COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — One year after the Greek Orthodox Mission Parish of Utah was established, its members are welcoming its first-ever, full-time priest.
The Rev. Anthony Savas grew up in Salt Lake City, but he and his family have lived in Boston, Dallas and Los Angeles for more than 20 years as he received his master's degree and served in two parishes, the Rev. Savas said.
The Rev. Savas started his first day as the Greek Orthodox Mission Parish of Utah priest Sept. 1, but will officially be introduced into the parish at a banquet Saturday, according to the parish council president, Charles Beck M.D.
For the last year, priests have flown into Utah to help with administrative and pastoral assistance and to celebrate the liturgy so faithful members could receive communion and worship together, the Rev. Savas said.
"The parish has been extremely blessed with the visiting clergy that have been coming for the past year to guide them in worship, to pray with them, to pray for them and to celebrate the services," the Rev. Savas said. "But now we have an opportunity to establish consistent patterns and consistency in our worship."
Obtaining a full-time priest after just a year is quick, he said, but the energy, size and commitment of the community has put them on a fast track to function as a full parish.
"It's an incredible blessing for my wife and myself and our children to be back in the Wasatch Front … a culture and an environment that my wife and I have always enjoyed," the Rev. Savas said. "And now we have the opportunity to introduce that to our own children."
The parish became official Aug. 23, 2014, but it will celebrate its one-year anniversary Saturday and Sunday, beginning with the banquet Saturday at St. Thomas More Catholic Church on 3015 East Creek Road.
Beginning at 6 p.m., the banquet will include a dinner, presentations, speeches and more. His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, the bishop of the entire Intermountain West area, will visit as will the Rev. Hieromonk Ambrose Omayas, a priest monk based in the office of the Metropolis of Denver.
Sunday, the normal services will occur, including orthros, an hour-long prayer service, at 9 a.m. and the divine liturgy, where the congregation prepares to receive the holy communion, at 10 a.m.
This will be the Rev. Savas' first opportunity to lead the congregation in prayer.
"I'm looking forward to celebrating the rights and the services of our holy orthodox tradition for this very vibrant and energized community," the Rev. Savas said.
A picnic at Canyon Rim Park at 4 p.m. will conclude the weekend and will be open to all parishioners and anyone who wants to celebrate with them.
Beck said people get emotional when thinking of the development of the parish and obtaining a full-time priest.
"We are certain that every door and every pathway has been opened to us and we believe that's a gift from God," Beck said.