[August 12/24, 1879]

To His Beatitude

Most Reverend Metropolitan Isidore

Your Eminence, Most Reverend Lord,

Most Merciful Archpastor,

Having arrived in the city of San Francisco at the Cathedra of the Aleutian Diocese which was assigned to me by God, on the 2nd of the past May, I found out, to my sincere sorrow, that the Orthodox church in the city of San Francisco – the cathedral for the entire Aleutian Diocese, is located in a rented poor wooden, quite old – former Lutheran church, in a far part of the city. Under the impression of all that I had seen, an idea immediately came to my mind – how could we Orthodox people build here our own church (which would be called a cathedral for the entire Diocese). From the time of my arrival, but independently of my own idea about the building of a church, the local Orthodox Greeks, Slavs, and Russians, it can be said do not let me in peace – they want me to build a church for them and that’s it; persistently they come to me, first because Most Reverend Ioann did not do anything, and supposedly I also do not wish to build the church, secondly, because, here in San Francisco (and also across all of America in general) all religions have more or less expensive church buildings, and the Orthodox… don’t have one, and therefore they, the Orthodox people, are ashamed in front of other people. What is the matter and the reason for such a delay? Is it that there is no money to build the church? The local Orthodox people, even though they insist on building their church, do not give money to do it, saying that they are in general not rich people, that they do not have anything to give. There was some time ago a collection in Russia to build an Orthodox church in the city of San Francisco, but that collection, as I was told in the Most Holy Synod, brought insignificant results – something over twenty thousand rubles, which are until now kept by the Holy Synod; but a church can’t be built for only that money.

I think much about the question of building a church. Let’s assume, that in many of our foreign embassies and missions there are no permanent churches, but our position in America is different, it’s exceptional. The situation is, that the Bishop’s Cathedra is in San Francisco, which is also quite old, since it was brought over from Sitka. But at the same time there is no church of our own in New York, and there is only one priest and one reader there; it seems that in Japan there is also no permanent church of our own, but there is also no Bishop there; even if there will be one in the future, the Japanese cathedra would still be young in comparison to the Aleutian, which already had a great missionary Innocent, whose cathedra was transferred to San Francisco. Now can you imagine, Most Reverend Lord, that the Bishop of the Orthodox Aleutian Diocese lives in a rented apartment and goes to a far away city block to serve the Divine Liturgy, in a poor, temporary, rented building (since an empty – previously Lutheran – church, can be called no differently than a building); imagine all the poverty of the interior in such a church, and compare this Archiereical service to the festive Bishop’s service in our great Cathedrals in Russia, and you will see the extreme necessity of having an Orthodox church in San Francisco; even more so, since Orthodoxy itself, the Orthodox Faith which is represented and administered by the local Orthodox Bishop is exalted with the exalting of the festival of the great Archiereical service here in America, in the eyes of the heterodox and unbelievers.

I turn to You, most Merciful and most knowledgeable Archpastor; would your find it possible to build an Orthodox (Cathedral) church in San Francisco, to propose to the Lavra entrusted to Your Archpastoral Administration, to allocate for this only some of their funds. It is understandable that the Lavra has many of its own needs, but at least it has the most important, there are… the walls of the church, and we… do not have even that. With this I enclose a most humble request; would you have philanthropic people, who could according to their wishes, help us with their donations in building a church. At the present time, besides those 20,000 rubles that are kept by the Most Holy Synod, for building a church, there is not even one kopeck.

It is possible that you, Eminence, Most Reverend Lord, would be surprised by my courageous request to fulfill the plan which I conceived, but the exceptional and special situation of the Orthodox Bishop in America, a representative of Orthodoxy, who has neither a place to live nor a church, has convinced me of the need for courage, and to take the pen and write to you, Most Reverend Archpastor.

With my arrival in San Francisco I have established, every Sunday at 7 o’clock in the evening, a reading of the Akathist to the Most Holy Mother of God – to the Most Holy Dormition of the Mother of God, and I myself read it in our temporary – rented church. Can you imagine how many emotions occur at that time… I assume You will receive this letter before the holiday of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God.

My address is the following: America (United States),

Nestor, Bishop of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands

No. 1311, Taylor Street, San Francisco (California)

With most reverence and complete devotion, I have the honor to be

Your Reverence’s

most obedient servant,

Nestor, Bishop of the Aleutians and Alaska.


The Right Reverend NESTOR, Bishop of the Aleutians and Alaska, 1879 — 1882. Correspondence, reports, diary. Translated and edited by G. Soldatow. AARDM Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1993, vol. 1, p. 60ff.