Feast of Sophie Koulomzin (December 3)   2 comments

Above:  Russian Orthodox Cross

Image in the Public Domain

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SOPHIE SCHIDLOVSKY KOULOMZIN (DECEMBER 3, 1903-SEPTEMBER 29, 2000)

Russian-American Orthodox Christian Educator

Sophie Koulomzin served God most effectively in Christian education.

Our saint, born Sophie Schidlovsky in St. Petersburg, Russian Empire, on December 3, 1903, knew the life of a Russian elite and the life of struggling émigré.  Her father, Sergei Schidlovsky, was the last vice president of the old Duma.  The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 forced the family to flee, ultimately to Paris.  Sophie studied (on scholarships) at the University of Berlin then at Columbia University, New York, New York, from which she earned her M.A. in Religious Education in 1926.  She became the first woman from the Eastern Orthodox tradition to earn that degree there.

Our saint, back in Paris, put her degree to work.  She taught émigré children and edited My First Book about the Orthodox Faith and My Second Book about the Orthodox Faith.  She also worked with St. Maria Skobtsova (1891-1945), a nun who sheltered Jews during the German occupation and died for doing so.

Sophie Schidlovsky became Sophie Koulomzin in 1932, when she married engineer Nikita Koulomzin.  The couple had three daughters and one nun.

The family resided in the United States, starting in 1949, when they settled in Nyack, New York.  Sophie taught in her parish and joined the Metropolitan Council Church School Committee.  She encouraged Orthodox jurisdictions in the United States to cooperate and to conduct Christian education of the young in English–to leave the Old World psychologically and emotionally.  In 1957 she helped to create the ecumenical Orthodox Christian Education Commission, in which she was prominent.

NOTE:  I have read histories of immigrant, minority denominations–Lutheran and Reformed, mainly–in the United States.  Regardless of the denomination, some patterns have been consistent.  The denominations have, most strongly at first, functioned as means of preserving a culture and handing it down from one generation to the next.  This has restricted the appeal of the denomination to a particular ethnicity for a long time.  Meanwhile, cultural and linguistic transitions have occurred as the first-generation immigrants have died and the generations born in the United States have begun to assimilate.  This transition has been psychologically difficult for many of those who left the Old World only physically.  During these long transitions these immigrant denominations have lost many younger, culturally-assimilated members.  As English has become the dominant or only language in a particular denomination, mergers have occurred.

I have a mixed opinion about this.  I do not consider myself ethnic; I descend mainly from Anglo-Saxons who moved to North America in the 1600s.  I have a sprinkling of other cultures–French (Huguenot, to be precise), German, and Cherokee, for example–in my family tree.  Furthermore, people stop me occasionally and ask if I am Greek or Italian.  As I was writing, I do not consider myself ethnic, especially in the United States.  However, I like many of the old Danish and Swedish Lutheran hymns that have fallen out of favor with Lutheran hymnal committees since cultural assimilation and denominational mergers.  Different cultures add to the collective life of the United States; variety is indeed the spice of life.  Members of different cultures can learn much from each other.

Koulomzin taught future priests and bishops at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Yonkers, New York, form 1956 to 1970, when she retired.  The seminary awarded her an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree as she entered retirement.

In the 1990s our saint was active in efforts related to the Christian education of children in the former Soviet Union, as the Russian Orthodox Church emerged from decades of persecution.  Patriarch of Moscow Alexis II awarded her the Order of Saint Olga in 1999.

Koulomzin, a member of what became the Orthodox Church in America in 1970, lived to the age of 96 years.  She died on September 29, 2000.

Christian education is one of the elements of parish life that many adherents take lightly, unfortunately.  The life and work of Sophie Koulomzin should remind us of the importance of Christian education–certainly, for children, but also for adults.

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Loving God, in whom we find the path to salvation and shalom,

we thank you for the life and work of Sophie Koulomzin in Christian education.

May we take Christian education seriously, deepen our faith, and lead others on the right paths,

for your glory and the common good.  In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Nehemiah 8:1-12

Psalm 119:105-112

Acts 8:26-40

Matthew 13:1-17

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 23, 2019 COMMON ERA

PROPER 7:  THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF JOHN JOHNS, PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH GOTTLOB GUTTER, GERMAN-AMERICAN INSTRUMENT MAKER, REPAIRMAN, AND MERCHANT

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETAS OF REMESIANA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILHELM HEINRICH WAUER, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

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2 responses to “Feast of Sophie Koulomzin (December 3)

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  1. What a great life she had…so productive for the Lord and for her culture and church!

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