History of the Resurrection Church, Castro Valley, California

resurretion-gocThe Orthodox Fellowship, composed of members of the Ascension Greek Orthodox Church of Oakland, was formed in early 1969, to explore the possibility of petitioning the Archdiocese for the purpose of establishing a new Greek Orthodox Church in Southern Alameda County, California. The meeting was held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Percy Cannis, San Leandro, California. The members were Peter Rochios, John Stevens, George Karikas, Alex P. Phillips, Sam Rochios, James Piperis, Helen Piperis, Spiro Astmos, Harry Stone, Tony Koron, Betsie Strouzas, Jerry Wallner, John McKean, John Efstathiou and Christine Kastanos.

In 1971, Peter Rochios, George Karikas and John Stevens traveled to the Archdiocese in New York with ideas, plans, parishioner profiles and financial capabilities. This team presented our case capably to Archbishop Iakovos and proved the need for, and the viability of the new Parish. A charter was granted!  Father George Stephanides of Lowell, Massachusetts, was assigned as our first Parish Priest. On a sparkling clear day, November 21, 1971, an enthusiastic and elated group of Orthodox Christians gathered at the Snow Building, at the Knowland State Park in Oakland, to celebrate the first Divine Liturgy of the newly chartered Greek Orthodox Church of Southern Alameda County.

The first meeting of the new Parish Council and Father Stephanides was held at Piper’s Restaurant in San Leandro. The first Parish Council members were Peter Rochios (President), James Piperis (Vice President), James Cline (Secretary), Jerry Wallner (Treasurer), Minos Kassavetis, John McKean, Betsie Strouzas, Christine Katsanos, Helen Piperis, Harry Stone, Alex P. Phillips, George Geanekos, Spiro Astmos, John Stevens, George Marinakis, Nick Polyzos, George Karikas and John Efstathiou. At this meeting, Father Stephanides asked that the new parish be named “The Resurrection”; which the council enthusiastically endorsed. Father Stephanides noted that it would be the first parish so named in the United States at that time.The Parish rented facilities at Eden Church on Grove Way in Hayward. The first Divine Liturgy was held on January 2, 1972 which was followed by an outstanding coffee hour. A coffee hour has been held every Sunday since that day and continues to hold the same high standard that was established then.

Peter Rochios, the first Parish Council president and chairman of the Orthodox Fellowship Organizing Committee was the perfect person to lead the new parish. His steady and calm presence, and understanding of the issues at hand, enabled the new parish to bond and move forward into the future. Before he could complete the task, he became gravely ill and fell asleep in the Lord during his second year in office. The parish was completely devastated by the loss of a most respected leader. The vice president, James Cline took up the difficult task of completing Peter Rochios’ term.The parish quickly flourished under the leadership of Father Stephanides and the parish lay leadership. Father George immediately established a Building Fund with John Stevens as the first chairman. The first Glendi was held on February 13, 1972 at Aahmes Temple in Oakland, California. In April of 1972, Bishop Meletios made his first visit and conducted a Divine Liturgy during Lent. After a thorough search of existing facilities in the Castro Valley-Hayward area, Father Stephanides and the Parish Council president, Alex P. Phillips, asked the Real Estate Committee chaired by Ted Diamant to re-establish contact with the owners of a Castro Valley property. After a Divine Liturgy in January of 1973, Father George asked the congregation to travel to Castro Valley to visit the property for sale by the Classes of California of Sacramento. After a thorough inspection and evaluation, the Parish enthusiastically committed itself to the purchase of the Center Street property, for approximately $168,000. On February 4th, the first Divine Liturgy was held with a full congregation present.

In June of 1974, Father George Stephanides was transferred to Brockton, Massachusetts. Father Chris Maniudakis, who was serving at a parish in Buffalo, New York was assigned to the Resurrection by Archbishop Iakovos. During Father Chris’ ministry, the adjacent property on Center Street was purchased as a result of a generous donation of $60,000 from a dedicated parishioner, Julia Levas. The property became known as “Julia’s House”. Julia’s House became a meeting place for social and spiritual programs and also provided a storage area for the ever expanding and successful annual Greek Festivals.

In order to raise funds to pay off the property, the parish participated in the Niles Flea Market which took place every September. It drew over 100,000 people every year. Under the guidance of Tony Koron, George Karikas, Lanthey Pepares and Dick Evans, the project lasted over ten years and raised more than $60,000.00 for the purpose of paying off the church’s mortgage.  On April 20th, 1980, the Parish celebrated a milestone event in an Orthodox Church: the Consecration of the Resurrection Church. This ancient rite was performed by Bishop Anthony of San Francisco, and many Clergy of the neighboring Orthodox Churches in the Bay Area. It was his first consecration as the Bishop of San Francisco. The Consecration committee members were: Father Chris Maniudakis, Phd., Honorary Chairman; Alex P. Phillips, General Chairman; Dimitri Mataras, Vice Chairman; Angie Zigenis, Secretary; and Eustace Tombras, Treasurer. Godparents were Mrs. Helen Alex, Dr. Dan Alex, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Evans, Mrs. Julia Levas, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Panos, Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Pentaris, Mr. and Mrs. John Strouzas, Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Wallner, Gary and Karen. The three day gala celebration was topped off with a grand banquet at Centennial Hall, Hayward with over 450 present, including many religious and civic dignitaries. During the Vesper service on the evening of April 19, 1980, His Grace Bishop Anthony placed the relics in the altar. The relics were those of: Saint Anastasia, Saint Yourias and Saint Samounas. Having faithfully served the Resurrection Parish for over six years, Father Chris Maniudakis was transferred to the Assumption Church in Seattle, Washington.

Father Michael Makredes was assigned to the Resurrection after having serving at the Holy Trinity of Fresno, CA. Father Michael energized the Parish and established a permanent Building Committee. Alex P. Phillips was appointed Chairman. Father Michael fell asleep in the Lord unexpectedly in February of 1983 while attending the National Presbyters Council meeting in Chicago. The Parish was stunned and filled with grief and struggled to survive. A permanent Priest was not available to take Fr. Michael’s place. The Parish was assigned a different Priest every Sunday, with the majority of the services being performed by Father George Bogdanos. The Father Michael Makredes Endowment Fund was established for the purpose of giving financial support to any lay person from the Resurrection Church who attended the Theological School in Boston for the purpose of studying to become a Priest.

In June of 1983, Bishop Anthony assigned Father Tom Avramis of Phoenix, Arizona to the resilient Resurrection Parish. Father Tom brought a new sense of dynamism along with his enthusiasm and spirituality. In November of 1983, the Parish held the Church’s mortgage burning celebration with Bishop Anthony officiating. The Grand Banquet was held at the Alameda Naval Air Station Officers Club with a capacity crowd attending. President John Rores actually burned the mortgage with Bishop Anthony’s assistance. A Building Fund Banquet was held in November 1985 at the Hilton Hotel in Fremont, CA. Mr. and Mrs. Jim Argiros were co-chairs. The Banquet was attended by 275 parishioners who pledged $250,000.00 towards the new Community Center. The model of the new Community was presented by the Architect, Greg Anastopoulos of San Diego, CA and was warmly received. In 1986, Father Tom Avramis initiated our first annual Labor Day retreat at St. Nicholas Ranch and Retreat Center in Dunlap, CA. It was a very successful event with 110 in attendance. 2004 marked the 18th consecutive year that this Parish has held a Labor Day weekend retreat at the Ranch. The retreats have been one of the major catalysts in bonding the Parish family community over the years. In April of 1987, the Central Bank, through the efforts of Alex P. Phillips, committed to a building loan of $890,000.00. Having selected the Robert E. Agorastos Construction Company as the builder for the new Community Center, construction began on July 27, 1987 and was completed in September, 1988. The new Community Center was officially opened with a spectacular Grand Banquet on September 17, 1988. The Community Center continues to be the hub of Parish activities, such as JOY and GOYA programs, youth sports, Greek dancing rehearsals, meetings and assemblies, agape lunches, numerous fund raisers, and various Parish programs and celebrations. In June of 1991, Father Tom Avramis accepted the position of Chief Operating Officer of the Guadalupe Home for Children. Before Father Tom left, he planted the seed of a day care center. During Father Tom’s service at the Resurrection, two properties (one on Diamond Court and one on Center Street) were purchased for future building expansion.

Bishop Anthony assigned Father James Retelas as our fifth “permanent” priest. Father Jim was born and raised in Oakland, CA and had served as the Assistant Priest at the Annunciation Cathedral in San Francisco. Father Jim and Presvytera Barbara were warmly welcomed to Resurrection. Father Jim epitomized the “hands-on” approach in administering the church. The Resurrection Parish responded enthusiastically to his energy, drive and overwhelming desire for the Parish’s financial stability and sufficiency. Under Father Jim’s leadership and the dedication of Bessie Dietz and other parishioners, we opened “Rise ‘N Shine”, a State-licensed pre-school in 1992. It was quickly filled to capacity and for 16 years served as an excellent center in Southern Alameda County. The first Board of Directors for the Rise ‘N Shine Preschool were: Bessie Dietz, President; Ted Polyzos, Vice President; Connie Khanachet, Secretary; Jim Jouthas, Treasurer; with Lanthey Pepares, Jay Peterson, Monica Vassis and Stella Hadjimarkos as board members. Father Jim led the Parish forward with enthusiasm and optimism, culminating in a Golf Tournament, Sanctuary interior remodeling, Family Night, Philoxenia outreach and a host of other accomplishments. In 1994, Bishop Anthony transferred Father Jim to Holy Trinity in Portland, Oregon and assigned Father Photios Dumont, the Assistant Priest at Holy Trinity to the Resurrection Parish.
The Parish welcomed Father Photios, Presvytera Kathy and their young family to the Resurrection family. Father Photios plunged enthusiastically into guiding the Resurrection and administering to its needs. He revitalized Bible study meetings and placed heavy emphasis on the importance of prayer, fasting, and confession. His “brown bag” sermons were anticipated eagerly every Sunday by children and adults alike.  On November 3rd, 2001, our thriving parish was able to burn the Center Street property’s mortgage at our 30th Anniversary celebration. In 2002, we were able to burn the second property, Diamond Court’s mortgage. And in 2003, we significantly paid down the Community Center’s loan.

In August of 2004, Metropolitan Anthony called on Father Photios to serve at St. Demetrios in Seattle, Washington and assigned Father Michael Prevas, the Assistant Priest from Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Glenview, IL to become our seventh and current Priest. Fr. Michael has already begun a variety of ministries to serve the Resurrection family including a major emphasis on the Stewardship program and revitalizing our youth programs. In October 2006, in conjunction with the 35th year celebration, our parish “burned” the mortgage on our community center. The following May of 2007, our church completed the renovation of our Center Street house, and is currently serving as our Church Office.

The Resurrection family continues to move forward with enthusiasm and optimism to go on with our dreams as a Parish. With God’s abundant blessings, those dreams will become a reality. Father George Stephanides once wrote in a 1971 church bulletin, “the name Resurrection refers to the central doctrine of our Christian Faith’ it will be a constant reminder that in the Resurrection of Christ, we have our salvation and our being; … It puts on all of us an obligation to show through our love of mission and dedication to the Church that we are truly ‘Sons of the Resurrection’ (Luke 20:36).”

The HISTORY 1971-2000 of the RESURRECTION GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH in CASTRO VALLEY, CA was written by Alex P. Phillips, Archon Exarchos.

The HISTORY 2001-2004 of the RESURRECTION GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH in CASTRO VALLEY, CA was written by Anna Phillips and Karen Wallner-Ries.

Excerpts from the 25th Anniversary Commerative Book were also used (which was written by Dr. Louis P. Evans and Fawaz Khanachet).