Toward a Common Goal
1969 to 1971, a dedicated Greek Orthodox Group established a Greek
School for their children on Saturday mornings at St. John's Catholic
Church in Clinton, Maryland. As the parents would arrive early to pick
up their children, they would talk. Small talk gave way to one idea-why
not build a Greek Orthodox Church in Southern Maryland. But, starting a
church is not easy. It takes more than a few families, however deep the
dedication. So the work began!
The core group talked to the
existing parishes of the Washington area, to the Archdiocese, and most
importantly among themselves. They needed members and money. So a
telephone campaign began to contact many Greek Orthodox in the area to
see if they were interested in building a church. A core of builders
emerged. Then, they met in a restaurant to make plans to raise money now
all they needed was a place to hold services and a priest.
An opportunity arose! There
was a property for sale that included 11 acres of land and a
four-bedroom house that was purchased by The Greek Orthodox Church of
Southern Maryland. In the meantime, arrangements were made with the
Bethany Christian Church on Allentown Road so services could be held
there. Father Paul Economides was assigned as a part-time priest and a
liturgy was celebrated on Sundays. At the same time, the house on the
property was being converted into a chapel. But it did not stop there. A
cement slab was then laid on the property as dedicated members began to
build a church literally from the ground up! The name of the church at
that time was the Greek Orthodox Church of Southern Maryland. It was
renamed St. Theodore a few years later. The first couple married in the
church was Dorothy and Russell Bigelow. The first person baptized in the
church was John Penner.
The early years of the
Church depended on hard work. Late into the night, members nailed
shingles and built walls. To raise money, there were festivals, bake
sales, covered dish dinners, family dinners, and apokreatiko dinners.
Often, the members just passed the hat. Everyone gave what they could.
The glue that held everyone together was the work toward a common goal.
St. Theodore Greek Orthodox
Church grew! Father Peter Kostakos followed Father Economides as the
second priest of the parish. The church has seen many
priests over the years; in addition to Fathers Economides and Kostakos, they include
Fathers Hariton Macheriotis, Elias Mentis, Prokopios Nikas, George
Gallos, George Chioros, Konstantinos Kostaris,
Nicholas Voucanos, Panagiotis Papanikolaou, and most recently Father
Patrick Viscuso. Each has left his impact on the building process and with the
parishioners they served.
Around 1990, St. Theodore
Greek Orthodox Church purchased two properties on Cipriano Road in
Lanham-its present location. One of the properties had a house, which
the parish members decided to refurbish so it could be used for services
until the present church was built. Until the house renovations were
completed, services were held at three different places-a nearby church,
the Lanham Shopping Center, and at the Marriot Hotel in Greenbelt. When
the lower level of St.Theodore Greek Orthodox Church was ready, services
were held there until the upstairs was completed. The lower level was
converted into a hall and full kitchen. The house is still used today
for Sunday School, Greek School, and meeting areas.
At the 25th Anniversary
Celebration in 1998, many hard working and dedicated people were recognized.
Some were there to receive their praise and, unfortunately through
life's circumstances, many were not. St.Theodore Greek Orthodox was
built literally one brick at a time. Those who are responsible know what
they did where it counts most in their hearts. The history of the parish
is not based on any one person but people working together. The
greatness of a church is not limited to a beautiful building or majestic
stained glass but also includes the character and dedication of its
members, past and present. The builders of this church gave the example;
it is up to us to continue to build on their proud tradition.