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First Cypriot-American Bishop Visits Kimisis Tis Theotokou Church of Hamptons

Bishop Sevastianos of Zela with Rev. Alexander Karloutsos and Rev. Constantine Lazarakis. Photo by Stavroula Nicolas Raia
Bishop Sevastianos of Zela with Rev. Alexander Karloutsos and Rev. Constantine Lazarakis. Photo by Stavroula Nicolas Raia

“I come from the Katexomena (Occupied Cyprus from the Turkish invasion of 1974),” said His Grace Bishop Sevastianos of Zela, an Archimandrite then. His pain in explaining his lost homeland, at an education event in 2008, made an impression. Images of my despondent Mattituck neighbors from Kyrenia, persons who lost their homes, came to my mind. Members of the New York metropolitan region had the unique opportunity to participate in a Greek Orthodox Divine Liturgy by His Grace, Bishop Sevastianos of Zela, Chief Secretary of the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, on August 15, at the Kimisis tis Theotokou (Dormition of the Virgin Mary) Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons. His Grace was accompanied by Deacon George Kolios. A unique service was performed with Rev. Alexander Karloutsos, Protopresbyter and Presbyter Rev. Constantine Lazarakis, Kimisis Tis Theotokou Church of Southampton;  Rev. Milton Efthimiou;  Rev. Basil Summer of the Orthodox Church in America and members of the clergy. A Feast day Building Fund Luncheon followed in “The Muses” church hall, hosted by Nammos Estiatorio and the Themistocles Makkos Family.

On the evening of the August 14 Vespers, residents of the tri-state area attended the liturgy. The Greek Orthodox clergy who performed the liturgy included: Protopresbyter Rev. Alexander Karloutsos and Presbyter Constantine Lazarakis, Rev. Dennis Strouzas, Archangel Michael Church; Archimandrite Rev.Gerasimos Makris, Holy Cross Church, Brooklyn; Rev. Elias Nicholas, St. Paraskevi Church; Rev. Panagiotis Zougras, Cathedral of St. Paul, Hempstead; Rev. Father Agapitos, St. Barbara’s Greek Orthodox Church, New York and Sisters of the All Saints Greek Orthodox Monastery, Calverton, New York. Fr. Panagiotis Zougras was the keynote speaker. “Panagia gives peace and love to all,” he said. “She experienced the true life, free from corruption and death. We are guided by the example of Panagia.”

– Rev. Karloutsos (left to right) with Benefactor Coula Johnides greeting Vasilis Livanos.
– Rev. Karloutsos (left to right) with Benefactor Coula Johnides greeting Vasilis Livanos.

A filled church attended the August 15 Feast Day celebration to participate in a moving church service. “This is the first time I am here,” said His Grace, Bishop Sevastianos of Zela. “I have heard wonderful things about this community. The church wall and architecture are beautiful. The moment we left our car and entered the church, I understood the culture of the community. I felt the presence of God and peace in celebrating the sacraments. This is a blessing to be able to pray in such a way. ‘In peace, let us pray for the lord,’ said Jesus. If we come to church and are preoccupied, we will not meet God or listen to him.”

His Grace believes it was “a great blessing for me to put away worldly cases and see the King of God. There are times when we can do it and times when we cannot. Panagia is at the right hand of God. Why honor a woman? She is our representative: collaboration between God and man…. August 15 is known as summer Easter. This is important to the life of our church. Her example should be followed.”

His Grace continued saying “Presidents and important persons know us because of Father Alexander Karloutsos’ work. It is he they know. He lays the groundwork for us to meet and then retreats into the shadows, unseen, but his presence is reflected in the smoothness of our encounter. Father Alex makes everyone happy. Presidents know that Father Alex is the organizer and front man, always behind the scenes. This is a tribute to you, Father Alex. Your beautiful church with its atmosphere of peace is a challenge to every community.” Many share His Grace’s feeling of peace and spirituality at Kimisis tis Theotokou Church.

Rev. Alexander Karloutsos’ response was expressing the sentiment that “His Grace is an inspiration to all. He is the first Bishop of Cypriot origin. We present to you an icon from our community, hand-painted by Paul Maus.”

“Man can feel no religious awe more genuine and profound, I believe, than the awe he feels when treading the ground where his ancestors – his roots – repose. Your own feet sprout roots which descend into the earth and search, seeking to mingle with the great, immortal roots of the dead,” from Report to Greco, transl. Peter Bien, pp. 497-98 from the preface of Thanasis Maskaleris book The Terrestrial Gospel by Nikos Kazantzakis. Persons expressed views on their roots at the Feast day luncheon while the Faith and Culture Camp sang hymns.

Vasilis Livanos, member of the Transfiguration Church in Mattituck since 1980, came with his friends to support the building fund luncheon. “Vasilis Livanos has been helping us,” said Father Constantine. Residents of the North Fork have been assisting the South Fork Orthodox community of the Hamptons since the mid 1970s. Mrs. Kay Halikias and her late husband Dr. Robert Halikias, Dr. John Halikias and family are community activists aiding the church. Mr. Basilios Theodosakis described his roots in Asia Minor. “My father, Constantinos Theodosakis, joined the United States army in 1917. He fought at the Battle of the Argonne Forest that helped bring about the Armistice.”  His father was one of many valorous Greek-Americans who are remembered during the WWI Centennial. Listening to Mr. Theodosakis’ roots has inspired persons such as former parish council president Dimitrios  Hatgistavrou.

In the 2014 Festival booklet, Father Alexander Karloutsos and Father Constantine Lazarakis explained “Orthodoxy has existed as an unbroken chain, linking past to present and uniting believers to the faith of the Apostles. Many of the churches founded in the Book of Acts – in Greece, Palestine and Asia Minor – are alive and well in the twenty-first century…Centuries of oppression and persecution have taken their toll on the Orthodox Christian church….Orthodoxy has not only managed to survive, it has marched resolutely forward, against the very gates of hell itself.” Presvitera Xanthi and Presvitera Anastasia are dedicated in their ministry.

Columns and chandeliers are replicas of the Hagia Sophia. Photo by Stavroula Nicolas Raia.
Columns and chandeliers are replicas of the Hagia Sophia. Photo by Stavroula Nicolas Raia.

I noticed several green columns, such as those in Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom) in Constantinople. Hagia Sophia is considered one of the eight wonders of the world.

“Our columns and chandeliers are replicas of Hagia Sophia,” explained Father Alexander Karloutsos. Mrs. Anna Paganopoulou Barbatsoulis, who was born in Constantinople and raised in Thessaloniki, explained, “We have a replica of Hagia Sophia in Thessaloniki. It is known as the second Hagia Sophia.” Now, Long Island, New York has a church with similarities to the great wonder of the Byzantine world. I am totally amazed with the architecture of the Kimisis tis Theotokou (Dormition of the Virgin Mary) Church. The community did not build a rural church or cathedral. The Dormition of the Virgin Mary Church can be an archdiocese or patriarchal center. All photos for this article were contributed by Stavroula Nicolas Raia.


Hagia Sophia
August 14 Vespers photos by Mrs. Stavroula Nicholas Raia
August 15 Feast Day photos by Mrs. Stavroula Nicholas Raia
August 15 Kimisis tis Theotokou Church website photos by Mr. John Mindala
August 15 Luncheon

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