St. George Orthodox Cathedral

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"The Dome", an image of Christ Pantocrator (almighty), the church's highest point. Here, Christ is holding the Gospels in his left hand, blessing with his right. Surrounding him are twelve prophets, and the Jesus Prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me" in English, Arabic, and Greek.

St. George History and Membership:

The founders that became St. George Orthodox Cathedral came to Wichita from Marj'ayoun in south Lebanon in the late 19th century. With no place of worship and without an elected priest, the community worshiped within each other's homes with missionary priests from Nebraska and Oklahoma presiding over worship. They purchased a worship space on 218 South Handley Street in 1918, shortly after receiving their first priest Father Elias El-Khouri. A succession of priests followed a move to 210 South Walnut in December 1948, the most recent move to 7515 East 13th Street in 1989, Fr. Paul O'Callahan as the current priest since 1993. Since it opened in 1989, the church fellowship hall, educational wing, cathedral interior and exterior have been built or updated. Today it is a church for 300 families with over 900 members. 

The church is "the Cathedral church of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America of The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America (website)". Orthodoxy is similar to other forms of Christianity that confess the Nicene Creed, but unique in its visual, aural, and olfactory worship through beautiful worship spaces and elaborate liturgies. Many Catholics disaffected by the Sacrosanctum Concilium found solace in the established traditions of the Orthodox Church. Liturgy, or the 'work of the people', includes praying, singing, chanting, bell ringing, burning incense, and other rituals. Today the Orthodox church has 225 million members around the world, the second largest Christian tradition, and over one million in the United States. 

Listen to an interview of Fr. Paul O'Callahan where we talk about the congregation at St. George and its worship practices here. Listen to an interview of Victoria Sherry, employee at Eighth Day Book, a member of St. George, and author of the upcoming book The First 100 Years, where we talk about her past research on Orthodox communities in Kansas, and her introduction to Orthodoxy here.

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Nave of St. George Cathedral, view from west doors to altar. 

Iconography and mosaics:

Unique to Wichita's religious landscape is St. George's beautiful mosaics and icons. Surrounding the exterior of the Cathedral are mosaics of Christ, the Theotokos (the "Mother of God"), John the Baptist, St. George, and the Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia. These mosaics were made by specialized artisans from the Tuscany region of Italy with thousands of pieces of colored glass native to that region, and were installed in 2008. The arched brickwork, domes and apses, mosaics, and tiled roof is aligned with early Byzantium architecture, the only Byzantine-styled structure in Kansas.  

Inside, the cathedral is in a traditional cruciform basilica form, a nave and altar intersecting with a north and south wing making the shape of a cross, a dome situated in the intersection. Behind the iconostasis, a wall with gold backed images of the Theotokos, John the Baptist, and some saints from the ancestral homeland of the Cathedral's founders, is the alter. On the altar is a holy table with a Gospel book, candle stands, and an eternal flame. It also includes the table of preparation, a table that houses the bread and wine that is removed during the liturgy to the altar to be consecrated. The north and south apses house space for a choir and the seat of the bishop. 

The iconography throughout the Cathedral was accomplished by monks of Dormition Skete in Buena Vista, Colorado. Icons include no shadows, the faces are unexpressive, there is no time of day visually expressed, and the colors conform to a centuries-old tradition. The icons that run the span of the altar, the dome, the ceiling of the nave, the balcony, and the north and south apses all tell a story. These stories include the life and ministry of Jesus, the life of the Theotokos, the resurrection to pentecost, and other narratives. See the welcome pamflet below from St. George to see the icons closer and with more detail.

School and Ministries:

St. George has a kindergarten through fifth grade educational wing attached to the south side of the Cathedral called Christ the Savior Academy. The school came to being through a want in classical education from the Orthodox community, but accepts children from all faiths, and has been growing in attendance since opening its doors to 18 students in 2012. Classical education (rhetoric, logic, Greek, Latin, arithmetic, memory and composition) and Orthodox Christianity (Biblical studies, icon studies, liturgical studies) are practiced together, both incorporated into the school's curriculum.

Off the grounds of the Cathedral, the congregation supports Eighth Day Institute by housing many of its events, and supports a ministry called The Treehouse, which resides in its own building on 151 N. Volutsia. The Treehouse is a joint project between St. George Orthodox Cathedral and St. Mary's Orthodox Church. The Treehouse provides basic goods to over 3,000 new mothers in Wichita each year, including diapers, formula, clothing, books, toys, and blankets. These items are distributed once the mothers have completed any one of the many educational programs provided, topics including spiritual growth, infant care, and childhood education. These programs are offered online or in person in a small group study session lasting 2-8 weeks. The basic goods, classes offered, and basic operations of The Treehouse is run by volunteers. 

St. George Orthodox Cathedral