An article in the Philadelphia Record published on Jan. 8, 1910, includes previously unknown details about the ministry of Fr. Raphael Morgan (whom we’ve published many articles on since 2009), the earliest known black Orthodox priest in the United States. The brief article notes that in 1910, Morgan was trying to set up a group in Philadelphia named the Orthodox Community of All Saints. Interestingly, two other former Protestant clergymen seem to have been involved (one Episcopal and one Methodist), as well as “a considerable number of laymen.”
The full text of the article:
It may not he generally known that since 1908 a movement has been started to establish a branch of the Greek Church among the English-speaking people of this city. The movement, which is being carried on by Rev. Father Raphael Morgan, a colored priest of the Greek Church, has progressed so far as to have been organized into what is called the Orthodox Community of All Saints. Its membership includes a former Episcopalian clergyman of Nashville, Tenn., another in this city and a former Methodist Episcopal clergyman of Oyster Bay, besides a considerable number of laymen. The object of the community is the founding of churches and schools where orthodox Greek doctrines will be disseminated in the English language. The symbol adopted by the community is a Greek cross, in the first angle are the letters I S, an abbreviation of the word Jesus, in the second the initials X S, or Christus, and in the third and fourth two letters in each angle, N I K A, signifying in Greek “to conquer.” Hence the motto, “Jesus Christ Conquers With the Cross.” The founder of the community and its Vicar Superior, Father Raphael Morgan, was born in Jamaica, W. I., where he received his elementary education. He subsequently studied in King’s College, England, and in the Fourah Bay College at Sierra Leone, West Africa. Completing a course in theology he was confirmed and ordained successively as sub-deacon, deacon and priest and was finally made pnematikos, or confessor, in Constantinople in 1897.
The All Saints community does not seem to have been an actual parish, since it has the ambitious aim of starting multiple churches and schools, so perhaps this was a kind of planning committee that Morgan started, specifically designed to do English-language ministry. In 1910, this would be one of the earliest moves to use English in Orthodox churches in the US, especially under the auspices of Greek churches.
What happened to this All Saints group? What about the former Protestant clergy? Were they hoping to get ordained as Orthodox clergy the way Morgan did? And what relationship might this group have to another group associated with Morgan in this period, the “Order of the Cross of Golgotha” (about which we so far know only the name)?
We don’t know the answers to those questions yet, but perhaps more will be discovered in the future.