Sts. Peter and Paul Syrian Orthodox Church

Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 26 October 2006.

Phone: 248-355-1656
The research was conducted by The University of Michigan-Dearborn Pluralism Project.

History

The Middle Eastern Orthodox community first established themselves in southeastern Michigan in the 1930s under the name St. John Syrian Orthodox Church, and was located on the east side of the city of Detroit, at Kerchival and Chalmers. As the church began to grow, it needed larger facilities. Simultaneously, the neighborhood began to deteriorate and members began to move to the suburbs. It was in the 1950s that a parishioner donated land in suburban Southfield to the church for a new building. The present building was built in 1981. Prior to this time the congregation had held services in a building next door to the site where the church was erected. This building, known as Behnan Hall, was constructed in the 1960s. It is currently leased to people from the Asian Indian community, unrelated to the Malankaran Syrian congregation which shares the church with the Middle Eastern congregation. It is used for religious, cultural, and day care activities.

Description

The center sits in a transitional neighborhood of Southfield, a suburb north of Detroit in Oakland county. While there are many residential neighborhoods, Southfield is one of the suburban commercial hubs of the metropolitan area. A few blocks from the church there are large corporate offices, apartment complexes, a nursing home, and several small businesses. St. Peter and Paul Syrian Orthodox Church is a blend of modern Western architecture along with some traditional Syrian elements. On the whole, it is a modest building with no costly adornments. The first floor of the building serves as a worship center, and houses the sanctuary. There is also an office for the church's pastor. In the basement, there is one large room with a small stage, and an adjacent kitchen. This multi-purpose room functions as a gathering place after worship on Sundays, Sunday school room for children, meeting room for committees, social hall after weddings, and a place for cultural events for the community.

Members and Leadership

The membership of the center is about 220 families, and numbers about 600 individuals. The current congregation is the largest that it has ever had. Members are from the Middle East: Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon. The congregation is governed by a Board of Directors, consisting of a president, which is the priest, a treasurer, and a secretary. The treasurer and secretary are appointed by the congregation.

Youth and Membership

A major issue at the center is language, and it is one that divides the generations. Young people do no understand the language used in the liturgy, Aramaic. The fact that they are largely monolingual English speakers and the church sponsors no language classes means that within a few years the church may have to have services only in that language. There is, however, a Sunday school for young people. Young people also attend annual youth convention sponsored by the archdiocese. There are no social activities during the week. This is due to the fact that members come from the entire tri-county area, and getting them to return after Sunday is difficult. Moreover, this is the only Syrian Orthodox community within the state of Michigan. The next closest parish is in Chicago. Therefore, members are drawn not only from the entire tri-county Detroit metropolitan area, but from Ann Arbor (40 miles), Grand rapids (150 miles), and Windsor, Canada.
There is considerable tension with American culture. Members have reported attending cultural and civic events in the Detroit area, but the emphasis is little outreach effort. There are no reported relations with other faith communities in the area. There is no emphasis on recruiting members outside the cultural group. The congregation does, however, supports church-related projects in the Middle East.

Service Schedule

Services are on Sundays, beginning at 10:00 a.m. with morning prayers followed by celebration of the Eucharist at 11:00 a.m. The service is in Aramaic, English, and Arabic.