SCRANTON, PA – In 2014, Panayiotis and Demetrios Christodoulos, two brothers from Thessaloniki, traveled more than 14 hours by plane to reach Scranton, PA. Once there, they got to work at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church on North Washington Avenue.
They spent weeks working on repainting the walls of the church with the iconography with which most Greek Orthodox Christians are familiar, including the life cycle of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, and all the saints and the biblical stories that add such beauty and vitality to the interior of the Church. They also worked on the smaller and older icons that predated the Church building itself. The community was founded in 1914, the building consecrated in 1924, and the dedication ceremony took place in October 1926.
Father Konstantine Eleftherakis said in a June 4, 2014 Times-Tribune article, “we’re not doing this just because we want the church to look nice or colorful. It’s about what we believe. Iconography is so crucial to the daily life of the Orthodox Christian.”
The expensive project proved somewhat dangerous as well, with a scaffolding collapse that luckily caused no injuries and no damage to the church or tis sacred objects. In its nearly 93 years, the Annunciation Church has suffered its share of tribulations. Though it attracts crowds for its twice yearly food festivals, the church in the late 1960’s was on the verge of closing down.
According to an October 11, 1926 article in The Scranton Times, more than 300 people attended the dedication ceremony. The article described the event, “Archbishop Alexander of New York, representing North and South America, attired in the full robes of his office, blessed the cornerstone of the church in the morning (Mass) … and later participated in the other services. Following the dedicatory services in the morning, luncheon was served in the basement of the church.” The church had been built with money raised by the Greek immigrants of the Scranton area.
In the 1960’s, the increasing demand for housing in Central City led the Scranton Redevelopment Authority to make plans for constructing a building with150 low rent apartments for the elderly that would require the Annunciation Church property.
Church leaders protested, as reported in a January 22, 1968 Times article, “Alex Silas, President of the Church Board of Trustees, in a letter to Council, reported the Board and congregation unanimously have gone on record to ask council to exclude the church from imminent condemnation proceedings. Mr. Silas told Council the Greek church is the only one of its kind serving Lackawanna, Susquehanna, Wyoming, Bradford, Wayne, Pike and portions of Monroe counties.”
Facing the demolition of their church, the congregation wrote a letter to the council, “As a church quietly performing its proper functions throughout the years, it has always served the common good without ever requesting a thing in return. … Now, for the first time, it makes a fervent request to you — to be left in place. We do not believe that the destruction of the church is necessary for the wheels of progress. Please help us.”
The fervent words of the church leaders and the congregation led the city officials to change their plans. Scranton Housing Authority Executive Director Casper J. Noto announced the new plans on February 9, 1968 with an adjustment to the amount of land needed, leaving the church property out of the project.
The Annunciation Church remained and flourished in its location. A major renovation project in 1976 led to the rededication of the church and the construction of its church hall on the lower level named in honor of Peter J. Kaldes, a parishioner and civic leader.