History of St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church of the San Fernando Valley
St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church in Van Nuys began serving Orthodox Christians in the San Fernando Valley on January 12, 1969. It started with a group of dedicated people who were determined to expand the outreach of Orthodox Christianity with the founding of an Antiochian Orthodox parish in the San Fernando Valley. With the blessing of our Archbishop, His Eminence, Metropolitan PHILIP, a goal was set for starting a new church and celebrating the first liturgy on January 12th. Space to hold the Divine Liturgy and church school was scheduled to be located at the Mid Valley YMCA. Families were enrolled, the church school was staffed, a choir was formed, and arrangements were made for a temporary priest.
Fr. Paul Romley, Dean of St. Nicholas Cathedral in Los Angeles, Fr. Gabriel Ashie of St. Luke’s Orthodox Church in Garden Grove, and Fr. James Meena, Director of Sacred Music and Religious Education for the Archdiocese, provided valuable advice and assistance.
During the planning for the first Divine Liturgy and through the efforts of Dr. Edward Deeb, a Methodist Church property at 16643 Vanowen Street in Van Nuys California that would suit our needs, became available for our use. On January 12, 1969, as originally scheduled, the first Divine Liturgy was celebrated, not at the YMCA, but in a church building with Fr. Paul Romley officiating. Subsequently, through the support of our faithful families, the church property was purchased, consisting of 1.25 acres of land, an “A” framed church, and a two-story fellowship hall with parking.
The number of families pledging support to the new church grew from an initial list of 10, when the planning started in November 1968, to 80 by March 1969. There were 34 children enrolled in the Sunday School and 25 families in “SOYO” our youth organization. St. Michael Church was the first parish consecrated by Metropolitan PHILIP as a full status Orthodox Church without having begun as a mission.
The Parish’s Articles of Incorporation and By-laws were drawn up and filed with the California’s Secretary of State. A founding Board of Trustees was elected and the first officers to serve were: Dr. Edward Deeb, President; Louis Aboud, Vice President; Adele Adams, Secretary; and Jake Thomas, Treasurer. Philip Nassief, Richard Bastron, Charles Whitesell, Fred Sabbagh, Jack Malouf, Carrie Skaff, Don Meena, and Al Homsy were also elected as Trustees.
His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP assigned Fr. John Reinhold, from St. Nicholas Cathedral, to serve as the temporary pastor and officiate at subsequent liturgies until a full-time priest could be found. However, Fr. John remained serving at St. Michael for ten years as its first full-time assigned pastor.
In the ensuing years, it was recognized that larger facilities for a new church, classrooms, and a fellowship assembly hall would be needed to accommodate for the growth of the community, making it necessary to acquire additional property. Over the years this was accomplished by purchasing two multi-family apartment parcels of land located to the east of the church, which increased the Church property to 3.1 acres. Through direct donations, bake sales, rummage sales, socials, numerous other fund-raising activities, and estate donations, the new Church properties were paid off and the mortgage was burned in 1984.
A Building Committee was established who initiated a master plan for a new church complex, consisting of building a church sanctuary, Community Center and multi-story parking structure. In 1987 the City of Los Angeles approved the project which was to be completed in phases, starting with the Community Center. Michael Malouf, a volunteer parishioner, negotiated a unique financial plan with Bank Audi of California, for a Community Center which consisted of a large kitchen and banquet room, classrooms, meeting rooms, office spaces and chapel. Michael Malouf and his father, Jack Malouf, assumed the position and responsibilities of Project Managers and, through their efforts, the construction of the St. Michael Community Center was completed and put into operation on September 1, 1995. In September of 2006, the St. Michael Parish Council voted to retire the mortgage of the Community Center in order to avoid further loan interest payments, using the reserve funds of the parish that included the Ted Haddad Estate memorial gift.
During the early 2000’s St. Michael Church acquired an interest in two adjacent single-family houses east of the existing property for the long-term expansion of church parking. In April 2007, the first home was purchased in full with the help of donors, proceeds of the 2009 Archdiocese Convention and the Evelyn Haddad Memorial Trust. Following the acquisition of the second single-family home in February, 2012, a third mortgage was again paid in full thanks to parishioner contributions along with funds from the E. Martha Cates Memorial Trust. In 2015, church representatives were successful in negotiating with the City Planning Department by amending the church’s conditional use permit and site plan in order to eliminate the multi-story parking garage and to utilize the existing parking. Following the demolition of the existing church and adjacent duplex apartment structures, the sale of the two-residential single-family houses along with the initial donor donations allowed us to acquire the additional funding to commence the construction of our new church sanctuary building.
We, the members and friends of St. Michael, are grateful for God’s grace, guidance, and continuous blessings on our Church. We are also thankful for the dedication, love, hard work, and unyielding spirit of all those who have served, labored, and continue to work at St. Michael Church, making it possible for our parish to grow spiritually and to prosper.
St Michael now finds itself in another building phase with the construction of a long anticipated traditional Orthodox church sanctuary. Michael Malouf is once again leading the construction effort as our volunteer Project Manager. Construction began on April 9, 2018, the concrete foundation has been poured and the steel fabrication of columns and beams are now in place. Our pastor has laid an initial cross in the foundation to become a permanent part of our Holy Church. We now trust God for the completion of the work begun and look forward, with God’s help, for the continued growth of our St. Michael parish and its mission in the San Fernando Valley.