St. George Greek Orthodox Church

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The History of St. George Greek Orthodox Church

We are all aware how closely knit our heritage and ethnic traditions are with the church. Having settled in their new country, a small group of immigrants, composed mostly of males, now dreamed of a place to worship.

One morning in 1908, as the sun rose to make its usual rounds on earth, like a good landlord, it spread its rays in every corner of a small attic room which located on the corner of North and Mechanic Streets. Here, in one of the apartments, lived three young men, one of whom was 22 years old Peter Themistocles. That day, two repair men came to inspect the attic. The house was owned by the American Optical Company, where most of our people were employed. Young Peter accompanied these men to the attic. As he opened the door, he stood astounded, for the morning sun's rays pierced a stained glass window and spread a glowing light which illuminated the entire room. With awe, staring at the window, he made the sign of the cross and cried out, "Dear God, here is a church!" Running down the stairs, he shouted to his friends; "We have been living in a church all this time and did not know it." He then proceeded to explain his "vision".

The news of the "miracle of the attic" spread quickly. Early Monday morning they approached the "A O" officials to see if they could rent the little attic room for a place of worship. Not only were they granted permission, but at no cost. Thus Peter Themistocles has been honored as the Founder of the First Orthodox Church in Southbridge.

Amoung them lived a monk named Zaharias from Mount Athos, who had brought with him many religious books. The icons, candles and other religious relics were donated by Leonidas Belloganis of Worcester, MA. It was decided to name the church St. George. Now they had everything necessary to conduct liturgies.

One bright Sunday morning, the faithful, joyfully heard the monks voice chanting;

"Blessed be the kingdom of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
now and ever and unto ages of ages"

"Amen", responded the voice of the first cantor Peter Themistocles.

A dream had become reality.


In 1910, another dream was realized. As more and more families arrived, it was necessary to have larger place to worship. With the help of two women, Eftemia Constantine and Olympia Pappas, plans were started. As little money was available locally, these two outstanding women travelled to other churches in New England and as far as New York City to solicit funds. The first church building was erected on Morris street. the architect and builder was Albert Boyer of Southbridge.

The first liturgy was celebrated in 1912 by the first priest, Father Evangelos Delvinou, and the first directors were: Basilios Terpinis, Louis Terpinis, John Constantine, Nicholas Theodos and Peter Themistocles.

The only documented letter of the early years was found in the library of the Archdiocese in New York City. The letter had been mailed to Greece, as at that time, we had no Archdiocese in the United States. It was dated November 23, 1918. The following is the content of the document:

His eminence Meletion Metaxakis of Athens Greece.
  1. The first liturgy was performed in 1912
  2. The church belongs to its members and is free of all incumbrances.
  3. The population of the community is 130
  4. The salary of the priest is $80.00 per month
  5. There are no Greek or Sunday School classes
  6. The church is not recognized by the Archdiocese of Greece.
  7. This is the only Greek Orthodox church in the city.

The document was stamped with the seal of St. George. It was signed by John Constantine, President and Stavros Brouzides (Bruzios) Secretary. The reason for not being recognized by the Archdiocese is not known, consequently, it was the responsibility of the Board to find a priest.

On May 6, 1932 at 2:40am, the Greek community was saddened by the news of a fire which destroyed their church beyond repair. Due to the bravery of a young man, the only article saved was the large Holy Bible (Evanggelio) whose covers were bound with sculptured silver.

The members lost no time in making plans for a new church. On August 15, 1932, land on North Street was purchased from the Hamilton Woollen Company. Through the efforts of Dosis Spiro and Efthermios Pantos, the company also donated the bell. The bell dated back to 1860 and was made in Troy, N.Y. It was so heavy, that it cost $500.00 merely to mount it in the belfry.

Ground was broken for the new edifice on October 12, 1932. The architect was George Glynou and the builders were F.X. Lalliberte & Sons. The cost of the land and building was $15,000.

On October 30, the priviledge of laying the cornerstone went to the youth organization of St. Fotios the Martyr of Koristsas as they were the highest bidders at $230.00.

On March 20,1933, the Consecration of the Church took place. His Holiness Patriach Athenagoras the First, who was at that time the Archbishop of North and South America, officiated at this ceremony. He was assisted by Father Phillip Saltis and eleven other priests. Since this ceremony is amoung one of the most beautiful our church has, at this time, we would like to describe it briefly.

The day before the ceremony, Vesper Services are held. These services require the presence of the Bishop. He brings with him the holy relics which represent the Martyrs of the church. He receives these relics from the Patriarchate in Constantinople. The Archbishop leads a processional which encircles the church three times. He is followed by the priests and congregation. One priest remains in the church by the closed doors. At the end of this procession, in front of the closed doors, the Archbishop cries out:

"Receive your princes, O ye gates!
and be lifted up, ye everlasting doors!
that the King of glory may come in."

From within come the response;

"Who is the King of Glory?"

The Archbishop replies;

"The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of glory."

He then opens the door and they all enter the church. The Archbishop carries the holy relics and places them on the alter.

The next day, after the Orthos, the Archbishop washes the marble top of the Holy Altar with various essences and deposits the holy relics in a silver box which is sealed and placed under the altar. The Holy Altar is then covered with a cloth call "Katasarkion". A second cloth, richly textured, called "Ependytes" covers the "Katasarkion", the Holy Bible is then placed over the cloth. He leaves the altar and sences the congregation. He is followed by two priests who sprinkle the church with holy water and Holy Chrism. The church has now been baptized, anointed and consecrated.

At the end of this ceremony, the key and the honor to be named "Godfather" of the church, was given to the highest donor, Alexander Constantine.

On October 8, 1936, the Church was incorporated. The names on the Charter were as follows: Louis D. Liolion, Elias Peters, Sotir Theodoss, Stavros Bruzios, Alex George, Athanas Lambi, Vangel Thomas, Constantine Vasill and Phillipos Saltis. It was signed by Frederick W. Cook, secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.