Following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, a small group of American Orthodox converts has made headlines in an area known for its conservative Christian roots. According to Sarah Riccardi-Swartz who conducted research on this community of Orthodox Americans in West Virginia, these converts are displaying white nationalist and nativist views.
In 1920, Russian Orthodox communities outside Communist Russia formed the Metropolia Church to challenge the authority of Moscow Patriarchate. They believed that by accepting their authority under Bolshevik rule, the Patriarchate had lost its independence.
In 1950, the Synod of Bishops of the Church Abroad established a jurisdiction in New York City and soon after secured Oyster Bay Cove on Long Island as its chancery office. Here he had access to records that could be archived and maintained as well as spending quality time with parishioners.
Long Island was home to the first immigrants from Byelorussia, now called Belarus. Soon a church was established with parishioners from various backgrounds including peasants, factory workers and blue collar workers seeking economic opportunity in America. For much of the 20th century this congregation flourished under the leadership of Rev. Alexeev – an inspiring priest who helped many adjust to life here in America.
Orthodox Church liturgy, which has its origins in Christ’s time and that of His apostles, continues to develop and grow. It is not simply a text but an active experience of fellowship with God through prayer, music, gestures, material creation, art and architecture.
The Divine Liturgy is an integral part of Russian Orthodox parishes in North America, celebrating Christian faith with special emphasis on the Eucharist that expresses both the importance of Jesus’ Resurrection for Christian living and our joy at having found salvation.
The priest begins the Liturgy by donning his vestment and taking his place at the Proskomide Table to the left of the Altar in the Sanctuary. There he prepares bread and wine that are placed on the altar before beginning to read prayers and hymns from the service, before distributing Holy Communion to those present.
For centuries, the Eastern Orthodox Church has insisted upon confession as a vital aspect of spiritual progress towards unity. Confession is not an isolated event but an ongoing act of devotion which helps people remain faithful to their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Confession is more than a private act; it creates an intimate bond between the confessor and their client. Confession also serves to remind one of one’s sins, repent, and demonstrate an eagerness to change one’s ways.
Since the turn of the twentieth century, Russian emigrants have flocked to America in search of work. Unfortunately, over time their numbers have diminished in some regions.
Throughout Great Lent, Holy Trinity Church hosts a range of social events to mark the season, such as a Lenten potluck supper and Paschal breakfast. Additionally, they hold their annual picnic.
Sea Cliff’s Holy Trinity Church, one of the oldest Russian-speaking communities in America, has a remarkable history. It was constructed by Russian emigrants during the early twentieth century as part of their ROCOR migration from Russia.
Many of these immigrants remained in the community as it provided them with a safe haven. Nowadays, it’s comprised of second-generation Russian-Americans who uphold their ethnic traditions through church schools and summer camps for children.
But even within the church there are extremists. Orthodox blogger Olga Zezulin reports that many conservative converts in American ROCOR parishes hold xenophobic and nativist views; she even cites one woman, Alexandra Witzke, who supports white nationalist America First movement and displays a Confederate flag on her social media profile.