Greeks and Orthodox Christianity in Iowa
2. Greeks in Des Moines
3. St. George Parish
on a link to move through the text.
Greeks and Orthodox Christianity in
are approximately 6000 Greek-Americans living
in Iowa today, up from a U.S. Census total of 18
Greeks in Iowa in 1900. Most are descendents of the
early immigrant communities of Sioux City, Mason City, Des Moines, Cedar
Rapids, Waterloo, Davenport, Council Bluffs, and
Many of the
earliest, almost exclusively male immigrants
returned to Greece, but by the 1920s, most Greeks
stayed and raised families, establishing a
permanent Greek-American community in Iowa. They
founded Greek Orthodox churches in Waterloo (St.
Demetrios, 1914), Sioux
City (Holy Trinity, 1917),
City (Holy Transfiguration, 1918), Des Moines
(St. George, 1928), Cedar
Rapids (St. John the Baptist,
Dubuque (St. Elias, 1956).
Orthodox community isn't limited to people of Greek ethnicity,
however. Iowa also has three
Orthodox Churches. Two of the churches,
George in Cedar Rapids
Thomas in Sioux City, serve primarily
Lebanese/Syrian communities. In the summer of 2001, St.
Raphael of Brooklyn Antiochian Orthodox
Mission in Iowa City was
founded by converts to the Eastern
In the spring of
2002, a new mission church of the Orthodox
Church in America (an offshoot of the Russian Orthodox Church) was
founded in Pella, Iowa as the St.
Nicholas Orthodox Christian
Pella is located approximately 50 miles southeast
of Des Moines, and is known nationally for its Dutch
heritage and annual Tulip
(Sinterklaas) is the patron saint of the Netherlands. The OCA
is an autocephalous (self-headed) jurisdiction in
the United States and Canada. St. Nicholas Church
is under the jurisdiction of the OCA's Diocese
of the Midwest.
In 2012, St.
John the Wonderworker Orthodox Church, a mission
parish of the Russian
Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) (not
to be confused with the OCA) was established in Des Moines
as a Western
Rite Orthodox parish. A Western Rite parish, as
opposed to a Byzantine
(or Eastern) Rite parish, holds the
fullness of the Orthodox faith with their Eastern Rite bretheran,
but celebrate Western forms of liturgy. The Divine Liturgy
regularly celebrated at St. John the Wonderworker is The
Divine Liturgy according to Saint Germanus of Paris,
and they also celebrate the Divine Liturgy of St. John
Chrysostom. The parish currently holds services at St.
Mark's Episcopal Church in Des Moines.
In April of 2002, a
group of Egyptian immigrants founded
Mary Coptic Orthodox Church
in Urbandale, a suburb of Des Moines. The Coptic
under the Coptic Patriarchate of Alexandria, is
part of a communion known as the Oriental
which also includes the Ethiopian
Orthodox Tewahedo Church,
(India) Orthodox Church,
Orthodox Church of Antioch,
and the Armenian
The Coptic Church in particular has been described
by scholars as a "living museum" of ancient
Christian tradition and practice.
Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church,
Waterloo, Iowa. Founded
Photo by Ben Siepmann.
Trinity Greek Orthodox Church,
Sioux City, Iowa. Founded 1917.
of Christine McAvoy.
Greek Orthodox Church,
Mason City, Iowa. Founded
Photo by Panos Fiorentinos,
from the book Ecclesia.
Orthodox Church of St. George,
Des Moines, Iowa. Founded 1928.
Photo by Ben Siepmann.
St. John the
Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Founded 1938.
Photo courtesy of Fr.
Elias the Prophet Greek Orthodox
Dubuque, Iowa. Founded
Photo courtesy of N.J. Yiannias.
Metropolitan Christopher (second from
left,in mitron) of the Serbian
Orthodox Church conducts a Divine Liturgy
for the Serbian community in Des Moines at
St. George's, assisted by (from left) Fr.
Peter T. Cade, priest of St. George's, Fr. Sasha
Petrovich, and Fr. Aleksandar Bugarin,
both of the Serbian Orthodox
Photo by Ben
August 14, 2004,
our parish hosted
a Hierarchical Divine
Liturgy for the Serbian
community of Des
Moines. The service
was celebrated by Metropolitan
Christopher of the Serbian
Orthodox Church in
the USA and Canada,
with the assistance
of two Serbian priests
from Kansas City
and South Dakota
and Fr. Peter Cade,
priest of St. George's
at the time. After
the service, the
members in attendance
voted to form St.
Church in Des Moines.
The congregation recently
acquired its own
at 4655 NE 3rd
Street in Des Moines. The
St. Demetrius parish
is under the jurisdiction
of the Serbian
of New Gracanica
-- Midwestern America.
The Greek community in
of Praxia Ralles, an early immigrant
May 19, 1895, The Iowa State Register marked
the arrival of the first Hellenic immigrants to the
city by announcing that "Two Greeks...will open a
big confectionery and fruit house." The first Greek
entry in the Des Moines City Directory was "John
Metrakos, Confectioner," in 1898. By 1920, the U.S.
Census listed 230 foreign-born Greeks in the
As was typical
throughout the United States, most early Des Moines
Greeks came from southern Greece, especially from
the villages of Feliatra, Pyrgos, and Antretsena of
Peloponesus, but the young Greek community also
hailed from Sparta, Athens, Corinth, Salonika, and
the Aegean islands. Unlike Des Moines Italians,
Greek settlement in Des Moines did not bear the
stamp of a single old-world town or take the form
of an ethnic neighborhood.
While many Greeks
came to this state to work on the railroads, in Des
Moines most of the early immigrants started their
own shoe repair shops, restaurants, and candy
Greek-American community in Iowa's capital city is
a mixture of foreign and native-born from old Des
Moines families, other American-born
Greek-Americans who have moved to Des Moines, and
more recent immigrants from many regions of
St. George Parish
1924, two hundred Greek immigrants in central Iowa
formed a Kinotis, or Greek society. Four
years later, the Greek Orthodox parish was
established, with church members from Boone, Perry,
Ft. Dodge, Newton, Oskaloosa, and Ottumwa, as well
as Des Moines and Valley Junction (now West Des
Moines). The parishioners voted unanimously to name
their church after their most common given
name--"George," for St. George the Great
conducted services on an irregular schedule at the
old YMCA building at Fourth Street and Keosauqua
Way. Later, the
parish held services at a hall owned by St.
Mark's Episcopal Church,
then at East 13th and Des Moines Streets. In 1929,
the parish battled U.S. immigration authorities in
order to bring Fr. Meletios Kestekides from Greece
to be its first regular priest.
In late 1930, St.
George Parish moved into its present Greek
Revival-style church building after agreeing to
purchase the property from Westminster
United Presbyterian Church for
$22,000. The Greek community held the first
Orthodox service in their own church building on
Christmas Day of that year.
At a celebration on
November 14, 1937, attended by 800 persons, the
re-negotiated $16,000 mortgage was burned and
Bishop Kallistos of Chicago consecrated the church
building. Dignitaries in attendence at the
celebration included Iowa Governor Nelson G.
shot of the congregation,
the Parish's 50th Anniversary book.
Friday, April, 1998. Decorating the kouvouklion and church
by Maro Velman.
Today, we are a
parish of 184 member families. The parish receives
spiritual and administrative leadership from
Metropolitan Iakovos of the Metropolitanate of Chicago.
Each year on the
first weekend in June, St. George Church hosts a Greek
Food Fair serving delicious
Greek food and introducing the
Church and Greek culture to more than three