It has been a long and at times twisting road, but members of Lexington's Panagia Pantovasilissa Greek Orthodox Church finally are in their new building.
Services in the new church at 3005 Tates Creek Road began in September, although extensive interior work remains to be done, said Dr. Dennis Karounos, chairman of the construction committee for the new building.
Because the area for services isn't complete yet, the new building's social hall was temporarily divided in half, and members are holding services in one half until the formal area is ready, he said.
"Half is being used for services, and the other half for social activities," Karounos said. "Fortunately, the new social hall is bigger than our whole complex was before."
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Meanwhile, Fifth Third Bank has donated furniture for the church's new classroom wing. And one parishioner who is an avid chef donated a brand-new stove for the kitchen, which is three times bigger than the one at the old church.
The new 11,300-square-foot building, at Rebecca Drive and Tates Creek Road, is designed in Byzantine style, with a dome and a bell tower, following Greek Orthodox Church tradition. It also has more than 50 parking spaces.
Members had to get by with on-street parking at their old church at 905 Tates Creek Road.
The congregation met at the old church for 65 years, Karounos said.
The church eventually became inadequate, but replacing it took a while.
"We actually held the first fundraiser dedicated to building a new church in 1998," Karounos said. "So, it really has been a process."
Construction on the new $2.1 million building got underway in 2013, but because of inclement weather and delays with design work, it ultimately took almost a year to complete the structure.
Members moved out of their old church last August, only to find that the new building wasn't ready. So services were held for a few weeks in the clubhouse at Hartland until the new building finally could be used, Karounos said.
The old church has been sold and will be turned into a meditation center, Karounos said.
Putting the finishing touches on the new sanctuary is expected to cost an additional $400,000. It probably will take another year or so to raise the money needed for that, Karounos said.
"But it's going to be really pretty when we get that all done," he said.
Even so, having the new building — even in less-than-completed form — already has added new vitality to services.
Some older members of the congregation had stopped attending services at the old church because it was difficult for them to use.
"The hall and the restrooms were in the basement, so it was difficult for some of them," Karounos said. "We also had absolutely no handicapped parking."
The new church is built on one floor and is fully accessible, he said.
"As a result, some of the older members have been able to come back to attend services," he said. "Some of them can't attend regularly, but they can be at services now. It's been quite emotional to see many of them being able to come into the church and worship again, now that we're fully accessible."
In other words, the new church has been well worth the wait.