Like all the churches in the Tampa Bay area, St. John Greek Orthodox Church finds its roots in the Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Tarpon Springs. Founding families of the church included many who originally settled in Tarpon Springs and later migrated over to Hillsborough County on the east side of Tampa Bay. Many parishioners to this day were raised in Tarpon Springs and many of the members of the church have a special affinity for the Cathedral.
St. John Greek Orthodox Church of Tampa, Florida is the second oldest community in the Tampa Bay area. A community of Greeks was established in Tampa long before the church was founded. In the early 1950s, services were held in the American Hellenic Center in Downtown Tampa and in various local Protestant churches. The church community was founded in 1956 with the laying of the cornerstone of St. John Greek Orthodox Church on January 7, 1956. The church was opened later that same year, by the 30 families that made up the parish. The story of how the community got the name Saint John is quite interesting. Many of the founding members of the community had the name “John.” Some were named for St. John the Baptist, others for St. John Chrysostom, and others for the many saints of our church who have the name John. Unable to decide which St. John to choose for the name of the church, without wanting to offend anyone, the community just stuck with the name St. John. However, when the Iconostasion of the church was built and decorated with icons, in the place where the icon of the church’s patron saint goes, the icon of St. John the Baptist was placed. After the church was built, a small hall and administration building were built. And in the early 1980s, a large community center housing a kitchen and gymnasium was built. It was later named the Kourmolis Center in honor of Archon Peter Kourmolis and his wife Sophia.
During the 1970s, and extensive iconography project was done in the church, so that nearly every bit of the church walls is covered with iconography. As the church continued to grow along with the Tampa Bay area, St. John helped provide liturgical and clerical support in founding two of its sister parishes in the area—St. Sophia in Winter Haven and St. Barbara in Sarasota.
His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos consecrated St. Johns’ in 1987, with their Graces Bishop John of Atlanta and Bishop Iakovos of Catania as co-celebrants. Over the years, many prominent Orthodox clergy visited Tampa, including the late Patriarch, His All Holiness Patriarch Athenagoras, when he served as Archbishop of North and South America. Because the feastday of St. John the Baptist falls the day after Epiphany, the Archbishop of America has made pastoral visits to the church in January. His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos made many such visits, as has His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios. His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros has visited the church as well.
Father Stavros Akrotirianakis has served as Proistamenos of St. John since September 2004. The Church today has a membership of 430 families (and growing rapidly) of various ethnic backgrounds. The services are conducted nearly entirely in English.
Today the community defines itself by five core values—love, worship, community, learning and service. There is a great spirit of welcoming people into the community. St. John is blessed with a gifted choir and loves worshipping. The liturgical calendar is full. There are lots of opportunities for fellowship, including groups for seniors (Young at Heart), young adults, teens (GOYA), and children (HOPE/JOY). We have a large and active Sunday school. The church has two Bible studies each week, as well as a book club. Grief share ministers to those who are grieving. The Messenger is our monthly publication which reads like a magazine. Fr. Stavros writes a daily message called “The Prayer Team” which is available to anyone at www.prayerteam365.com. In addition youth worker retreats and adult retreats are held each year. Orthodoxy 101 is taught each spring and fall. As for service, our community is known for its spirit of generosity. A percentage of the budget is set aside each year for charitable giving. We have an active Philoptochos. Community Outreach feeds the hungry in downtown Tampa the third Saturday of each month. We also have an operating food pantry. The Greek Festival is held each year in November.
To learn more about the History of the Greek Community in Tampa, check out this document, “A Social-Ethnic Study of the Greeks in Tampa: Beginning in 1887.”
Priests who have served St. John Greek Orthodox Church
Fr. Andrew Daregas (1956)
Fr. Nicholas Harbatis (1957-1961)
Fr. Constantine Chokanis (1961-1966)
Fr. Philip Pekras (1966-1971)
Fr. Sam Kalamaras (1971-1979)
Fr. George Konstantopoulos (1980-1999)
Fr. Konstantinos Kostaris (2000-2004)
Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis (2004-present)