Rural Orthodox

On the Byzantine Forum, John Schweich calls Western Pennsylvania the “Galapagos Islands of eccelesial lifeform diversity.” I suspect the otherwise accurate appelation applies equally well to the eastern half of the state, at least if you don’t include the Rusyn migrations to Orthodoxy from Eastern Catholicism, an excellent historical lesson in how to drive people away from your church (there’s an excellent overview here). It’s just different Slavs in the two halves of the state (Ukrainians in the east, Rusyns and Galicians in the west). Still, Pennsylvania and the surrounding area are wildly different from the rest of the country.

In most of the US, Eastern Christianity is primarily an urban and suburban phenomenon. The oldest parishes are in the cities, and younger parishes are in the suburbs. This is slowly changing as Orthodox missions spring up in smaller communities, and eventually become parishes (and this is largely an Orthodox phenomenon), but when there is an Eastern Christian presence in small-town or rural America, it is very small and very recent.

Except in Pennsylvania and the surrounding area. Here, Eastern Christianity is not only urban and suburban, but rural. Small town and country Orthodox and Eastern Rite churches dot the landscape. Some are very old, dying parishes, and others are healthy, depending on the community, but nearly all are small. Most are either OCA or ACROD if Orthodox, BCC or UCC if Eastern Rite.

Here are some pictures of small, local rural churches.

In Phlipsburg, at the western edge of the county, is the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (OCA), a very small, but active parish.

nativity_st_john

philipsburg-iconostasis-oca

A very small part of Philipsburg spills over into the next county, and becomes Hawk Run, population a little over 400. In Hawk Run, there are three churches: An Episcopal chapel, a Byzantine Catholic church, and literally next door to it, an Orthodox church (ACROD). The Byzantine and Orthodox churches are both called St John the Baptist. The Byzantine church:

hawk-run-byzantine

hawk-run-byz-iconostasis

The Orthodox St John the Baptist, right next door.

hawk-run-acrod-church

hawk-run-acrod-iconostasis

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2 Responses to Rural Orthodox

  1. John Schweich says:

    Thanks for quoting. It brightened my Tuesday. BTW, I collect the histories of predominantly Slavic Orthodox and Greek Catholic parishes. I have over 1,000 volumes in the collection which, I think, is the largest of its kind. We are moving to the “Galapagos Islands of eccelesial lifeform diversity” in October 2009.

  2. John Schweich says:

    Eastern Pennsylvania could also be part of the Galapagos chain. It of course is the home of the Polish National Catholic Church (founded in Nanticoke with its first parish in Scranton.) Its pioneers clashed with the same irish bishops as the Greek Catholics did.

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