Beneath the towering domed ceiling of Boulder’s Sts. Peter and Paul Greek Orthodox Church, Mary Lymberopoulos says her lifelong dream has been realized.
“I grew up where there was no Greek Orthodox church,” said
Lymberopoulos, who was raised in Ohio. “And my wish was always to live in a city where we had a Greek Orthodox church. It was a dream, (and) my wish has come true.”
Lymberopoulos is one of the founding members of Sts. Peter and Paul, which is celebrating 50 years since its founding this month. In 1973, she helped coordinate services at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in central Boulder led by a visiting priest from Denver. Now, the parish has a home base at 5640 Jay Road in the form of a traditional Orthodox temple, which was built in 2000.
“We just kept growing to what we are today,” Lymberopoulos explained.
That growth currently looks like a congregation of roughly 150 families from around Boulder County and from neighboring communities including Loveland, Broomfield and Golden. Cultural diversity is on full display within the congregation, as members represent the Orthodox traditions of Romania, Lebanon, Serbia, Palestine and Greece, among other countries.
During the Lord’s Prayer, the congregation can be heard reciting the words in upwards of eight languages, from English to Spanish to Arabic.
“People come to the church from all over, all kinds of ethnicities,” said Father Gabriel McHugh, the parish’s pastor as of January. “So that’s what we try to be, is a beacon of hope and light to everybody.”
Lucy Rissman, who joined Sts. Peter and Paul this spring, shared that a big draw of the Boulder congregation for her is its intimacy.
“It’s really just very inviting, and the community is so tight-knit,” Rissman said. “It’s a very personal experience when you’re in the service. I feel like I have a second family, truly.”
Every month, the church choses a local nonprofit to support through donations and food drives; this month, that nonprofit is OUR Center in Longmont. In the wake of the Marshall Fire, the church also provided relief for more than 50 impacted families through direct cash donations.
“I would say it’s part of our mission to be a part of the community as much as possible,” said Steve Dzilvelis, parish council president. “I feel like, if you say, ‘The Greek church on Jay Road,’ everyone recognizes that.”
For the greater Boulder community, Sts. Peter and Paul is perhaps best known for its annual “Taste of Orthodoxy” festival featuring Greek food, Balkan music and dancing. The earliest iterations of the festival stretch back to just after the church’s founding in the 1970s.
The church is in the stages of reviving the festival after the pandemic shut it down. Dzilvelis said people are constantly calling to ask when “Taste of Orthodoxy” will return to the temple.
“There’s a huge desire to bring something like it back,” Dzilvelis said. “Literally, people will make travel plans to be here.”
On Saturday, the parish is commemorating the anniversary with a service followed by dinner and live music performances. There will also be visiting clergy members from other churches in the area that have supported Sts. Peter and Paul over its long history. Looking ahead, members are preparing to have the temple consecrated at some point next year.
Lymberopoulos continues to be involved in the church by attending Sunday services and Wednesday Bible study meetings. She said she’s always had faith that the Boulder Greek Orthodox community would thrive in the years since the parish’s founding.
“I just knew it would happen,” Lymberopoulos said. “You have to have something special, and I think we had that little special something. …I think the older members would be very proud of what we’ve accomplished in 50 years.”