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The earliest records of Greek Orthodox services in Jacksonville can be traced to 1907, when Father Arsenios is mentioned as the first clergyman to officiate here. From time to time, services were held whenever a clergyman was available, but a permanent parish organization did not come to pass until 1918. At that time, the community was organized and incorporated and its first priest was Fr. Michael Sarris. In 1916, a home had been purchased and converted into the first Greek Orthodox Church of Jacksonville. On April 17, 1919, the community purchased a larger church facility in the downtown area from the Christian Science Congregation. This building, for the next 39 years would see innumerable weddings, baptisms, funerals, and visits by many high-ranking clergymen.
On July 14, 1967, construction began on a new church building with parishioner Ted Pappas as the architect and John N. Pappas as Chairman of the Building Committee. The building won a national award for its design. The first liturgy was held on March 3, 1968, with Fr. Frank Kirlangitis officiating. Many of those attending were second and third generations of its original founders, as well as non-Orthodox and non-Greeks. A marriage of the new and old was noted in the building with the transfer of the old iconstasion to the new church. Mr. James Kalogerakos, the only living charter member of the church and the oldest parishioner at 100 years of age, cut the ribbon on “Thyranixion Day.” The congregation felt an unparalleled blessing as they entered through the church portals for the first time; the singularity of our individual selves merged into a communion of one congregation to glorify God. The building was officially consecrated as a church on September 20, 1970, by Archbishop Iakovos. Many special services and liturgies have since been celebrated, but one of the most memorable was the Synod of Bishops Liturgy in the 1970s.
In many ways, the history of this parish reflects a process—a process of the establishment and assimilation of Greek Orthodoxy within the American context. From the 1920s until today, through the struggles to build, finance, and to educate, the parish finds itself at a new point of impact. Though our foundations are now firm, our greatest mission, that of preserving and furthering our Orthodox faith and our heritage as good Americans lies in the future. Today, with the love and guidance of our spiritual father, the Rev. Dr. Nicholas Louh, we at Saint John the Divine have entered the 21st century with an emphasis on the importance of the Greek Orthodox faith by promoting educational, cultural, and social activities. Classes in Orthodox Catechesis, Sunday School for all ages, Family Night Programs, Men and Women’s Fellowship gatherings, Greek School, GOYA, Acolyte program, all serve to create a common basis for increased understanding and participation in the dawn of the new millennium for Orthodoxy. With focused vision, “Let us commend ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God."
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