His Eminence the Most Reverend Archbishop Evdokim (Meschersky) of the Aleutians was assigned in 1914 to lead the Diocese of the Aleutian Islands and North America of the Church of Russia as the successor to Metr. Platon (Rozhdestvensky). He continued the vision of St. Tikhon of Moscow of organizing church life into the various national groups within the diocese. In 1917 he returned to Russia to attend the All-Russia Church Council (Sobor), and was unable to continue his episcopal oversight in North America due to the October Revolution and the ensuing civil war which consumed the Russian church.
Archbishop Evdokim was born Basil Mikhailovich Meschersky on April 1, 1869, in the Vladimir diocese. From his youth he was an active participant in church life, participating in his home parish where his father was a reader. He attended the Moscow Theological Academy, graduating in 1894. After graduating he received his monastic tonsure and the name Evdokim and was ordained deacon and then priest. Hieromonk Evdokim continued his theological studies at the Moscow Academy, receiving a Master of Theology degree. At the same time he was appointed Inspector of the Novgorod Seminary.
He was raised to the rank of archimandrite in 1898, and five years later he was appointed Rector of the Novgorod Seminary and then Dean of the Moscow Theological Academy. On December 13, 1904, he was consecrated as a vicar bishop of the Moscow diocese. Then in 1909 he was named Bishop of Kashira in the Tula diocese.
On August 11, 1914, as World War I began, he was assigned to the Diocese of the Aleutian Islands and North America, succeeding Metr. Platon. With the commencement of the war in Europe his arrival was delayed. He arrived on May 27, 1915, and immediately became involved in the life of the North American diocese.
On August 6, 1917, he returned to Russia to attend the All-Russia Church Council with a group of clergy from the North American diocese, that included Archpriest Leonid Turkevich and Alexander Kukulevsky. At Evdokim's request, Bishop Alexander (Nemolovsky) was appointed to served as administrator during Archbishop Evdokim's absence. However, he was not to return to America. In 1919, he was assigned as Archbishop of Nizhegorod. Subsequently he became involved with the Living Church and was assigned as their Metropolitan of Odessa. He died in Moscow in 1935.
In Russia, Archbishop Evdokim was actively involved with the "Russian religious renaissance" movement of the intelligentsia that strove to revitalize the Church by recovering its organic link with the secular culture. And in 1906, he published the Christian, a journal dedicated to Christianization of society.
During his short tenure as head of the North American diocese, Abp. Evdokim, in line with the 1905 vision of St. Tikhon, strove to organize and link the church life of the various national groups within the vast diocese. As a successor to Bishop Raphael (Hawaweeny), who died on February 27, 1915, he had Archimandrite Aftimios (Ofiesh) consecrated bishop to lead the Syro-Arab community on May 13, 1917. He actively reorganized many of the institutions of the American church, including transferring the Brooklyn orphanage to the first women's monastery in Springfield, Vermont and reopening, in 1915, the orphanage site as an Orthodox Women's College. Evdokim also took active interest in St. Platon's Seminary in Tenafly, New Jersey.
With his understanding of the social problems of the day, Abp. Evdokim quickly understood the pluralistic American life styles and the unique situation of the Orthodox mission in America. This he reported to the Holy Synod in Russia in his report of 1916. He noted that the existing administrative structure of the mission was not adequate. He reiterated St. Tikhon's recommendations for the need for a wider autonomy for the church in America that consisted of many national backgrounds. He also noted the many programs of the mission and its financial needs. It was in an essay, "Religious Life in America," published by the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Press, that he pointed out the mistaken impressions of the Russian people that Americans were indifferent to religion and noting that financing of religion in America was not through government institutions but by the people. It may be this sensitivity to the new environment that led him to join the Living Church movement.
|Vicar Bishop |
|Bishop of Kashira|
|Archbishop of the Aleutians|
|Archbishop of Nizhny Novgorod|
metr. Sergius (Stragorodsky)
- Orthodox America 1794-1976 Development of the Orthodox Church in America, C. J. Tarasar, Gen. Ed. 1975, The Orthodox Church in America, Syosett, New York