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Orthodox mission realizes dream

Call it a 15-year labor of love. St. Nicholas Orthodox Christian Church, the first Antiochian Orthodox Christian church in the Tampa Bay area, is scheduled to open Sunday, thanks to the efforts of a small group of faithful who did much of the manual labor on the new structure.

"It's a dream come true for me," said Najib Jacob, president of the church council.

The church is at 6447 76th Ave. N, Pinellas Park.

"The mission goes back 15 years, and we've been trying off and on to have a permanent home," said the Rev. Nicholas F. Nichols.

The church is in a former bank building that was donated and brought to the site from another location, then added to.

While the structural work on the church building was done by professional contractors, Nichols said, church members did much of the remaining labor.

"All of the interior of the church, including the placing of the icons, (was done) by members," Nichols said.

Nichols estimated the project cost $50,000 to $70,000, not including the price of the land.

One distinction of the new church: There is no mortgage on the project, Nichols said. Instead, the congregation paid as the project progressed.

"Somehow, with prayers and faith, it finally came through," said Jacob. "We're doing it not for ourselves, but for the future of our children.

Matin service will be held Sunday at 10:15 a.m., and the Divine Liturgy will be at 10:30 a.m. The services will be in English.

The Antiochian congregation has been meeting at Our Lady of Good Hope Old Roman Catholic Church, 5501 62nd Ave. N in Pinellas Park.

The region's closest Antiochian Orthodox churches are in Silver Springs and Eustis, Nichols said.

The Antiochian Orthodox church has roots in the Middle East.