History of St. George Antiochian(Syrian) Orthodox Church

The first Syrian and Lebanese immigrants arrived in Minnesota in the 1890's. In the St. Paul area they settled primarily on St. Paul's West Side.

Dating from the arrival of the first Orthodox immigrants in St. Paul until 1913 they were informally organized as a religious group. Services were held in the home of Mr. George Toby by visiting priests from other Orthodox Churches. In the early days, the Syrian Orthodox were visited on at least three occasions by their Bishop, the newly canonized St. Raphael Hawaweeny.

St. George Syrian Orthodox Church was formally organized and founded in 1913 on St. Paul's West Side by Syrian immigrants. An Episcopal Church located at Clinton and Isabel Streets was purchased and adapted for Orthodox liturgical needs. A few years later a house adjacent to the Church was purchased for use by the parish priest. A parish hall was also purchased a few blocks away from the Church.

The Church was officially dedicated in 1915 by Metropolitan Germanos Shehadi, at which time our first parish priest, Reverend Elias Sady, was ordained. Since then many priests have served our parish, among them: Rev. John Karsha, Re., Andraous Nassart, Rev. Baselous Nader, Rev. Elia Hamati, Rev. Seraphim Nassar, Rev. Peter LaZar, Rev. Michael Deeba, Rev. Baselous Mafouse, Re., Gerasmeos Yared, Rev. John Chrysostom, Rev. Thomas Skaff, Very Rev. Essa Kanavati, Rev. Gregory Reynolds, Rev. Daniel Simon, Very Rev. John G. Khoury, and Rt. Rev'd Archimandrite John Mangels who has been our parish priest since August 1998.

As the Church on the West Side began to deteriorate and parishioners moved out of the area surrounding the Church, five acres of land in the suburb of West St. Paul were purchased in 1968 for a future complex. The old Church was acquired by the Paul Redevelopment Authority. Also, about this time a major reorganization took place in the governing of the parish, Our first Parish Council was organized, replacing a Men's Society form of governance which served our parish well in earlier times.

All of 1972 was spent planning with an architect for a multipurpose building to be used for worship and social purposes, with a special section for religious education. The multipurpose hall was constructed during 1973 and our first service was held in February 1974.

The second phase of our building program was completed in 1975 with the construction of a new parish home adjacent to our multi-purpose building.

The third phase of our building program began in 1980 with a year of planning and meeting with our architect, E. A. Sovik, to design a Byzantine-style Church in keeping with Orthodox tradition while also blending in the best of 20th century concepts.

Construction of a new Byzantine-style Church began in 1981. The Church was planned to seat approximately 300 people and include a beautiful gold dome, an icon of Christ in the dome painted by iconographer Rev. John Matusiak, assisted by Father John Khoury and parishioner Jo Anne Droubie.

Our first service in the new Church was held in March 1982, with the official consecration scheduled for September 11, 1983 by His Eminence Metropolitan Philip Saliba.

1998 brought about the unification of the two Antiochian Parishes in St. Paul. After a year of negotiation, St. Mary's parish on So. Robert St. and St. George were formally united in a single Antiochian witness with the blessing of Metropolitan Philip. Father John Khoury retired after 30 years of Service to the Community of St. George and Father John Mangels was appointed pastor. With the bringing together of two communities there is need for a major expansion of the facilities. In 2001 a large new Parish Hall will be built and the current hall will be enlarged and completely rebuilt to accommodate a fast growing Church School Program and administration complex. The St. George Parish Family is made of many of the descendants of the original Middle Eastern families and a great many converts and people from other Orthodox backgrounds.

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