Ιn 1923, hundreds of families of Greek Evangelicals from Pontos and Asia Minor found refuge in Katerini. Until then, Katerini was a small town of only 5,000 inhabitants who welcomed with open arms the arrival of the Greek Evangelicals. About 100 families settled in Katerini, not only from Pontus and Asia Minor, but also from Caucasus, Bulgaria and Romania. Now, Katerini would become the place with the largest Evangelical organized community. Immediately, Greek Evangelicals from other parts of Greece resorted to Katerini to find and live with their “brothers”.
The Evangelistic Refugee Group Committee distributed farmland to the families of the Evangelicals and thus will created the Evangelical Settlement of Katerini. At the same time, they were given space to proceed to the erection of their Temple and of their community school.
The Orthodox and Evangelical relations were excellent from the outset. On the day of the inauguration of the Church, representatives from the Orthodox Church and from all local authorities were present. Moreover, several years later, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s, the Evangelicals began to offer for sale their agricultural land and their residencies in the settlement, to their orthodox fellow citizens. Now, the majority of the inhabitants of the Evangelicals are Christian Orthodox. The only black spot in the history of the Church is the arson of 1930. The temple was almost completely destroyed but after a year it was rebuilt with the approval of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs.
Within the next decades the Evangelical families grew to 500. The spiritual and social life of the Evangelical Community has been rich and the contribution to the commercial life of the city has been extremely important.
Until today, the Evangelical community is the most well known in Greece. Approximately 850 people form the community and are actively involved in its social and cultural activities.
One of the first institutions that was created was that of the “Sunday School”, that is, the Catechism. As early as 1923, the children of the Evangelical Community gathered every Sunday morning in the Church to study and pray with their teachers. Today, Sunday School children organize activities to contribute back to the local community such as the Christmas Bazaar.
During the 1930s, the women of the community created the Ladies Group. Until today, the Group continues to be active and gathers every Tuesday. In 1950, the Orphanage’s operation began, which lasted until 1980. Several decades later, in 1980, another institution was created: the Young Couple Group to help couples at the beginning of their new life. A dominant role in the life of the community was the creation of the Summer Camp in Leptokarya, Pieria. Every summer, the camp welcomes hundreds of children from all the Evangelical Communities of Greece and several Orthodox families. From 2005, the “Good Samaritan” Aged Care Unit has been in operation.
Social Grocery stores and refugee crisis.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Matthew Gospel 25:35
In 2012, the Evangelical Church created the Social Grocery in order to help Katerini’s society and the social groups affected. Up to now it offers free food, clothing and toys for children. As they mention on their website, “Every month, the Social Grocery store of the Evangelical Church of Katerini supports over 300 adults and 420 children in a total of 160 families. “
As refugees themselves, they could not remain unmotivated and unfathomable in the refugee crisis and the refugee flows in Greece. In their effort to provide assistance, they founded the Non-Profit Organization “PERICHORISIS” based in Katerini in 2016. Their main concern is the provision of housing to refugee families. They immediately co-operated with DORCAS International Aid and Tearfund, where they funded a pilot model for housing families with 13 homes. As needs grew, Perchorsis managed to ensure the co-operation of organizations such as Gustav Adolf Werk, UNHCR, Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe and RefuAid. To date, 1700 refugees have benefited from this action. The organization’s future plans include the creation of a center for unaccompanied children and a Center for the Theological Studies.
“According to the message of the Gospel, our vision is to live reconciled with God and among us through the incarnate Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. This community of the reign of Christ is open to all people regardless of their ethnic, religious or social origins. The challenges of the modern world are many and many levels and it is our responsibility to confront them by bringing to our environment the light and the cure of the Holy Spirit of Christ.” Paris Papageorgiou, Greek Evangelical Church of Katerini, President of the Peripheral Society
If you ever get your way to Katerini shortly before Christmas, enter a Sunday in the Evangelical Church. From 1977 and every Sunday for a month until Christmas Katerini enjoys the German custom of Advents where the choir gives concerts and chants hymns to the Christmas spirit.
Most of the information was drawn from the web pages of the Evangelical Church of Katerini. You can follow their news and actions at the following addresses: http://www.eeek.gec.gr/ and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EllinikiEvaggelikiEkklisiaKaterinis/ while on the local channel DION TV is being shown since September 2010, the weekly TV show of the Evangelical Church “In His Tracks”. Also, for those who are interested in learning more about the Evangelical Congregation, they can read the book “THE COURT’S COURT’S SYNDROME OF KATERINI (1923–2000) LOCAL HISTORY AND MOVEMENT OF THE RELIGIOUS IDEAS by the writers Papageorgiou and Kalfa.