The Hellenic Community of Port Elizabeth comprising approximately 250 family members or 800 people is one of the oldest Greek enclaves in South Africa and this year they are celebrating the establishment of their community 80 years ago!
So it was Xronia Pola! and Opa! everywhere as big festivities were the order of the day on Saturday 15 October.
His Eminence Archbishop Sergios,Metropolitan of Good Hope in Cape Town, was invited by the Hellenic Community of Port Elizabeth to attend and bless this memorable occasion. He is well known to the community as he served as their parish priest when he first arrived in South Africa as Archimandrite.
A banquet was held on Saturday evening to celebrate this milestone in the history of the Greek Orthodox Church in Port Elizabeth. The church hall was filled to capacity with 300 people who all enjoyed the festivities recalling parishioners and priests and events of the past as most of the people who attended were linked in some way to those pioneers of 80 years ago.
The highlight of the evening was a heart-warming and exciting show of Greek dancing presented by members of the professional Greek dancing academy from Johannesburg, established by the late Mary Vasiliou. They twirled and swirled in superb elaborate costumes as they performed various folk dances representative of many parts of Greece and Cyprus.
In his celebratory speech Mr Peter Clainos, Chairman of the Main Committee of the Port Elizabeth Community, said they could be proud of what they had achieved to date. It was all made possible by having the church as its “head” with religious and cultural and activities as its main focus. He underlined that the community has always been known to be a close-knit and friendly group, warmly welcoming visitors and newcomers.
On Sunday 16 October, the Service of the Holy Eucharist was held in the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos and was officiated by Reverend Father George Giannakopoulos, who is the parish priest of Port Elizabeth. He was assisted by Reverend Father George Pittaras, parish priest of East London and Deacon Father Yiannis Tyropolis with His Eminence Archbishop Sergios in attendance. A memorial service was also held to acknowledge all the deceased members of their community.
In his address after the Service, His Eminence thanked Mr Thomas Matsoukas, the Consul from the Greek Consulate in Cape Town and Mr Fotis Sousalis, Chairman of the “Mother Hellenic Community” of Cape Town, for attending and sharing the celebrations.
He spoke of the past chairmen and made special mention of the important role the women and wives of the community have played in its evolvement of the decades. He underlined that they formed the backbone of the community and kept things going, whether they served on the committees or not.
His Eminence was also happy to see the young generation present and mentioned a few names of those who are the descendants of families who are well-known to him from the time he served as parish priest in Port Elizabeth.
His Eminence said that the decision to house all community buildings on one property, namely the church and subsequently the hall, Greek school, priest’s residence and the more recently- built Delphi youth hall, was the glue that has bound this community together. Having a Hellenic compound, as it were, allowed the community to function and interact as a whole, combining social, secular and religious activities. This rock became the corner foundation stone of their longevity as a church and a community, especially in these changing and worrisome times.
His Eminence also mentioned the late Archimandrite Porfyrios Marinakis who passed away in 1994 at the age of 82, having served his parish well for 36 years and the late Panayioti Pitsilades, head of one of the founder families, who convinced the community to build the church first and not the hall as they had initially planned.
Then Archbishop Sergios thanked the past president and “godfather” of the church, Mr Andreas Christodolou and his wife for their many years of dedicated service.
He also thanked Mrs Dimitra Siachos, her daughters Evangelia and Maria and her late husband Nicholaos and late son Yiannis, for all their support and dedication in donating the space and establishing and running the mission of Saint Albans for so many years. And added his appreciation for the oldest members of the community, Mrs Irene Elefteriou and Mr Stelios Charalambous, who have been chanters in the church for many years. He made mention of Irene’s late husband Michalis Elefteriou, and the late Koula Charalambous, who were also regular psalters until they passed away.
He warmly thanked Reverend Father Giannakopoulos who is also the Greek teacher, Reverend Father from East London and the psalters.
Finally he congratulated the Chairman Mr Peter Clainos and his committee for the good work they are doing in the community and for organising this memorable event and said that he looked forward to celebrating the 100 year celebration of the church together with the Port Elizabeth community in twenty years’ time!