On Wednesday morning, September 1, 2021, the Mitred Archpriest Sergei Glagolev, one of the most respected and beloved senior priests of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) peacefully fell asleep in the Lord at the age of 93 while in hospice care near his daughter’s home in Santa Cruz, California. Father Sergei was widely known as a church musician and composer and as the first Director of the Fellowship of Orthodox Stewards (FOS) in the early 1980s.
Sergei Glagolev was born in Gary, Indiana on August 13, 1928, to Andrew, a musician and church choir director, and Magdalena (Wachnowsky) Glagolev. In Russia, the Glagolev family had some twenty generations of clergy stretching back several centuries. Both in Gary and Cleveland, where the family soon moved, young Sergei was immersed in a musical environment from an early age. In addition to singing, he also learned to play several instruments. In 1941, Andrew Glagolev was ordained a priest and assigned to Saint Michael’s Cathedral in Pittsburgh. When the parish choir director left his position, thirteen-year-old Sergei Glagolev took over these duties under the stern mentorship of his father. Father Andrew Glagolev was reassigned to Lorain, Ohio, where Sergei continued his musical education in high school and then at Oberlin College beginning in 1946, being increasingly exposed to a variety of musical genres that would later influence his compositions and arrangements. Two years later, in order to focus on church music, he moved to New York to enroll at Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and also completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education at New York University. While in New York, he pursued opportunities to direct church choirs to put into practice what he was learning in his academic studies. He also was mentored by noted musicians, including the composer Alexander Gretchaninoff. After his studies in New York, he was sent to Detroit in 1949 to be the choir director at Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral. Here, he soon met an attractive choir member, Genevieve (Gerry) Brunarsky. They were married on January 23, 1951 and would remain together for over seven decades. On November 17, 1951, Sergei was ordained a deacon. His ordination to the priesthood followed on July 20, 1952. Both ordinations were performed by Bishop John (Garklavs) of Detroit and Cleveland. Even after his ordinations and assignment as assistant pastor of the cathedral, he continued to direct the parish choir. In 1953, Father Andrew Glagolev was felled by illness and reposed in the Lord at age 55. Father Sergei Glagolev was soon appointed to succeed his late father as pastor of Saints Peter and Paul Church in Lorain, OH.
In the 1940s, slow movement began in the North American Metropolia (which is now the OCA) toward the use of English as a liturgical language, although it was met with some resistance even from some American-born young people who considered Church Slavonic more appropriate for prayer and worship. To advance the use of English in services, the Federated Russian Orthodox Clubs (now the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America) commissioned Father Andrew Glagolev to compile a music book for the Liturgy in English, which he produced in 1948, with the assistance of his son, Sergei, as English was not Father Andrew’s first language. Father Sergei continued to promote and write about the liturgical use of English and when a group of faithful near Los Angeles decided to establish a parish community where services would be conducted in English, they came to Ohio to recruit Father Sergei to become their pastor and then traveled to New York to seek Metropolitan Leonty’s blessing for the appointment of Father Sergei Glagolev as their priest. Thus, Father Sergei undertook this bold missionary endeavor, becoming the founding pastor of the first parish community to be established as an English language mission in the North American Metropolia. The Glagolev family moved to California in 1955 and would remain at Saint Innocent Church in Encino/Tarzana for the next two decades. While tirelessly ministering to the pastoral needs of his parishioners and seeking to expand the community through evangelization, Father Sergei would also often compose or arrange music for the liturgical hymns as little Orthodox music existed in English at the time. In 1974, while continuing his parish work, Father Sergei was appointed Chancellor of the Diocese of the West and diocesan representative on the Metropolitan Council and the following year, he was transferred from Saint Innocent Church in Tarzana and designated as Dean of Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco, which was then a predominantly Russian-speaking parish using Church Slavonic liturgically. Under the burdens of his responsibilities, Father Sergei suffered his first major heart attack in late 1976. As he was recovering from his infirmity, he received an invitation to teach music at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary in New York. Sensing that a change in environment would benefit his health, he accepted appointment to the faculty of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary and, simultaneously, as Rector of Holy Trinity Church in East Meadow, NY. In April 1977, the Glagolevs arrived in New York to begin a new chapter in their lives. Being now in close proximity to the OCA Chancery, Father Sergei was increasingly invited to participate in the work of the OCA departments, particularly the Department of Liturgical Music.
In 1980 to mark the 10th anniversary of the granting of autocephaly to the OCA, His Beatitude Metropolitan Theodosius announced the inauguration of the Fellowship of Orthodox Stewards (FOS), an organization dedicated to providing funding for OCA Departments and raising consciousness of the need for stewardship in church life. Known as a charismatic speaker, Father Sergei Glagolev left his parish assignment to accept a position as the first Director of FOS. He would hold this position for five years (1981-86). He traveled extensively to visit parishes where he would solicit support for the OCA Departments, speak about the importance of good stewardship and conduct music workshops. After five years of strenuous labors in this demanding position, Father Sergei entered retirement. For several years thereafter, he directed the choir at Saint Sergius Chapel at the Metropolitan’s Residence/OCA Chancery. In the mid-1980s, he taught for two years at Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. In 1991, Father Sergei suffered another major heart attack. For the last three decades of his life, Father Sergei would occasionally, as his health permitted, travel to conduct retreats, music workshops or to speak at other events. He would continue to compose and arrange music and to provide musical mentorship to those who sought it from him. Father Sergei hated to reject any request or invitation. He particularly treasured the experience of traveling to Saint Herman’s Seminary in Kodiak for several weeks in 1995 to teach there. He was most thankful that he had the opportunity to teach at all three OCA seminaries. Father Sergei and Matushka Gerry (as she was affectionately known) continued to be a warm and joyful presence at Saint Sergius Chapel and church events they attended. For a decade before they moved to California in 2018 to live with their daughter, the Glagolevs attended services at Holy Trinity Church in East Meadow, where Father Sergei had once been the pastor. Increasingly frail with advancing age, Father Sergei was admitted to hospice care in June after sustaining a back injury during a fall.
Always by Father Sergei’s side, supporting all his labors, but also shielding him when he was loath to say no to a request or speaking invitation in his later years was Matushka Gerry. When he became FOS Director, she was hired as a secretary/receptionist at the Chancery, a position she would hold for 25 years. In fact, she became the face (or voice) of the OCA to many, either on the phone or when she graciously welcomed visitors as they stepped into the Chancery building.
Father Sergei received many awards and honors. In recent years, he was among the first group of recipients in 2014 of the newly-established Order of Saint Romanos, created by the Holy Synod to honor those who have made significant contributions in the field of liturgical music. In 2017, he was awarded the right of wearing a miter by Metropolitan Tikhon and in 2018, he was granted an Honorary Doctorate in Sacred Music by Saint Vladimir’s Seminary.
Not long before his departure from New York to California, Father Sergei and his family donated the extensive personal archive of his music as well as documents and publications chronicling his many diverse ministries and interests to the Archives of the Orthodox Church in America. Due to the impending relocation of the OCA Archives, this vast collection has not yet been fully processed for access to researchers.
Father Sergei exuded joy, peace, kindness and love. For decades, faithful from throughout the Church flocked to hear him speak, to see his joyful smile, to partake of his deep knowledge of church music or to seek his wise spiritual counsel in the Sacrament of Confession.
Father Sergei is survived by his beloved Matushka Genevieve (Gerry), his daughters, Christia (Tia) and Marina, and his son, John, along with five grandchildren.
The schedule of services for Father Sergei’s funeral is as follows. All services will take place at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery, 175 St. Tikhon's Road, Waymart, PA 18472. Clergy wishing to serve should contact Father Alexander Rentel, Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America.
Friday, September 10
7:00 PM Funeral Service
Saturday, September 11
9:00 AM Divine Liturgy, followed immediately by the Litya from the Panikhida, and interment.
Arrangements are entrusted to Jenkins-Howell Funeral Home, Inc. Edward R. Howell, Funeral Director, 269 Belmont Street, Waymart, PA 18472. www.JenkinsHowellFuneralHome.com
To order memorial trees
or send flowers to the family in memory of Mitred Archpriest Sergei Glagolev, please visit our flower store