Father Elias G. Villis first entered the Greek Orthodox Church of Our Saviour during his service as archdeacon to the Archbishop of America. While traveling with His Eminence, they attended Holy Saturday at the parish. He was immediately captivated.
“We entered the church, and I was moved by the beauty, the traditional Byzantine architecture, the detail in what went into building, such a beautiful structure of worship. And then of course after the service was done, we had the opportunity to embrace the people of this community, the body of Christ. What really makes the temple come alive are the people.”
After years serving as the archdeacon to His Eminence, he was ordained as a priest and assigned to that very same parish. The young priest was humbled by the opportunity to serve the dignified community in Rye, and looked forward to continuing their legacy.
“You could tell there was great detail, great love in putting this temple up. And I respect that. I venerate it, with my prayers, for those people who have passed, who have fallen asleep, the first stewards of the church. I pray for them every service. I thank the Lord for them, because of their vision and their dedication. And I, and I bow my head. I’m not even going to try and figure out how they did it. But they did it, and it was an incredible example of faith to me, and an inspiration.”
Throughout his travels, Father Elias experienced a depth of iconography in
temples around the world, including Jerusalem, Russia, and Greece, that he found inspirational. It soon became clear to him that the next step in the mission to complete the Greek Orthodox Church of Our Saviour would be iconography.
“I felt in my heart, and I consulted with the archbishop, and the archbishop agreed, and in fact, he spoke about the beauty of iconography on one Sunday morning liturgy. And from that moment on, it just took off. We started the program, we started looking into what we were going to do, the design, what would go up, which iconographer we were going to hire, … and it just went, it went from there.”
And so the journey began. The community worked together, and through prayer, passion, and commitment, they found the inspiration they needed to bring the iconography project to fruition in 2014.
“One of the most profound things that I experience over and over again is when people come into the church for the first time. In fact, I love it. Whether we have a social function and we have guests of guests or friends or relatives of parishioners, ‘Oh, you’ve never been to the church? Come and see.’ And I love walking them into the church for the first time and seeing and experiencing what they see for the first time, because their mind is blown. Every single person I walk in, and I love that. I love our tradition, I love what it survived, and that’s why it’s so moving to see people embrace it and be moved by it.”