To His Grace Paul <Popov>
Bishop of Novoarkhangelsk and Vicar of the Diocese of Kamchatka <Nov. 1866- Jan. 1870>
From Priest Nikolai Kovrigin,
assigned to San Francisco
for the spiritual needs of the local Slavic Population
I hereby dutifully apprise Your Grace that after leaving Sitka on the 15th of this March on the American steamship California with the reader [Vassily] Shishkin we arrived on the 26th of the same month at the port of Nanaimo where we spent one day <...?> to Victoria. Having spent two days here, we sailed for San Francisco, where we arrived safely on March 27 at 10 a.m. Having presented myself to the Russian Consul <Martin Klinkofstrom>, I was introduced on that same day at an assembled meeting to the directors of the Slavonic Society, who assigned me the duty of setting up a temporary church. For up until that time there was not even a chapel or house of prayer. For this purpose they reserved a room in the house of Mr. [Peter] Sekulovich, a Slav, six miles outside the city [at 3241 Mission, between 27th and 26th streets]. The church furnishings and belongings which I had brought with me afforded me the opportunity to set everything up more or less properly, if not sumptuously. At the conclusion of all the preparations I began to serve beginning with Great Friday Matins. Very many people gathered for all the services; in addition to Orthodox there were Americans of other faiths, because after I arrived in San Francisco, to inform all area Orthodox, I had an announcement printed in the daily newspaper "California" (#148) with the times of the services. At the Saviors burial there were so many people, that the tiny church could not accommodate all the curiosity seekers and many had to stand outside beside the house. The Akathistos of Christs Passion was read before the Epitaphion and there was a homily, which was translated into English for the populace by Mr. [Peter] Radovich, a Slav whom I had trained. On Holy Pascha at the request of the Slavs Matins was served not at midnight but at 7 a.m., because they all live in the city and need to travel a great distance to the church. The omnibuses dont run to that part of the city at such a late hour, and hiring carriages would be too expensive for them. After a short break, at 10 a.m. the first Orthodox Liturgy in San Francisco was served. The Gospel was read in four languages: in Greek by myself, in Slavonic by Mr. [Ivan] Franeta, in English by Mr. [George] Lazorevich, a Slav, and in Russian by the reader Shishkin. Those Christians who had prepared themselves received Holy Communion at this Liturgy. On the second day of Pascha at the request of the Greeks Liturgy was celebrated in Greek with a choir <...?> beforehand by myself according to the Greek service book. This Liturgy lasted three hours, because Greek chant is monotonous and slow and makes services much longer. After this, services were held regularly on Sundays and Holy Days. The final Liturgy was served 19/31 May on Trinity Sunday, and on 20 May/1 June we left San Francisco on the merchant ship Delaware, arriving safely in Sitka on 12/25 June.
One hundred and twenty Christians confessed and received Holy Communion: 106 males and 14 females. Eleven children were illumined in Holy Baptism: 7 males and 4 females. In addition many Catholic Slavs and Catholic relatives of Orthodox Slavs expressed a desire to convert to Orthodoxy, when a permanent Orthodox Church would be established in San Francisco.
There were 82 members in the Slavonic Society on the day when I arrived in San Francisco, but when I left the number had grown to 236. This increase in membership was due to the services which I held in Sacramento and a personal invitation to the Slavs who lived there, who took advantage of the priests visit to fulfill their Christian duties. Apart from that, the Society is attracting Russians who have left the colony <Alaska> and come to work in San Francisco, which is evident from the statistics on Russians.
Generally the number of Russians in all of California approaches 1000, but the greatest number of Slavs, mostly rich people, have been converted to Catholicism. Orthodox Slavs are an exceptionally religious people, and their zeal for the Church is remarkable, which is attested to by their great generosity in spite of their personal poverty. The smallest collection at a service was from $80 to $175. The Societys general fund is close to $6000. Such a figure which one could <...?> this regularization of their religious situation can be brought about, it they can be helped ultimately to achieve the goals of the Society. I mentioned these goals in my letter of 1 May this year. The Society was <...?> paid me the compliment of making me an honorary member exempt from dues, as required by their constitution, and gave me membership certificate #91 along with a contribution book.
The obedient servant of your Grace, most compassionate Father and Archpastor,
Priest Nikolai Kovrigin.
10 July, 1868.
Translated by Bob Parent and published in the Holy Trinity Cathedral LIFE, July 1994.