A New Dawn’s Light – St Sophia Thyranoixia Begins a New Chapter for Holy Week

After 30 years since its founding and in the vision of it’s dynamic Pastor of blessed memory, Father John Limberakis, today, with Father Peter Thornberg at the helm along with a  dedicated Leadership team and Parish, wonderful miracles continue to occur in historic Valley Forge, a special place, in the Metro Philadelphia Environs.

Entry of the New Temple

The Thyranoixia was held on April 7th on the Saturday of Lazarus.  Metropolitan Evangelos and Fr Peter Thornberg led the celebration, with over 450  present.  The next day saw crowds of over 550 on Palm Sunday to celebrate Christ’s procession into Jerusalem and the First Sunday of the Church Temple’s presence.

Metropolitan Evangelos @ the Thyranoixia (Opening of the Doors) on Saturday of Lazarus

“It’s hard to believe that we broke ground just a year ago, with site beginning immediately, and the building commencing in late June” Father Peter reflects.  “We have moved with incredible focus and resolve in creating a beautiful landmark dedicated Orthodox Faith and the Glory of God, we have been blessed with pastoral support received from His Eminence, Metropolitan Evangelos and the Team work of our Building Committee led by Chair, Dean Laskaris, and the Parish Council with its President John Papadimitriou”

Metropolitan Evangelos notes, “I am astonished and so proud of the parish of St Sophia…  For their resolve, speed and quality achieving such beautiful results in a magnificent   Building and Incredible Iconography, an example for all to behold”

Panocrator in the dome

Given Fr John Limberakis’ founding vision in the planting and development of the Parish over 30 ago, sons Anthony and Cary rejoice at what a parish of less than 200 families have accomplished, …” Our Father is beaming from above, and working overtime with our Lord in blessing the works of this dedicated group ” Anthony muses, and Presvyteria says   “Father John, was obsessed with having Architect Christ Kamages come to Valley Forge to design the Church when we saw his handiwork in Las Vegas, now Father’s vision has become real!”

Icon of Christ trampling the Gates of Hades and rescuing Adam and Eve from the grave at His Resurrection

Parish Council President, John Papadimitriou adds “We have been blessed with our Parish Team along with the Design and Construction Team, who have been amazing, created a product of such quality and value in very short period of time.  These efforts and results are amazing, we have been truly blessed”

Building Committee Chair Dean Laskaris, who met and married his wife Nina ( with FR John Limberakis’ “guidance “) has been involved with the Building project since 2004 and notes ” Our parents set the tone and example of our connection and support of the Church, We as a leadership felt, after years of circling the runway, without closure that we had to pursue a realistic  path that  met the current  and future needs of our community… in an economic package that could be achieved, that would be appropriate for our parish”

When asked what were the keys to achieving the superlative results of St Sophia, Laskaris noted:  “Firstly, Understanding, in a realistic manner, the opportunities and constraints; Secondly, Having a Professional Resource, as Christ KamagesAIAand his CJK Team, as the source of all design, management and technological guidance as part of the core of your team; and lastly Systematic and Persistent Pursuit of The Mission and Goals of the Plan and not taking NO as an acceptable answer.”

The new Temple is a visible Witness

A Lighthouse of the Faith

The construction of the $4M project ($2.5 Building Cost), which accommodates about 450 worshipers, began one year ago.  In recent months, its unique façade with its now copper-clad domes and golden crosses has become a familiar landmark to passers-by on heavily traveled Trooper Road just north of Historic Valley ForgePark.  The special AXIOS design is the work of a. Kamages and his CJK Design Team of San Francisco.  Kamages and His Firm specializes in working with Orthodox Parishes and has more than 100 such projects to their credit within North America.  The Byzantine Rooted design is rooted back to the 6th century of Christianity and is typical of churches commonly found in the Mediterranean and Asia Minor.  In keeping with the Byzantine church tradition, the interior of the sanctuary has been adorned with fresco iconography.  From the Apex of the 55 foot high dome which depicts Jesus Christ and the Old Testament prophets, to the lower pendentive regions which display large, colorful murals depicting important scenes from the life of Christ, worshipers will find themselves surrounded by a heavenly panorama.

Congregations Young and Young at heart through The Great Doors

The Beautiful iconography is integrated with the Architecture

World renowned Iconographer Dr George Kordis was so energized in working with St Sophia that he offered the following:

First of all, I would like to thank from my heart His Eminence metropolitan Evangelos for giving us the permission to work in St. Sofia Parish, the faithful members of St. Sofia Parish in Valley Forge, the church parish council and the parish council president, John Papadimitriou; Fr. Peter Thornberg, the Architect Christo Kamages for his masterpiece of a creation; and naturally, all of you who are with us today to share the joy of presenting the church’s wall paintings.

Before I proceed to a brief presentation of the work we did here during the last 6 weeks I would like to expresses my gratitude to Mr.Dean Laskaris And His wife Nina,  not only because they sponsored the main part of the Iconography,  but also because they were the people who inspired this project.  Their attitude is really the best example we can have as Orthodox Christians because Iconography, the narrating of an Orthodox church, is something much more than the decoration of the space.  It is not simply an attempt, to place religious themes on the wall with a didactic or instructive purpose and the creation of a pleasing and beautiful effect.

Long time Parishioner and Committee Member Dr Peter Patukas reflects, “The initiation of the Iconography program came from Nina Laskaris, who did not want their son Leo, growing up in a Church Environment with bare walls void of Iconography.  This a great gesture of vision and generosity”

The results speak for themselves and achieving not only a beautiful authentic Byzantine Church Temple, but a transformative environment, generated by an incredible process, where the local, regional and national audience were exposed to the fusion of Architecture and Iconography, including media, lectures and celebrations, heightening awareness and appreciation of Byzantine Theological and Artistic Traditions, and that Iconography is much more than mere interior decoration.

Looking to the Altar and the Icon of the Theotokos

Tom Cox, Chair of the Capital Campaign, notes “While the building program has witnessed great generosity from the Parish, the Phase 1 Iconography has been significantly supported by Dean and Nina Laskaris… the process has been contagious with many other donations coming forth and in the wings.”  In addition, from outside the Parish a series of major donations have provided by some fantastic friends of the Parish.  The Bell Tower, Geothermal “off -prime time“ supplemental heating system and  CJK-designed Stone Flooring, by Tom and Pamela Papadopoulos, Owners of Colonial Marble and Granite.


The first Palm Sunday service in the new Temple on 04/08 with Fr. Peter standing at the top step of the Marble Iero. Over 500 in attendance for this momentous occasion.

“We are all looking forward to celebrating Easter (or Pascha) in our beautiful new church”, Fr. Peter exclaimed, “and of course we offer thanks to God  and  all who are contributing to making what was once just a dream, a reality for this community”.

A New Dawn for the Parish of St Sophia, Ss Faith, Hope and Love

Light at the end of the tunnel

Ss Nicholas, Constantine and Helen is in the process of creating a Landmark Witness  for the Faith in the Metropolis of  New Jersey.  Two parishes have merged into one and are in the process of building a new 40,000+ sq ft home for the faithful Greek Orthodox community on a beautiful 11 AC site in Northern New Jersey,all under the spiritual paternal guidance of Metropolitan Evangelos.  While it has been a long journey,progress is building momentum there is light at the end of the tunnel, with occupancy for the Church Temple and support spaces by PASCHA 2011. Stay tuned as we will keep posted with progress as the many elements are installed and constructed as the Copper Toned Millennium Stainless Steel Domes  , Gold Leaf Crosses and Stone and Brick Exterior.Progress is steady under the leadership of President James Sumas and a Dedicated Building Committee lead by Robert Sumas…along with Construction Manager TEKTON

Beyond the building project, CJK DESIGN  is also working with V Rev  Seraphim Poulos and his committee on the complete interiors package and Iconography….

Take a look at the latest images from the site showing progress and well as some interior studies.  Also, check out this article from our Structural Engineers – SGH http://www.modernsteel.com/Uploads/Issues/October_2010/102010_Oct10_NJChurch_web.pdf

Church Temple eastern apse, blue waterproofing on dome will soon be copper toned stainless steel

The Chapel in progress with tile roof and stone walls

The main Dome in it's pure structure already suggests a Magnificent presence and testament

The new temple will seat over 500

A study generating multiple Icon Screen options

Thyranoixia of St Michael the Archangel

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”  Matthew 5:14

St Michael's new Temple

I attended the official opening of a Church we designed (just north of the Greek town of Tarpon Springs) in Lecanto, Florida

 Built upon a hill!  It is a miracle story with less than 100 families achieving great heights, founded by an incredible group of dedicated families and Father George Papadeas, a wunderkind, first graduate, and one of the last remaining of the Pomfort Legacy…a truly incredible fusion of Leadership, Faith, dedication and hard work.  The parish, founded in 1981, has been holding services in its Parish Center dedicated to the late Mr. Michael G. Cantonis, Great Benefactor of the community.  In February, the Parish’s byzantine style church, designed by CJK Design was completed.  The Parish held the formal Thyranoixia services and a banquet on the weekend of May 22nd and 23rd with His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios officiating.

Door opening Ceremony on May 23rd

Here in Lecanto with our friends for the Thyranoixia of the new St. Michael the Archangel Church Temple, I am inspired by this growing parish of 100 families.  Metropolitan Alexios, Proistamenos Demetrios Simeonides and Founding Pastor Fr George Papadeas, led the Celebration.  I consider Fr. George my spiritual father, as it was he who baptized me in 1948 in our home (no Churches on the Island) in the Hamptons with the font from the Cathedral in New York.  Fr. George, with his efforts as Patmos Press, also saved Holy Week for us with his incredible translation (the little black book). 

This TRIAD 350 seat Design is rooted in the 6th century and only the second built in History, with the first the TRIAD 600 for Holy Trinity in Carmel, Indiana

First Divine Liturgy after the Thyranoixia

 Much to Celebrate today…Glory to God!


A Good Time To Build

As we have seen over the past year, construction costs are down or holding steady across the country.  Many parishes that are building right now are realizing real savings versus similar projects a couple of years ago.   When  prices will rise or fall is anyone’s guess but we know now there are lesser building related costs.   Below is a report bearing this out.

West Region Construction Conditions & Forecast

Landmark In State Capital


View from down Main Street

The construction of the new Holy Trinity is moving along with the Prairie Stone now going up.  The solidity & permanence of the stone exterior will remind us all of the lasting nature of the Orthodox Faith.  When the metal roofing is applied to the dome, it will be as a beacon to the people of Columbia.  The team is doing a great job! 


Prairie Stone is working its way up the facade to the dome.
Congratulations to the parish of Holy Trinity in the capital city of Columbia, SC who have broken ground and are moving along towards completion of their new landmark temple that is just down Main Street from the capitol building.  The parish contacted us after prior, unsuccessful attempts to come up with a plan that met their needs while maintaining their budget.

The mantra was 500 seats for $5 million (total cost), and together we were able to meet/ exceed this goal.  In working with CJK Design, the Parish has been able to create a “talk of the town” landmark with more program for less cost.  As we have seen, if your parish is in a position to build, now is a great time to develop your plans and put them into action.  

Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church

 After working closely with the parish leadership, the contractor, the city and many consultants, the gleaming gold dome will soon rise and take its spot along the city skyline.  The site is already being laid out and the footprint is now visible.

Columbia Site

It is our hope that the new temple describes in stone some of the ineffable qualities of the Holy Trinity and stands as a reminder of the greatness of God and the power of faith through Christ. 

Framing the tall windows of the Dome

Look for more on the progress of this exciting project.   


Raising the Dome 6-10-2010

Compare to the image just a few months ago.   The project is coming along and it has been great working with the team.

Openings And Beginnings

Aerial shot of new Parish home of St Luke OC

The parish of St Luke Orthodox Church in Erie Colorado is a testament to faithfulness and determination. On November 1st, the parish moved into their new support building and held their first service in their interim worship space while the temple is being completed.

Ground Breaking

In 8 months since the groundbreaking, Cory Gray and the team at Mountain States have done a great job working with the Parish and the Design Team. They are moving quickly to complete the remainder of the project with the hope of celebrating their first Liturgy in the new temple by Pascha. (Good Friday is April 2nd with Pascha falling on April 4th.)

The Vision

This effort is convocation of divine intervention & “the work of the people.” With around 75 families, this energetic Parish has wisely taken advantage of opportunities, such as the slow economy to do more with less and to create their new home and continue their ministries. As the Parish expands, so can the facilities in a staged, organized manner. We look forward to celebrating the remarkable achievements, and salute Fr David Mustian, Lisa Tatusko, project director and all the others that have provided the needed leadership & energy to complete this project to the glory of God.

In the future, look for more on the lessons learned from the inspirational story of St Luke Orthodox Church.

Home On the Front RangeThe temple should be completed in time for Pascha 2010

Thyranoixia a Success

The Metropolitan, Archbishop and the congregation were all in Carmel for Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church’s door opening ceremony (See previous post for more background).  As the architect for this unique temple and support spaces, I was in attendance for the ceremonies.  The whole experience was really gratifying to see this dedicated parish enjoy this special day.

A concert in the Founder's Walk
A concert in the Founder’s Walk

Despite the many economic realities we are all faced with, Holy Trinity has been an example of trusting in the faithfulness of their people and of God. 

Although the future will hold more progress and developments, it is alway important to celebrate sucesses along the way.  Kudos to the Parish. 
More lessons and observations will come in the future, stay tuned…

Innovation Complements Tradition

Even as we travel all over this great nation, we can sense the excitement for the upcoming Thyranoixia in Carmel.  As the architect of this great and important project, we are honored to be participating in this celebration alongside of the Archbishop, pater and the wonderful people of Holy Trinity.  Included here is a press release about the upcoming events.  A hearty congratulations to all, this moment is well deserved.

Carmel, IN –   “Fr Taso…You and your congregation must be so proud,  The church is a prayer in brick and mortar!” Rabbi Arnold L. Bienstock

 For the  Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, this May marks another step in a long journey for the Indianapolis centered parish.  In 1998, 88 Years after opening their first facility on West Street in Indianapolis, the parish purchased a 20-acre tract outside of the city in Carmel as an initial act in supporting their growing community and faith in the future of their ministry.   Ten years later, in December 2008, the parish triumphantly completed their iconic brick and stone, golden domed Byzantine sanctuary, designed by CJK Design Group and built by Shiel Sexton and, on Christmas Eve 2008, the congregation held its first worship service with over 900 in attendance in their landmark temple. 

 Now, on May 30 – 31, the faithful parish, lead by Fr. Anastasios Gounaris, will finally be celebrating their Thyranoixia (literally: door opening) along with Archbishop Demetrios, head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, and Metropolitan Nicholas of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Detroit.  This unique experience, a milestone which happens only once in the life of a temple, commemorates the official opening of the structure and ushers in a new era in the life of a parish and its local community.  During the Thyranoixia ceremony, the Archbishop and Metropolitan will bless the new structure, many prayers will be offered & the archbishop will knock on the massive 12’ bronze entry doors and claim the new temple for Christ and the Great Church.  Planned events for this festive weekend include: 

Saturday, May 30, 2009

    4 pm — Youth Reception with the Archbishop

    5 pm — Thyranoixia and Vespers followed by a complimentary reception

Sunday, May 31, 2009

    8:15 am — Orthros

    9:30 am — Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, followed by Thyranoixia Luncheon (RSVP required)