A brief history of St Gregoriose Orthodox Church

Compiled by P O Varghese, General Convener, Silver Jubilee Celebrations

Our parish began in early 1980, as an informal parish of ten to twelve members in the Bay Area when Rev. Fr. Dr. K. K. Kuriakose was . During that summer, the then Diocesan Metropolitan H.G. Dr. Thomas Mar Makarios visited and formally inaugurated the parish in the name of St. Gregoriose of Parumala and appointed Fr. Kuriakose as our first Vicar. The parish was incorporated in the State of California on December 24, 1980. Mathew Thomas served as the Treasurer and Secretary during the first year. Of the ten original members, three passed away and a few have relocated leaving only four people in this parish at present. We remember the departed souls of George Peediakal, O. P. Cherian and Abraham Varghese.

Holy Eucharist services were conducted fortnightly at All Saints Chapel of Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley until the end of 1984 when we had to vacate the Chapel. The services however, were continued in a school hall in Castro Valley for about six months. For brief periods, we conducted our service at Stanford Chapel of Stanford University, Lone Mountain Chapel of University of San Francisco and a Samoan Church in South San Francisco. In July 1985, Fr Kuriakose left for New York to continue his studies. At that time, we were fortunate in finding St John Armenian Church at 275 Olympia Way in San Francisco where our services were conducted on Saturdays in lieu of Sundays due to unavailability.

Rev. Fr Yohannan Panicker of Los Angeles was appointed as our Vicar from 1985 to 2000, with the exception of brief periods in 1994-1996, when Rev. Fr. John Varghese (now H.G. Dr. Yuhannon Mar Chrysostomos, Metropolitan of Niranam), Rev. Fr. Philip C. Abraham and Rev. Fr. Mathew Philipose filled in as Vicars. In early 2000, Rev. Fr. Joseph Kalapurayil succeeded them as the full-time resident vicar.

Although the Armenian Church of San Francisco treated us very well, the weekly commute to San Francisco became rather tedious for most of our worshippers. So in 2000 when one of our members managed to secure a church for Sunday use, we relocated to Messiah Lutheran Church at 1835 Valota Road in Redwood City.

Having a church of our own was the fondest desire of the parishioners for a long time. After struggling through several efforts of fund raising, it was in September 2002 during the time of Fr. Joseph Kalapurayil, that we managed to buy a church building on a quarter of an acre of land in Belmont (3209 Longfellow Dr., Belmont, CA). Church members and well-wishers contributed generously at that time. Our Diocesan Metropolitan, H.G. Mathews Mar Barnabas, consecrated the church in November 2002. Fr. Joseph resigned and returned to India in April 2003. He was replaced by Rev. Fr. Rege Mathew who served as the vicar from May 2003 to August 2004. An interim Vicar, Fr. Mathew Philipose, was appointed in September 2004 until a permanent vicar was appointed. Rev. Fr. V.T.Thomas served as the vicar from February 15, 2005 until June 2005, when Rev. Fr. Mathews George was appointed as the vicar. He had been with us till June 2008 with his wife and two children.

Fr. Mathews was a young, vibrant and dynamic priest with outstanding leadership qualities. It was during his term that we celebrated the Silver Jubilee of our church in 2006 in the presence of our diocesan bishop, Mar Thoma Bishop and public dignataries. Under his guidance, the spiritual life of our church grew rapidly, especially involvement of youth in worship and church activities. The church membership grew to well over 100 families from a modest 80 at the beginning of his term. We are grateful for his tireless efforts and amazing contributions. From July 2008 to October 2008, we had no permanent Vicars; however, the position was filled by priest from other places like New York and Texas. Towards the end of October, we were fortunate in bringing our former Vicar, Rev. Fr. Joseph Kalapurayil, back from India.  He has been actively serving as our current Vicar since November 1, 2008.

As the church members and the children grew in number, the Belmont Church became inadequate for our worship and Sunday School activities, and we started looking for a bigger church in the Bay Area. In October 2009, we were fortunate in selling the Belmont Church and subsequently purchasing a bigger church in Union City at 32462 Alvarado Blvd., Union City, CA 94587. The first service in the Union City Church was the Christmas service held on December 24, 2009, on the twenty ninth anniversary of the incorporation of our church. We are grateful for the great leadership and the tireless efforts of our Vicar, Rev. Fr. Joseph Kalapurayil, Treasurer John Thomas and the Managing Committee in the acquisition of the new church

From time to time, we are blessed by the visits of many metropolitans, priests, deacons and lay-leaders of our Church. Along with our worship and liturgy, which make up the core aspect of the Orthodox faith, we are proud to be conducting the Martha Mariam Samajam, Sunday School, Youth League/MGOCSM, monthly prayer meetings, Christmas caroling, Charity programs, and many other activities. The parish also maintains a website (www.indianchurch.org) and a newsletter named The Gregorian Insight. The memorial day of our patron saint, St. Gregoriose, is celebrated every year on the 2nd of November as the annual festival of the parish.

We humbly offer our thanks and praise to God Almighty who has constantly provided for His people. We also honour our patron saint and request his intercession for continued blessings and guidance in our daily lives and the continued prosperity of our church


Updated as of December 31, 2009.