Within a decade ...
Parish Council Presidents
In contrast to the Broadway and Linwood churches, built to handle immediate needs, the exhaustive search of the 1960s was for a site which would serve present and future needs. Geographic location posed a serious problem since most members were scattered throughout the metropolitan area.
The 10-acre site at 120th and Wornall Road was accessible by virtue of its proximity to major roadways. Thus, the property was purchased, and after five years of grappling with the realities of limited finances and the challenge of trying to accommodate a growing community, ground was broken and construction began.
Meanwhile, the Loretto Academy became the center of activity until June 8, 1975, when the Thyranoixia heralded the beginning of services in the new complex.
What began as a project of limited scope soon became a source of pride. The complex received two prestigious architectural awards for excellence in design and for outstanding design and art work in the icon screen and its iconography.
The end result is a million-dollar facility paid for just two years after completion-a feat which could not have been realized without a dedicated membership. A mortgage burning celebration in October, 1977, marked the realization of yet another dream come true for the Annunciation parish.
A substantial portion of the new complex was paid for with proceeds of the Plaka at Crown Center Square. It attracted thousands of people and was easily the most popular of the ethnic festivals held there each year. More importantly, it gave the Greek Orthodox community a new presence and stature in Kansas City. The Plaka ended in 1983, after 11 years at Crown Center, having raised nearly a half-million dollars for the building fund of the new church-its largest single source of revenue.
In 1982, the parish distinguished itself by donating the proceeds from Plaka to Children's Mercy Hospital. Nearly $50,000 was raised for that worthy institution, symbolizing the commitment of the parish to Kansas City and its appreciation for the public support. The good will shared by the Greek Orthodox community and the people of Greater Kansas City is never more evident than in the continuing popularity of the festivals still held each year on the church grounds.
The Wornall years began with the renewed emphasis on a new beginning for the spiritual and community life of the parish. Its members rededicated themselves to the same principles which the founding fathers brought with them some 80 years ago-the belief in their faith and the challenge to continue growing.
As with its predecessors, today's membership finds itself in the midst of ever-changing times. Three generations after the Broadway years finds the parish more broadly involved in the life of the community, especially through inter-faith activities. Lives are more diversified-a college education, relatively rare a generation ago, is now taken for granted. Virtually all professions are represented and many own well-established businesses or hold responsible positions in companies.
A marked change has also come in the liturgical life. The increased use of the English language has encouraged the thirst for knowledge about the faith. "Sunday School" has become "Catechism School," and its attendance has seen a resurgence. New faces are seen in all aspects of community life, as the on-coming generation makes its presence felt. Youth and young adult programs and a vibrant energetic senior citizens organization are a few of the programs which comprise an integral part of today's church life.
The twelve years on Wornall Road have been historic years. Greater heights have been attained than even the most optimistic of the founding fathers thought possible. No one can seriously doubt that the future of the Greek Orthodox faith in Kansas City looms bright. For just as the first members of the church banded together, in the words of their charter, "to build a church, to establish a Greek School, to serve the community and to establish a cemetery," so the present generation has seen those aspirations fulfilled and stands ready to meet the challenge of the future.
Consecration weekend was highlighted by the presence of His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos, His Grace Bishop Isaiah of Aspendos and our former pastors and presbyteres.
The beautiful October weekend was resplendent with clear blue skies and brisk temperatures while the atmosphere was charged with electrifying enthusiasm for the events that were to unfold.
We were about to dedicate our church to God, and the spirit of love and good fellowship prevailed.
The Consecration Service began with Great Vespers on Saturday evening, followed by a reception. Several hundred participated in the celebration which heralded the joy of the coming event.
The Community Center was transformed into a festive fall setting with an elegantly prepared buffet. It set the tone for the entire weekend.
The brief speeches were lighthearted as well as touching, as our former pastors shared their personal feeling, renewed old friendships and revived pleasant memories from the past.
It was a very moving reunion-an important contribution to the weekend-and it felt so good!
Forty-five years to the day that the Holy Altar Table had been donated to the Linwood church, the Altar was consecrated unto the Lord. It was a surprising and moving coincidence which added to the spiritual significance of the historic service. It was evident that the lengthy ancient service was not only an elaborate ritual but it was also a reaffirmation of the Orthodox faith by the 500 faithful who joined together in worship and in honor of the beloved Annunciation.
The three solemn processions around the church building, the opening of the doors by the four Godparents, the symbolic and well explained Consecration Service and the celebration of the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy combined to make it an unforgettable experience.
In essence, the church was being baptized. Spiritual renewal was the emphasis, and the presence of the Holy Spirit was profoundly felt by all.
With prayers offered before the Holy Relics, the beautiful Consecration Service began under blue, cloudless skies. The three processions around the church which followed represented the designation of an area to be separate and sacred from all other areas.
With each procession ending at the front of the church, the Relics were placed on the table each time as prayers and Bible readings were read. During the final procession, the Archbishop prayed, "O Lord who loves mankind, look upon us Your sinful and unworthy servants who now celebrate the Consecration of the church of the Annunciation and make us worthy that we may offer therein praises and exaltations unto your Glory."
The symbolic entry into the church then took place as the Archbishop pounded on the door with his staff, demanding entry in the name of the King of Glory and defeating the power of the devil. The doors were unlocked and the congregation filed in.
The Holy Relics were then placed in a small gold box and Holy Chrism was poured over them, symbolizing the union between our Lord and His Martyrs. His Eminence then offered prayers for the founders of the church who had died. The box was then placed into a special cavity in the Altar and it was sealed with wax mastic. The Archbishop then put on a white garment (Savanon) and washed (baptized) and anointed (chrismated) the Altar Table, the Tomb of Christ. Following prayers and petitions, a basin of water was blessed and poured over the Altar three times, symbolizing the Baptism.
"O Lord I will go to Your Altar with Thanksgiving; and I will tell of Your glorious works. Lord I love the beauty of Your house and the place where Your Glory dwells."
As the congregation watched with interest, the Archbishop anointed the Altar Table, fastened the four icons of the Evangelists to each of the four corners and vested the Table, first with a white cloth (Katasarkion) which represented Christ's shroud. The remaining cloths and Holy Articles were then placed on the Altar. Bishop Isaiah then anointed the walls of the church and the icons. Prayers were recited asking God to grace the Altar so that the Bloodless Sacrifices could be offered upon it.
Following the scriptural readings, the faithful came forward and offered drops of oil into a Vigil Light which was later placed on the Altar Table to burn at all times and to serve as the symbol of the never-failing light of Christ.
The Archbishop then removed the Savanon which was cut into small pieces and distributed to the congregation as a "phylacton."
The church had then been baptized, sanctified and dedicated to God for eternal use as an Orthodox Christian House of Worship and the first Divine Liturgy was then celebrated in the newly-consecrated House of the Lord.
And so we had dedicated our church, and it was time to celebrate! Over 300 fashionably-attired parishioners and friends gathered in the Regency Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Hotel to rejoice in the reaffirmation of their faith.
The Banquet was preceded by a cocktail hour where friends toasted one another and enjoyed the atmosphere of good cheer. Banquet chairman Nick P. Jouras introduced those seated at the dais, and following the national anthems, His Eminence gave the invocation. Consecration chairman Niki Economy served as toastmistress for the evening.
Mayor Richard Berkley presented His Eminence with a key to the city following welcoming remarks by George Alexiou, Parish Council president. Greeting were presented by Bishop Arthur Vogel of the Episcopal Diocese, Bishop John Sullivan of the Catholic Diocese and Bishop Isaiah of Aspendos. Father Milton Gianulis then introduced His Eminence who gave an Archpastoral Message. Honored guests included our former pastors and their presbyteres: The Very Rev. Emmanuel Bouyoucas, West Palm Beach, Florida; Rev. Demetrios N. Treantafeles, Palatine, Illinois; Rev. Photios Tomarakos, New Castle, Pennsylvania; Rev. Nicholas G. Manousakis, Daytona Beach, Florida, and Chaplain (LTC) Constantinos P. Rogakos, Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
Opa! With the melodious strains of the Karis Brothers' clarinet and bouzouki, the ballroom burst into Greek dancing. Line after line after line of happy people-young and old alike-circled the ballroom and enjoyed the true "diaskethsi." We had waited so long for this! The Ball had all the ingredients of a gala celebration-women in vibrant-colored or elegant black dresses, men in handsome tuxedos or suits, groups of young people laughing and others singing along with the band. The ballroom radiated with excitement. It was a night to remember!
The uniquely-decorated tables still glowed with candlelight from the little ceramic churches-an appropriate statement of the occasion. And friends mingled with friends, and former clergymen and many other out-of-towners were delighted that they had "come home to Kansas City,"-and so were we!
We danced, we drank, we enjoyed! We basked in the beauty of the glorious weekend. And we hoped that this spirit-this unifying spirit of LOVE for our church-would remain with us for "ages and ages to come."
Consecration 1987 was now history, and it will never be forgotten.