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- Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
- 3109 Scio Church Road - Ann Arbor
- Michigan 48103 - United States
- (734) 332-8200
- [email protected]
The Orthodox faithful of Ann Arbor, however, faced a major obstacle in establishing a church. The local Greek community in the 1920s was split into two factions, as the politics of Greece spilled over into the United States. Many Greek communities in this country were divided between Vasilikoi (royalists) and Venezelikoi (anti-royalists). In Ann Arbor, one group belonged to the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (A.H.E.P.A.) and the other to the Greek American Progressive Association (G.A.P.A.). The two groups did not interact regarding church services, Hellenic culture and Greek language education for their children, and participation in social events and activities. Many people, however, participated in both groups.
On December 6, 1930 (Saint Nicholas Day), Archbishop Athenagoras made a pastoral visit to the Ann Arbor community. Permission to use St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Ann Arbor was obtained, as the importance of the Archbishop’s visit warranted more than just a hall. Following the service, the Archbishop was taken to meet Angelo Poulos, owner of the Allenel Hotel. The meeting between Mr. Poulos and the Archbishop was instrumental in helping to bring the two factions together. In 1931, the two groups were finally united through the efforts of Chris Bilakos, and Charles Preketes, as well as Angelo Poulos. These men were convincing in their argument that Ann Arbor needed only one Greek Orthodox community, and only one place of worship.
The final bond of unity for the two groups came in November 7, 1933. On that day a meeting of 33 parishioners was held at the Allenel Hotel. His Eminence Archbishop Athenagoras was present and chaired the meeting, at which unanimous decisions were reached. It was agreed that the name of the Ann Arbor Greek Orthodox community would be Saint Nicholas and Holy Trinity. A parish council was chosen by lot on that day. Twenty-nine of the parishioners who were present wrote their name on a piece of paper and became candidates for the parish council. They became the first group to administer the newly united parish.
Also drawn by chance as alternates were the names of John Kapeleris, Constantine Sekaros and Frank Kokenakes. There is no record as to which of the above-named six parishioners were elected as officers, if at all. At a later meeting of parishioners, the decision to include the parish name of Holy Trinity was dropped, and it was agreed that the name of the parish would be Saint Nicholas.
The cornerstone of the new church was laid in special ceremonies in August of that same year. The founding fathers’ dream was realized when the first Divine Liturgy was held in the almost-completed new church on Sunday, December 15, 1935. The parish’s first assigned priest, the Very Reverend Archimandrite Michael Konteleon, officiated. The parishioners overflowed the church, as their efforts and hard work for the glory of God had been rewarded.
In the early years of the parish, members struggled and met obstacles in maintaining and operating the church because of the Great Depression. Much, if not most of, the work - repairs and cleaning – was done by parishioners. Businesses and homes were visited regularly to collect funds to pay the church’s bills and obligations; Greek plays, apokreatika glendia, socials, and picnics were held to raise funds.
Father Athenagoras Aneste, now His Eminence Metropolitan Athenagoras of Panama and Central America, was assigned to St. Nicholas in 1970. In 1971, a public Greek pastry sale led to the birth of the well-known and well-received Ann Arbor Ya’ssoo Greek Festival, a full cultural extravaganza held annually through 1984.
As the Saint Nicholas parish continued to grow in the 1990s, the community began to seriously consider the possibility of expanding its facilities. An open forum discussion took place in November 1990 to assess the future development of the church. In 1995, the Vasile Lagos family, long-time Saint Nicholas parishioners, offered to donate a 10-acre parcel of land just outside Ann Arbor on Scio Church Road, for the purpose of building a new church. A Special Parish Assembly in May 1997 authorized the Parish Council to create a committee to study the needs of the parish, and the feasibility of building a new church facility. The committee ascertained that the facility at 414 North Main Street could no longer meet the parish’s needs, and expanding the facility would not be financially or architecturally feasible.
On June 4, 2001, a Special Parish Assembly overwhelmingly authorized the building of a new church facility for $5.6 million, as well as authorizing the sale of the present facility. Architect Constantine G. Pappas was hired to design the facility, which will be built on the land donated by the Lagos family. An Agiasmos ceremony was held at the new site on June 30, 2001. At this writing, construction of the new St. Nicholas has entered its second year. The social hall, administration wing, and education wing are currently occupied, while the sanctuary is expected be completed by late autumn.