Voices from Russia

Saturday, 5 January 2013

It’s Christmas for Russian Orthodox Church



Editor’s Note:

This “interview” is softball and a fluff piece (it has First Family fingerprints all over it). I’ll have more to say after you read this treacly missive. After all, I live in Albany NY, and Colonie NY is one of its nearest suburbs (the parish is a 15 minute drive from downtown Albany near Broadway hill on a Sunday, a bit longer on weekdays). Take some of this jabronie’s comments with a heavy dose of scepticism and a BIG block of salt…



The Rev Alexis Duncan, priest at Church of Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God Russian Orthodox Church in Colonie NY., was born and raised in Virginia in a Russian Orthodox family. Graduated from Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary in Jordanville NY, in Herkimer County, where he met Anna, his wife of 23 years. They live in Voorheesville NY.

Jennifer Patterson

You recently moved back to the Northeast. What brought you here?

Alexis Duncan

There was a need here at the church. I came from Atlanta in September after serving there as priest for 16 years. I’ve known a lot of the parishioners in Albany for many years since my time at seminary. Fr Wsevolod Drobot at the church on Sand Creek Road was getting older and recently retired as parish priest after 50 years. Of course, it’s been a bit of an adjustment… especially the weather. This is the first snow I’ve seen in some time. My wife and I had to go out and buy snow tires and boots.

Jennifer Patterson

Your church is Russian Orthodox. Does everyone in the congregation have that ethnic background?

Alexis Duncan

Our membership is probably about one-third Russian, those who immigrated before World War II; one-third new immigrants just here from Russia; and one-third American, those who have converted or married into the Orthodox Church. It’s a pretty nice balance of different peoples. There are regularly 100 or more worshipers on Sunday mornings, but we see many more on Easter and Christmas. We’re not a large parish in the sense of megachurches, but for an Orthodox parish, we’re average in size.

Jennifer Patterson

What makes a church Orthodox?

Alexis Duncan

The Orthodox Church is very traditional and has preserved, without deviation, the traditions and doctrines of the early Christian Church established by the apostles. We don’t believe that over time Christian theology or basic worship can change, or that morality changes when society does.

Jennifer Patterson

In keeping with tradition, you celebrate Christmas in January. Why is that?

Alexis Duncan

In the 4th century, the First Ecumenical Council determined to follow the Julian calendar, named for Julius Caesar. Most of Europe followed this calendar until the 18th century… our founding fathers were born under it. The Christian Church followed this calendar for a sense of unity. Pope Gregory XIII ordered the calendar to be advanced by 10 days in the 16th century, which became known as the Gregorian calendar. Most Orthodox churches, with the exception of some Greek Orthodox churches, still follow the Julian calendar and our Christmas, or Feast of the Nativity, is celebrated in January. It really is a matter of faith.

Jennifer Patterson

Tell us how you’ll be celebrating the holiday.

Alexis Duncan

Our “old calendar” services are in English and Church Slavonic, the liturgical language of the Russian Orthodox Church. We’ll have a vigil on Sunday evening, our Christmas Eve, in preparation for the Feast of the Nativity on Monday, our Christmas. We’ll have Mass at 09.30. We have 12 great feasts throughout the year, but this service is one of the most major and anticipated.

4 January 2013

Albany (NY) Times-Union


Editor’s Afterword:

Liar, liar, pants on fire! Firstly, Rev Duncan doesn’t inform Ms Patterson that there are TWO other priests attached to this dinky establishment, which has always functioned as a podvorie of Jordanville (ROCOR priests have said of the Albany bunch, “They’re rather unique; they have their own ways”, not in a good sense); Drobot was a reliable First Family apparatchik (he was “President of the Presbyteral Senate”, a suitably Ruritanian title for a Grand Fenwickian situation, he lived at Jordanville, some 115 klicks (70 miles) away from the Albany parish). In short, Duncan’s presence was NOT a necessity due to the presence of two other clergymen onsite. Duncan doesn’t even mention them! What a maroon! He didn’t say, “My colleagues in ministry here are Frs X and Y, they’ve been here much longer than I’ve been, and I intend to learn much from them”. That’s what a humble man would’ve said. No… they don’t even rate a mention; they don’t even get sloppy seconds. There’s no pressing pastoral need for this jabronie to be present at all. It smells as if he was sent for to be the chaplain to the Fedoroff clan, who think that they run this parish. Indeed, the location (in wetland not truly suitable for construction, it added unneeded expense to the construction costs) was chosen because it was close to the residence of the Fedoroff clan’s matriarch.

Secondly, he’s not getting 100 people a Sunday at liturgy. His proportions are correct, but he’s wrong in one of the details. There really aren’t any First Wave émigré families or po-nashemu Karpatsky people at this parish… when I attended it (when it was in Schenectady NY), it was mostly post-World II Second Wave DPs and their families; they had amazingly-nutters Far Right politics (many smelt like ROA/KONR Nazi collaborators; they’d say things such as, “Hitler was a friend of the church”). What my sources tell me is that “attendance is double that of 1990s levels”… that was 30 people a Sunday (with three priests usually present!), so, all things being equal, they’re getting 60 people a Sunday now. He’s bloviating, and the reporter just eats it up, as she knows nothing about the parish. In any case, the building isn’t big, it looks bigger than it is, as it’s built on a slab, so, the furnace and other utility items are behind the altar area, not in the basement. Only some 40 percent of the floor area is in the nave, and it’d be a squeeze to fit over a hundred laypeople in it. For less than a hundred people, they have three priests and two deacons on a given Sunday… that’s ludicrous.

In short, this situation is typical First Family smoke n’ mirrors. Drobot was a typical example of that scurvy breed. In 1991, after the August events, he “hid out” and refused to comment on the new situation for a few weeks until he got the new party-line from Jordanville and Vitaly Ustinov. Then, he was gung-ho for the ROCOR parishes in Russia, and ranted, “The communists are still in charge, nothing has changed!” Hmm… this Duncan guy says that he’s from Virginia… there’s a Duncan family tied in with the Rodzianko clan… he might be part of that lot. There’s a LOT more here than what the ignorant TU reporter could see. Nevertheless, she’s blameless; what does she know of Russian Orthodoxy in the USA? All the same, Duncan gave her the Big Green Weenie and the glad hand… and she fell for it. Kids… there are two other priests serving this parish… there’s no need for this guy… unless Jordanville isn’t sure of the parish’s loyalty to it (the New Russians are all probably pro-MP, along with some of the older parishioners, which means that they’re not beholden to Roman Krassovsky and his Jordanville gang).

It’s the usual simmering stew, isn’t it? We’ll have to see what happens after Hilarion Kapral’s death (nothing will change until then for this local candy store)… Jordanville has no real candidate to replace him, and the Centre seems to want Mark Golovkov for the ROCOR white hat. Will Jordanville pull a HOCNA in that event (as one ROCOR priest told me, “They’ve degenerated into a minor Ukrainian skete”)? Time will tell us, no? Remember, always search “for the rest of the story”… you’ll never be bored, trust me.



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