A jubilant celebration took place at St. George Serbian Orthodox Church, San Diego, CA, on Saturday and Sunday, August 3rd and 4th
A festive gathering of parishioners, supporters and friends with their Hierarch, visiting and local clergy in honor of the 50thanniversary of the consecration of St. George Serbian Orthodox church in San Diego, CA, took place on August 3rdand 4thof this year.
The anniversary committee, chaired by Kira Anthofer planned the entire celebration not only as a “down memory lane” journey, but also to reach out to the neighborhood by sending out over 250 invitations to all homes surrounding the church property several blocks in each direction. Neighbors were invited to visit the church for an open houseon July 20thand have a personal tour by the parish clergy and then were invited into the social hall to partake of the hospitality table of home made pastries, cookies and refreshments.
Then, on Saturday night, August 3rd, the faithful gathered in the church for a Vespers service. Bishop Maxim entered the church giving his Archpastoral blessing to Protopresbyter Predrag Bojovic from St. Sava parish, San Gabriel, CA, and deacon Vladan Radovanovic to serve. St. George choir sung the common responses while the stichera of the day were sung by His Grace, the parish and local visiting cantors, Fr. Simeon Corona and presbytera Joy. Other visiting clergy were: Protopresbyter-stavrophor Nikola Ceko, St. Steven’s Cathedral, Alhambra, CA, Protopresbyter Milovan Katanic, St. Petka, San Marcos, CA, and clergy emeriti of St. George parish, Protopresbyter-stavrophor Velimir Petakovic who served the parish at the time of church’s construction and consecration and Protopresbyter-stavrophor Bozidar Draskovic as well as Protopresbyter-stavrophor Stamatis Skliris, an honored guest of the diocese with presbytera Marina.
Following the Vespers service a special evening program and banquet took place in the social hall. Co-presidents of the Circle of Serbian Sisters, Jadranka Bozinovska-De La Cruz and Sladana Melos, with the sisters prepared a delicious banquet meal. Highlights of the program among other program parts was a video with interviews of the clergy emeriti, parishioners and the current parish priest Protopresbyter Bratislav Bratso Krsic. The video of a little over 30 minutes in length was played in two parts highlighting the history of the parish and church building and looking into the future for the furtherance of parish ministries. The next highlights were a performance by the parish folklore groups, Morava Sr. and Jr., and a performance by St. George choir. The emcee for the evening was Dobrila Undheim who led the program from one segment to the next. Bishop Maxim greeted everyone with congratulatory words asking everyone to continue witnessing the Gospel of Christ and receiving each other with Christian love and honor just as Christ receives us to the glory of God the Father. He recognized and commended the parishioners and clergy for the great many sacrifices made in the last 50 years and in the furtherance of ministries at St. George parish. Kathryn Thickstun, the president of the Church Board, also greeting everyone expressing her gratitude for many blessings received at the parish as choir director and parishioner. A silent auction with many artworks, household and culinary items were on display. The music entertainment for the evening was performed by San Diego Balkan Band.
Towards the end of the program, several parishioners were recognized with Episcopal Gramatas and the order of St. Sebastian was bestowed upon four recipients, Protopresbyter-stavrophor Velimir Petakovic, Protopresbyter-stavrophor Bozidar Draskovic, Mr. Predrag Mitrovic, chairman of the building committee, and Mr. Milojko Mike Vucelic.
The history of St. George parish is marked with a humble beginning with God’s help and the strong faith and will of its members. The parish was founded on May 4, 1952.
On October 16, 1953, the parish purchased a building site at 3265 Lincoln Avenue in San Diego. This property was consecrated on October 29, 1954. Groundbreaking for the church building and the social hall took place on April 1, 1956 and dedication ceremonies were held on November 18 of the same year.
The Department of Highways of the State of California purchased the property from the parish in 1962, thus giving the opportunity for the parish to relocate to the Mission Bay Park area of San Diego. On the recommendation of a Building Committee appointed by the congregation, the parish acquired a two and half acre parcel of land on Denver Street in Mission Bay Park. The committee then engaged a local architect, Mr. George Lykos, to design the new church building and the social hall.
Construction of the social hall began on May 22, 1966, with a groundbreaking service officiated by the bishop of the Western American Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church, His Grace Bishop Gregory. The first service in the new social hall was held on December 11, 1966, with the Sunday school room serving as a chapel. February 18, 1967 marked the official dedication of the social hall, with many friends from throughout California attending this historic event.
The Building Committee immediately proceeded with plans for a new parish home and a church building. On December 17, 1967, Bishop Gregory officiated at the consecration of the church grounds, and construction of the church commenced thereafter.
The consecration of the new St. George church took place on July 26 and 27, 1969. St. George church is a modern revival and continuation of the rich Serbian tradition in art and architecture. Inspired by the master pieces created during the Golden Age of the Serbian Empire in the Middle Ages, St. George Church is an original and contemporary work created by architect George Lykos. The beauty of its design is an inspiration to worshippers and lovers of religious art everywhere.
One of the outstanding features of St. George church is its magnificent mosaic, especially those covering its interior.
On Sunday, August 4th, the Matins service preceded Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. At the end of the Liturgy a Parastos-Memorial service for all reposed parish clergy, parishioners and all those who died during the operation Storm in Krajina was served. Father Stamatis gave a sermon outlining the Gospel according to St. Matthew 9:27-35, the healing of the two blind men when Jesus exclaimed: “According to your faith be it unto you”. This is the case for everyone. God answers our prayer and heals us according to our faith. This begs the question: what is faith? The Epistle for today explains the matter. We have faith if we live as and become like Christ, Who only thought of others. If we are in any way self-centered, we do not have true faith. If we find ourselves to be lacking in faith, or perhaps the fruit of faith, this results in things that matter in our lives, when we must find a way to increase our faith. It is reasonable to ask the Lord for this, since the Apostles themselves also asked him to increase their faith.
A luncheon followed in the social hall. His Grace suggested to put all tables together making one big table which presented a great opportunity to continue agape (meal of Christian love and fellowship). The celebration was concluded with a short presentation on the monograph, The Serbian Christian Heritage of America, with detailed history of each Serbian Orthodox parish in America. This capital work was led by Bishop Maxim and represents not only a historical testimony of the Serbian Church, but also a testament of unity and faithfulness to Svetosavlje.
Protopresbyter Bratislav, the parish priest, gave his concluding remarks: I humbly ask you that we together in unity and with thanksgiving to our Lord continue this course for the next 50 years, even unto eternity. Let us treasure this time. Let us appreciate it. Let us also rejoice, for Christ gave us the answer to the greatest existential question by conquering death with His resurrection. “Ljudi likujte, narodi cujte, Hristos Voskrese radost donese-People exclaim, nations hear, Christ is risen – He brought us joy!” It is an honor for me to serve God here at our beloved St. George parish. By God’s grace I look forward to continuing our ministry together with you!