St. Sophia in Elgin raising money for new Byzantine-style church
For nearly a year, St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church in Elgin has been raising millions to build a new Byzantine-style church complete with a traditional golden dome.
The project isn't just about a more modern and spacious building, but also a longtime spiritual need, said Pam Argyris of Bartlett, a parishioner more than three decades.
"To worship in a Byzantine church, it makes the experience more significant," she said. "It makes your senses more aware of the religious experience."
This month, the church launched the public phase of its "Building Together" capital campaign. Parishioners have pledged more than $4.2 million out of the $6.5 million needed; the church can borrow up to $1 million but hopes to raise the full amount, said Betsy Cappas, capital campaign communications co-chairwoman. If all goes smoothly, construction to replace the existing building will start in April and finish by April 2019, Cappas said.
Founding member Matina Caribacas, who worked as church secretary for 32 years until August, said the congregation always intended to have a traditional church. "We bought (the church) because there was nothing (in the traditional style) that would be near, and it was the right price," Caribacas said. "We always wanted this."
St. Sophia, at 525 Church Road, was built in 1965 and purchased in 1979 by the Greek Orthodox congregation that formed in Elgin a year earlier. An addition was built in 1990 with a kitchen and community center. The addition will remain intact and host services during construction, Cappas said.
The new church is designed by architect Christ J. Kamages of CJK Design Group in California, which specializes in Greek Orthodox churches. There is more space for classrooms, administration offices and a small gathering area, and bathrooms more easily accessible to the disabled, who now have to use an outside entrance, Cappas said.
Church officials looked at redoing the current building in the traditional style, but the cost was prohibitive, Cappas said. The new sanctuary will hold up to 375 people, compared to the current 340. Sunday services typically are attended by 250 to 300 parishioners, she said.
The design comes with one major change -- the main entrance, now on the side of the building, will face the altar, which means brides will walk a straight line on their wedding day. That detail has led a few couples to get married elsewhere, Caribacas said.
Before embarking on the capital campaign, church officials wanted to ensure the goal was feasible, so they hired fundraising consultant American City Bureau in West Dundee to gauge interest among the congregation, Cappas said. The company also is helping with the campaign.
"In the Greek culture, this is not just their place of worship, but it is also their community," Cappas said.