St. George Orthodox Church is a small, historic parish of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, founded in 1918 by immigrant families from Syria and Lebanon. It is the oldest of such parishes in Illinois.
Spring Valley became home to a number of Lebanese families who immigrated to the United States from Lebanon, at that time a part of the country of Syria. Desiring to continue to worship after the teachings of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the faithful gathered in homes of Lebanese Orthodox families whenever an Orthodox priest visited Spring Valley.
On June 27, 1918, a house was purchased at 211 East Minnesota Street from Mr. and Mrs. Sear, from which a church building was started. The house, after undergoing extensive remodeling, became the first St. George Orthodox Church.
The church sanctuary was located in the front of the building and a large room in the rear was used as a meeting room and as a hall for social gatherings. The congregation was still, at this time, without a full-time parish priest.
In 1925, at the invitation of the Spring Valley Orthodox families, Archimandrite Seraphim Nassar agreed to serve St. George Orthodox Church as its full-time pastor if the people would begin immediately to plan to build a new Orthodox church.
The men of the parish as well as the women organized and engaged in a wide number of fund-raising projects, which led to a building program in 1932. In that year the house, which had served as the Church, was demolished and the new Church building was erected on that site. Nearing the close of that year, although the Church was not yet completed, it was dedicated by His Eminence Metropolitan Germanos Shihadah during his visit with Father Seraphim Nasser in Spring Valley before departing for his homeland, Lebanon.
The Church was fully completed during the spring of 1934. Easter week, April first through seventh, the Church was opened for the first time to the public with a special invitation being extended to the people of the community to attend the beautiful and impressive Friday-evening service and Midnight Divine Liturgy on Saturday.
Though the parish membership is small, the building is one of the most beautiful of its kind. For many years, St. George Church was the only Lebanese Orthodox Church in the state of Illinois.
In 1972, the parish and Church embarked on an extensive renovation, remodeling, and redecorating program of the Church structure, which culminated in the addition of a new kitchen to the Church hall. With pride the people of the parish invited his Eminence Metropolitan Philip Saliba to honor them with a visit to share in their joy.
Today, St. George Orthodox Church looks back at the many great things God has accomplished in our midst. Here, the major services of the Orthodox Church were first translated into English under the direction of Archimandrite Seraphim Nassar. Three young sisters of the parish, Mary, Sadie, and Elizabeth Abraham, accomplished the typing of the 1,123-page manuscript. The book was first published in Spring Valley in 1938 and is informally referred to as the “The Nasser Five Pounder.”
Today, St. George Orthodox Church also looks forward to a bright future, in the power of Christ, by the prayers of our most holy fathers and the protection of the All Holy Mother, to the glory of God the Father. New families are joining our parish. Services are alive with the energy of young children. And those who have served the church for years continue to lead, out of love for God and with sacrificial giving, to support the works that God has wrought in our midst.