A large and enthusiastic crowd gathered on the evening of Wednesday 14 March at St. John’s Cultural Centre, Edmonton, to hear Jars Balan give the 2018 Bohdan Bociurkiw Memorial Lecture on the topic “An Unorthodox History of the 1918 Founding of the Ukrainian (Greek) Orthodox Church in Canada.”
Balan is the Director of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, and the Administrative Coordinator of the Kule Ukrainian Canadian Studies Centre at CIUS. He has written extensively on the history of Ukrainians in Canada, and has a special interest in Ukrainian Canadian literature, theatre, and church history.
In his lively presentation, Balan drew on a wide range of sources, gathered over several decades of work on the social history of Ukrainians in Canada, to present an account of the founding of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada “from the bottom up.”
He showed how ordinary people who had come to the Canadian prairies from Galicia and Bukovyna looked to their faith to help them navigate the challenges and opportunities of the immigrant experience from the 1890s through to 1918. In a wide-ranging talk, he sketched the “big picture” in which they found their way, including the influence of Russophilism in the Greek Catholic Church, the encounter with the Russian Orthodox mission in Canada, tensions between Greek and Roman Catholics, and the impact of war, revolution, and imperial collapse on religious life.
However, Balan’s emphasis was on the parishioners, who sought religious services in their own language and in their own communities, and who, he argued, provided the impetus for the founding of a truly new religious formation, the Ukrainian (Greek) Orthodox Church in Canada.
The annual Bohdan Bociurkiw Memorial Lecture honours the memory of Professor Bohdan Bociurkiw, an eminent political scientist and internationally renowned specialist in human rights, Soviet religious policy, and the history of the Ukrainian churches. Each year, the Program on Religion and Culture at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies brings to Edmonton a specialist working in the subject areas that preoccupied Professor Bociurkiw throughout his career—religion and politics and Ukrainians.