hill at the southwest corner of 12th Street and Horizon Drive in
Grand Junction, Colorado stands Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox
Church. The Byzantine-style building was erected in 1991 for
congregational worship, but the building represents much more than
that. It stands as a visible testament to the faith of an
immigrant community that came to Colorado in the early 1900s.
immigrants came from the country of Greece that had recently shed
the yoke of Turkish rule, and many were eager to take advantage of
their newly-found freedom by coming to America. Sadly, the nearly
400 years of Turkish occupation precluded any educational
opportunities for the enslaved Greek people, and also precluded
free worship; all learning was by word-of-mouth.
who traveled across the Atlantic were therefore without formal
education, but they were willing to work hard. One skill they
brought with them was raising sheep, work that would provide many
of them with a living in Colorado.
immigrant community from Greece found a settling place for their
families, their spiritual journey continued. Through their toil
and efforts to survive in a new country, through their care and
nurturing of each other, and through their commitment to spiritual
growth, they emerged as a community that lives its beliefs.
households were established, they became the centers of social
activity for the Greek community. These homes were not only places
for camaraderie, but more importantly they nurtured ties to the
traditions and customs that bonded them together as Orthodox
Christians. A frequent occasion for social gatherings were the
"name days" of the faithful. Families would host an open house on
the feast day of a saint after whom a member of the family was
these gatherings, as well as during the Christmas and Pascha
celebrations, the immigrants began establishing the foundations of
the future parish, to continue the living tradition of the
Orthodox Christian Church
the community observed these traditions, they lacked regular
spiritual guidance. At first, priests would arrive from Salt Lake
City or Denver to perform baptisms, weddings, and funerals, but
regular Sunday services were rare. Occasionally a priest would be
present for a religious holiday; if not, families would travel to
where services were being held, sometimes in Price or Salt Lake
City, Utah. Before the first parish hall was built, the visiting
clergy held services at the old Labor Temple on the corner of
Seventh Street and Rood Avenue, or at the VFW Hall on North First
saw their children growing up, they felt the importance of
teaching and perpetuating their religious faith. The community
discussed building a central gathering place in the late 1940s. In
1956 the priest from Assumption Parish in Price, Utah, encouraged
the building of a church and the faithful committed themselves to
this sacred task.
events were held to help raise funds for a church. The first was a
Greek smorgasbord dinner at the Redlands Country Club. The Yasou
Ball, held in the 1970s and 1980s, continued the practice, and the
Greek Festival held since 2002 follows this same tradition.
Through these events the faith and culture of Orthodox peoples is
shared with all the residents of Grand Junction and Mesa County.
In 1956 the
current property was purchased, although that part of Grand
Junction was still very rural. The building site on a hill was
significant because Greek villages were often built on hillsides.
building, a meeting hall, was designed in 1958 by Robert
Hightower, a Grand Junction architect. It now forms the western
section of the present parish structure, and provided space for
social events and liturgical services from the 1950s through the
Nicholas was chosen as the patron saint for the community because
his feast day falls in December, a time of year when sheepmen
traditionally could be in town for religious observances. The
parish was incorporated in the State of Colorado in 1958, and was
granted an ecclesiastical charter from the Greek Orthodox
Archdiocese of North and South America in the same year.
In the late
1980s the community began planning for the current church. A local
builder, Mr. Jim Wilson, and his architect son, Mr. Trent Wilson,
were commissioned to design and build the sanctuary. Construction
began in April, 1991, and was completed by Christmas.
Nicholas community has grown, both numerically and spiritually
because the faithful remain focused on our Lord, Jesus Christ. The
first Greek immigrants to Colorado were followed by other Orthodox
faithful whose families originated in Armenia, Romania, Russia,
Serbia, and Ukraine.
addition, numerous individuals have embraced the ancient and
traditional Orthodox Christian faith. These modern-day converts
follow the example of the earliest Christians that came to the
Christian faith through the preaching of the Apostles, such as
Saint Paul and Saint Luke who traveled among the Hellenic peoples
of Greece and Asia Minor. The twentieth-century Greek immigrants
to America, direct descendants of those earliest converts from
paganism to Christianity, brought the Orthodox faith to western
Colorado. Their example and steadfastness in turn has inspired
many who now worship in the beautiful church which they built and
who today profess with them the ancient Orthodox Christian faith.