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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message August 1, 2021

And Anna was grieved exceedingly, and put off her garments of mourning, and cleaned her head and put on her wedding garments, and about the ninth hour, went down to her garden to walk. And she saw a laurel tree and sat under it, and prayed to the Lord, saying: O God of our fathers, bless me and hear my prayer, as You blessed the womb of Sarah, and gave her a son, Isaac… and behold an angel of the Lord stood by saying, Anna, Anna, the Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth; and your seed shall bespoken of in all the world.  

– Protoevangelium of James

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This past Saturday evening, on the occasion of our parish Feast of the Dormition of St. Anna, we had the blessed and incredible pleasure to receive our Archbishop. His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros was welcomed by nearly 300 worshipers, and broke bread with 273 people on the beautiful grounds of our church property. His Eminence spoke openly, with passion and vision. It did not escape the hearers of his message when he said plainly that St. Anna parish is the “future of the Archdiocese.” 

THE FUTURE OF THE ARCHDIOCESE.

Honestly, why would he proclaim such a bold statement? Of course, I do not dare speak for the Archbishop. But he, himself put his words in context. He celebrated the vision of the parish to look beyond ethnic and cultural priorities. Let there be no mistake, St. Anna is a parish of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. We honor and solemnize the rich Byzantine traditions of our precious, Orthodox Faith. Though we largely conduct our divine services in English, we do not disregard the Scriptural and historical connections to New Testament and Liturgical Greek. 

His Eminence stressed that all are welcome. All are called. All are invited to fully participate and feel completely welcome in our church. This is how parishes grow. This is how Metropolises grow.  This is how the Archdiocese combats atrophy and begins to truly thrive. When our focus, purpose, intention and drive is Christ, all else follows. 

My Beloved in the Lord, there is no question about it, our Archbishop knows us. He supports us. He guides and shepherds us in our shared and collective vision for the Church. His history in our Archdiocese is uniquely connected to ours, as he reminded us that we are the first parish to be instituted by his own hand – for we are the first Chartered parish under his authority.

His Eminence also said both publicly and privately, that when our Sanctuary is built, he will return, open the doors and celebrate the Archiehierarchical Divine Liturgy in, what will be an inspired and dignified space.  He is now spiritually and personally connected to our sacred efforts. How awesome is that?!?

There were many people involved in our most successful and blessed evening. The thank you note in the Bulletin mentions each person by name. But if I neglected to place your name on the flyer, I ask your forgiveness and request that you contact me so I can make any all-important correction.  

Though there were many hands involved, I extend my profound gratitude most specifically to Elaine Peterson, our evening chairman, Chuck Karpakis, our chef-in-residence, and Craig Stagg, parish council president. For two months, we met weekly so that every detail could be crafted, discussed and deliberated. Elaine, Chuck and Craig worked so hard, brought so many people together and pulled off a tremendous event. It’s no exaggeration: as he walked the grounds before Great Vespers, His Eminence spent more time with Chuck’s cooks than he did with the parish council. He appreciated the effort that went into honoring him and the dignity of his office.

I would also like to offer a specific mention to Elaina Simos who designed, created and beautifully packaged 200 icons of St. Elpidophoros. Her contribution yielded a subtle, yet profound impact on the evening. Thank you, Elaina and crew!

Really, everyone, you made us so proud! You provided the lovely backdrop for hundreds of people to encounter the Archbishop of America. In doing so, we encountered his love, smile, wisdom, gentleness and most importantly, his blessing. Remember the evening was not about us. It was not simply about him. It was about Him! We encountered Christ through our shepherd. 

Lastly, I just want to remind you all of how far this young parish has traveled in a very short amount of time. Therefore, I would like to share the little document that was prepared for His Eminence to be keenly aware of the highlights in our brief history. Remember, dear fellow parishioners of St. Anna’s, these are only the early chapters. Much more will be written in the years to come. 

To His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America:

St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church is a young and vibrant parish, established seven years ago to expand the Church of Christ into the southern part of the Salt Lake Valley, to establish a Christ-centered community, to offer a welcoming embrace to those who seek the Gospel, and to celebrate our Orthodox Christian Tradition, doctrine, theology, history and practice.

What began as a collection of 60 visionary and faithful families from the Holy Trinity and Prophet Elias parish, St. Anna is now a parish of over 200 families. St. Anna’s parish has purchased its own three-acre property, and is in the process of transforming the existing 16,000 square foot structure into a traditional and functional Greek Orthodox Temple with supporting facilities. St. Anna continues to be a strong partner in meeting the needs of our local and surrounding community with continual outreach.

The building purchased by St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church was originally built as the Western Garden Center, a locally owned nursery. The fact that St. Anna’s prayers to conceive a child were answered in her luscious garden is a divine connection that does not escape the minds and hearts of our people. We are most thankful for God’s imaginative and whimsical witness!

Three years ago, the parish sought and received a small relic of St. Anna, issued from the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. Our current property became available to us five days after we celebrated our first Paraklesis to St. Ann with her relic present.

Once His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver established what was known as the Greek Orthodox Mission Parish of Utah, he supplied priests, primarily from Colorado, for a solid year before a full-time priest was assigned. The loving guidance of His Eminence cannot be understated. His wise and enthusiastic support as our Shepherd has been evident from the initial dream of establishing a new parish in the Salt Lake Valley.

Fr. Anthony Savas is the first and continuing presiding priest at St. Anna. Fr. Elias Koucos is a retired priest who is attached to St. Anna, together with Dn. Anatoli Kireiev.
Fr. Anthony is grateful to currently serve at the pleasure of His Eminence on the Archdiocese Charter Advisory Committee.  

Following is a brief time line of critical events in the young life of St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church in Sandy, Utah – a southeastern suburb of Salt Lake City:

 August 24, 2014
Greek Orthodox Mission Parish of Utah was formally organized at a local meeting conducted by then-chancellor, Fr. Luke Uhl, through the authority of His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver.

August 31, 2014
The first Divine Liturgy of the newly formed mission was celebrated by Fr. Jimi (Iakovos) Foreso of blessed memory at a rented reception center in Murray, Utah. This facility would be the home of the Mission for the next seven months.

March 2, 2015
The lease was signed for a new rental space for the Mission at the facility of St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Cottonwood Heights, Utah. The facilities at STM provided a 200-seat dedicated sanctuary, office space, shared classrooms, a small social hall and access to their gymnasium, ballroom and kitchen. This blessed arrangement would be the home of our community for five years. Enough cannot be said of the love displayed to us from our STM Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ – indeed, partners in His love. The altar table that is currently used at St. Anna’s is a parting gift from the parish of St. Thomas More, and their priest, Fr. John Evans.

April 4, 2015 Saturday of Lazarus
Hieromonk Ambrose Omayas of blessed memory celebrated the first Divine Liturgy in our newly rented space, and offered the parish its first Holy Week and Paschal services. Fr. Ambrose was the primary priest in the first year of the Mission. His joyful radiance still influences the parish to this day. He established the administrative practices that a new priest would inherit.

September 1, 2015
Fr. Anthony Savas was assigned as the first full-time presiding priest of the Mission. Having most recently served for ten years at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Northridge, California,
Fr. Anthony was given the opportunity to return to his hometown of Salt Lake City and serve a new and promising community. Presbytera Andrea (Zoumadakis) Savas was also born and raised in Salt Lake City. The couple was married at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral on April 20, 1991. Fr. Anthony was ordained to the Holy Diaconate at Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church on June 16, 1996. They, together with the founding members of St. Anna are sons and daughters of the Greek Orthodox community in Salt Lake City.

March 27, 2016
As directed by His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, the Mission embarked on a series of voting, taking several weeks to name the parish. On the Feast of Pascha 2016, the name of our Matron Saint Anna was revealed following the Anastasi Liturgy. As the icon of All-Saints was unnoticeably removed from the iconostasis, the icon of St. Anna was processed through the church to the great jubilation of all worshipers. Understanding that we did not “choose” our Matron Saint, but rather she was revealed to us through a voting process, her maternal guidance and motherly embrace was felt all along. Our new parish name felt natural and obvious from the inception.

 May 3, 2018
Twenty-eight pilgrims from St. Anna’s were blessed to be received by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in the Throne Room of the Fanar, at the beginning of our two-week pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Constantinople, and Cappadocia. It was an indescribable joy for our people to be given an audience by His All-Holiness. His blessing established the sacred tone of our entire trip.   

October 31, 2019
Scarcely five years old, recognizing we had outgrown our rented space, the community closed on its current property following an aggressive capital campaign. The community raised over half of the $3 million necessary to purchase our existing building situated on three acres of land in the desirable east bench area of Sandy City. With the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, the parish intends to utilize the existing structure to create a basilica style Greek Orthodox Church with all amenities to serve the educational, ministerial, outreach, and social needs of the community. An approximate 360-seat sanctuary is planned (see included drawings), which should accommodate future growth, to the point of prayerfully establishing the next Greek Orthodox Mission in the southwest part of the Salt Lake Valley. This area is a true mission field.

February 2, 2020 Feast of Ypapanti
Renovations to our temporary worship space were complete and the doors of St. Anna’s were opened by His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver. Over 350 Faithful gathered for a service that would be marked by anticipation and exhilaration. The Orthros was celebrated at our former location, then His Eminence led the procession to the new church, as members of the parish carried all the sacred items to our new location. He then celebrated the first Divine Liturgy in our new building. Providence allowed our first divine service to be Hierarchical. His Eminence elevated the ministry of Fr. Anthony to that of Protopresbyter, and he was presented a pectoral cross from the parish as a gift. Sadly, the church would be closed to live worship four weeks later, due to COVID-19 precautions.

May 15, 2020
The long-awaited and greatly anticipated affirmation of our parish was received with elation as His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America issued the official Charter of the Archdiocese to St. Anna’s, thus lifting our status as a mission and formally recognizing us as the St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church of Sandy City, Utah. As our church was still closed, miniature copies of the Charter were sent to each household, together with an explanation on the importance of a Charter, announcing the grand news. The Archdiocese Charter was issued 2,091 days after the formation of the parish, at the meeting that was held in a local junior high school.   

June 13, 2020
St. Anna re-opened for live worship with great limitations. What a blessed day!

July 24, 2021
St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church will be blessed to receive His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America for the celebration of Great Vespers for the Dormition of our Matron Saint Anna.

This is the brief history of our young parish. To God be the glory!

There is an important update to this week’s Bulletin that surfaced following publication. On Saturday, August 14th, there will be no Great Vespers at St. Anna’s. We have been invited to share in the occasion at the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Church in Price, Utah. I will be present with Fr. Seraphim and the lovely people of Price for their Parish Name Day. Please join us in Price for the Dormition.