PARISH PROFILE: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Tacoma, Washington

PARISH PROFILE:  St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Tacoma, Wash.

Published in the September 2014 edition of the Orthodox Observer, page 21

Following are excerpts regarding the history of this parish which began in 1924:

The first Greek Orthodox Christians who formed the basis of the community arrived in the Tacoma area beginning about 1901 to escape poverty and being conscripted in the Ottoman Turkish army, a parish history noted.

The small number of single men worked in railroad construction, lumber mills or the docks.  Tacoma is a port city near the southern end of Puget Sound.

(The first known Greek who visited the Pacific Northwest was Apostolos Valerianos, also known as Ioannis Phocas, of Cephalonia, and better known by his Spanish name, Juan de Fuca, a maritime pilot serving King Philip II of Spain in the late 1500s.  He explored the strait that separates Vancouver Island, British Columbia, from the Olympic Peninsula of northwestern Washington, which bears his name).  According to historical information on the Greeks in the Pacific Northwest by Fr. E. Anthony Tomaras, former long-time pastor, within a few years they opened businesses or had pushcarts.

The first women arrived in 1914.  The community's population totaled about 1,000, mostly single men.

Before the eventual establishment of the church, they congregated at 15 Greek coffee shops that had opened by 1918.  The last Greek coffee shop closed in the 1960s.

For occasional weddings, baptisms and funerals, a Russian Orthodox priest would arrive from Seattle to perform the service.  Later there were monthly liturgies.

Efforts began to organize and by 1923 sufficient funds were raised to build a church.  The first service took place on Palm Sunday, 1924.

The largest percentage of persons in the community came from the village of Gallimi, on the island of Marmara in Asia Minor.  The selected the name "St. Nicholas," patron saint of fishermen, for the new church.