Urbana church plans building project

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URBANA, Ill. (WAND)- St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church began with just two families.

In the twenty years since, the congregation has grown, gathering a building that previously been home to Protestant congregations, explained Rev. James Ellison, the church’s parish priest.

“We’ve steadily grown,” Ellison said. “We have a lot of turnover because of students and graduate students at the university and their families. They come and go. We like to think we send people away better than we found them.”

The congregation also includes people who have converted to Orthodox Christianity from other backgrounds; Ellison said parishioners are a diverse bunch.

“It’s real common for us on a Sunday morning to do the Our Father prayer in five or six different languages, people speaking that in their own native tongues,” Ellison said.

But as the congregation has grown, so has the need to expand its church building. On Monday, the Urbana City Council approved the church’s plans for an expansion that would add more space and a more traditional look. Ellison and other parishioners learned about the council’s approval after the fact, since they were busy with Holy Week services.

“We’re basically going to double the size of our space upstairs and downstairs,” Ellison said. “We’re going to re-orient the church so our altar is in the East, which we prefer, and also change the space so it’s more consistent with the Orthodox tradition.”

Ellison said construction drawings are still in the works. Even when the building is complete, it will still take time for artists to add iconography to the building’s interior walls, Ellison said.    

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