During the summer of 1907, several families in the southwestern area of Detroit came together in hope of establishing an Orthodox Church in their neighborhood. They had originally emigrated from an area of Eastern Europe known as Galicia, the home of the Carpatho-Rusyn people. After contacting St. Theodosius Cathedral in Cleveland, OH, the first liturgy was celebrated and Ss. Peter & Paul Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church, under the Russian Metropolia was organized in November 1907, becoming the first Orthodox congregation in the state of Michigan.
For the first year the congregation met in a rented facility and moved to its present site acquired in 1908. Shortly afterward, a wooden church was built on the property and in 1912 the first parish school building was built behind the church.
In 1916, a committee was formed to formulate plans for a new church. Due to many challenges, the new church was finally constructed some 33 years later. Designed by architects Howard Simons and Frank Herman, groundbreaking occurred on April 14, 1948, with the cornerstone laid on July 11, 1948 and the dedication on November 24, 1949. Nicholas Zadorojny, a well known iconographer during the post World-War II era was contracted to paint the interior of the new church building. He spent the next several years painting the iconography on the walls of the church.
The parish thrived in SW Detroit throughout the decades. A full liturgical life as well as social life anchored the immigrant community. So many children attended the church that a large school building was erected in 1964. The parish choir reached over 50 voices, often directed by professional choir directors from Europe and the U.S.
In the year 2000, in recognition that Sts. Peter & Paul parish is the oldest Orthodox church in the State of Michigan, being regarded as the “mother church” among the Orthodox communities in the state, and in light that the faithful members “accepted with joy the new opportunities and challenges of urban ministry”, his Grace, Bishop +JOB (of blessed memory) elevated the parish to the dignity of cathedral status.
The Over the last 40 years Saints Peter & Paul has shared the experience of most inner city churches in Detroit: rapid decline in membership. This was precipitated by the economic woes of the area, generational shifts, and churches relocating to the suburbs where most members reside. Currently, many of our immediate neighbors now experience homelessness, poverty and despair.
The remaining few parish members now struggle to uphold an Orthodox Christian presence in the inner city, and the burden of maintaining its facilities. Our facilities are home to a Head Start school serving our neighbors during the week. Our parish grounds have a flourishing community garden dedicated to the Saints. The parish graciously offers space in its community center for Orthodox Detroit Outreach ministries to serve the poor in our neighborhood. This provides a wonderful opportunity for many Orthodox Christians in greater Detroit to serve the poor in the inner city of SW Detroit. Over the past four years we have served over 10,000 meals, by the grace of God.
The challenge and high calling of Christ’s Great Commission is for all His disciples. Hundreds of Orthodox Christians and scores of our neighbors, young and old, volunteer at our community center throughout the year. Every week they feed, clothe, comfort and pray with our neighbors in need who come to our church center for help. Sharing in this way together the love of God, we proclaim the Gospel through our actions, witnessing our Faith through the works of mercy. Many volunteers express that they depart each week feeling blessed and sensing that we have truly received more than we have given.
Within our Diocese, parishes in the greater Detroit area are beginning to send “missionaries” to worship and serve with us at Sts. Peter & Paul Cathedral, helping revitalize our inner city presence.
We welcome you to join us as we struggle to remain faithful to our Lord, serving our neighbors as Christ in our midst, and striving to discern His will for our missionary ministry together.
It is our prayer to Almighty God that the vision and hope of many righteous souls who have gone before us might be further realized and fulfilled through our continuing labor of love in the days to come.