About Us

Beginnings — The Communion of Saints

There were several efforts at establishing an Orthodox Church in Iowa City over the years.  Archbishop Michael, of blessed memory, had Iowa City listed as a potential mission site during the late 1960's and early 1970's.  Fr. Constantine Nasr, while he was priest of St. George Church in Cedar Rapids in the 1980's, would hold occasional services in Iowa City.  Other priests from Cedar Rapids would do the same.  But no permanent parish was established during these years.

In 2000, God’s Providence began to bring together people and circumstances to firmly plant an Orthodox Church in Iowa City, Iowa.  The last “Big 10” university town with no Orthodox Church, Iowa City’s need for Orthodox worship and spiritual teaching was both great and promising.  The nearest Orthodox Church is 40 minutes away, in Cedar Rapids: St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, founded by the great missionary St. Raphael of Brooklyn in 1914. 

We believe that it is no coincidence that 2000 was also the year of St. Raphael’s canonization.  From our first year, we have felt his care for us, as we have the intercessions of the Mother of God.  Inspired by the story of a Russian priest who converted his neighbors and established a church by ceaselessly praying the Akathist to the Theotokos, beginning with our first meeting in May 2001, we have put ourselves under her protection with this constant prayer: that in his great love for us, our Lord Jesus Christ, through the prayers of His Mother, St. Raphael, and all the saints, would establish and bless this church in Iowa City, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity, and the salvation of many souls, including our own.

Through the blessings and struggles since our beginning, we have been conscious that we are coming into something larger than ourselves: everything here began before us, and continues in spite of our weaknesses.  We ask you to pray for this Mission Work and to take part with us, in whatever way you can, in the living Communion of the Saints, stretching from the prophets and saints up to our own day.

Growth & the Sacramental Life — Worship & Love & Prayer

Since our beginning, God has blessed our mission with “growth” in multiple senses of the word.  From an initial handful, our group has grown to include a roster of over 100, with Sunday Liturgy attendance averaging 50-60, with 50% of the congregation college students and children.  Our members include “cradle” Orthodox and converts, representing many nationalities including Syrians, Russians, Romanians, Greeks, Lebanese, Georgians and Americans. We have a large group of catechumens and several inquirers.  We are blessed to be truly pan-Orthodox!

Of course, growth is not primarily in numbers but in our shared life in Christ, in working out our salvation together, through the Sacraments and fellowship of the Church.  We have received Holy Communion together, stood godparents to each other’s children, received catechumens by chrismation and baptism, welcomed inquirers, celebrated the wedding of two members, demolished chapel walls and rebuilt them, cleaned up after bake sales, carried food donations to the hungry, driven on monastery pilgrimages, practiced chanting, and shared many meals.  Through sweat and sometimes squabbles, our aim is an integrated life of worship, love and prayer: as Father Alexander Schmemann so well expressed it, both the Divine Liturgy and the “liturgy after the liturgy,” in the beauty of everyday life.

While there is plenty of work to do and we have our dreams of a golden dome glinting in the Iowa countryside, we also are filled with the deep realization that our dream is already here: no gimmicks, no magic, just the real, beautiful, sometimes painful and slow reality of prayer and repentance, of “putting off the old man” and learning to love one another.  In the labor to build a church we are slowly working out our salvation together.  Only if we find the peace and love of Christ here, really and truly within and among ourselves, can the world around us be fed and changed by our presence and the presence of Christ in us.

Come Pray With Us

Whether you live in Iowa City or elsewhere, we invite you to share in our life of prayer and worship and the building of this church.  If you live far away, you can participate through your prayers and donations, both to our church and to churches and missions across the archdiocese. We benefit every time you pray for us and commemorate us in the liturgy. And of course, we would welcome you with open arms if you ever happen to pass through our community!

If you live in Iowa City, we invite you to attend our services, to stay for fellowship afterward, and to explore the worship and spirituality of the Orthodox Church in our warm, diverse community of Christians.  At the center of our community is the one, great, Mystical Meal, the Eucharist, and the beautiful Divine Liturgy: its hymns and chants, readings and preaching, bowing and prostrations, bread and wine, candles and incense.  We believe that the presence and love of Christ in the worshiping church is unlike anything else we have experienced and is the source of all life and joy.  We invite you, in the words of St. Andrew, to “Come and see!” and we look forward to meeting you.