In the early 1900's, there were very few Greek Orthodox priests serving in this country. Those few were mostly celibates (not having families ties) who were able to relocate and serve far away from home. There were a only a few churches, too, mostly in large metropolitan areas such as New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington. These priests would find time to visit other area where Greeks had settled to give Holy Communion and baptize their children.
After 1913, when the church was formally organized, there were a limited supply of priests - some from Greece, some from Turkey, and many without proper credentials. But Reading was served by a series of dedicated men who labored under extremely difficult circumstances to serve their flock. Although we know, from having talked to those present at that time, that this parish had a regular priest since 1914, the Archdiocese files show the first priest was appointed in 1918. Here are a list of clergy that served in the first few years of our parish's life until 1929:
Rev. Demetrios Petrides
Rev. Papastavropoulos - 1908
Rev. Alexopoulos - 1908
Rev. Antonios Panakrtios - 1912
Rev. Skapnas - 1912
Rev. Panagiotis Kotsopoulos - 1913-1914
Rev. Spiridon Vasilas - 1914-1915
Rev. Riggelis - 1915
Rev. Demetrios Speriades - 1916-1920
Rev. Demetrios Vainikos - 1920-1921
Rev. N. Papavasiliou - 1921
Rev. Constantine Aretos - 1921-1922
Rev. Eugene Petoulis - 1922-1923
Rev. Menetzopoulos - 1923
Rev. George Menexopoulos - 1923-1926
Rev. Nicolaides - 1924
Rev. Ouzoun - 1925
Rev. Christ Agelopoulos - 1926
Rev. Panagiotis Anastasiou - 1927
Rev. Ioanides - 1927
Rev. Amfilochios Sarantides - 1928-1929
Rev. Stamatiades - 1929
In 1929, a man who had served here as a Greek School teacher was ordained and assigned to this Parish. His name was Father George Nassis and he served here until 1937. He was a well-educated man with a terrific voice, a good knowledge of music and was a most devoted individual. He trained our first choir and to hundreds of youngs boys and girls of the first generation born in this country, he was and still is today, THE priest. Their respect and admiration of him grew with the years and although he left in 1937 and eventually passed away in 1976, to that generation he remains a holy figure. Among the many wonderful blessings he brought to our community, he was blessed with a vision that helped rediscover a saint who had been forgotten for over 1500 years. Saint Xenia came to him in a vision, and he had an icon written of his vision. It is because of this vision that our Philoptochos choose St. Xenia for its Patron saint.
After Fr. Nassis there was again a series of priests who served a short time in our parish. Here is a list of the priests that served in our community until 1944:
Rev. Demellis - 1937
Rev. Papaleonidas - 1937
Rev. Theodore Stratigos - 1937-1938
Rev. Nicholas Spiliotis - 1938-1939
Rev. Nikolaou - 1939
Rev. John Aslanides - 1939-1944
Rev. Karaphilis - 1944
Rev. Mikropoulos - 1944
In 1944, Father Symeon Emmanuel was appointed to our parish. Fr. Symeon came from Constantinople orginally. He had a good background of Byzantine Music as did all the clergy who came from Constantinople. He served as our priest at a time when our community realized that our small church at Lemon and Chestnut Streets could no longer serve them adequately. Negotiations took place to sell our old church (as a lot only for $18,000) and buy the building at 8th and Court Streets complete, ready for use for $22,000 - a good situation by any standards.
Father Symeon was succeeded in 1949 by Father James Aloupis, the first American-born priest to serve here. A very eloquent and intelligent young man, Father Aloupis took the church out of obscurity and brought it out to the public and the Community at large. He helped encourage the parishioners to spread the word to the community that there was a church among them with many young people in it serving the same Lord. The church became active in the Greater Reading Council of Churches and in its community-wide efforts. In 1954, Father Aloupis was transferred to the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Newark, New Jersey, where he served the remainder of his ministry.
Father George Hiotis was then appointed to our church in 1954. Also an American born priest (although he moved to Greece when he was seven years old and then back again to America when he was 37) Father George brought enthusiasm, love and spiritually moving services. Many of today's middle-aged men served behind the altar under Father George and everyone has fond memories of him. He was also instrumental in inspiring at least two local boys to become priests of the church. During the time he served here, the Community outgrew the cramped facilities used as a Sunday School. The building next to the church was purchased, completely remodeled, and put into use as a Sunday School. He remained the clergyman for our parish until 1963.
In 1963, before we received another permanent priest, we were blessed to have two clergy come and help offer services so that we could still attend church. These two individuals were:
Rev. S. Sophocles - 1963
Rev. Kaisaris - 1963
In 1963, Fr. Peter Murtos came to Reading. He served our parish during one of the most difficult times in the history of the Community. A decision had to be made whether to build a new church, and where to build was not an easy decision to make. Father Murtos, therefore, fell in the midst of a controversy. He was a dynamic individual with a forceful personality. He was also a prolific writer of music using the old Byzantine Chants and putting them in a setting using today's western musical notes. He worked very hard to see that the present edifice was built and started having services there as early as possible. He remained the priest for our parish until 1970, when he went to Holy Trinity Church in Raleigh, NC. He served that parish until he retired in 1980.
Father Murtos was succeeded in 1970 by Father George Giannaris who found and even more difficult situation here. Some of the parishioners had left to start another church and because of this finances were strained and at times it was hard to find money just to pay our bills. However, Fr. George was a fighter having lived in Greece during the German occupation, and was imprisoned several times while he took an active part in the resistance. Consequently, faced with such a financial obstacle, he helped the community in the introduction of the Bazaar and the high returns contributed greatly to putting the church in a much better financial standing. Father Giannaris' sermons were always well prepared and eloquently delivered. He was transferred in 1985 to Youngstown, OH.
In 1985, Father Tom Pappalas came to Reading. He brought here a new approach to service as a priest. He realized that the vast majority of our Parish was third generation, American born, with very little, if any, knowledge of the Greek language. He also realized that there were many communicants in our church who had no Greek background at all. Father Tom, slowly, but surely changed the services to include as much English as possible, having the congregation sing the services, and convincing the people that they are participants and not spectators in the services. Much has been accomplished during his time here, but two noteworthy accomplishments to the church building itself: 1.) The interior has been completed as it was orginally intended, and 2.) Our Parish, after almost 90 years, was consecrated. Father Tom speaks the people's language figuratively and literally and he, as a great spiritual person, brought a much needed spirituality to the Community.