Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Church, 900 South Trooper Road in Jeffersonville, PA serves a warm, vibrant, and growing Community of over 200 families including those who were born into Orthodoxy, as well as those who have converted to the Faith from various other traditions.
Today, the people of the Parish can see their dream fulfilled — a dream that has inspired them for many decades. In April 2012, they officially opened the doors to their new Byzantine style church, completing efforts that began in the 1960’s.
In the following Interview, The Hellenic News of America talked to Dean Laskaris, Chairman of the Building Committee, Dr. Pete Patukas, and Father Peter Thornberg
Hellenic News: The Parish has built this beautiful New Byzantine style Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Church at 900 South Trooper Road in Jeffersonville, PA. A few years ago, your community was relocated from Norristown, PA to Jeffersonville, PA, and over the last few years you have built this magnificent church in the for the Greek American community in the Delaware Valley and the Mid-Atlantic States. Congratulations to you and all the others who participated in this project and who must be proud of this achievement.
Dean Laskaris: Thank you for your kind words as it was truly a collective effort. We managed to raise millions of dollars for the building, more than three quarters of a million for the Iconography and communications. Today ninety-seven percent of those pledges are paid in full. Keep in mind that we built the Church in the height of the Recession. We have accomplished a great deal and we owe a great deal to the community and to those outside donors and supporters in this holy endeavor.
Hellenic News: Tell our readers about the Architect, the Designers, and Iconographer Dr. Kordis.
Dean Laskaris: Our goal was to replicate an authentic sixth century Byzantine style Church, as accurately as we possibly could. To accomplish that, we hired (CJK Design Group?), (Chris Kamages’ Architectural firm located in San Francisco, California. He specializes in Byzantine Church design and has completed projects in this country and around the world. They have an international reputation.
Similarly, wanted to have authentic Byzantine style Iconography, and we engaged Dr. George Kordis, recently of the University of Athens, Greece School of Theology, who also has an International reputation. He paints in the ancient Byzantine style using egg tempura directly on the plaster, which is how they did it in ancient times and he has replicated that technique for modern applications.
Dr. Pete Patukas: We need to do a lot more. We have the latest addition to the Iconography that was done last February 2014. Dr. Kordis is coming back to do some more in 2015.
Dean Laskaris: One of the next phases is completion of our Narthex furnishings, and we have hired Steve Kovroulakis of Hania, Crete in Greece to do all of our Ecclesiastical carving work. They completed the front of the house and other artifacts and we have ordered the complete Narthex set of furnishings due to arrive some time in mid-January. It’s all part of this program to have as authentic a Byzantine representation of our great and religious cultural heritage.
Hellenic News: What’s next in the program?
Dean Laskaris: The completion of the Church itself is going to be an ongoing process. The next big program is to complete a connector wing for Hellenic Studies. An educational building, which will connect with the Church and our existing cultural centers that’s over sixteen thousand square feet. We are looking forward to that next phase of the project.
We want to thank the Hellenic News for your support. Not only has the Hellenic News been instrumental in getting the word out to people in the Greek community in terms of what we are doing here, but the paper has also been a donor to the program.
One of our next projects we are working on is the completion of our Donor Wall. We want to recognize and acknowledge our appreciation to all of our donors that have made this project possible.
Hellenic News: This magnificent Church is having a positive effect on the Jeffersonville, Norristown, and Northwest of Philadelphia out to the suburbs.
Dean Laskaris: It is quite a landmark due to where we are situated in the Valley Forge area. We are blessed to have nearly eight acres of land here to work with.
Dr. Pete Patukas: As Father John of blessed memory has indicated originally, this is the gateway to Valley Forge, well known both locally and nationally. We frequently call this Church St. Sophia of Valley Forge as we are close to King of Prussia Mall and Route 422.
Hellenic News: With a project this large, people will think you have thousands of members in the congregation. How many members do you have that supported the building of this magnificent Church?
Dr. Pete Patukas: We started out with about 180 families and now we have close to two hundred families as members. With all of the families and donors, we have managed to accumulate over 5.5 million dollars to pay for the building and Iconography. At this point in time, we owe only 1.4 million dollars, so you can see how generous our members and donors have been to raise the funds necessary to build and decorate the Church.
Dean Laskaris: We appreciate all of the coverage the Hellenic News has given to our project. In my travels around the East Coast, many people have told me that they are following our progress to build St. Sophia in the Hellenic News. Readers in Vermont to Florida are keeping abreast of our progress in the paper. We have 430 seats here in St. Sophia, and we have room to increase our membership.
Hellenic News: Father Peter Thornberg, this completion of the Byzantine Style Church, this is the jewel of the Delaware Valley area and also the mid-Atlantic states. So tell us more about the Church.
Father Peter Thornberg: We’re going on our third year this coming April of 2015, when we opened the doors we wanted to make sure the walls were not bare, so we took a leap of faith to have the Iconography done, and it was a lot more then we anticipated. When we opened the doors the Iconography was only half completed and it wasn’t until February 2014 that the Iconography was completed. We’re also a role model for other parishes that are building churches. Pittsburg Holy Trinity sent people to watch what we were doing as they not only have the same Architect but the same Iconographer, so their almost like a sister parish. We also had a church from Boston come down to look at our project.