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Eastern Orthodox Monasteries in North America: Links and Networks
The paper examines the network of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in North America that belong to various national churches (Greek, Russian, Serbian). North America is a unique place where one can find different national Orthodox traditions in one country. Orthodoxy in North America does not seem to have ambitious missionary goals and it mostly serves a small group of Orthodox believers that comprise less than 1% of the overall U.S. population. Because they are few, the Orthodox look for like-minded people. They turn to monasteries as places were they feel less isolated, find support, make new friends, get spiritual advice, see an example of people – monks and nuns – who live an Orthodox life on a daily basis. Monasteries consolidate people around them and help them keep their religious identity in a largely modern secular American society. Some studies show that horizontal communication between Orthodox communities (in case of parishes) is usually low. In the USA, however, monastic communities do not only consolidate lay people from different parishes around them but also form monastic networks and support each other. They might have common publishing projects and visit each other on feast days. What makes North American case unique is that sometimes connections between monastic communities go across jurisdictions and form ties, for example, between Russian and Greek monasteries, thus opening ethnic boundaries between them. This paper draws on 4 months of fieldwork in 2018 at 20 monasteries in the USA and Canada where I collected ethnographic data for my research.