One of the oldest orthodox Christian congregations in Minnesota, St. George Antiochian church, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this weekend.
Considered the first community of Middle Eastern Christians organized in the city of St. Paul, St. George was founded by Syrian and Lebanese immigrants who arrived here beginning in the 1890s.
Some 150 families who attend the church will commemorate their heritage by hosting a grand banquet featuring Middle Eastern food, music and dancing as well as special liturgical services.
Highlights of the celebration include Saturday evening vespers at the church and a grand banquet at the Royal Cliff in Eagan. On Sunday, the Rev. Anthony Michaels, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest, will celebrate a Divine Liturgy at the church.
For its first 60 years, St. George existed on the corner of Clinton and Isabel streets on the West Side. In 1973, the congregation moved to its current site on Oakdale Avenue in West St. Paul.
Paul Ablan, an organizer for the centennial celebration, notes the congregation is made up of many descendants of founding families. The church has steadily grown — due in part to a recent influx of Christian immigrants from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine. He says the church has members from other Eastern Orthodox backgrounds, in addition to converts to the orthodox faith. He estimates there are close to 20 orthodox churches in the Twin Cities area.
“It’s a rather diverse mix of a church” at St. George, he said. “I can’t say we’re only a Middle Eastern … church any longer. We certainly have those roots. But at the same time, we’ve been blessed with diversity from the Orthodox world as well as converts to our faith, some of whom are very … active in making our church what it is today.
“Our church celebrated Sunday services entirely in the Arabic language until some point in the 1940s when we gradually began to integrate English into it. But today, the services are celebrated every Sunday predominately in the English language.”
Rose French 612-673-4352