found the Alaska Herald issue at the Library of Congress, and she arranged for Roman Alokhin of the New Orleans Museum of Art to translate it from Russian into English. I ran the translation past a Russian translator friend of mine, who made some minor edits. The result is below.
The homily is dated December 25, 1867. I suspect that’s the Julian (Old) Calendar date, so it would have been January 6, 1868 according to the Gregorian Calendar used in America. The original translation from Greek to Russian was done by a man named Thomas Kraskovsky, about whom we know nothing. Here’s the whole thing, followed by my own comments:
I see with which Heavenly glory the hearts of Orthodox Christians of the Eastern Church are filled, because of the establishment of the first Orthodox Church in the New World.
In the name of this blessed event, let’s exalt our hearts to God and thank Him for raising this church in the land of freedom, equality, enlightenment and humanity.
Here, the notion of the history of Christianity gives an acknowledgement that our Church is the only true and unshakable church. As the mother of other churches that enlightened the universe with Godly and human law is understood by those, who did not spare means, when our church in the east was subject to danger, they (Christians of Holy Trinity church) regardless of payoff decided: what to Greece is not given, is subsequently (after all) given to it (to this church).
The erection of this Orthodox Church is a great jubilation of Orthodoxy, Christian strength and virtue, it increases the magnificence of our church crown. You, coming here from so far away for trading business and for improving your fate, did not forget your motherland and your protectress Orthodox Church. You understood that God’s temple is a union of devout and illuminated by the heavenly truth society, that entering the temple as if into a place of unseen God, we strengthen our faith, receive light from the sky, receive holy mysteries and while reading the holy gospel we hear the voice of almighty God.
Such feelings of Christian love prompted you to build this delightful temple, where you invited me from Greece to conduct this first Godly Liturgy.
Rejoice with me, Orthodox Christians, and receive my heartfelt spiritual blessing. Blessed and glorified the name of God, who granted me to conduct a spiritual service in this new church, and I beg Him for help in my task. The permanent duty of my service in this church will be: to keep the commandments of God and to comply with church bylaws. To conscientiously perform the holy mysteries, as the source of immortality, so as our life is not deprived of God’s grace.
My children! Have faith with virtue and virtue with reasonableness. Accustom to sobriety, be pious and patient, love each other as this is the source and root of all goodness and foundation of Christian morals. Respect your parents and older people, equally respect property and rights of your neighbors. These qualities make humanity great, produce kind citizens, well-doers/benefactors and great people.
Holy Trinity! Infinite mercy, inconceivable light, illuminating anyone coming to you, we beg you, remain amidst your children and honor us with your grace. Illuminate us the sinful and give us the strength to praise your beneficence and dominion. Guard this new church and protect it against all dangers. Shelter the flock and the shepherd, turn away bad intentions of invisible enemies, accompany to the jubilation of Orthodoxy. Strengthen us in our reasonableness and sustain in all undertakings – Amen.
The part about Andreades coming from Greece is the one thing I had seen before. The homily makes it sound like the church building was recently constructed, which fits with my impressions from other sources. The June 13, 1867 issue of the New Orleans Times reported that the New Orleans Board of Aldermen adopted the following resolution:
Resolved, That the Surveyor be and he is hereby instructed to cause to be constructed a wooden sidewalk, 250 feet long and 2 feet wide, and a wooden crossing 42 feet long by 4 feet wide, opposite the Greek Trinity Church, on Dorgenois street, between Barracks and Hospital streets.
So obviously, by June, there was a church building — which means that the church building preceded the priest by at least six months.
This is just one of the many, many fascinating discoveries that they are making in New Orleans. The historical work being done by that community, and spearheaded by Maggie Maag, is really tremendous. We’ll have much more on that work in the future.