Regular Greek-Orthodox services began in Gainesville in 1975, when Father John Mangos, a lay priest and pediatrician, joined the faculty of the University of Florida College of Medicine. Before this, Greek-Orthodox services had been conducted for a small number of faithful for decades in a loft above Mike's Bookstore owned by Mike Bliziotis, a Greek immigrant. During theis time, the Greek-Orthodox priest in Jacksonville would travel to Gainesville about one Saturday a month to conduct the liturgy.
Father Mangos had regular services in Saint Michael's Episcopal Church until he left in 1982 to become chairmain of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Texas in San Antonio. Services subsequently moved to the chapel of the University United Methodist Church with Father Demetrios Couchell. Clearly, other Christian denominations were supportive and helpful in sustaining the Gree-Orthodox Church for which we are greatly appreciative.
Our church was incorporated with the civil authorities in Florida in 1983. The major turning point in the development of the Greek-Orthodox Church in Gainesville occurred in 1985, when Louis and Sarah Elizabeth Gaitanis donated land on which to build a church. A man with land and a home next to the donated property agreed to exchange his home and land for the donated property to enhance a development project. The exchange, a win-win situation, gave the church a highly usable parcel of land with a house to be used for services.
The ceremonial groundbreaking for the church was performed in the presence of Archbishop Iakovos on December 21, 1986, who had come to Gainesville to receive his honorary degree in Public Service from teh University of Florida. A successful building fund drive followed which led to the design of a church in basilical style by George Scheffer, a University of Florida professor of Architecture of Russian Orthodox origin. Construction began in November 1988 and was completed in March 1989. The honor of naming the church went to Louis Gaitanis, the major donor, who chose St. Elizabeth the Wonderworker in memory of his wife who had recently died.
Stability and growth followed for the Greek-Orthodox congregation of the St. Elizabeth the Wonderworker with Father Alexander Sgouros as pastor between 1991 and 2001. During the short term of Father Michael Monos (2001), the congregation began to develop stable relations with the growing number of Orthodox students at the University of Florida. The church attracted Orthodox converts and welcomed faithful from many ethnic backgrounds. As a result, during the liturgy the Lord's prayer was and still is recited not only in Greek and English, but also in Albanian, Arabic, Romanian, Old Church Slavonic, and Spanish.
The presence of the University of Florida in Gainesville has had a profound and positive influence on the development of the congregation. The church, in return, has a commitment to the spiritual well-being of our students, primiarily expressed through our support of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship, the main Orthodox student organization on the University of Florida campus.
Currently, Father Panagiotis (Peter) Kastaris serves as pastor and is ably supported by Presbytera Georgia. The community consists of about eighty families that participate in an active liturgical program. We look forward to the continued growth, spiritual enrichment, and Orthodox fellowship of our congregation.