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A diverse church. In recent decades, a significant number of non-Greeks have joined Utah’s Greek Orthodox community. Some of this new membership reflects the dramatic increase in mixed marriages — approximately 90 percent of today’s marriages in Utah’s Greek Orthodox Church are mixed. Many of these new spouses, however, join the church.

In addition, immigrants from traditionally Orthodox parts of the world other than Greece, such as the Middle East, southeastern Europe and Russia, have joined the church.

As a result of the congregation’s changing ethnic composition, as well as the forces of assimilation, Utah’s Orthodox priests generally celebrate the Divine Liturgy in English.

At Prophet Elias Church, Father Michael Kouremetis says he celebrates about 99 percent of the liturgy in English, something he never anticipated as a young seminarian.

“Within the church, we keep our orthodoxy, that’s number one; we also keep our heritage. We’ll always keep our traditions, they won’t be lost, but I think English is needed. Greek is a beautiful language if you understand it, but we can’t be pleasing just our ears, we have to nurture our souls and hearts, we have to understand what we’re worshiping,” says Father Kouremetis.

At Holy Trinity Cathedral, Father Gilbert says he celebrates the Divine Liturgy, or parts of it, in Greek, but only when elderly parishioners are in the congregation. Even then, he says he repeats everything in English. Father Gilbert also delivers his homily entirely in English.

As they have for more than a century, Utah’s Hellenic community continues to thrive and celebrate its distinct Orthodox faith. Passionate about the faith and its traditions, Father Kouremetis hopes to share them with Utah’s Christian community as a whole. This year, he plans on hosting an ecumenical book fair and lecture series entitled “Celebration of Orthodox Christianity.” According to him, Father Alexander Schmemann once said that Orthodoxy is the church’s best-kept secret. For his part, Father Kouremetis wants to change this old adage. “People understand us for our food,” says the priest, “but I want them to know us for our religion.”

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A native of Utah, Cody Christopulos is CNEWA’s publications coordinator.

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Tags: Cultural Identity Immigration Orthodox Church of Greece Utah