The first reported Greek to visit the Pacific Northwest was Apostolos Valerianos, also known as Ioannis Fokas, from Cephalonia, a marine pilot sailing in the service of Spain, in 1592. He claimed to have explored the water passage between now Washington state and British Columbia and which today carries the Spanish version of his name, the “Strait of Juan de Fuca.”

It was approximately 300 years later, in the last two decades of the 1800’s when the first Greek immigrants arrived in the area, drawn by jobs in fishing, logging, mining, food service, and railroads. While they were far from home and for the most part family, they held firm to their Orthodox faith. There were also growing numbers of Russian, Serbian, and Middle Eastern immigrants in Seattle at that time.

In 1892, the groups got together and formed the St. Spiridon Greek-Russian Orthodox Church, so named by the Greek family which donated land on which a church could be built. It opened in 1895. A tri-lingual priest (Greek, Russian and English) was assigned to serve this early manifestation of Pan-Orthodox cooperation.

The Greek population of Seattle continued to grow in the early 20th Century so that by 1915 there were over 2000 Greeks. A meeting was held to form a formal community and due to the presence of an icon of St. Demetrios brought from Greece, that name was chosen. The group purchased property in the Cascade neighborhood not far from downtown Seattle and had a church built where the first Divine Liturgy was celebrated on November 21, 1921. That location served St. Demetrios Church until 1963 when it was sold and the parish moved to its current modern church complex in Seattle’s Montlake neighborhood.

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After two postponements due to Covid-19, the St. Demetrios Church celebrated its 100th Anniversary with a gala weekend of events September 23-25, 2022, including His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco and His Grace Bishop Ioannis of Phocaea who serves as Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco Chancellor. Long-time parishioner and former Parish Council President Chris G. Pallis chaired a large committee that organized and arranged the various events and handled multiple details.

Metropolitan Gerasimos and Bishop Ioannis arrived Friday afternoon and Archbishop Elpidophoros came in Saturday morning with Deacon Michael Giavris. The first event was a Doxology at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption, also in Seattle, during which the Archbishop bestowed the Cross of Hagia Sophia on Assumption’s proistamenos Fr. Dean Kouldukis and Shoreline’s Holy Apostles Greek Orthodox Church proistamenos Fr. Tom Tsagalakis. Both parishes were founded by members of St. Demetrios. His Eminence also recognized Assumption parish leaders with icons commemorating the Centennial of the Archdiocese. The Archbishop in turn received gifts from the Assumption community and even a Seattle Kraken hockey team jersey from the participating clergy.

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Following the Doxology, the Pacific Northwest Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Order of St. Andrew the Apostle, hosted a luncheon in the Assumption Community Center for the visiting hierarchs, the Parish Council and Philoptochos leaders of the area and other invited guests. The Archons presented the Archbishop with a check in the amount $17,000 for the “Rev. Fr. A. Homer and Presvytera Artemis Demopulos Scholarship Fund” to support third and fourth-year students at Holy Cross School of Theology in Brookline, MA, who are committed to being ordained after graduation. Fr. Demopulos was the longest serving proistamenos of St. Demetrios at 25 years, fully one quarter of its history.

Despite monumental traffic jams due to bridge closures and a college football game, over 300 people converged on the St. Demetrios Church complex for an evening of worship, socializing, a banquet, presentations, and dancing. The Archbishop officiated at Great Vespers assisted by area clergy and responses sung by a choir composed of the regular parish chanters and several members of the well-known Cappella Romana group.

Given the warm weather, the cocktail hour was held outdoors on the patio in front of the church with music by the band Dromeno which also played for dancing at the glendi later in the evening.

The dinner program began with a welcome and introductions by St. Demetrios Parish Council President Barbara Trehearne. She noted “I, like many of you, am here because our parents and grandparents made a decision to leave their homeland in search of a better life for their families. They loved their Church and established Greek Orthodox Churches across the country. The Church provided not only a place of worship but a community that supported them, encouraged them, and provided a continuation of a life they knew before. We owe them a debt of gratitude for the many sacrifices they made so we might enjoy a better life.”

In his opening remarks, Centennial Chair and Master of Ceremonies Chris Pallis reflected on a personal family connection to this history of St. Demetrios. “Fifty years ago, on February 4, 1962, in the Grand Ballroom of the Olympic Hotel, my father-in-law to be Themio Carras, a brilliant attorney and leader of our St. Demetrios Community, stood before many of you in celebration of our 50th anniversary or ‘half-centennial.’ As chairman of the event, he had the honor of welcoming not only His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos but some of Seattle’s foremost civic and religious leaders. He stated ‘As religion is universal - so is it diverse. Truly I say – God’s greatest gift to man is his fellow man…’” Chris noted that this diversity is clearly present within the St. Demetrios Community today, as is philotimo, “allowing it to grow and prosper for many generations to come.”

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Following the Archbishop’s invocation, the Centennial participants enjoyed a delicious multi-course meal by Arista Catering.

St. Demetrios has a long history of award-winning Greek Dance groups, and one of those, the Souliotes, under the direction of Steve Teodosiadis, performed a suite of dances from Northern Thrace.

Fr. Photios Dumont, the parish’s proistamenos, expressed his joy on the occasion by remembering “As we look up on our magnificent church, our community center, Classrooms — our stunning All Saints Camp property on Raft Island, we cannot help but be in awe of all that has been accomplished—from a group of immigrants, who had nothing. Yet… because of their Faith, they had everything.” Looking forward, he proclaimed “The next 100 years of our parish is about building on the foundation given to us, and bringing our faith to the world around us.”

A special guest on the program was the City of Seattle’s Director of Internal Affairs Pedro Gomez representing Mayor Bruce Harrell. Mr. Gomez presented a proclamation from the Mayor which said in part “the City of Seattle recognizes and celebrates the significant contributions of the Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church and its parishioners to the City of Seattle and its citizens over many decades,” and concluded with

100th Anniversary of Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church Day”

Archon Paul Plumis reviewed the history of the church and community noting how both were and are important.

“The history of the parish of St Demetrios as with most Orthodox Churches - is woven with dedicated individuals who wanted – and today want – nothing more than to have a Community where the teachings of Jesus Christ are shared and the Commandments of God are instilled in His followers. Such interests occur by way of shared faith and worship in a setting of education as well as social interaction. That setting is our Orthodox Churches – and is the genesis of our St Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church community” Archon Plumis explained.

As part of the recent development of a Strategic Plan, the parish adopted a Mission statement “Loving God and One Another in Spirit and in Truth” and a Vision statement “To Follow Jesus Christ; Make Disciples; and Minister to the Needs of One Another and the Community.” Archon John T. John provided numerous examples and statistics mainly from the past 50 years of how the parish has demonstrated its commitments to these statements long before they were formally set forth through its ministries as well as outreach to the local, regional, national and international communities. These efforts involved and affected many hundreds, if not thousands of individuals.

“Our priests, parents, Godparents, and the Church guide, support, assist, and encourage us on our individual journeys in striving to lead a Christ-centered life.,” Archon John noted. “As we individually express and manifest our love to our families, friends and the community, we will serve as role models for our children and the greater community and be beacon of love,” he concluded.

Following was an exciting 12-minute video, produced by Emmy award winning parishioner Dale Hazapis, which showed the 100-year history of St. Demetrios Church. The audience applauded enthusiastically throughout when familiar individuals and events were on the screen.

Then Archon Cliff Argue offered some thoughts how St. Demetrios might look in its next 100 years. He suggested four key areas that need increased focus in the years ahead: “Engagement,” “Growth,” “Ministries,” and “Change.” Parishioners cannot be silent observers, but are all called on to be active participants in the life of the church, “spiritually, emotionally, financially, in the ministries, and otherwise,” he stated. In order to grow, “we must demonstrate that we are not only a church for immigrants and their families, but a fully American faith where all can participate in authentic Christianity,” Archon Argue added.

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In his Archpastoral Greeting, Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco also looked into the future offering the following advice, “What mark will this community make on the next 100 years? If this community wants to thrive for the next several decades, emphasis needs to be placed on the youth, what you are offering them, responding to their needs in a real and relevant way. And most importantly, listening to them, validating their concerns, their needs and their ideas. Young people need to be incorporated into every aspect of parish life. Many times you hear people say, “the youth are the church of tomorrow”. I disagree. The youth are the church of today, and if we do not slowly and deliberately hand over the reins to them, there will be no church here or anywhere in 100 years.”

The concluding presentation of the evening’s program was the Archiepiscopal Exhortation by Archbishop Elpidophoros of America. His Eminence noted that the Centennials of St. Demetrios Church and of the Archdiocese of America are closely linked showing “how our Church – even in 1922 – reached literally from ‘sea to shining sea,’ I stand in awe and deep gratitude for those who came before us.”

He further picked up on the Mission and Vision statements of the parish observing that the former “is so eminently simple, but so acutely profound. Here, you lay hold of the two greatest commandments, as the Lord Jesus taught:

‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your thoughts. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like the first: You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.’”

With respect to the Vision, His Eminence said: “So, what I find so encouraging about your parish, is that you have made four concrete proposals to accomplish your destiny in Christ:

  1. You are committed to following the Lord, and to learn from Him.
  2. You are committed to helping others learn from Him and become His followers.
  3. You are committed to serving one another as loving brothers and sisters.
  4. And finally, you are committed to serving the world around you.

This is a superb model for being the Church, not just having a Church. Therefore, my dear Christians of this wondrous Saint Demetrios Parish:

Allow me to commend you, to encourage you, and to bless you for the next hundred years. Your foundation is strong, fortified by the sacrifices of your forebears. Your present is active and engaged, as you know your mission and your vision is clear.

And so, like the arc of this celebration weekend, your future is radiant, and your prospects, like the Archdiocese, are very bright indeed.”

Following a closing prayer, the participants enjoyed an evening of Greek dancing.

The Centennial weekend concluded with a Hierarchal Divine Liturgy Sunday morning. The Archbishop awarded the Cross of Hagia Sophia to the parish proistamenos, Fr. Photios Dumont, and special icons were given to the Parish Council and Philoptochos. In turn, the parish presented the Archbishop with several gift items typical of the Pacific Northwest.

In his concluding remarks, Archbishop Elpidophoros urged the congregation:

“Let us embrace the next hundred years with faith in the foundation that has been established, and go forth in enthusiasm and optimism.”