Orthodoxy in Southern California: The Ministry Comes to Long Beach In 1937
October 4, 1937 – the Long Beach parish Hellenic community/church was granted a charter. An organizational meeting was held and the following officers were elected: President Theofanis Athanasiou, Vice President George Manos, Secretary Peter George and Treasurer John Foutris.
Seven trustee board members were also elected. Fund raising activities then continued in order to proceed with construction plans.
The early community history begins with the arrival of our first priest, Father Nicholas Billiris in 1949, and continues during his 35 years of service before retiring. The arrival of our new priest, Fr. Michael Kouremetis in 1984 and sale of the original church, required a move to temporary spaces and storage of many church properties, including records and documents. Whatever prior and existing records are now available served as the basis of the community’s 1987 50th anniversary album of being granted our charter in 1937.
Prior to 1933, church services for Long Beach residents of Greek heritage were provided by the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church on San Julian Street in Los Angeles. Approximately twice a year Los Angeles priests would come to minister the various sacraments to Orthodox Christians gathered at St. Luke’s Episcopalian Church at 7th Street and Atlantic Boulevard. Some of the parish priests remembered by early Long Beach residents were : Fathers Kallistos, Papageorge, Joachim, Kostouras and Mistakidis.
During 1933, resident Greeks felt the need for a Hellenic organization to perpetuate the ideals and traditions of the Greek Orthodox faith. The first step toward realization of this need was the organization of a Hellenic school. As a result of this school, the new generation of American Hellenes learned the language of their parents and the real meaning of the Greek Orthodox religion. Many school graduates are active in community affairs today.
A special thank you to George Karidakis for putting this video together commemorating the 75th anniversary of our parish!
The late Patriarch Athenogoras I, then Archbishop of North and South America, visited Long Beach and the founding fathers. He encouraged and supported the community to continue efforts to build a church for the community.
1939 – first parcel of land for the church was purchased at the southwest corner of Pacific Avenue and 17th Street in Long Beach, California.
1944 – 1947 – official building committee was appointed and included:
- Theofanis Athanasiou – Chairman
- Andrew Bratsalis
- James Gaster
- Trifon Markovis
- George Beckas
- Gus Papacostas
- Peter Magalousis
- William Karantzas
Following appointment of the building committee and preparation of building plans, the Archdiocese established the city of San Pedro and vicinity within the jurisdiction of the Long Beach church. As a result, a new organization was formed and named the Hellenic community of Long Beach – San Pedro and vicinity.
1947 – original church construction began with ground breaking on Pacific Avenue.
1949 – original church construction completed.
August 15, 1949 – official opening of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church. God parents were Mr. and Mrs. Peter George. Named by John Zarifes. Official door opening by John Zarifes.
Greek language school established in 1937.
Sunday school was conducted in private homes by volunteers in the late 1930’s and 1940’s. Completion of the original Pacific Avenue church included a two story building including classrooms used for meetings, language and Sunday school classes.
A church choir was organized in 1947, two years before construction of the original Pacific Avenue church.
A Philoptochos chapter was organized September 8, 1937 before the organization of the Long Beach Greek community on October 4, 1937.
Folk dance participation began in 1980 with one group participating in the previously established statewide folk dance festival which had developed in various Greek communities. At this time, our church has 4-5 groups of several ages. They are well organized and perform regularly.
On August 15, 1999 the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church of Long Beach celebrated the 50th anniversary of the official church opening on August 15, 1949.
On November 10, 2012 the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church of Long Beach celebrated the 75th anniversary as a community.