It is the 6th of September 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1797.
In 1797, America was vacillating between supporting the British or the French in their respective wars. One's commitment to either could perhaps tell you more about their politics than anything else. Between the divisive election complete with smear campaigns, the parties remained divided over foreign policy. Furthermore, conflict with a Muslim nation on the Barbary coast of Africa led to a treaty and a remarkable confession from a member of the founding generation itself. The treaty was with Tripoli, modern-day Libya, and it set the terms for Libyans, helping keep the seas clear of the pirates who wreaked havoc on trade and transport.
Soon enough, the treaty was invalidated, but the 11th article is worth quoting; it reads: "As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion… and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any (Muslim) nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.” It is a striking statement that is even more when you consider that language was ratified, and there was minimal dissent over the language at the time.
1797 also saw the Peace of Tolentino. With Napoleon on the rampage, the Pope attempted to assuage him by ceding Papal lands to the French. While Napoleon accepted the agreement, he was already making plans to sack Rome at a later date.
In Russia, Catherine the Great died, putting her son Paul on the throne. Paul was mostly insignificant compared to other Romanovs, except for a significant change he made to the laws of royal succession. The Pauline laws enshrined primogeniture as the only legal means for succession. While the rule of the first son was not at all uncommon across Europe, it was in Russia. Up through Catherine the Great, the royalty of the Russian Empire chose their successor regardless of birth order. This led to relative stability and fewer crises. The Pauline Laws would introduce a new level of instability to Russian imperial politics.
And we stay in Russia as it was on this, the 6th of September, in 1797, that the man who became known as St. Innocent of Alaska was born. Originally named John Popov-Veniaminov, the son of a church worker, he entered the seminary in 1807 in his hometown of Irkutsk, Russia. He was ordained in a local church, married, and had a son. When the church wanted to call a missionary from Irkutsk, no one volunteered, and eventually, John Popov-Veniaminov agreed.
From 1823, he served the Aleutian Islands on the island of Sitka and amongst the Tlingit. This would take him across the Bering Strait and into the Gulf of Alaska. In 1840, his wife died, and John was convinced to join a religious order and took the tonsure, as well as the name Innocent. He translated a catechism and a Gospel into the Aleut language. Because of his tireless translating, he delivered the word of God to natives in at least six of their languages.
His last call was to be the Metropolitan of Moscow. Moscow to modern-day Alaska would be a large territory for ministry regardless of the year. But doing so in the 19th century using a canoe to get between islands in the Gulf of Alaska would take an extraordinarily devoted missionary.
For his work, the Archbishop was recognized in 1977 as Saint Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow, Enlightener of the Aleuts, and Apostle to the Americas. Born John Popov-Veniaminov, he died at the age of 81, in 1879.
The reading for today comes from Kate Bowler from her excellent book, "Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved."
"What would it mean for Christians to give up that little piece of the American Dream that says, "You are limitless"? Everything is not possible. The mighty Kingdom of God is not yet here. What if rich did not have to mean wealthy, and whole did not have to mean healed? What if being people of "the gospel" meant that we are simply people with good news? God is here. We are loved. It is enough."
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 6th of September 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced, the Enlightener of Wisconsinites and Apostle on the Airwaves, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.