There’s a much over-used expression, “You don’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been”. Trite, but so true, and it could easily be applied to the history of the Orthodox Christians in the New World.
For a couple of months I’ve been reading an excellent, and the first of its kind, website devoted exclusively to the history of Orthodoxy in the US, Canada, the Americas . It is sponsored by the Society for Orthodox Christian History in the Americas (SOCHA), and headed by Father Oliver Herbel, but the list of names associated with the Society is an academic ‘who’s who’ of Orthodox theologians and historians. You will simply not believe how much information can be found on this site; most of which is not widely known outside the academic study of American Orthodoxy. And SOCHA doesn’t just present the nice, pretty stuff either. They want the rest of us to understand that the Orthodox Church isn’t simply what it is in this country because of the good that was done by the early Russian missionary saints, but was shaped just as profoundly by the prideful, the spiritually deluded, the ineffective, and some just plain whack jobs.
This is what makes our history so interesting and so suprising. I think we Orthodox underestimate just how far we’ve come in the past 200 years. Orthodoxy has managed to become securely established, albeit in a demographically small size, but still recognizable as an American Orthodox Church. All we need to do is finish the job. We must put aside the jumbled bird’s nest of administrative disunity to establish a truly unified American Orthodox Church.
To hear these stories brought to life, check out the companion podcast on Ancient Faith Radio by SOCHA’s Associate Directory Matthew Namee.