Orthodoxy in Hawaii

I just finished reading James Michner’s Hawaii for the umpteenth time (fascinating book) and was roaming around on Wikipedia looking at articles on the annexation of Hawaii into the Union, etc. Following rabbit trails as I usually do I wound up on a page that listed the missionaries to Hawaii. The vast majority were Protestant, of course, and the first shipload of protestant missionaries arrived in 1820. I paged down through them and arrived at the Catholic missionaries. I was familiar with Fr. Damian who had served the leper colony on Moloka’i (and who is now canonized by the Catholic church).

To my surprise, there were two Orthodox missionaries listed as well. I know that there are Orthodox churches in Hawaii (in fact, a myrrh-streaming icon of the Theotokos is from Hawaii) but I honestly never thought about the Orthodox missionary efforts there. Purportedly the first liturgical Christian service served on the islands was the Paschal Liturgy served by a Russian Orthodox priest who was traveling on a Russian trading ship. He insisted that the service be served on land rather than on sea so they disembarked. This was in the late 1700’s (dates differ). Obviously this was not a missionary effort, but it is interesting nonetheless.

The first missionary named is Protopresbyter Jacob Korchinsky [source]:

In 1915, an official request by the Russian Orthodox community in Hawaii
and the Episcopal Bishop of Hawaii, Henry B. Restarick to the Holy
Synod in St. Petersburg; a priest was dispatched that same year to
Hawaii (with the blessing of Archbishop Evdokim (Meschersky) of the Aleutians) to pastor the large population of Orthodox Russian faithful. He established permanent liturgical services in Hawaii and on Christmas December 25 (O.S.) / January 7 (N.S.) 1916, Protopresbyter Jacob Korchinsky celebrated the Divine Liturgy at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral in Honolulu. Thus Orthodoxy was re-established in Hawaii.

Fr. Jacob, a well-known missionary priest, established churches in Canada, the United States, Alaska, Australia and the Phillipines. He was murdered in Odessa on June 23, 1941, but has not yet been officially recognized as a martyred saint. St. Tikhon of Moscow
once quoted Fr. Jacob’s missionary exploits this way, “He did much to
convert the heathens to the Christian Faith and returned many Uniates
to the Orthodox Church. He set the foundation for parish life in many
places, built churches and assisted the unfortunate with his acquired
medical knowledge.”


(Report by Bishop Tikhon Belavin to the Holy Synod. No. 155 Nov. 26, 1906)

 The second is Archimandrite Innokenty Dronoff who served the islands in the 1930’s and 1940’s. There is an absolutely fascinating article published about him* in 1937 during which time he was the only Orthodox priest in Hawaii. Fr. Innokenty not only served the Hawaiian islands, he also traveled throughout America (he reported to bishops in San Francisco) and Cuba. He served Orthodox Liturgies and performed baptisms, weddings and memorial services in several places in the southern states where there were no Orthodox churches. Many times he had to request the use of facilities from non-Orthodox clergy. He noted that the Episcopalians were always very obliging. This is one excerpt of his experience in Cuba:

‘Once, this was in Cuba, after arriving I went to the Episcopal bishop to ask him to lend me a church for services.  He gave me not one, but two churches:  one, his own to have all services  except on Sundays, and another one, a mission church to serve Sunday liturgies in.  But
then I also had to ask permission from the Roman Catholic authorities
to have an announcement printed in Spanish language newspapers about my
services.  I went to them four times, and believe it or not, they chased me away.  On the fifth try I went directly to the bishop.’

   ‘”No,” he said. “I cannot allow this because here Roman Catholicism is the chief religion.”’
   ‘”Do
you mean to say that it would be a sin if those who idly wander about
in the streets, drunk, and do not attend your churches should happen to
come to my church?  Would you consider it a sin if the Word of God should touch their souls in my church?”’
   ‘You know, he was very touched by these words, kissed me on the head and gave me 10 pesos in addition!’

 Strangely, no one knows where in Hawaii Fr. Innokenty is buried. Efforts have been made to locate his grave but to no avail. 

In the course of my ramblings this morning I found a book, Two Hundred Years on the Road, about the history of Orthodoxy in Hawaii. It is being sold by the same mission** in which the myrrh-streaming icon I mentioned earlier was discovered.

 *If you only follow one link in this post, follow this one. It’s a great read.

**Holy Theotokos of Iveron Russian Orthodox Church (ROCOR) in Honolulu

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