SaintConstantineandHelenCathedral

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Saint Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral

Greek Orthodoxy began to flourish in America as large numbers of Greek immigrants began settling in the United States during the early twentieth century. In 1917, one of the first Greek Orthodox communities in the United States was established in Richmond Virginia, and the community held its first worship service in a rented room at 309 North Seventh Street. Immediately thereafter, the Greek community began building the Saint Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral at the corner of Malvern Avenue and Grove Avenue. Since then, the Greek Orthodox community has grown to become one of Richmond’s most dynamic congregations.

The central doctrine of Orthodoxy is based on the Seven Ecumenical Councils interpretation of the Bible. The Orthodox approach is different from the Western Churches in that more emphasis is placed on personal experience rather than theological definition. Orthodoxy does not use many of the legal definitions so commonly used by the Western Churches. However, Orthodoxy does accept the dogma of the Trinity and the Holy Spirit.

Worship services are characterized as liturgical, which are the formal rituals, procedures, and prayers that center on the Eucharist or Holy Communion. A typical service would include the Orthros or Morning Prayer, the Divine Liturgy, the Cathedral Choir singing liturgical hymns dating back many centuries, and readings from the Epistles and the Gospels. The Divine Liturgy was originally performed in Greek and Slavonic and still is in many parts of the world. Since there is no dogma forbidding the translation of the Divine Liturgy into English, it has been translated to help English-speaking people to learn and follow the Divine Liturgy. However, the original ecclesiastical language carries the traditional thoughts and meanings of the Divine Liturgy; hence, the English translation may not render the full meaning and grandeur of the Divine Liturgy.

The Saint Constantine and Helen Greek OrthodoxChurch is a medium size congregation consisting of about 400 members, or stewards. The congregation consists primarily of middle and upper-middle class families of all ages, and most members are of Eastern European descent. The presiding priest is Reverend Nicholas G. Bacalis, and a large staff supports him . The Church administers the following programs: Bible Study; Greek School; Sunday School; Greek Orthodox Youth Association; Young Adult League; AHEPA, a national organization that promotes and retains the Hellenic heritage; and Hellenic Society Paideia of Virginia.

The congregation of the Saint Constantine and Helen Greek OrthodoxCathedral has grown, and with it the charitable arm of the local Church has grown stronger. The Hellenic Society Paideia is set up to preserve and promote the Hellenic culture, history, and Orthodoxy. It is actively involved in the Greek-American academic community and in the Diaspora of Greeks by sponsoring public activities such as conferences, lectures, exhibits, festivals, and radio programs. Additionally, the local Greek community offers a local Greek School Website that provides interactive activities for learning traditional Greek. Currently the site hosts a section for singing traditional Greek children’s songs.

A very notable event sponsored by the Saint Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodoxcommunity is the Greek Festival. The Greek Festival had humble beginnings as a small weekend fundraiser in 1976. The first Greek Festival had approximately 2,000 people in attendance. Since then, the Greek Festival has grown exponentially. The menu of traditional Greek food has expanded, a Drive Thru was added in 1983, and the number of Greek dancers has also grown. The Greek Festival is now annual event that many Richmond residents attend and enjoy.

St Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church
30 Malvern Ave 
Richmond, VA 

Sources:
St Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral Website at http://vagocathedral.org/
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Website at http://www.goarch.org/en/news/media/history.aspAnnual Greek Festival Website at http://www.greekfestival.com/
Greek School Website at http://www.vagocathedral.org/greekschool/

Profile prepared by John Lack
February, 2007

 

 

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