Russian Orthodox Catherdral In Philadelphia

St. Andrew’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral was founded in 1897. It is the oldest Orthodox Christian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the end of the 19th and in the beginning of the 20th centuries, immigrants from the Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires arrived in the United States. They founded ethnic communities throughout the country. The centers of those communities were newly-built temples of God.

The Cathedral started as the St. Andrew’s Brotherhood that helped immigrants economically and spiritually. The Brotherhood increased and gained strength with the arrival  of the representatives of the Russian Imperial Fleet, in 1898. At that time, a Philadelphia shipbuilding company, Cramp & Sons, received a large contract from the Russian government to build two battleships: a first rank cruiser, “Variag,” and an armor-clad, “Retvizan.”

Russian naval officers and sailors, who arrived in Philadelphia, participated actively not only in the inspection of the ships’ construction, but also in the life of the Russian community. They naturally merged with the first parishioners of our Cathedral, made generous private financial contributions, and donated beautiful sacred icons. The Cathedral’s Royal Gates and the Altar are still decorated with icons donated by the “Retvizan” crew.

During its history, St. Andrew’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral has experienced bad and good times. There were days when the Cathedral stood almost empty, partly because the neighborhood had changed: the Russian-speaking families moved to Northeast Philadelphia and Philadelphia’s suburbs. Just a few of the loyal parishioners kept the Cathedral alive.

Today the Cathedral is experiencing a renaissance period. Several generations of Orthodox Christians from Russia, former Soviet Republic, and Eastern European countries gather in it. With open hearts, they come to the Cathedral in order to unite in the great mystery of the Divine Liturgy. Who would have guessed that in the New World, in the city of brotherly love fated to be based Russian Orthodox St. Andrew’s Brotherhood. How and why?

The short history:” …the Brotherhood increased and gained strength with the arrival  of representatives of the Russian Imperial Fleet, in 1898. At that time, a Philadelphian shipbuilding company, Cramp & Sons, received a large contract from the Russian government to build two battleships: a first rank cruiser, “Variag,”  (the legendary “Variag”, which evolved songs and poems in USSR) and an armor-clad, “Retvizan.”

The construction of ships involved military engineers, naval officers and sailors. They arrived in Philadelphia and participated actively not only in the inspection of the ships’ construction, but also in the life of the Russian community. They naturally merged with the first parishioners of the Cathedral, made generous private financial contributions as immigrants from Russia and Austria-Hungary , and donated beautiful sacred Icons. The Cathedral’s Royal Gates and the Altar are still decorated with Icons donated by the “Retvizan” crew.

“I think that in doing military service and went out into the sea, none of them thought that would be the builder of the temple of God – Bishop wrote Zaraisk, Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA. – Received in childhood religious upbringing of their parents, they harden their Christian spirit, and through many years of tests carried to his heart the orthodox faith.
By the way, while the temple was built, a small church acted on “Regvizane.” Later, an iconostasis and some icons from a battleship were transferred to the temple, when its construction has been completed in 1897. They still adorn the temple, the decoration of which features … “Russian spirit”…

In 1902, bishop Tikhon, the future Patriarch-Confessor of Moscow Tand of all Russia, consecrated Cathedral. Fr. Alexander Hotovitsky, who was martyred during the years of Stalin’s terror, celebrated the first Divine Liturgy in the parish. The temple itself was consecrated in 1902, the future of the great bishop and confessor Patriarch Tikhon.

More than a hundred years, a small island of Orthodox Russia took more than one generation of immigrants from the poor, who arrived in the New World for a better share more of the pre-revolutionary Russia and Austria-Hungary, and ending with the “new Russian” humbly praying under the arches of the temple. And even today the golden dome of the Cathedral surprise many Americans – mostly Catholics and Protestants Since 1985, the rector of the church became Mark Sheen, who serves in the church today.

– If you count all the Orthodox churchies – different jurisdictions and the national there are at least – 12: Moscow’s Pathriarhii – 2, a Greek, american autocephalous – 3, Romanian, Serbian, Albanian, antiohiiskaya … But our Cathedral is the only church which has preservedthe old Church-Slavic language during the service,
Russian schools, and Loy.

– How members are in the church congregation? – Hard to say. In America, you come to the Church as a club member to be certain of the parish. But not us. People come to us, as went to Russia, when the soul needs.

Have the temple of the descendants of the first members? – Imagine. They are not numerous, but they keep their traditions, knowledge transfer Russian second language from generation to generation.
– Why do immigrants come to you today?
– For the spiritual life, of course. For many things is missing in the material of the American life. Some results in nostalgia, the search “Russianness. Some come with specific issues – immigration, material, apartment, etc. We try to help, although not always possible.

How is the last generation of immigrants from the “pioneers”? – I would say that any new on lap is different from previous, regardless of countries, immigration or other factors. Some “old” immigrants like compare themselves with fresh immigrants. I don’t think we should do so.

Even if in Russia these were revolutionary, the generation of the end of last century strongly differs from generation to the bigginig of the century. It is inevitable.

Well, if judged at all, today’s immigrants are more educated than the representatives of the second immigration, but less than the representatives of the first wave. They are more well-fed, accustomed to material comforts, unlike their predecessors, who have passed the war, Stalin’s repressions, famine, etc.

– After the 17-year set up any “Counter-revolutionary” organizations around the church?
– I don’t thing so. In 1917, the church … about given under the hammer for nonpayment of debts. In fact, that in those years, temples, churches belonged eparchia. In 1917, all benefits and donations, which were relies from Russia for the contribution, stopped immediately.

– What happened to the church?
– It was bought by Maria Dunets. This woman was not remarkable. The immigrant from Austria-Hungary, which could not be indifferent. She dedicated her savings for the sake of the church and collected a lot of money among the relatives and friends.
Incidentally, her daughter, Anastasia Brodzik played an active role in the life of the church.

Who was immigration settlement after revolutionary period?
– They were mostly “ostovtsy” – those who drove in Germany – people who do not was back to Russia. Among them are many former farmers (“kulaks”).

What about “polizai”, who served the Nazis and  escaped after that?
– Hardly. Anyway, I do not know of such. True, there were Vlasov and representatives of the Cossack from SS division. But I think we can not call them fascists. This is a special case in Russian history, rather controversial and tragic.

– Relatively recently appeared definition “new Russian”. It is familiar to you?
– It is a curious phenomenon … “New Russians” come on Christmas, Easter. Quite rich
people. But, you know, a believer is not long wives to look at the appearance on the titles or ancestry. All men are created in the image and likeness of God. Whatever people may have been, they have a soul, They , too, need to put the candle in the temple. We were taught not to judge: “Do not judge me, yesthou shalt not judge “.

What place in Russian life, in your opinion, occupies God?
– At all times, in my opinion, for the Russian Championship prince was a spiritual issue prominently. I think that even communism, they chose more like a religion: create public, party rituals, its saints. Much of borrow, even living relic. Now they do not know what to do with Lenin in Kremlin. All this is very important.

What do you mean the definition of “Russian man?
– There are many opinions about the mysterious Russian soul. However, this simply does not correct and easy. Anyway, I agree with Dostoevsky, who called the Russian people crusader. Russian soul always needed something more? Than just materialistic things. In general, to judge a lot about this I can not, because I am not Russian.

– You did not relate back to Russia?
– No. My father was an American. Our ancestor Joshua Prey came from England in America in 1623 on the third ship. The latter, Shin, arrived in 1678, also from England. Shin – English surname. Mother was half Belgian, half-French. She was one of those Belgians who lived before the revolution in Russia, in the town – Tver. Her family owned company of railways. After the revolution, they immigrated from Russia in Paris.

Where did they meet each other?
– In Brussels. My father was an American regiments and participated in the war.
I was born in Brussels. Later, my parents arrived in the USA. After the war my father became the representative of the American trading company. Therefore, our family had traveled to different countries.

– Where have you studied Russian language?
– With Russian Orthodox church in Brussels.

How was this path chosen?
– It started long time ago. I grew up in a family where unbelievers lived. I’m already in the first class painted a beautiful sky, the janitor, green grass, wood, and with all this near commitments the face of God. When I turned 13 years, started going to church. First I went to Catholic, than Protestant churches. But in the end I elected the Orthodox. Because spirituality. I think the Orthodox Church – the only, that has maintained the apostolic tradition, apostolic spirit, which I have never seen a Catholic, neither Protestants. A study of Russian language, I went to Paviv, the eminent historian Kartashov.

– Who are any of your children have chosen your path?

– No. And it has its own reasons: in the rich American priests live relatively trouble
but. This is reflected, of course, on the family. Other reason is that in a country full freedom enough who wants to volunteer to take all the restrictions tion of the priestly life. The third reason that the orthodoxy of American life is not very congruous.

– The fact is that America created about testantami, and culture is Protestant. ANDeven other religion feels pressure of Protestant culture.

But what a particular orthodoxy differs from same Protestantism?
– In Orthodoxy important concept: “the truth eternal and not dependent on us. ” So I can not  “, I ‘ to remake the Church according to their own taste. It is, and I either accept it or not. Orthodoxy is not particularly amenable to trends of modern life, it remains unchanged for all life cataclysms and persecution.

– What events await St. Andrew’s Church on the eve of the third millennium?
– First and foremost, visit our priho Yes Bishop Paul Zaraisk, vicar Mose Minkowski Patriarch on Sunday, December 12. And, of course, the celebration of 2000 years of Christmas. Christ in the old style – January 7. The sailors of the cruiser Varyag and its model. (From the exhibition mou zsya at St. Andes reev with koi Church)

Miha Danich

Since 1985, the Rector of the St. Andrew’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral has been Archpriest Mark Shinn.

Twice a year, our Cathedral is visited by the bishop of Zaraisk, Mercurius, who is a Vicar of the Most Holy Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, and the Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA.

The weekly Divine Liturgy is celebrated every Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon.The Holy Day Divine Liturgies are celebrated according to the “old”, Julian calendar (e.g. Christmas is observed on January 7th).

All of the rites of the Russian Orthodox Church are provided to the faithful.

Our Cathedral has been not only a spiritual but also a social center of the Russian community in Philadelphia:

  • There is a Sunday school, where children learn the Divine Law and Russian language. Among other activities, Sunday school organizes children’s concerts to celebrate Christmas and Easter.
  • St. Andrew’s has an excellent amateur choir which welcomes new singers.
  • There is an active Church Committee and Sisterhood in the Cathedral. In advance of such holidays as Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, the Sisterhood organizes charity bazaars with ethnic Russian food.
  • Cathedral’s Museum treasures unique documents about the Cathedral itself, Russian navy ships in Philadelphia, and the life of the Russian community in America.
  • Cathedral’s kiosk always has for sale Orthodox literature, icons, other sacred items, and gifts.

Cathedral’s doors are always open to the faithful, and to those who are seeking faith and support.

Bookmark and Share

Leave a Comment