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Church holds first Sunday service since fire destroyed sanctuary

For the first time in four years, the choir was singing on Sunday at Saint George Greek Orthodox Church.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn — For 217 Sundays, members at St. George Orthodox Church had to worship in their church hall.

But Sunday, the candles were lit, the pews full and the choir singing--celebrating the first Sunday services at the church since the fire on Greek Orthodox Easter in April 2012. 

"It was a very emotional day for me and my family," Greg Tampas said.

Tampas led the reconstruction effort which involved handcrafted mosaic pieces shipped from Europe. 

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"It was taken literally down to the concrete block and steel beams," he said. 

It re-opened for the first time this weekend. 

"Coming through the doors, seeing the lights, the candles, the smells of the incense, it was very beautiful," he said.

But not everyone can sit still through a church service. Outside the sanctuary, 17-month-old Nina is just at that age.

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"She is a little overwhelmed by all of it," her mom, Susanna Varlan Anderson, laughed. "There's a lot more to look at in the church than there was over in the hall so. She especially likes the big dome, we got a few 'whoas' out of her." 

Anderson's wedding was supposed to be here until the fire.

"We had a lot of re-planning to do," she said. "Now today, four years later, we're here for the first time with our daughter."

She's now sharing the church her grandparents helped build and in which her parents worshiped with her own daughter. 

"It's such a sensory experience, the liturgy is. So being back where we have our beautiful icons and all of our incense back it's amazing," Anderson said. 

Saturday the church had a door opening ceremony with both the Catholic and Orthodox bishops. They blessed the sanctuary for many more Sundays to come.

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