Working Toward a Common Goal


From 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