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Commemorating its 60th Anniversary

A Brief History of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church

By William G. Poulos

The Beginning

The Annunciation parish had granted permission and funds for an afternoon Greek school to meet the educational needs of the expanded Greek community in Highlandtown. However, the difficulties associated with large families traveling, often in inclement weather, to a distant Church were becoming genuine hardships for many Greek residents of Highlandtown who desired to live and express their faith. It soon became increasingly apparent that a second local parish was needed to serve the spiritual and cultural needs of the Greek residents of Southeast Baltimore.

Another factor pointing to the need for a second Greek Orthodox parish was that the Highlandtown Greek community had begun to develop a distinct character and history. Through the efforts of Rev. Fr. Soterios Gouvelis, Assistant Priest at the Annunciation from 1948 to 1950, an active youth ministry was started with the Greek youth of Highlandtown. Fr. Gouvelis served as advisor to the Greek Orthodox youth of Highlandtown's basketball team, which successfully participated in many regional tournaments. He also orchestrated the involvement of the area youth in a variety of Church oriented spiritual and social activities.

The sense of community engendered by Fr. Gouvelis' work with the Greek youth of Southeast Baltimore was not lost on the community's elders. It fostered both a strong sense of pride in their children's accomplishments, and a growing sentiment that a permanent spiritual home was needed for their activities.

By the early 1950s a sense of urgency and a deep commitment to the idea that the Highlandtown Greek Orthodox community needed its own parish galvanized and spurred its residents to action. The modest Annunciation-owned Greek School building that also served as a social gathering place and makeshift community center was clearly not sufficient.

Much debate ensued involving the entire Baltimore Greek Orthodox Community. Of particular concern was that unless great care and wisdom were exercised, two competing churches might create a divided Greek Orthodox community. After prayerful consideration of the spiritual, economic and social propriety, and ramifications of the establishment of another Greek Orthodox parish in Baltimore, the decision was made to proceed with the founding of a second parish.

On September 14, 1952, the Feast Day of the Elevation of the Cross, twelve men led by the Holy Spirit gathered in the old Highlandtown Greek School building, the present site of St. Nicholas Church. These twelve men discussed and formulated the plans to establish the long hoped for second Greek Orthodox parish of Baltimore.

The twelve founders of St. Nicholas were: William Apostolou, Athanasios Demetriades, Stamatios Diakides, Bill Eliades, Kostas Lambros, Demetrios Latgis, Kostas Loukas, Euripides Papachristou, Soterios Plakitses, George Sideropoulos, Vasilios Venos, and Stylianos Xintas.

On the following day, these twelve men officially founded and incorporated the Parish of St. Nicholas. Shortly thereafter, two significant events in the history of the St. Nicholas parish occurred.

The first was that the Church of the Annunciation, as a sign of support for the new parish transferred the title of the Highlandtown Greek School building and the land on which it stood to the new parish. The first liturgies of the new community were offered in this building, which continued to serve as its Greek School and social hall.

The second significant event was that Archbishop Michael of North and South America gave his blessing to the new parish and granted it an Archdiocesan Charter.

The dream of a parish of its own was finally a reality for the Greek Orthodox community of Highlandtown. The next step was to finance and build the church wherein they could worship God, educate their children and preserve their precious Greek Orthodox Church and heritage.