A short History of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Parish
The first Syrian and Lebanese immigrants arrived in Minnesota in the 1890’s. In the St. Paul area they settled primarily on St. Paul’s West Side.
Dating from the arrival of the first Orthodox immigrants in St. Paul, they were informally organized as a religious group. Visiting priests held services in private homes.
St. George Syrian Orthodox Church was formally organized and founded in 1913 on St. Paul’s West Side.
An Episcopal Church located at Clinton and Isabel streets was purchased and adapted for Orthodox liturgical needs. The church was officially dedicated in 1915 by Metropolitan Germanos Shehadi, at which time our first parish priest was ordained. Since then eighteen priests have served our community, among them Very Rev. Essa Kanavati and Very Rev. John G. Khoury.
As the church building on the West Side began to deteriorate and parishioners moved out of the area surrounding the church, Father Daniel Simon, who was the pastor at that time, found and encouraged the parishioners to secure the five acres of land in our current location. They were purchased in 1968 for a future complex.
A multi-purpose hall was constructed during 1973 and our first service was held in February 1974. The second phase of our building program was completed in 1975 with the construction of a new parish home adjacent to our multi- purpose building. The third phase of our building program began in 1980. It was our goal to design a Byzantine-style church in keeping with Orthodox tradition while also blending in the best of 20th century concepts. Construction of a new Byzantine-style church began in 1981. The church seats approximately 300 people and includes a beautiful gold dome, adorned with an icon of Christ.
Our first service in the new church was held in March 1982, with the official consecration on September 11, 1989 by His Eminence Metropolitan Archbishop Philip Saliba.
The year 1998 brought about the unification of the two Antiochian parishes in St. Paul. St. Mary’s Church on Robert Street and St. George were formally united in a single Antiochian witness with the blessing of Metropolitan Philip. Father John Khoury retired after 31 years of service to the community of St. George and The Right Reverend Archimandrite John A. Mangels, the pastor of St. Mary’s, took over the leadership of the united parish. With the joining of two communities there was need for a major expansion of the facilities. In 2001 a large new parish hall was built and the former hall was enlarged and completely rebuilt to accommodate a fast growing church school program. An administration complex was also configured out of the former hall and kitchen area. A magnificent dedication service was held in May of 2002 and a new Altar was consecrated in the newly redecorated church.
In 2006, Father John Mangels was transferred back to Denver, Colorado to work with a congregation he had planted there and brought into the Orthodox Church in the 1970s. The Very Reverend Archpriest Thomas Begley, a good friend of both Fr. Khoury and Fr. Mangels was assigned by Metropolitan Philip as our new pastor. Finally, in 2013, we celebrated our centennial anniversary as an Orthodox church! With Father Thomas suffering some health issues Metropolitan Joseph reassigned Father Mangels as pastor of St. George in May of 2018.
The St. George parish family is made up of many of the descendants of the original Middle Eastern families and has been buoyed by a recent wave of Christian immigrants from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine. We have many faithful from other Eastern Orthodox backgrounds and we boast a sizeable number of converts who have searched for, found our faith, and made it their own.