Discover why members of Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Church put on their unique festival every year – in words and photos …
Siham Khoury and Margaret Bitar serve sweet Middle Eastern bakery treats.
Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Since the church moved out to NE 162nd Avenue in the Wilkes Neighborhood, from SE Holgate Boulevard at SE 117th Avenue, around 2004, Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Church has been a bit off the beaten path.
But, many folks, from all over the area, found their way to the “edge of Gresham” and enjoyed the church’s 33rd Annual Middle Eastern Festival on September 11.
Deacon Dennis Seib and Festival Chair Bill Hanna welcome the community to the Middle Eastern Festival.
“We hold events like these to reach out to our communities,” said the festival’s Chair, and church board member, Bill Hanna. “Also, for those who are interested, we’re here to introduce people to our Christian Orthodox faith, and provide tours of our church.”
While the congregation is proud of their relatively new campus, where they celebrated an Agiasmos service to bless the new house of worship in 2001, we learned that this church has deep roots in outer SE Portland.
The church was formed as a religious corporation in the 1930s, and met in a building on SE 62nd Avenue, between SE Foster Road and SE Powell Boulevard. In 1965, they moved to a larger facility on SE Holgate Boulevard at SE 115th Avenue, we learned.
Levi Builta “shoots hoops” to win prizes at the festival.
Majadolin Khouri and Jackie Hazeem say they enjoy making and serving shawarma falafel at the festival.
“During our festival, people come out and enjoy our food, kids’ activities, and our dancing,” Hanna pointed out. “It’s put on by the 12 members of the parish council, and about 50 people volunteer to help with the festival.”
Suzy Hadeed, (near center) leads the group as they enjoy depki – a Middle Eastern traditional line dance.
After sampling some of the food at the festival, we came back into their social hall and watched as Hanna got together a group for a line dance called “depki”. “It’s an Arabic folk dance, and Middle Eastern line dance with a little Egyptian influence thrown in,” explained Suzy Hadeed, who got the dancers going along with Hanna.
Will the festival return next year? “Indeed it will,” Hanna said. “It’s usually on the second Saturday in September!”
To find out more about the Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Church, see their website: CLICK HERE.
© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News