First Worship Service at New Greek Orthodox Parish
The annual Greek Festival begins Friday at Holy Trinity Cathedral in downtown Salt Lake. It’s a fundraiser for the Greek Orthodox parish that also includes Prophet Elias Church in Holladay. But that parish is no longer the only one serving the Greek Orthodox community on the Wasatch Front.
About 200 people attended the first worship service held by the new Greek Orthodox Mission Parish of Utah last Sunday. The hall at The Woods reception center could barely hold the crowd – not everyone got a seat.
Father JimiForeso blessed the new, portable iconostasis, or wall holding icons of Christ, St. John and the Virgin Mary and distributed communion to a long line of worshipers. The Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver will assign priests to visit Salt Lake, and there will be weeks when lay members will lead services.
Conflicts over local governance of the parish led to a brief suspension of worship services a year ago. The Greek Orthodox Archbishop in New York got involved to help sort things out. After that, a steering committee started looking at options, and that effort resulted in the formation of the new mission parish with the approval of the church hierarchy.
Charles Beck was a member of the committee who now serves as the new council president.
“We’ve felt the need to have additional parishes in this community," Beck told KUER following the inaugural worship service. "We felt that there should be an opportunity for a parish to grow independently, to grow along its own flavor, if you will.”
Most of the founders of the new group have been long-time supporters of Prophet Elias church. But even without this core of active members, Beck believes the old parish will do just fine.
Beck says, “And a lot of times, when you have opportunities for people to step up into positions of responsibility and do things for the church, when people who have been doing them before leave, it creates new opportunities for all of those people to come learn their faith and live out their faith in that form of service.”
Members of the new congregation also walked away from the assets of the old one, including substantial property in downtown Salt Lake, a two-and-a-half million dollar building fund and the income from the annual Greek Festival. Many still plan to participate in this year’s festival as volunteers.
DimitriosTsagaris, the president of the existing parish council, declined a recorded interview. But he said he holds no bad feelings and he can only wish the new parish well as it begins its service to Orthodox believers on the Wasatch Front.