- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 4, 2002

The Orthodox Easter celebration tomorrow will be special for the Rev. George M. Rados and the congregation of Sts. Peter and Paul Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church in Potomac, Md.
It is the first time that Father Rados and the congregation will hold an Easter celebration in the sanctuary of their new $5.2 million church complex, which was completed in the fall.
"I wanted this church to be a refuge for Christians to feel like you are in a holy place," he said. "I was trying to revive the Antiochian tradition."
Father Rados said the new 32,000-square-foot building reflects the Byzantine heritage of the denomination, which celebrates Easter according to the Julian calendar. For instance, the church contains many archways, a feature standard to Byzantine architecture.
The 42-foot-high church also displays many circles in the main dome of its structure, which encompasses the entire sanctuary.
"Once you make a circle, you never know where it ends," Father Rados said. "It represents eternity."
Father Rados made sure the sanctuary was constructed without any pillars that would block the view of the altar from congregants seated in the pews. He wants to purchase a permanent screen for the altar, probably made of marble and bronze or wood, which has pictures of biblical characters.
Father Rados plans to inscribe Psalm 24:7 "Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the king of glory may come in" on the top of the main archway entrance.
Before the sanctuary was dedicated in March, Father Rados held services in many locations, such as the former west Bethesda firehouse on Bradley Boulevard in Bethesda. The congregation, which originated around 1979, is an offshoot of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church in Northwest.
Teaching through pictures, or icons, is a standard education technique in the Orthodox church, Father Rados said. For this reason, he plans to commission an artist to create a mosaic design on the pendentives triangle sections where the arches inside the sanctuary meet. He says the areas probably will feature either the four biblical evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, or four angels.
He also wants the artist to create a mosaic design for the ceiling of the inside of the dome, with Jesus Christ at the center and the 16 Old Testament prophets around him.
"You'll have the Lord in the center of the church," Father Rados said. "You'll look up and see Him."
Joseph Gangi, chairman of the church's parish council, said adorning the inside of the sanctuary is one of the primary goals of the approximately 370 families in the congregation.
Mr. Gangi, of Potomac, said 80 percent of the cost of building the complex has already been paid from donations from church members. This includes the fellowship hall and kitchen. In the next three to four years, the congregation expects to spend about $500,000 to create a bell tower and a covered breezeway surrounding the courtyard. In the distant future, the church would like to add an administrative building, which probably will cost about $800,000, Mr. Gangi said.
"For the church being 20 years old, we have really made some great strides," he said. "It's through the warmth and leadership of Father George and the generosity of so many parishioners."
Gary Younes, chairman of the church's building committee, said a Byzantine structure is difficult to expand so the congregation wanted to build a church that would meet the needs of coming generations.
"We paid for the brick and mortar, knowing that the adornment could be added later when funds were available," said Mr. Younes, of Rockville.
Framarz Sabouri, the project manager with Angelos Demetriou & Associates in Northwest, said the complex is unique because it is the first large Antiochian Orthodox church in the region. His company, which also has offices in Athens, designed the plans for the building.
"It is a church with a distinguished architectural style," Mr. Sabouri said. "You can identify it from other churches in the area."

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