CROWN POINT | Laughter, tears and applause filled the banquet hall Sunday at Sts. Peter and Paul Macedonian Orthodox Church as more than 300 members and guests celebrated the 50th anniversary of the church’s founding.
“This is not only the birthday of this church, but the birthday of the Macedonian Orthodox Church in North America,” board chairman Thomas Traycoff, of Valparaiso, said in greeting guests.
The accomplishments of the membership during the past 50 years have been many, said His Beatitude, Archbishop G.G. Stefan of Ohrid and all of Macedonia, His Eminence Metropolitan of the American-Canadian Diocese.
The archbishop arrived Thursday to help the church celebrate its half-century jubilee and delivered his keynote speech Sunday in Macedonian.
A surprise greeted the gala guests as the archbishop presented the church’s membership with the Orden of St. Kliment of the First Degree, the highest honor that can be given to any Macedonian Orthodox Church.
The award is a gold medallion that honors Sts. Peter and Paul as the first Macedonian Orthodox Church to be founded in North America.
The church originally was built at 5100 Virginia St. in Gary and consecrated July 14, 1963, with church officials from around the world attending the service. It is considered the “matriarch church” in the American-Canadian Diocese, said Nick Nochevich, of Crown Point, church member and chairman of the anniversary celebration committee.
“We spread out from there, and today there are 30 Macedonian Orthodox churches in the United States and Canada,” Nochevich said. “It is a blessing that we are celebrating on the exact date of the original church’s consecration.”
The current Sts. Peter and Paul Macedonian Orthodox Church at 9700 Broadway in Crown Point was built beginning in 1988, with the first service Oct. 8, 1989.
“This is a celebration of the establishment of their church and their culture,” said Crown Point Mayor David Uran, who attended the festivities. “I give a lot of credit to Mayor (James) Metros, who forged a relationship with the country of Macedonia and the members of Sts. Peter and Paul.”
Throughout the evening, the history of the church was spotlighted with videos and photos tracing the half-century of life, traditions and accomplishments of its members.
All the past male and female leaders of Sts. Peter and Paul were honored with awards. Among them was Valparaiso resident Manoly Traycoff, 84, the sole surviving member of the original building committee and executive board.