95th Anniversary Celebrated by Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church of Dover, NH
The parish's Hellenic Hall was elegantly decorated for the Saturday evening dinner and dance. The organizers had asked each table to provide its own theme centerpiece to adorn each table that added a personal touch and uniqueness to the evening. The attendees danced to their hearts content with Greek and American music provided by one of New England's favorite orchestras, Ta Pethia.
On Sunday morning, Metropolitan Methodios visited the Annunciation to conclude the parish's 95th Anniversary festivities. His Eminence, assisted by Fr. Constantine, Fr. Athans, Fr. Neofetos, and Deacon Athanasios, celebrated the Sunday service. At the conclusion of the service His Eminence tonsured altar boys Tim Xydias, Nick Kostis, Peter Anestis, Jamie Maskwa, Costas Blougouras, George Demopoulos, George Mitropoulos, and Yianni Lalos. May they be "Always Worthy" - "Panda Axioi".
Several young and young at heart parishioners spoke at a luncheon following the service and reminisced of their years in the parish. George P. Coussoule, President of the Parish Council
"With their strong belief in God, their Orthodox Faith and Hellenic culture and traditions, our fathers and forefathers undertook the monumental task of building the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church here in Dover 95 years ago.
Let me give you a little snapshot of the history of our church. These excerpts are taken from articles written by past historians Prof. Nicholas Colovos and Spero Theodoras.
The history of Dover's Greek community and its religious heritage started around the turn of the 20th century when Hellenes, mostly young men, left their villages in Greece to come to America, the land of opportunity and freedom.
What they found was hard work and loneliness. Like other immigrants, they lived close to each other and shared their language, their Greek background, their happy times and their sadness.
The first Greek Orthodox Church was established in 1906 on the corner of lower Washington and Main Streets, across from the number One Mill of the Cocheco Manufacturing Company. This location was significant because many of the early Greek immigrants would work here, sharing their mill experiences with other nationalities.
In 1911 the Dover Community purchased land on Spur Road which became the first Greek Orthodox Cemetery in the United States, owned by its local parish.
The church next moved to Mechanic Street, where a Greek School was now to be found above the main church. Many other first generation Greeks spent long days in American School, followed by longer afternoons and sometimes evenings learning the Greek language.
This building served the needs of the community as a place of worship, Greek school, meeting place, and social center. Many dances and receptions were held here along with performances by the children of the Greek School in celebration of Greek Independence Day.
On December 2, 1956, fire struck and completely destroyed the structure. Yet, even with this destruction, disaster was averted. The fire had begun while services were being celebrated, but it was not until everyone had gone home that the flames engulfed the building.
December 2nd, was also a day of hope. The congregation was in shock, after years of building, but the spirit of the community did not die, but rose to overcome this tragic event.
When everything was evaluated, it was discovered that the church had been underinsured. An architectural firm from Manchester was hired to design the new building. The remnants of the old church were used to help fill up a pond located behind the property, creating today's parking lot. Construction began with the hiring of a company from Exeter to build the church.
The people of the community came together to replace and restore what had been lost. A fund drive raised pledges of $38,000. The money came in all forms, from large contributions to coins wrapped in handkerchiefs. A 20-year mortgage for the balance of the funding was paid off in eight and a half years. Money also came from other Greek communities; that was the spirit of Hellenes helping each other.
The Alkistis Greek Ladies Society, founded in 1923, raised thousands of dollars to build the new church. Members of the Dover community helped by donating
The church was consecrated by His Eminence, Archbishop Iakovos on November 14, 1966.
In 1992, our Great Benefactor, Alexandra Demosthenes, bequeathed her estate to the parish. Her generous donation for the education and betterment of our youth spurred the community to build the newest addition which includes new office space, the Library and classrooms for our Greek and Sunday Schools. Again, the Annunciation Community rallied around the monumental task of raising the extra funds needed to complete the project. This was accomplished by the hard work, determination and participation of the entire community. His Eminence, Metropolitan Methodios, hierarch of the Diocese of Boston, who is celebrating with us today, officially dedicated this in April 1999.
Our parish is also very blessed to have a Hellenic Center with over 14 acres of land on Long Hill Road, which has been the site of many festivals and celebrations. This land was donated by five faithful members of our parish: Dr James Demopoulos, Dr Peter Lampesis, Mr. Christo Papas, Mrs. Nick Vatistas, and Mr. Frank Demopoulos.
Our thanks and prayers go out to all that have been instrumental in building or past, and present. We owe so much to them for their sacrifices so that we can all be here today worshiping together in our Lord's Holy Name.
The church has been here for ALL OF US. For the happy times - the weddings, christenings and other celebrations, and for the sad times in our lives, when we need the comfort of our friends, family and with those who we worship.
Let us continue to work together to give back to our wonderful Parish, so that the future can be even brighter for our children and grandchildren. We must ALL take an active role by getting involved to continue to grow in our faith.
The events of the past 2 months (the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack and subsequent events) have made us realize, more than ever, how important it is to reach out to God and our Faith for Peace and understanding during these troubled times.
We are ALL blessed to have a place were we can come together, pray, and give thanks to the Lord for all that we have.
God has blessed and graced us, and our forefathers and families for these past 95 years.
He has blessed me personally in guiding my way here to Dover in 1973.