Why is there an article about both Clark Weeks and the Serbian Orthodox Church in Atlanta Georgia? (Well, actually Lilburn, GA) Because his wife is of Serbian / Montnegrin origin and that is the church they attend. They have been very active in fundraising for the church and are very proud of it. Following is some history of the church.
Serbian Orthodox Church
The Serbian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous member of the Eastern Orthodox communion which comprises a major population in Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The first Serbian Orthodox emigrants arrived in the Americas in the first half of the 19th century. The majority of these Serbs came from the Austrian empire, the Kingdom of Serbia, and Principality of Montenegro. Among these emigrants were Serbian Orthodox priests who established their first parish communities and had churches built by the end of the 19th century.
St. Peter and Paul Serbian Orthodox Church – Its History
Efforts at founding a parish in Georgia started back in 1985. This happened when His grace Bishop Christopher of the Eastern Diocese, during his flight to Florida, learned through conversing with a parish priest from New York that there were a few Serbs in the city of Atlanta. Bishop Christopher then met with David Simic’s son and a few other Serbs at a cathedral on Clermont Road. The chances of starting a Serbian community in the city of Atlanta and meeting the bishop hit the newspapers. Unfortunately, the idea of it did not become a reality.
Finally, A Beginning
However, a group of Serbs coming from Atlanta were still hopeful in establishing a parish. Finally, on the 2nd day of October in 1993, Saturday, His Grace Dr. Mitrofan officiated the service in Buckhead, in the home of a fellow Serb namely Mrs. Pamela Collins. This momentous event marked the start of a Serbian parish in the city of Atlanta, with Mrs. Pamela Collins having been elected the first president of the parish. Word was immediately sent to other Serbs in the city through a written notice, with news of the event and the first picnic. Over time, these written notices became the parish newspaper which, since then, is published once a month. They named the newspaper “Glasnik”. It was later shortened to “Glas” and is still the name of the newspaper to this day.
Hieromonk Fr. Nikodim
Things were beginning to take shape then, but the spiritual aspect was something the parish needed addressing. Hence, the liturgy was realized monthly by Hieromonk Fr. Nikodim. He was a parish priest in Orlando who served as an administrator to the new parish. Since Fr. Nikodim still had his parish in Orlando to look after, he only visits the new parish once a month, on a Friday afternoon. While staying with one of their parishioners, the priest would hold religion education classes for the adults on Friday nights. The parishioners always attended the classes. They were happy for having Fr. Nikodim, whom they thought of as an excellent lecturer and preacher. He also served the Divine Liturgy on Saturday mornings. Being naturally humble, he helped and guided the parish through its difficult times and encouraged the parishioners to be optimistic and have believe in God that their prayers will be answered. Sadly, Fr. Nikodim passed in 2008 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
A Permanent Priest
1997 was a significant year for the parish. In this year, the first permanent priest of Saints Peter and Paul mission church was appointed by the name of Fr. Milovan Katanic. It was also in this year that a decision was made to dedicate the missionary parish to the Holy Apostles Saints Peter and Paul, hence the name of the church. In July of the same year, they celebrated their first church Slava in the Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church in Marietta. The event was attended by Fr. Nikodim and Fr. Milovan Katanic who assisted His Grace Bishop Dr. Mitrofan in serving the Divine Liturgy.
Church Building Projects
Because the parish had no permanent place of their own where they could hold their services, one priority was to create a building fund and a building committee which aimed to purchase a property for the church, with an existing church or structure they could modify for their use. Because the goal was financial in nature, they had to look for ways to come up with enough money – organizing picnics and social events with the objective of raising money for the fund. The parishioners checked out several locations that were to their liking. However, some of these locations were too expensive or didn’t suit their needs.
First Permanent Location
Opportunity knocked in 2001 when the parishioners noticed that a former bank building in Lilburn was on sale for $283,000. Although the price wasn’t that affordable, being aware of the significance of the church, the parishioners stepped up and were able to collect a down payment in a short period of 75 days. Eventually, they became owners of the building, which was another turning point for the parish. The remaining loan for the building was fully paid in 2007.
Building the New, Current Church
On February 27, 2011, the Circle of Serbian Sisters and Mrs. Jovanka Loncaric, then parish president proposed the reestablishment of the building fund. Since the temporary church building on Beaver Ruin road needed extensive renovation, the new building committee was tasked to look for a suitable land where to construct the new church. In 2012, they purchased a new church property. By the next year, the parishioners focused on taking care of the new property and renovating the older house that was already there when they purchased the land. Funds for the renovations were collected through sports tournaments in basketball, soccer, and table tennis.
In 2015, a new Building Committee was elected, whose goal this time was to propose for future church construction and plans, hire architects and work on methods to fund the entire project. Clark Weeks helped the Serbian Orthodox Church by giving financial advice and helped raise funds. To increase the funds, the parish decided to sell the old property on Beaver Ruin road and add it to the new building project on the new property.
The construction of the new church began in July of 2017. The new church was completed on Jun 19, 2018, on the Feast of the St. Sisoes the Great. In October 13, a banquet was prepared in honor of the blessing of the new church, and the consecration began the following day. Over 900 people attended one of the most important dates in the parish’s history.
Besides Clark Weeks interest in the Serbian Orthodox Church in Lilburn near Atlanta, GA you see other topics here.