A Panikhida is Served for Colonel Philip Ludwell III
Tuesday, March 14/27, 2012 marked the two hundred and forty fifth anniversary of the repose of Colonel Philip Ludwell III, a native of Williamsburg, Virginia, and the first known convert to Orthodoxy in the Americas. With the blessing of Archimandrite Luke, Abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York, a memorial (panikhida) was served in English by Archpriest Gregory Naumenko (rector of the Protection of the Mother of God Church in Rochester, New York), who teaches pastoral theology and homiletics at Holy Trinity Seminary. Responses were sung by a choir of seminarians under the direction of Reader Ephraim Willmarth,the administrative assistant to the dean of the seminary. Members of the monastic community and local Orthodox believers also joined in the prayers. Archpriest Gregory also remembered the other known Orthodox members of Colonel Ludwell’s family: his daughters Hannah, Frances and Lucy, and the latter’s husband John Paradise. A short reflection on the significance of Colonel Ludwell’s life for the Orthodox Church in Russia and the Americas, and his role in early American history, was offered by Nicholas Chapman before the commencement of the memorial.
The metrical books of the Russian Orthodox Church in London, England record that Ludwell died at his home in London at 5p.m. on March 14 O.S., 1767, having previously been confessed and received holy communion and holy unction. His funeral was served several days later in the London church. Almost 30 years earlier he had traveled from Virginia to be received at the Russian Orthodox Church in London, in 1738, several days after his twenty-second birthday.
He was blessed by the Holy Synod of the Russian Church to return to Virginia with the Holy Gifts and evidence points to the existence of a lay Orthodox community headed by him in mid-eighteenth century Williamsburg. He brought his three daughters up in the faith, and they were formally received into the Church in London in 1762. Some of their descendants also appear to have remained in the Church for several generations following Ludwell’s repose.
Apart from a few months spent in London in 1738/39 and the last seven years of his life, the rest of his days were passed in his native Virginia. Whilst there he translated into English The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom as it is performed without a deacon and The Liturgy of St. Basil the Great as it is performed without a deacon. He also translated The Orthodox Confession of the Catholic and Apostolic Eastern Church,which was published in London in 1762, and penned what appears to be a short work of his own, entitled How to behave before, at, and after the Divine Service in the Church.
In all of these labors, he demonstrated an evident love for God and the Orthodox faith. He was also known for his cheerful and vivacious disposition, given to hospitality and to contributing to the needs of the poor. (He was the first external donor to what were to become America’s first university and first hospital in Philadelphia. )
He played a vital role in strengthening the defense of the Commonwealth of Virginia through tireless intercession with the British military authorities in his capacity as a member of the Royal Governing Council and was instrumental in obtaining the appointment of the young George Washington as a Colonel in the colonial militia. His family connections with some of the major figures of early US history are extensive: his wife was the cousin of Martha Washington and amongst his nephews there are two signers of the Declaration of Independence and the twelfth President of the Continental Congress. Presidents William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison were blood relatives of Ludwell and he is the great uncle of the famous American civil war General Robert E Lee. The future President Thomas Jefferson was amongst the executors of his estate and Benjamin Franklin's house was a few doors down the street from Ludwell’s London home at the time of his death.
The Psalm reader at the London church at the time of Ludwell’s repose was the future Fr. Andrew Samborskii. He was to marry an English orphan girl, Elizabeth Fielding and used the catechism Ludwell translated to instruct his future wife in the Faith. After serving the church in London as Psalm reader and priest, Samborskii returned to Russia and became tutor in religion to the Grand Dukes Alexander and Constantine, sons of Tsar Paul I. John Paradise, son in law of Philip Ludwell, also worked for the Russian imperial family as an agent for Catherine the Great in preventing a war between England and Russia.
May Colonel Philip Ludwell’s memory be eternal!