Making a Dream Come True -- A Permanent house of Worship
In March 1975, the parishioners of St. George celebrated a major observance: the 10th Anniversary of the parish. During the first decade they had organized a parish, built a beautiful multi-purpose facility that served their religious, educational, cultural, and social needs rather well. With all the progress the new parish had achieved, it could not claim completeness because its most important element, the church was missing. With the beginning of the second decade, the parish set as its goal the erection of the permanent House of Worship. On March 18, 1976, a Parish Assembly meeting was called by John Sporidis, Council President, to discuss this important issue and to proceed with the planning of the new church. The Parish Assembly accepted enthusiastically the recommendations of the Parish Council. A Building Fund Committee was elected and the work of the new church began immediately.
The following people composed the Executive Building Fund and Planning Committee: William Condrell, Chairman; Bruce W. Plomasen, Secretary; John T. Glakas, Treasurer; George Seymore and John Sporidis, Co-chairmen of the Canvas Drive Sub-Committee. Members included Basil Assimakopoulos, Michael A. Chirigos, Pete Collis, Dino Pappas, Mary Djinis, Peter E. Panarites, Lula Sarris, Anthony Kostalas, Parish President, Eleni Doyle, Philoptochos Society President, Mary Peavy, Jr. GOYA president, William Procopiow, architect, Michael K. Johns, consultant, C.V. Vasiliades, consultant and the Rev. Dr. George Papaionnou, Ex-Officio.
The Building Fund Campaign for the new church began at a time that the nation was going through a very serious recession with interest rates reaching 18 percent. To many, the campaign to solicit funds and build a church at that time seemed an impossible task. The campaign for the solicitation of funds was a "Call of Sacrifice for Our House of Worship". And indeed it was. Initially we had only two major donors: Jimmie and Thelma Deoudes who contributed the sum of twenty thousand dollars, equivalent to one acre of land on which the church was to be built and Nicholas Andris who contributed the amount of fifteen thousand dollars.
Due to the economic conditions at the time it was difficult to obtain a building loan. Through the efforts of a fellow parishioner, Peter Panarites, the National Saving and Trust Bank agreed to grant the loan providing the church met certain conditions. Mr. Farid Srour, a friend of the Greek Community, stepped forward and guaranteed those conditions. The construction began in 1979 under the careful supervision of John Sporides, Basil Assimakopoulos, and Anthony Kostalas, and was completed in March 1980. His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos honored the community with his presence at the "Thyranoixia", the opening of the doors. It was a glorious weekend . It began on Saturday with a youth luncheon at which Archbishop Iakovos was the keynote speaker. Over 125 young people and parents attended the event. In the evening a Vesper Service was held in the Founder's Hall and the founding members were honored.
On a beautiful Sunday morning the parishioners and friends from the Maryland and Virginia suburbs and the District gathered in front of the church. The Archbishop led the procession of the clergy and lay leadership from the old building to the new. He offered a prayer and then talked to the congregation about the importance of building a church and he urged the people to support and maintain the edifice. He then gave the key to the Godparents of the new Church, George and Mary Seymore to open the doors and enter first. The Archbishop then entered followed by the clergy and parishioners and presided at the first Divine Liturgy. It was an unforgettable experience; St. George in Bethesda was now complete. Shortly thereafter, an Exterior Grounds Committee was formed under the chairmanship of Elias Charuhas. Through their efforts, the grounds were transformed to match the beauty of the new church.