It’s not just homeowners who are struggling to find affordable housing in Utah.
The high price of real estate is making the dream of a new church and religious campus more difficult for one Eastern Orthodox parish and could pose the same obstacle for another.
Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Christian Church has outgrown its current building at 355 S. 300 East in Salt Lake City, said the Rev. Justin Havens.
Hoping to ease the congestion, the parish has found a 10-acre site in Bluffdale to build a second Byzantine-style church, along with classrooms, offices, a community hall with a large kitchen, a bookstore, a play area for children and an Orthodox cemetery.
The locale was selected because it is accessible for those in Salt Lake and Utah counties via Bangerter Highway at 2700 West.
Saints Peter and Paul has the Bluffdale property under contract and, so far, has raised half the $500,000 needed to secure the first 5 acres, Havens said.
Long term, the parish would need $1 million to get all 10 acres.
“But our plans have changed because the property is so expensive,” Havens said. “There’s a real push to get the $500,000 in the next two months to procure the property.”
Saints Peter and Paul has a diverse membership, Havens said. Many are U.S. converts to the Orthodox faith, but there also are a dozen members from Eastern European countries, including Russia, Serbia and Greece.
“We say the Lord’s Prayer in eight or nine languages,” he said.
Attendance has mushroomed in recent years and averages about 250 people each Sunday.
“We are packed to the gills,” Havens said. On major religious holidays, like Easter, attendance swells and worshippers flow into the church entrance (called a narthex) and down the front steps.
“Our downstairs hall only fits 100 people,” Havens added. “It’s impossible to fit everyone” for social hour after services or for special events.
The parish also has many young families with children and lacks enough rooms for Sunday school, Havens said. “A few of the classes have to meet in the hallway. It’s really tight.”
Patience for St. Anna
St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church, a 4-year-old mission parish in Cottonwood Heights, also is looking for a permanent spot, said the Rev. Anthony Savas.
But unlike Saints Peter and Paul, which was established several decades ago, the St. Anna property search is less urgent.
“Our situations are the same,” Savas said, “but different.”
The mission parish, also part of the Eastern Orthodox faith, conducts services in a rented space on the campus of St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Cottonwood Heights.
“We are actively raising funds,” Savas said, “and looking for a place to establish ourselves and our future.”
The church ultimately would like to buy 4 to 7 acres in Cottonwood Heights or Sandy, not too close to the two other Greek Orthodox churches in the Salt Lake Valley — Holy Trinity Cathedral in downtown Salt Lake City and Prophet Elias in Holladay — to offer more geographic options.
“We have a responsibility to find a place to accommodate future growth,” he said. “We are not doing this just for ourselves; we need to be thinking about our children and grandchildren.”
The St. Anna Parish is open to other alternatives, too.
“If there is an existing building on the market, and the price is right,” Savas said, “we are open to transforming that into an Orthodox worship space.”
While it waits for the right move to present itself, the parish will continue to raise funds.
“We are just a toddler of a community, we’re not even 4 years old,” Savas said. “We need to be patient and understand that nothing needs to be rushed.”