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100 years: Utah's Greek community

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    http://www.deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,635157000,00.html Deseret Morning News, Saturday, October 29, 2005 100 years: Utah s Greek community By Susan Whitney
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2, 2005

      Deseret Morning News, Saturday, October 29, 2005

      100 years: Utah's Greek community

      By Susan Whitney
      Deseret Morning News

      On Wednesday morning, at Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church, Father
      Matthew Gilbert celebrated a service of Divine Liturgy for Saint
      Demetrios the Great Martyr. The congregation included dozens of
      children from the St. Sophia parochial school, which is housed in
      the Prophet Elias Church.

      During the homily, Father Gilbert told Demetrios' story in simple
      words, so the children could understand. He talked of the bravery of
      this saint who was born in the year 270 A.D. and who was killed
      because he would not give up his faith in Christ. Father Gilbert
      urged his listeners to be brave as well.

      Be brave in doing what is right, even if others laugh at you, he
      said. Be brave enough to be a peacemaker. Be brave when you make a
      mistake. Ask for forgiveness and try again.

      "What do you do when you make a mistake on your paper in school?" he
      asked the children. "You erase. You ask for help." In the same way,
      we must ask for God's help every day, he said.

      The children, even the littlest ones, appeared to be paying
      attention to his words. They also seemed to know the liturgy of the
      church. As the service progressed, they knew when to say "Lord, have
      mercy," and when to say "Grant this, O Lord," and they knew when to
      say these words in English and when to say them in Greek.

      Meanwhile, at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in downtown
      Salt Lake, Father Michael Kouremetis also conducted a service in
      honor of Saint Demetrios on Wednesday morning. His congregation was
      older, for the most part. But the liturgy — the prayers and the
      responses and the chants and the Bible readings were the same. In
      fact, the same words and the same service for Saint Demetrios was
      said in Orthodox churches all over the world, on Wednesday.

      This weekend, Utah's Greek community will celebrate its 100th
      anniversary. People will dine and dance — and take in a history
      display. They'll honor the first immigrants, the men who came to
      work on the railroads and in the mines and the women who married
      them and started families half a world away from their own mothers
      and fathers.

      Constantine Skedros has just finished a church history called "100
      Years of Faith and Fervor."

      Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News
      Above all, they'll celebrate their faith. One hundred years ago this
      month, on 400 West and 400 South in Salt Lake City, the first Greek
      Orthodox Church in Utah was consecrated.

      Father Kouremetis says it is the church that has kept the Greek
      heritage and culture alive in this state. The church has kept the
      language alive and kept families united, generation after
      generation. "The church is the bonding agent which kept us all
      together and gave us, always, hope. Even in the darkest times."

      And there were some hard times, says Constantine Skedros, who has
      just finished a church history called "100 Years of Faith and
      Fervor." The immigrants who came here at the turn of the past
      century came because their families were desperately poor, Skedros

      They probably never intended to stay. They thought they'd send some
      money home, perhaps help pay for a dowry so their sister could
      marry, or tide the family over in a year when the crops had failed.
      When they realized they would stay, they knew they would need to
      make the observances of their faith.

      The 1900 Census showed three Greeks in Utah. But by 1904 there were
      several hundred Greek men working in and around the Salt Lake
      Valley. Their labor came cheap, but they worked hard and they were
      saving — a dime here, a nickel there — to build a church.

      In 1905, 200 Greek men met and formed a corporation. They bought
      land near 400 West on 400 South for $1,600 and got a loan from the
      Walker Brothers' bank for $7,000. The first Holy Trinity Church was
      consecrated on Oct. 29, 1905.

      Salt Lake City, then, became the site of the 14th Greek Orthodox
      Parish in the United States, the first parish to be established
      between St. Louis and San Francisco.

      The Greek community quickly outgrew their church, Skedros says. In
      1924, they built a new Holy Trinity Cathedral on 300 South and 300
      West. They moved the altar from the first Holy Trinity, along with a
      reliquary containing the remains of saints, the reliquary that had
      been placed in the first church when it was consecrated.

      In the 1960s, the community struggled over whether or not to build a
      second church. By this time, there were more than 1,000 children in
      the Sunday School and the church had gone to two worship services
      and two Sunday Schools every week. Everyone worried that their
      tightknit community would suffer if they didn't meet in the same
      building each week.

      Eventually 75 percent of the members approved the proposal to build
      a second church on Highland Drive. Prophet Elias was finished in

      Over the years, more and more English has been incorporated into the
      liturgy, Skedros notes. A typical service at Holy Trinity will be
      half in English, half in Greek. At Prophet Elias, it will be 60
      percent or 70 percent English.

      There's no reason for people who don't understand Greek to get lost,
      Skedros points out. The service is printed in both languages, in
      little books, in every pew. And the liturgy books also give an
      introduction to an Orthodox service. They explain what Orthodox
      worshippers have been doing, in a variety of languages and in a
      variety of countries, for 2,000 years.

      It is what the children were doing last Wednesday. It is a way of
      worship that the Orthodox faithful hope will continue for all the
      generations to come, here in Utah. The description reads:

      On the verbal side of the Liturgy we hear: eloquent prayers of
      praise, thanksgiving, intercession and confession; litanies,
      petitions, acclamations, greetings and invitations; hymns, chants,
      psalmody and creedal statements; and intoned and scriptural readings
      and a homily. On the non-verbal side, we are involved with solemn
      processions and an assortment of liturgical gestures. The eyes are
      filled with the actions of the servers, as well as with the sights
      of the Lord and his saints gazing at us from the icons. The nostrils
      are filled with the fragrance of incense, and the heart is grasped
      by the profound silence of the divine presence. People touch hands
      gently, saying, "Christ is in our midst," when called upon to love
      one another before the offering of the gifts as a sign of mutual
      forgiveness and love. With one voice and heart they recite the
      creed, and recommit themselves to the fulness of the truth of the
      Orthodox faith. Participating in Holy Communion, the faithful taste
      and see that the Lord is good.

      Worship together

      Everyone is invited to share the 100th Anniversary Hierarchial
      Divine Liturgy, when both of Salt Lake City's Greek Orthodox
      congregations worship together at 10 a.m. Sunday in Abravanel Hall,
      123 W. South Temple.

      His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver will be assisted by local
      and visiting clergy and the combined choirs of the Prophet Elias and
      Holy Trinity Churches.

      E-mail: susan@...

      © 2005 Deseret News Publishing Company
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