Speech at the Centennial Banquet of Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, Warren, Ohio – Messages
His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros
Speech at the centenary banquet of the
Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church
October 29, 2022
Your Eminence Metropolitan Savas,
Reverend Fathers Constantine Valantasis and Demetri Constantine,
Esteemed President of the Parish Council, Dr. George Ploumbis,
Beloved Brotherhoods of the Philoptochos and Heads of Parish Organizations,
Dear Centennial Celebration Sponsors,
Beloved Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
What a joy it is for me to be with all of you here in Warren as you celebrate your parish’s centennial observance. As you all know, this Community predates the Archdiocese itself by a few years. Organized by the local diaspora community, you received your first priest before the archdiocese became the first eparchy of the ecumenical throne in 1922. Your centenary therefore has a very special meaning.
Here at Warren, your story is an icon, an image of the Greek American and Greek Orthodox experience that has been repeated time and time again across the United States. Greeks came to this country in search of a better life and often came from war-torn regions in Asia Minor, in addition to the various islands and regions of mainland Greece.
I have to tell you that I have been part of many centennial celebrations of our communities over the past year across our great country: from Seattle to Philadelphia. One hundred years ago our spirit ancestors and many of our own blood ancestors came to America in numbers we have not seen since. They planted the Greek Orthodox faith in America like a vine, to produce a tremendous yield of spiritual fruit. Here at Warren, it’s no different.
You can all be proud that a Greek Orthodox Primate of America, former Archbishop Spyridon, was born right here in Warren on September 24, 1944. His Eminence joined me and my immediate predecessor, former Archbishop Demetrios, at the Centennial Lay Clergy Congress this past July in New York. They were both attending the dedication of the National Shrine of St. Nicholas on the site of the rebuilt World Trade Center. And let me add that a son of this Paris, your own John Payiavlas, one of the great lay leaders and benefactors of the whole Church, is an officer of the non-profit organization, Friends of Saint Nicholas, who succeeded in resuscitating the little House of God which was destroyed on September 11. Here in Warren, Ohio – much of the history of the Church in America has been written, and you will write much more in the next hundred years!
Just three days ago we celebrated your Heavenly Patron, the great martyr and myrrh spreader, Demetrios. His name came to this parish because many of your early ancestors were from northern Greece, and the Πολιούχος of Thessaloniki was revered by all.
Your 100th birthday is a sign that this ward is built on the firm, unshakable foundation of the apostles, and the Lord Jesus Christ is your chief cornerstone.* Saint Demetrios is that champion who illustrates your fidelity to the Church, because he gave his life rather than abandon his faith. And in his own “holy week”, Saint Demetrios emboldened all around him to confess their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, just as he sent young Nestor into the arena to defeat the giant Lyaeus, a new David slaying another Goliath.
Over the decades, the Warrens Omogeneia has demonstrated time and again that ministry and service are at the heart of this community. This is why you were able to overcome the royalist/Venizelist divide of the 1920s. This is why you were able to support Greek War Relief during and after the Second World War. And that is why you have come together to build a magnificent Church building and carry out all the programs and ministries that are the hallmark of Greek Orthodox communities from coast to coast.
Now the second hundred years is before us all. I noticed your centennial celebration logo:
“Honoring Our History – Envisioning Our Future.”
Both sides of this golden coin of intention are of supreme importance to your steady progress in Christ. To honor your history, you must indeed know it. This is why the names, dates and places where Saint Demetrios unfolded in the presence and plan of God are so important.
But, we must never rest on our laurels. The achievements of the past find their true meaning in their impact on future generations. We can never allow our churches and communities to become relics of a once glorious past. Especially here in America, and here in Warren.
As you know, I was born in Constantinople, the queen of cities, and served there for over a quarter of a century. I have seen relics of our faith scattered throughout Asia Minor. But it was not a willful diminution of Christian faith and presence. It is the result of great historical and political movements that have taken place over a millennium.
But we live in a free and relatively new country. We have opportunities and freedoms that our ancestors never knew or enjoyed. In fact, that’s precisely why so many of them came to America in the first place! As we celebrate the past tonight, let us never forget that our vision of the future will shape what that future will be for generations to come.
The responsibility is great. The opportunity… even greater!
Therefore, in congratulating you all tonight, I also encourage you to press on, as the apostle Paul says:
… Ἔμπροσθεν ἐπεκτεινόμενος κατὰ σκοπὸν διώκω ἐπὶ ὸ βραβεῖον τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως τεοῦ ἐν χριστῷ ̓̓ησοῦ….
…always straining forward, rush toward the goal for the prize of God’s high calling in Christ Jesus.†
Your Centenary reminds us all that the Greek Orthodox Diaspora had and still has a deep attachment to its Faith, the two thousand years
spiritual tradition that accompanied the first immigrants across the ocean, in order to find new ground in which to grow. Your physical and spiritual ancestors were the apostles of future generations. They were true missionaries, intentional or not, and they planted seeds of our holy Orthodox faith across the United States, and right here in Warren, Ohio.
I extend to each of you my sincere congratulations and my best wishes for this historic step.
May the Lord bless you always, through the intercession of the Holy Great Martyr and Myrrh-Streamer Demetrios.
Thank you and congratulations again to all.