After 30 years since its founding and in the vision of it’s dynamic Pastor of blessed memory, Father John Limberakis, today, with Father Peter Thornberg at the helm along with a dedicated Leadership team and Parish, wonderful miracles continue to occur in historic Valley Forge, a special place, in the Metro Philadelphia Environs.
The Thyranoixia was held on April 7th on the Saturday of Lazarus. Metropolitan Evangelos and Fr Peter Thornberg led the celebration, with over 450 present. The next day saw crowds of over 550 on Palm Sunday to celebrate Christ’s procession into Jerusalem and the First Sunday of the Church Temple’s presence.
“It’s hard to believe that we broke ground just a year ago, with site beginning immediately, and the building commencing in late June” Father Peter reflects. “We have moved with incredible focus and resolve in creating a beautiful landmark dedicated Orthodox Faith and the Glory of God, we have been blessed with pastoral support received from His Eminence, Metropolitan Evangelos and the Team work of our Building Committee led by Chair, Dean Laskaris, and the Parish Council with its President John Papadimitriou”
Metropolitan Evangelos notes, “I am astonished and so proud of the parish of St Sophia… For their resolve, speed and quality achieving such beautiful results in a magnificent Building and Incredible Iconography, an example for all to behold”
Given Fr John Limberakis’ founding vision in the planting and development of the Parish over 30 ago, sons Anthony and Cary rejoice at what a parish of less than 200 families have accomplished, …” Our Father is beaming from above, and working overtime with our Lord in blessing the works of this dedicated group ” Anthony muses, and Presvyteria says “Father John, was obsessed with having Architect Christ Kamages come to Valley Forge to design the Church when we saw his handiwork in Las Vegas, now Father’s vision has become real!”
Parish Council President, John Papadimitriou adds “We have been blessed with our Parish Team along with the Design and Construction Team, who have been amazing, created a product of such quality and value in very short period of time. These efforts and results are amazing, we have been truly blessed”
Building Committee Chair Dean Laskaris, who met and married his wife Nina ( with FR John Limberakis’ “guidance “) has been involved with the Building project since 2004 and notes ” Our parents set the tone and example of our connection and support of the Church, We as a leadership felt, after years of circling the runway, without closure that we had to pursue a realistic path that met the current and future needs of our community… in an economic package that could be achieved, that would be appropriate for our parish”
When asked what were the keys to achieving the superlative results of St Sophia, Laskaris noted: “Firstly, Understanding, in a realistic manner, the opportunities and constraints; Secondly, Having a Professional Resource, as Christ KamagesAIAand his CJK Team, as the source of all design, management and technological guidance as part of the core of your team; and lastly Systematic and Persistent Pursuit of The Mission and Goals of the Plan and not taking NO as an acceptable answer.”
The construction of the $4M project ($2.5 Building Cost), which accommodates about 450 worshipers, began one year ago. In recent months, its unique façade with its now copper-clad domes and golden crosses has become a familiar landmark to passers-by on heavily traveled Trooper Road just north of Historic Valley ForgePark. The special AXIOS design is the work of a. Kamages and his CJK Design Team of San Francisco. Kamages and His Firm specializes in working with Orthodox Parishes and has more than 100 such projects to their credit within North America. The Byzantine Rooted design is rooted back to the 6th century of Christianity and is typical of churches commonly found in the Mediterranean and Asia Minor. In keeping with the Byzantine church tradition, the interior of the sanctuary has been adorned with fresco iconography. From the Apex of the 55 foot high dome which depicts Jesus Christ and the Old Testament prophets, to the lower pendentive regions which display large, colorful murals depicting important scenes from the life of Christ, worshipers will find themselves surrounded by a heavenly panorama.
World renowned Iconographer Dr George Kordis was so energized in working with St Sophia that he offered the following:
First of all, I would like to thank from my heart His Eminence metropolitan Evangelos for giving us the permission to work in St. Sofia Parish, the faithful members of St. Sofia Parish in Valley Forge, the church parish council and the parish council president, John Papadimitriou; Fr. Peter Thornberg, the Architect Christo Kamages for his masterpiece of a creation; and naturally, all of you who are with us today to share the joy of presenting the church’s wall paintings.
Before I proceed to a brief presentation of the work we did here during the last 6 weeks I would like to expresses my gratitude to Mr.Dean Laskaris And His wife Nina, not only because they sponsored the main part of the Iconography, but also because they were the people who inspired this project. Their attitude is really the best example we can have as Orthodox Christians because Iconography, the narrating of an Orthodox church, is something much more than the decoration of the space. It is not simply an attempt, to place religious themes on the wall with a didactic or instructive purpose and the creation of a pleasing and beautiful effect.
Long time Parishioner and Committee Member Dr Peter Patukas reflects, “The initiation of the Iconography program came from Nina Laskaris, who did not want their son Leo, growing up in a Church Environment with bare walls void of Iconography. This a great gesture of vision and generosity”
The results speak for themselves and achieving not only a beautiful authentic Byzantine Church Temple, but a transformative environment, generated by an incredible process, where the local, regional and national audience were exposed to the fusion of Architecture and Iconography, including media, lectures and celebrations, heightening awareness and appreciation of Byzantine Theological and Artistic Traditions, and that Iconography is much more than mere interior decoration.
Tom Cox, Chair of the Capital Campaign, notes “While the building program has witnessed great generosity from the Parish, the Phase 1 Iconography has been significantly supported by Dean and Nina Laskaris… the process has been contagious with many other donations coming forth and in the wings.” In addition, from outside the Parish a series of major donations have provided by some fantastic friends of the Parish. The Bell Tower, Geothermal “off -prime time“ supplemental heating system and CJK-designed Stone Flooring, by Tom and Pamela Papadopoulos, Owners of Colonial Marble and Granite.
“We are all looking forward to celebrating Easter (or Pascha) in our beautiful new church”, Fr. Peter exclaimed, “and of course we offer thanks to God and all who are contributing to making what was once just a dream, a reality for this community”.