“Building for Generations to Come”
In the winter of 1996, Mr. and Mrs. Nikitas Damianakis placed their hope in God and made a leap of faith. Despite Nikitas’ advanced emphysema, he and his wife Elaine made the trip from Palm Harbor, FL, to Atlanta, GA to request the Episcopal blessings of Metropolitan Alexios in order to pursue their dream of honoring Saints Raphael, Nicholas & Irene of Thermi, Lesvos. His Eminence Alexios did, in fact, grant his blessings to build the first Greek Orthodox Church in America in honor of these newly manifested saints. With neither the monies nor a priest assigned to the community, the only things certain were the call of God to build up His community and the desire to honor their beloved saints. In the face of uncertainty, the founders moved forward with vision and faith. There were stumbling blocks, but God transformed them into stepping stones. There were doubts, but God transformed them into hope. With perseverance, God took a small group of his dreamers and transformed them into a community of faithful – His Church.
In 2003 His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos of Plomari/Erressos, together with His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta personally escorted the Holy Relics of Saints Raphael, Nicholas & Irene from their sanctified Monastery in Thermi to their new permanent Parish/Shrine in Palm Harbor. In just sixteen short years, the community was able to outgrow its original home and retire its existing mortgage. In September 2014, the small church was destroyed by an early morning fire caused by old electrical wiring. In the months since the fire, the community’s faithful worshiped in a rented shopping center site while the Parish Council worked diligently to strategically plan the most cost effective plan that would not only serve the needs of the community but would serve as a proper and dignified home for the precious sacred relics of our Patron Saints. With the leadership of the engineering and design team of Mr. George Panayiotopoulos and Mr. Efthymios Tsaparas, the community is now embarking on a journey to build a new, authentic Basilica ~ a Traditional Byzantine style church with a dome that will be the first of its kind in the United States.
At Saints Raphael, Nicholas & Irene, we are brothers & sisters, sons & daughters, mothers & fathers, grandmothers & grandfathers. We are family! When one of us is weak, he or she can draw strength from the church. When one of us triumphs, the community celebrates. Please join together with us – Fr. James, the Parish Council and those that gave so much for the establishment of the community- and do your part to help build this new church that will provide a spiritual home for generations to come. Building our new spiritual home, will be a shared labor of sacrifice and love bringing us together in a common and sacred purpose. As we strive together, our church family will reflect a little more brightly, “Heaven on Earth.”