Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church – Austin, Texas
In August 1985, Reverend Nicholas C. Triantafilou, Proistamenos of Annunciation Cathedral in Houston, Texas, came to Austin to meet with a handful of Greek Orthodox families with the inclination toward starting the first Greek Orthodox Church in the growing State Capital area.
On November 10, 1985, Fr. Nicholas offered the first Divine Liturgy at Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church with 36 people attending.
His Grace, Bishop ANTHIMOS of Denver visited Austin on December 9, 1985, and gave his blessing to proceed with the new parish – with this the Greek Orthodox Church of Austin was born. It was three years later when, at the recommendation of Father Nick, the membership of the new community voted to officially name the church The Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church (celebrating its feast day on August 6).
Beginning in February 1986, the small parish began using St. George’s Episcopal Church for Divine Liturgy Services twice monthly. Ministry teams were appointed in April 1986 (with the Ladies Philoptochos Society being established November 9, 1991). When Father Nick assumed the position of the Archdiocese Vicar General on September 1, 1987, he continued to serve the Austin parish on the weekends with the approval of the Archdiocese. For the next 5 1/2 years the church met every Sunday morning in the Parish Hall of Resurrection Episcopal Church.
In 1990, the official Charter was issued for Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church.
As time passed and the parish grew, it became clear that a permanent church home was needed. With the goal of buying property to build a permanent place of worship, the community began searching for property. In order to raise funds for this substantial goal, the parish participated with a Greek Souvlaki and Baklava Booth in five consecutive Austin Pecan Street Festivals, beginning in the fall of 1987. In addition, the parish established a number of other fundraising activities, including monthly luncheons, which continue to the present day.
Finally, on June 21, 1990, after evaluating over 100 properties, the small parish purchased 4.2 acres located at 414 St. Stephens School Road – one of the highest hilltops in Travis County. One year later, the first of several outdoor Divine Liturgies were held on the property. The slab for the church facilities, named Mt. Tabor Hall by the Parish Assembly on May 12, 1991 was poured in October, 1992. On April 4, 1993 the parish held its first Divine Liturgy at the new facilities. The facilities contained a fellowship hall, which would serve as the church, a kitchen, offices and classrooms.
After eleven years of ministry to the parish of Transfiguration, Reverend Nicholas Triantafilou was reassigned to Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Due to the growth in parish membership to over a 120 pledging families, the parish council realized the need to request a full time priest. For eight months, while awaiting assignment for a permanent priest, the parish continued to hold Sunday morning services with visiting priests.
Effective July 1, 1997, His Eminence Metropolitan ISAIAH of Denver assigned Reverend Jordan G. Brown as Transfiguration’s first full time priest. Previously, Father Jordan served as the assistant priest at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Dallas, Texas, for almost four years. With full time pastoral presence, a broader spectrum of ministries, including weekday worship services, were offered.
In December 1997, a needs assessment was conducted to determine the direction of future development for the Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church. The parish community was growing and with proper planning, future needs could be addressed. The parish was financially secure and physical expansion was feasible. The study resulted in a recommendation to the Parish Assembly to construct a traditional Byzantine-style church. The parish membership voted to accept the recommendation and the desire and goal to construct a Byzantine style church was fueled.
Over the next five years the members worked hard seeking individual contributions and pledges along with initiating many fundraising activities that slowly helped transform the vision of building a church into a reality. The parishioners initiated an effort to pay off the remainder of the mortgage from the construction of Mt. Tabor Hall. They accomplished this goal on January 15, 1998, demonstrating the maturity of the parish and its readiness to build the new sanctuary.
In early May 2003, the foundation for the new Sanctuary was poured and the parish celebrated with a “blessing of the foundation” ceremony, placing holy objects and the name of all members at the time inside an area of the foundation located under the future altar. Construction work continued throughout the year. Construction work continued throughout that year under the direction of the architectural firm of Edmundo Lopez, with his brother Gilberto serving as Designer and Project Manager. Icons, written by the Byzantine Iconographer Diamantis Cassis, were installed into the iconostasis. In January 2004 the parish celebrated a Thyranoixia (Door Opening) Ceremony with His Eminence Metropolitan ISAIAH officiating. A banquet was held that evening at the Barton Creek Country Club.
Iconographer Leonidas Diamantopoulos was chosen to write the iconography for the Sanctuary. The first phase of Sanctuary iconography, including the Platytera, the Dormition of the Theotokos, the Hierarchs, and the major feasts in the life of Christ were installed in the Sanctuary in September 2006.
The parish remained active during the challenging years of planning and construction of the new Sanctuary. In February 2002, the parish hosted the GOYA Basketball Tournament for the Denver Diocese. Many retreats were held at the parish with special guest speakers. With the National Clergy Conference held in Lakeway, Texas in October
2005, Transfiguration parish hosted an Archbishop Pastoral Visit. His Eminence Archbishop DEMETRIOS, His Eminence Metropolitan ISAIAH, His Grace Bishop SAVAS and many clergy from around the U.S. celebrated Vespers followed by a community dinner.
In August 2009, after 12 years of service, Reverend Jordan Brown was reassigned to Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Houston, Texas.
Reverend Michael Lambakis, assistant priest at Annunciation, was appointed by His Eminence Metropolitan ISAIAH to serve as the new Proistamenos of Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church, effective January 1, 2010. In the spring of 2010, Annunciation lost its Proistamenos. After much deliberation, His Eminence Metropolitan ISAIAH of Denver decided to send Fr. Michael back to Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral to serve as their Proistamenos.
In late August 2010, His Eminence Metropolitan ISAIAH assigned Reverend Father Vasileios Flegas to be the new Proistamenos at Transfiguration. He arrived with Presvytera Stella and their daughter, Nikoletta.
Father Vasileios had been the assistant priest and youth director at the Assumption Cathedral in Denver, Colorado. He had also directed activities in the Information Technology and Internet Ministries Departments for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America in New York City. For years prior to
entering the priesthood, he was a research biologist. Father Vasileios was ordained to the Diaconate on November 21, 2004, the Feast of the Entrance of the Holy Theotokos, and to the priesthood on Palm Sunday, 2006.
In 2011, the community improved the sanctuary with the installation of new pews, and launched the Dome Iconography project, which was completed in 2012. Iconographer Leonidas Diamantopoulos returned to install the icon of Christ Pantocrator in the dome, surrounded by the angelic liturgy, the prophets and the evangelists. In addition, this project funded numerous improvements to the sound and lighting in the sanctuary.
In the Spring of 2012, Transfiguration hosted the Metropolis of Denver Oratorical Festival, welcoming speakers from parishes throughout the Metropolis for an unforgettable weekend.
Also in 2012, in response to the growing number of students enrolled in the Sunday School, the parish funded the conversion of existing attic space into formal classrooms by installing traditional framed walls and windowed doors, creating five beautiful classrooms, as well as two ample supply closets (for the Sunday School and the Greek School).
Transfiguration hosted the national Pan-Orthodox Youth Workers Conference in January of 2013. Representatives from the Assembly of Canonical Bishops, and youth ministry and camp leaders gathered from around the nation to hear inspiring speakers and to come together to spark new ideas.
In 2013, a group of parishioners spearheaded an effort to pay off the remainder of the parish mortgage. Their quick success was a testimony to the parish’s dedication to maturing toward the consecration of the church.
In October of 2014, Transfiguration hosted the Orthodox Young Professionals Conference, welcoming young Orthodox professionals from around the nation. This conference would inspire similar conferences throughout the nation.
By 2015, the parish was flourishing, as evidenced by its growing ministries, including: Choral, Philoptochos, Religious Education for Adults and Children, Greek Folk Dance, Greek School, Encore, Young Adult organizations, Orthodox Christian Fellowship, GOYA and JOY/HOPE — all ministries experienced great growth and joy.
The Transfiguration Philoptochos has sponsored many good works, supporting projects in the local and international Orthodox community, as well as offering financial assistance to secular organizations, such as Austin-area schools serving children with special needs. Their work has been highlighted at national Philoptochos conventions.
In addition, the parish has played an ongoing role in the local Mobile Loaves and Fishes effort, in which parishes throughout the metropolitan area have come together to minister to the homeless and the hungry.
Transfiguration has sent parishioners to the far reaches of Tanzania on medical mission trips, and supports a family’s mission work in Albania. Our OCF chapter members have participated in many Real Break programs, traveling to support Hogar Rafael Ayau, an Orthodox orphanage in Guatemala, and to help restore Orthodox sites in Constantinople (Istanbul).
The youth of Transfiguration participate in the larger GOYA endeavors of our Metropolis, attending regional retreats and the annual Camp Emmanuel in New Mexico. The parish sends a large contingent of teens and their parents and grandparents to the Metropolis Basketball Tournament every January, where the generations mix for loving fellowship and good clean fun.
Every year, a dozen Transfiguration teens participate in our Oratorical Festival, and the parish sends the highest ranking speakers to the Metropolis Oratorical Festival, which Transfiguration has twice hosted.
Transfiguration was the first parish to host a Be the Bee Retreat, led by Steven Christofouro of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and Ancient Faith Ministries video podcast of the same name. The parish has been a great supporter of this program, and parishioners have become contributors to Ancient Faith Ministries by producing podcasts and writing books.
Most importantly, the parish teens are involved in charitable works throughout the year. We host an annual YES (Youth Equipped to Serve) trip, in which members of FOCUS North America lead our students in a journey to see Austin as God sees the city, finding Christ in every person on every street. Every year, the GOYA youths help to serve a city-wide Thanksgiving feast for those who are hungry, and return to make and serve lunches to the homeless community on the Saturday before Christmas.
In 2015, His Eminence Metropolitan ISAIAH of Denver announced his intent to consecrate Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church, and the parish immediately embarked on projects to create a suitable processional walkway and to complete the sanctuary and facilities for this profoundly important celebration.
His Eminence consecrates Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church on November 5, 2016. The Consecration is the baptism of the church; it is ceremonially cleansed and anointed as a holy place of worship.
On Friday, November 4th, the holy relics of three Holy Martyrs will arrive at the Church, and are prayed over during a Vespers service, and then remain upon the altar until their interment in the Church’s altar table the following day. The relics of the three Saints interred will include those of Saint Panteleimon, Saint Kyrikos, and a Holy Father from Daou Pentelis Monastery. Together with the Saints’ Holy Relics, a Scroll listing the names of all those who pledged as Consecration Godparents and their loved ones will be sealed in with them, to reside in this Holy Altar forever.
On Saturday, November 5th, we celebrate morning prayers (Matins), then the Service of the Consecration followed by the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. The officiating hierarch will be our spiritual father and shepherd, His Eminence Metropolitan ISAIAH of Denver, together with his Chancellor, Deacon Paul Zaharas.
The services will be followed by a luncheon and general reception, including various activities for children, held on the parish grounds. An evening celebrating the Consecration of our Transfiguration Church will be held at The Driskill Hotel with a reception, cocktails, wonderful meal and dessert and special entertainment.
The Consecration is an important landmark in the life of our wonderful Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church. Having reached this milestone, we turn our attention to the future. Our youth programs are growing at an astonishing rate, and in order to keep up with this growth, we are already planning the construction of an education and administration building, which will be part of a larger vision for future development of the Transfiguration campus and will include new banquet/fellowship hall facilities with a commercial kitchen, space for ministry meeting rooms and offices, and increased parking capacity.
Even as we celebrate our thirtieth year and the Consecration of our parish, we look to the work that lies ahead, as we establish this church for the Glory of God and for the continued preaching of His Word.