Monthly Archives: January 2013

First Romanian Orthodox Church in Africa

Orthodox priest and blogger Khanya recently filed a firsthand report (with photos) on the founding of the First Romanian Orthodox Church in Africa. In the distant background of the first photo you can see the recently built Midrand Nizamiye Mosque, the first Turkish mosque in South Africa and “the largest religious complex in the southern hemisphere.”

Here’s a bit of the text of his report (with a few typos corrected).

Archbishop Damaskinos of Johannesburg and Pretoria and Bishop Petronius of Zalău in the Sălaj County of Romania laid the foundation stone of St Andrew’s Romanian Orthodox Church in Midrand, Gauteng. It is the first Romanian Orthodox Church in Africa.

In 2001 Father Mihai (Mircea) Corpodean came to be a priest for the Romanian community, but since they had no church of their own, and the Churchy of St Nicholas in Brixton had just lost its priest, the bishop at that time, Metropolitan Seraphim, asked Fr Mihai to become parish priest at St Nicholas. St Nicholas was started as a multiethic parish, and welcomed the Romanian community, and we still use some Romanian in services there.

It took the Romanian community quite a long time to find a suitable piece of land, and in 2008 Fr Mihai moved to New Zealand, and Fr Razvan Tatu came to replace him, and began holding Romanian service at St George’s Hotel near Oilfantsfontein.


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Americanizing Buddhist Worship in Hawai‘i

The website of the Nichiren Mission of Hawaii has a three long pages devoted to its history. Part 3 (of 3) recounts the changes after the end of World War II. Here are some excerpts I found interesting about adapting Japanese Buddhism to American Christian worship practices.

Chronologically speaking, the second half of the 100 year history of the Nichiren Mission of Hawaii begins with the 50th Anniversary celebration of the birth of Nichiren Buddhism in Hawaii. It is more practical, however, to draw a line in 1946, when Bishop Mochizuki returned from the relocation camp on the mainland U.S.A. and re-opened the Mission. The year marked the end of the Japanese-style and the beginning of the American-style Nichiren Mission of Hawaii. The impact of the war made the change inevitable.

The Japanese living in Hawaii and their descendants who had never been forced to choose between Japan and America, were forced to do so by the Pacific War. Most of them, quite naturally, chose to be Americans. The psychological change caused various changes in the Japanese American society such as the disappearance of Japanese kimono from the group pictures of temple events. Cut off from the roots in Japan, even Japanese Buddhist ministers changed—from sectarian to interdenominational in outlook. English began to replace Japanese in family conversation. Culturally, they have become Americans rather than Japanese.

On the other hand, as the constitutional freedom of religion and assembly was restored to Japanese Americans after the war, many of them flocked to the Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, reacting to the religious suppression during the war years.

In the mind of those who flocked to the Buddhist temple, however, there was a subtle change. They felt like seeking refuge in Japanese Buddhism while refuting things Japanese. As a result, they were drawn by the un-Japanese Americanized Buddhism.

A positive effect of the Pacific War on Japanese Buddhism in Hawaii was the consolidation of inter-denominational friendship among Buddhist priests. Almost all Japanese Buddhist priests in Hawaii were sent to relocation camps on the mainland U.S.A. Living together as virtual prisoners in the confinement of these camps for several years required them to stand together. The solidarity among them resulted in the establishment of the Hawaii Buddhist Council to work together actively in the postwar years….

Activities of the temples were Americanizing in many ways: songs in praise of the Buddha were sung at Sunday School; sermons were given in English; and the Young Buddhist Association (YBA) was organized. On Sundays, services were performed in both English and Japanese. Prior to the war, Sunday services were held weekly but only a few members participated in them with most members preferring to visit the temple only for traditional services, such as ohigan and obon. However, as the temple activities became Americanized, members who visit the temple every Sunday increased and it became customary for everything to be carried out on Sundays. Also, under the auspices of the Hawaii Buddhist Council, joint services of the member temples became established as annual events.

Priestly costume also changed. Except for formal services such as ohigan and obon priests at that time wore a robe and stole over a white shirt, black tie and trousers in black. Today this habit has been abandoned except for the priests of the True Pure Land School.

Even the entertainment after special services became international from Japanese. A famous Korean dancer, Ms. Halla Pai Huhm, who became a temple member during Bishop Mochizuki’s tenure, performed traditional Korean dances with her disciples after the annual services for ohigan and obon.

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Wordcatcher Tales: xoc, anagogy

From: Breaking the Maya Code, rev. ed., by Michael D. Coe (Thames & Hudson, 1999), p. 141 (third edition now available on Kindle):

Here were three glyphs … that the leading anti-phoneticist of his day [Eric Thompson] was reading in the Yucatec Maya tongue. That begins to sound subversive! Even further, back in 1944 he had shown that the pair of fish fins, or at times a pair of fishes, which flanked the Month-patron head in the great glyph which always introduces an Initial Series date on a Classic monument, is a rebus sign: the fish is a shark, xoc in Maya (Tom Jones has recently proved that xoc is the origin of the English word “shark”). And xoc also means “to count” in Maya.

These decipherments were all major advances, but Thompson failed to follow them up. Why? The answer is that Thompson was a captive of that same mindset that had led in the first century before Christ to the absurd interpretations of Egyptian hieroglyphs by Diodorus Siculus, to the equally absurd fourth-century AD Neoplatonist nonsense of Horapollon, and to the sixteenth-century fantasies of Athanasius Kircher. Eric had ignored the lesson of Champollion.

In a chapter entitled “Glances Backward and a Look Ahead,” Thompson sums up his views on Maya hieroglyphic writing. “The glyphs are anagogical,” he says. Now Webster defines anagogy as the “interpretation of a word, passage, or text (as of Scripture or poetry) that finds beyond the literal, allegorical, and moral senses a fourth and ultimate spiritual and mystical sense.”

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Cavaliers vs. Roundheads in the American Colonies

From Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830, by John H. Elliott (Yale U. Press, 2006), Kindle Loc. 2651-71:

The English Civil War and the king’s execution in 1649 raised, not only for Massachusetts but for all the colonies, major questions about the exact nature of their relationship with the mother country. Not only did the Civil War sharply reduce the inflow of capital and immigrants to the colonies, but it also created fundamental problems of allegiance, and posed questions about the exact location of imperial authority that would hover over the Anglo-American relationship until the coming of independence. No comparable challenge would confront the Spanish empire in America until the Napoleonic invasion brought about the collapse of royal authority in Spain in 1808. The transition from Habsburgs to Bourbons in 1700, which brought conflict to the peninsula, provoked only a few passing tremors in the American viceroyalties.

For the colonies, as for the British Isles themselves, the outbreak of the Civil War brought divided loyalties. Virginia remained faithful to the king and the Anglican establishment; Maryland briefly overthrew its government in favour of parliament, and descended between 1645 and 1647 into a period of turbulence graphically known as `the plundering time’; and many New England settlers went home in the 1640s to help establish the New Jerusalem in the mother country and join the parliamentary cause. But the absorption of the English in their own affairs during the 1640s gave the colonies even more scope than they had previously enjoyed to go their own way. Governor Winthrop of Massachusetts made the most of the opportunity to press on with the creation of new settlements and to form a Confederation of the United Colonies of New England for mutual defence. The colonies could not, however, count on being indefinitely left to their own devices. As early as 1643 the Long Parliament set up a committee under the chairmanship of the Earl of Warwick to keep an oversight over colonial affairs.

This committee, although interventionist in the West Indies in response to the activities of the royalists, and supportive of Roger Williams’s attempts to secure an independent charter for Rhode Island, was generally respectful of legitimate authority in the colonies. But its activities raised troubling questions about whether the ultimate power in colonial affairs lay with king or parliament. As early as 1621 Sir George Calvert had claimed that the king’s American possessions were his by right and were therefore not subject to the laws of parliament. This question of the ultimate location of authority became acute after the execution of the king, since several of the colonies – Virginia, Maryland, Antigua, Barbados and Bermuda – proclaimed Charles II as the new monarch on his father’s death. Parliament responded to these unwelcome colonial assertions of loyalty to the Stuarts by passing in 1650 an Act declaring that the colonies, having been `planted at the Cost, and settled by the People, and by Authority of this Nation’, were subject to the laws of the nation in parliament.

When this Act was followed in the succeeding year by the Navigation Act, it must have seemed to the colonies that the Commonwealth represented at least as grave a threat as monarchy to their cherished rights. Parliament’s bark, however, proved fiercer than its bite, and Cromwell turned out to be reluctant to interfere in colonial politics. The colonies therefore reached the Restoration of 1660 relatively unscathed. If anything, they emerged with enhanced confidence in their ability to manage their own affairs as a result of the uncertainties of the Interregnum and the impact of those uncertainties on the authority of royal and proprietary governors.

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Trial by Jury in the American Colonies

From Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830, by John H. Elliott (Yale U. Press, 2006), Kindle Loc. 2595-2608:

Trial by jury as a fundamental right of Englishmen had been extended to Virginia by the charter of 1606, but Tudor and early Stuart England had seen a trend to limit the use of juries in favour of more summary forms of justice. The resulting uncertainty in the mother country over the use of juries crossed the Atlantic with the settlers. In the Chesapeake colonies, with their thinly scattered population, it was difficult and expensive to assemble a jury, and for much of the seventeenth century juries tended to be dispensed with, even in civil cases. The magistrates of Puritan New England, whose reverence for biblical law exceeded their reverence for the English common law, showed a strong preference for summary justice – a preference not, however, shared by Rhode Island, whose settlers had moved there from the Bay colony in the hope of escaping from the rigours of magisterial justice, and who not unnaturally possessed a special fondness for juries. In the second half of the century, however, as freemen became increasingly resentful of magisterial domination, and as fears grew about threats to liberty under the later Stuarts, juries became an increasingly established feature of public life throughout the New England colonies, to the point that civil juries came to be used far more extensively than they were in England itself.

Jury service, the holding of local office, voting for, and membership in, an assembly – all this exposed settlers in British America to a considerably wider range of opportunities in the management of their affairs than were available for the creole population of Spanish America. Spaniards found such active popular participation in matters of government and justice both alarming and odd, to judge from the reactions of one of them whose ship ran aground on Bermuda in 1639. `As in England,’ he noted, `authority here is placed in the hands of the humblest and lowest in the Republic, and not entrusted to educated persons having an aptitude for office … The Judges and Governor appoint twelve persons of the Republic and instruct them to consider all matters and documents in the causes that have been heard in their presence, and to give their verdict. These twelve persons then leave the Sessions house and are conducted by one of the other officials to the church and are there left locked in with orders not to be let out until they have decided the cases.’

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Native Language Evangelism in New England

From Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830, by John H. Elliott (Yale U. Press, 2006), Kindle Loc. 1407-1421:

Roger Williams, whose `soul’s desire’, as he wrote, was `to do the natives good’, published his A Key into the Language of America in 1643. In 1647 Governor Winthrop reported in his journal that the pastor of Roxbury, the Reverend John Eliot, had taken `great pains’ to learn Algonquian, `and in a few months could speak of the things of God, to their understanding’. At the same time Thomas Mayhew, who had settled on Martha’s Vineyard, achieved some important conversions and was acquiring proficiency in the native language. The 1640s, then, saw the beginning of a major effort, although small-scale by Spanish standards, to win the North American Indians to Christianity.

This effort benefited from the triumph of the parliamentarians in the English Civil War, which created a more favourable official climate in the home country for the support of Puritan missionary enterprise overseas. In 1649 the Rump Parliament approved the founding of a corporation, the Society for Propagation of the Gospel in New England, to promote the cause of the conversion of the Indians by organizing the collection and disbursement of funds. The enterprise was therefore dependent on voluntary contributions from the faithful – a reflection of the growing tendency in the English world to rely on private and corporate initiative and voluntary associations to undertake projects which in the Hispanic world came within the official ambit of church and state.

As in Spanish America the missionary effort supported by the Society involved the compilation of dictionaries and grammars, and the preparation of catechisms in the native languages. It also included something that did not figure on the Spanish agenda – the translation into a native Indian tongue of the Bible, a heroic enterprise completed by Eliot in 1659 and published in 1663. The fundamental importance of the written word to Protestantism strengthened the arguments for the schooling of Indians, and considerable effort – including the construction of an Indian College at Harvard in 1655 – was to be devoted to the teaching of Indian children. But the most spectacular, if not the most successful, feature of the New England missionary enterprise was the establishment of the `praying towns’ – the fourteen village communities set up by Eliot in Massachusetts for converted Indians. The practical purpose behind their foundation was similar to that which inspired the creation of the so-called reducciones in the Spanish colonial world from the mid-sixteenth century: it was easier to indoctrinate Indians and to shield them from the corrupting influences of the outside world if they were concentrated in large settlements, instead of living dispersed.

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Spanish Colonial Language Policies

From Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830, by John H. Elliott (Yale U. Press, 2006), Kindle Loc. 1598-1612:

Already the process of linguistic change was under way in New Spain, as Indians who moved into the cities picked up a working knowledge of Castilian, while Castilian words were simultaneously being incorporated into the Nahuatl vocabulary on a massive scale. Large numbers of the Indian vassals of the Spanish crown, however, either resisted the imposition of Castilian or remained to all intents and purposes outside its orbit, while many friars were inclined to ignore the crown’s decree. At the same time, creoles with indigenous nurses learnt in childhood the language of the conquered, and in the Yucatan peninsula, which had a high degree of linguistic unity before the conquest, the Maya language, rather than Castilian, became the lingua franca in the post-conquest era. The crown, for its part, was driven in particular by religious considerations to recognize realities. In 1578 Philip II decreed that no religious should be appointed to Indian benefices without some knowledge of the language, and two years later he set up chairs of indigenous languages in the universities of Lima and Mexico City, on the grounds that ‘knowledge of the general language of the Indians is essential for the explanation and teaching of Christian doctrine.’

The English, on finding themselves confronted by the linguistic barrier between themselves and the Indians, at first reacted much like the Spaniards. Indians showed little inclination to learn the language of the intruders, and initially it was the settlers who found themselves having to learn an alien tongue, both to communicate and to convert. Indians in areas of English settlement had less inducement than those in the more urbanized world of Spanish America to learn the language of the Europeans, although by degrees they found it convenient to have some of their number who could communicate in the language of the intruders. As the balance of forces tilted in favour of the settlers, however, so the pressures on the Indians to acquire some knowledge of English increased, until the colonists were securing promises from neighbouring tribes to learn the language as a requirement for submission to their rule. Here there was no question, as there was in Spanish America, of a policy of actively promoting, at least among a section of the colonial community, the learning of indigenous languages – a policy which had the concomitant, if unintended, effect of encouraging not only the survival but also the expansion of the major languages, especially Nahuatl, Maya and Quechua. The powerful impulse to Christianize that worked in favour of the toleration of linguistic diversity in Spain’s American possessions simply did not exist in British America.

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