The naming of Orthodox parishes, and their Patrons, in the U.S.A. is much more varied than those of Catholic parishes. Much of the difference is due to varied immigration patterns. Theotokos, however, is emphasized much more in Orthodox theology and spirituality than it is in Catholic teachings, for instance. Saints, though often different Saints,are almost equally popular choices.

There were 1,842 parishes in the SCOBA (STANDING CONFERENCE OF CANONICAL  ORTHODOX BISHOPS IN AMERICA) study. No Canadian parishes, or monasteries, or any of the Moscow Patriarchate’s few “representation” parishes are included.

The 10 most common parish names:

  1. St. Nicholas (142 parishes / 7.7%)
  2. St. George (139 / 7.5)
  3. Holy Trinity (136 / 7.4)
  4. Dormition or Assumption or some other name for that feast (77 / 4.2)
  5. St. John the Baptist (69 / 3.7)
  6. Ss. Peter & Paul (66 / 3.6)
  7. St. Michael (63 / 3.4)
  8. Ss. Constantine & Helen (39 / 2.1)
  9. Annunciation (39 / 2.1)
  10. St. Andrew (37 / 2.0)

The top three — Nicholas, George, and Holy Trinity — represent 22.6% of all American Orthodox parishes.

Patrons. however, are separate from parish names, and of great importance to their congregants. Here’s the

Patron Top 10 list:

  1. Theotokos (273 / 14.8)
  2. Lord Jesus Christ (154 / 8.4)
  3. St. Nicholas (142 / 7.7)
  4. St. George (139 / 7.5)
  5. Holy Trinity (136 / 7.4)
  6. Ss. Peter & Paul, or just St. Peter or St. Paul (89 / 4.8)
  7. One or more of the Archangels(76 / 4.1)
  8. St. John the Baptist (69 / 3.7)
  9. Three Hierarchs (Basil, John, or Gregory, or all three together) (44 / 2.4)
  10. Ss. Constantine & Helen (39 / 2.1)

There is only partial agreement in choice of names with the Catholic Church. There are, for instance, 28 parishes named “Christ the Savior” (or, sometimes, “Christ the Redeemer”). Another 25 are named for one of the many wonderworking icons of the Theotokos. Given special Russian affection for such icons,most of these parishes are either OCA or ROCOR.

OCA’s 562 parishes are led by Metropolitan Jonah [See November 9, 2009 post, A Homegrown Orthodox Church]. The most common patrons of OCA parishes:

  1. Theotokos (12.6 %)
  2. Lord Jesus Christ (11.7)
  3. St. Nicholas (9.4)
  4. Holy Trinity (6.0)
  5. Ss. Peter & Paul (5.9)
  6. St. John the Baptist (3.9)
  7. St. Michael (3.6)

The five most common OCA patrons represented 45.7% of their parishes. This is nearly identical with the overall national average (45.8%). The Ukrainians, on the other hand, were far more top-heavy, at 63.4%:

  1. Theotokos (19.8%)
  2. Holy Trinity (15.8)
  3. Ss. Peter & Paul (9.9)
  4. St. Vladimir (or Volodymyr) (9.9)
  5. St. Andrew (7.9)

The Ukrainian jurisdiction has far fewer churches than the OCA– 101 Ukrainian versus 562 OCA, based on the SCOBA database. Ukrainians are devoted to St. Vladimir, with 10 of their parishes named in his honor. The OCA and ROCOR have a combined total of 715 parishes, compared to the Ukrainians’ 101; nevertheless, of the 20 American Orthodox churches named for St. Vladimir, 10 are Ukrainian, and only 5 OCA and 5 ROCOR.

Like the Ukrainians, 19.8% of Greek churches have the Theotokos as their patron. The Greek choices, out of a total of 525 parishes:

  1. Theotokos (19.8%)
  2. Holy Trinity (11.4)
  3. St. George (10.3)
  4. St. Nicholas (6.9)
  5. Lord Jesus Christ (6.1)
  6. Ss. Constantine & Helen (5.9)
  7. St. Demetrios (5.3)
  8. St. John the Baptist (3.9)

Of Greek parishes dedicated to the Theotokos, they are almost evenly divided between the feast of the Annunciation (52 parishes) and that of the Dormition / Assumption (42). St. George is also very popular among the Greeks, but not as popular as he is among the Antiochians 250 parishes):

  1. St. George (17.6%)
  2. Lord Jesus Christ (8.4)
  3. Theotokos (8.4)
  4. St. Nicholas (5.2)
  5. St. Michael (4.4)
  6. St. Elias or Elijah (3.6)
  7. St. Andrew (3.2)
  8. St. John the Theologian (3.2)

The  figure for St. George — 17.6% — is the highest mark for any saint in any jurisdiction, other than the Theotokos. There are more Antiochian churches named after St. George than are named for the Theotokos and Christ put together. Also, while Ss. Peter and Paul didn’t make it onto the above list, if you combine the Antiochian parishes named for one or both of those Apostles, they represent 6% of all Antiochian churches in the US.

The first Serbian Orthodox parish in America, in Jackson, California, was named for St. Sava. It was established by a young Fr. Sebastian Dabovich in 1894.

Among all the jurisdictions, the Serbs have the lowest percentage of parishes dedicated to the Theotokos — 4.1%. Here are the most common Serbian parish patrons:

  1. St. George (14.8%)
  2. St. Sava (13.9)
  3. Lord Jesus Christ (7.4)
  4. St. Michael (7.4)
  5. Holy Trinity (6.6)

Nearly 29% of all Serbian parishes are named for either St. Sava or St. George. But the Carpatho-Russians have them beat: 32.5% of their 80churches are dedicated to either St. John the Baptist or St. Nicholas. That’s the highest percentage of two saints (other than the Theotokos) in all of American Orthodoxy. Here’s the Carpatho-Russian list:

  1. St. John the Baptist (16.3%)
  2. St. Nicholas (16.3)
  3. Theotokos (15.0)
  4. St. Michael (11.3)
  5. Lord Jesus Christ (8.8)

The Romanian and Bulgarian Patriarchal jurisdiction with only 25 and 22 parishes, are too small a sample to be statistically meaningful. The most common patron of a Romanian Patriarchal parish is the Theotokos, with four total churches. The most common patrons for Bulgarian parishes are Christ and the Theotokos, with three apiece.

Parishes named for variations of the Theotokos tend to be either ROCOR or OCA. There are also a lot of Slavic churches named for the Protection of the Theotokos. Churches named for her Nativity are usually OCA; on the other hand, the Greeks tend to like the feasts of her Annunciation and Dormition / Assumption.

St. Raphael in Charleston, West Virginia, in 1911. He founded St. George Orthodox Church, one of 18 parishes named for St. George which St. Raphael established in his 20 years in America.

What about American saints? Who is honored by parishes? Obviously, these parishes would be of recent vintage, and as new missions are established, these numbers are going to change quite a bit. But, so far, here are American saints with the most US parishes:

  1. St. Herman(20 parishes)
  2. St. Innocent (13)
  3. St. Raphael (7)
  4. St. JohnMaximovitch (5)
  5. St. Tikhon (4)

Ss. Herman and Innocent were both canonized in the 1970s. St. Raphael, on the other hand, was glorified only a few years ago, That he is already the patron of seven churches is evidence of his great legacy among the American parishes.

About Fr. Orthohippo

The blog of a retired Anglican priest (MSJ), his musings, journey, humor, wonderment, and comments on today's scene.
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  1. Fr. Ernesto says:

    Hmm, if the top SCOBA church name is St. Nicholas, that explains why everyone is named Nick in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding! GRIN.

  2. Pingback: American Orthodoxy and church names | OrthoCuban

  3. Fr. Andrew says:

    Hello there! In the future, when you’d like to copy whole or nearly whole articles from OrthodoxHistory.org (as distinct from quoting short passages, which falls under standard “Fair Use” copyright laws and conventions), please be sure to follow the Terms of Use on the site, which include asking permission of the author and then, if given, including attribution in your republication.

    Most of this post is a copy of “Parish Names in American Orthodoxy” written by Matthew Namee.

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