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Isabel Hapgood, a lifelong and faithful Episcopalian, was a force behind ecumenical relations between Episcopalians and Russian Orthodoxy in the United States around the turn of the twentieth century. Born in Massachusetts of a wealthy family, Hapgood was educated in private schools. She was a superior student with a particular talent for the study of languages. In addition to the standard fare of the time—Latin and French—she also mastered most of the Romantic and Germanic languages of Europe and most notably Russian, Polish, and Church Slavonic. She possessed the particular gift of being able to translate the subtleties of Russian into equally subtle English. Her translations made the works of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Gorky, and Chekov, among others, available to English readers. She was also a proliﬁc journalist writing regularly for The Nation, and The New York Evening Post, and was a contributor to The New York Times, Harper’s Weekly, The Century, and The Atlantic Monthly.
Between 1887-1889, Hapgood traveled extensively through Russia. That visit cemented a lifelong love of Russia, its language and culture, and particularly the Russian Orthodox Church. She would make return visits to Russia almost every year for the rest of her life.
Her love of Russian Orthodoxy and its great Divine Liturgy led her to seek the permission of the hierarchy to translate the rites into English. Hapgood’s already established reputation as a sensitive translator certainly contributed, but in the meantime she had developed close relationships with Russian clergy and musicians at all levels of the hierarchy. The work, Service Book of the Holy-Orthodox Catholic Church, took eleven years to complete. It received support of the Russian Orthodox bishops in North America, particularly Archbishop Tikhon who was later to give Hapgood’s work a second blessing when he became Patriarch of Moscow.
Isabel Florence Hapgood is faithfully recalled among the Russian Orthodox in North America for her contribution to their common life, her desire for closer relations between Russian Orthodox and Episcopalians, and for her making the liturgical treasures of their tradition available to the English-speaking world.
I Loving God, we offer thanks for the work and witness of Isabel Florence Hapgood, who introduced the Divine Liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church to English-speaking Christians, and encouraged dialogue between Anglicans and Orthodox. Guide us as we build on the foundation that she gave us, that all may be one in Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, unto ages of ages. Amen.
II Loving God, we thank you for the work and witness of Isabel Florence Hapgood, who introduced the Divine Liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church to English-speaking Christians, and encouraged dialogue between Anglicans and Orthodox. Guide us as we build on the foundation that she gave us, that all may be one in Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, to the ages of ages. Amen.
Preface of All Saints
From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.