Greek Orthodox faithful to dedicate new church

The parishioners of St. George Greek Orthodox Church will celebrate the official ceremony of the Thyranoixia, the grand opening and dedication of their new church and Hellenic Center of SouthCoast, beginning at 9 a.m. Sunday, June 6 at 186 Cross Road. "We praise God for this historic event in the life of our parish and community," said the Very Rev. Constantine S. Bebis, pastor of the congregation for the past 55 years. "It is the realization of a dream to build and erect this new church with modern, convenient and accessible facilities and a religious, cultural and educational center to maintain our Orthodox faith and heritage."

Settling in this area, Greek immigrants founded the first Greek Orthodox community, building a small church in Fairhaven in 1910. They moved to New Bedford in 1917 and eventually erected the church at 87 Ashley Blvd. in 1935.

"We feel sadness as we leave our edifice; we have been there 73 years," Bebis said. "But on the other hand, we are very joyous that our new facility will serve the future generations of our parish. Now a new era for our parish and community begins."

The Matins Service of the Sunday of Pentecost will be celebrated in the new church hall at 9 a.m., officiated by Metropolitan Methodios of Boston.

After Matins, the worshippers will form a procession leading outside to the front of the new church, where the bishop will offer a special prayer and blessing. The children of the parish and choir will sing the hymn of St. George.

The parish council voted unanimously to give their pastor the honor of turning the key to open the doors of the beautiful new church.

"I accepted the honor reluctantly and with deep humility," Bebis said.

Two esteemed parishioners of St. George's, Martha Lampos and Georgia Decas, will lead the worshippers into the church for Divine Liturgy.

Following the service, a garden reception for all parishioners, guests and visitors will be held in a tent on their new grounds.

Metropolitan Methodios will offer an invocation and area clergy will offer greetings, including the Rev. Michael Robinson, pastor of Smith Mills Christian Congregational Church; the Rev. David Lima, executive minister of the Inter-Church Council of Greater New Bedford; Rabbi Raphael Kanter of Tifereth Israel Congregation; and the Rev. Marc Bergeron, ecumenism director of the Diocese of Fall River.

The New Bedford Combined Ecumenical Choir under the direction of Janet Ratcliffe will perform. David Touchette will accompany on trumpet.

Champagne, Greek hors d'oeuvres and homemade pastries will be served.

"I have the honor and the privilege to ask all my beloved parishioners and friends to join us in this sacred and historic event for our parish, for our community and for the glory of God," Bebis said. "The big day has arrived. We are geared for the future."

Members of the Building Committee who made this day possible include George C. Bebis, Anthony J. Martin, Virginia Callas, Anthony G. Chirigotis, Joyce Davidopoulos, Gina L. DeRossi, Mark S. Harrington, Raymond F. Lemos, Helen Rogers, Stephen J. Rogers, Kim E. Walecka and Jenny B. Xifaras.