Each Orthodox Christian Parish carries the Beacon of light, “the Orthodox Faith,” the true Holy Catholic Apostolic Faith founded 2000 years ago by our lord and savior, Jesus Christ. In the United States, a country of immigrants, the Orthodox Christian Parishes were established by Greek immigrants who sought to live their Orthodox faith in this land of opportunity. Norfolk is no different.
John Gretes, who is acknowledged as Norfolk’s first Greek immigrant, settled here in 1898. Shortly thereafter, George Christopoulos and his wife Paraskevi arrived. The names of Christopoulos and Gretes appear frequently as the founding parishioners of the Greek Orthodox community, here, in Norfolk Virginia.
As the community’s leader, George Christopoulos led a small committee raising $300 to appoint a priest and start a building fund for a church here in Norfolk.
Previously, the spiritual needs of Norfolk’s Greek residents had been served on an irregular basis by the Rev. Fr. Constantine Doropoulos who traveled from Baltimore, Maryland to serve Liturgy, using the facilities of St. Paul’s Church on St. Paul’s Boulevard and City Hall Avenue.
On March 3, 1911, Sunday of Orthodoxy, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated in Norfolk by the newly appointed, Rev. Fr. George Smyrnakis, and our community’s first Priest. At that time services moved to Christ and St Luke’s Church which stood at Freemason and Cumberland Streets where our 25 member congregation participated in the Liturgies and Sacraments of our Orthodox faith.
In 1913, our first parish general assembly elected a board of trustees, and the first president, George Christopoulos. Six years later, following an intensive fundraising drive, the church at Freemason and Cumberland Streets was purchased.
While the church on Freemason Street served us well, the ever-growing Greek Orthodox population facilitated the need for a larger complex, in 1943, a new church building fund drive was initiated. The General Assembly in 1947 authorized the purchase of a parcel of land located at Granby and Fife Streets, our present location.
The fifties were a time of great expansion for our community. Through the efforts of our faithful, in 1952 construction of our new church began. Following Groundbreaking ceremonies in 1953, a comer-stone was laid in 1954, and on March 27, 1955, the first services were held our new and beautiful Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Granby Street. Visionary and then Parish Council President Theodore R Constant, helped meet and complete the next phases of development, our Hellenic Center opening on March 8, 1959.
Since those founding years interest in our Orthodox faith has grown not only for the Greek-American faithful but for people of different walks of life which has again facilitated expanding, building a bookstore, meeting rooms and many classrooms for the spiritual development of those faithful. Continuing with Mr. Constant’s vision, our community has again expanded adding to it, with all the art and beauty of a true Byzantine Church, Saint Theodore’s Chapel which was consecrated on December 14, 2003.
Today, the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral is a true spiritual center of over five hundred families, people from all lifestyles, and all sharing in one thing, the one true light of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
The history of our Cathedral will soon be released in a book entitled “Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral A Century of Dedicated Service 1911-2011.” This book will be available for purchase through the Cathedral office.