Featured Parish: St. George Church + West St. Paul, MN
The History of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church of West St. Paul, Minnesota
Adapted from our history compiled by Dr. George Droubie
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, they were informally organized as a religious group. Visiting priests held services in private homes. St. George Syrian Orthodox Church was formally organized and founded in 1913 on St. Paul's West Side. An Episcopal Church located at Clinton and Isabel streets was purchased and adapted for Orthodox liturgical needs. The church was officially dedicated in 1915 by Metropolitan Germanos Shehadi, at which time our first parish priest was ordained. Since then eighteen priests have served our parish, among them, V. Rev. Essa Kanavati and V. Rev. John G. Khoury. As the church building on the West Side began to deteriorate and parishioners moved out of the area surrounding the church, five acres of land in our current location were purchased in 1968 for a future complex. A multi-purpose 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. It was our goal 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 seats approximately 300 people and includes a beautiful gold dome, adorned with an icon of Christ. Our first service in the new church was held in March 1982, with the official consecration on September 11, 1989 by His Eminence Metropolitan Archbishop Philip Saliba.
The year 1998 brought about the unification of the two Antiochian parishes in St. Paul. St. Mary Church on Robert Street and St. George were formally united in a single Antiochian witness with the blessing of Metropolitan Philip. Fr. John Khoury retired after 31 years of service to the community of St. George. With the joining of two communities there was need for a major expansion of the facilities. In 2001, a large new parish hall was built and the former hall was enlarged and completely rebuilt to accommodate a fast growing church school program. An administration complex was also configured out of the former hall and kitchen area. A magnificent dedication service was held in May 2002 and a new Altar was consecrated in the newly redecorated church. In 2006, we were blessed with the arrival of our current pastor, the Very Reverend Archpriest Father Thomas Begley.
The St. George parish family is made up of many of the descendants of the original Middle Eastern families, as well as a great number of converts who have searched for, found our faith, and made it their own. We boast a sizeable number of immigrant families from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, and faithful from other Eastern Orthodox backgrounds.
There are many new things happening at St. George. We have a new Bible Study lead by Fr. Thomas and a parishioner who is strong in Biblical languages. We have reactivated our Men’s Club and have elected new officers. The Ladies Club is meeting regularly and always has some project going on. The most recent program we are involved with is FOCUS Minneapolis. We are working with the other Orthodox Churches to feed and cloth the poor. We found a new location this summer and our church has been very active in its support, both physical and financial. This has been a good development for us.
We have been serving an Arabic Liturgy for our ethnic parishioners for well over a year now. With the strong support and blessing of Bishop Mark, this has been a blessing for our parish. The ethnic members understand we have done this for them and care for them. We have also brought in new members due to these liturgies. We meet once a month and have between 40-70 people in attendance. We owe a great debt to Fr. Nicholas Dahdal for faithfully coming from Chicago to do these services.
Another recent development is our Annual Middle East Festival. This summer was our third year and was our most successful. We also give tours and teachings as a tool for evangelism during the festival. We have good participation from the parish. The money from the festival has been used to pay down our debt.
Our Teen SOYO program has been very active with 12-17 kids. We have good leadership and two ladies in their twenties have taken over the leadership and have done an amazing job. This has been a big improvement over the past years. We look forward to their becoming active in the Diocese.
Please visit us at our website: www.saintgeorge-church.org.