In response to widespread growth in the Greek Orthodox religiouscommunity, eight Central Florida Greek Orthodox Churches have formed the Central Florida Council of Greek Orthodox Churches.
The council, whose constitution was approved by the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Atlanta in December, was formed to foster communication and to promote religious and social events among Greek Orthodox congregations in Central Florida.
George Tjaerlis, publicist for the council, said the council will respond to needs that the Atlanta Diocese has been unable to address.
The size of the Atlanta diocese, which is composed of eight Southeastern states, including Florida, does not permit the diocese to become familiar with the secular programs and problems of individual churches, he said.
Florida alone is home to 31 of the diocese's 65 congregations, and the number continues to increase. Two congregations, in Naples and Inverness, were formed in the last four months. Tjaerlis said that his home church, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Clearwater, has 1,000 members, 40 of whom joined in the past six months. "We're bursting at the seams," he said.
The council, which conducted its first meeting last April, is composed of congregations in Tarpon Springs, New Port Richey, Clearwater, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Fort Myers and Winter Haven. That represents a combined church membership of more than 3,300.
Invitations to join the council have been extended to churches in Naples, Orlando and Inverness. Emmanuel Fellouzis, parish council president at Holy Trinity in Clearwater, is president of the Central Florida council.
Since its initial meeting, the council has scheduled religious and social events, consolidated purchasing efforts, initiated clergy and choir exchanges and set up liturgy and publicity efforts. It also began publishing a monthly newsletter called the Trinity News last fall. The eight churches, particularly those in the Tampa Bay area, have also coordinated calendars to avoid scheduling major social events at the same time.