Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church

This data was last updated on 01 September 2020.

Address: 14 Magazine Street, Cambridge, MA 02139
Phone: 617-876-3601

Email:  saintconstantinecambridge@gmail.com
Website: http://stsconstantineandhelen-cambridge.org/

History and Demographics: Established in 1917 by Greek immigrants, Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church of Cambridge, Massachusetts is one of the oldest Greek Orthodox communities in the country. The immigrants that founded Saints Constantine and Helen Church were the benefactors of loosening immigration restrictions on people coming from Eastern and Southern Europe; looking to create a sense of community in their new country, the community of parishioners of Saint Constantine also established the Greek American Political Club (GAPC) located right next door to help the incoming population of immigrants from Greece assimilate to their new lives in the United States while creating a space for the cultivation of Greek culture in Cambridge. The church and the GAPC have a long history of collaborating together to host cultural events, serving as staples of the Greek Orthodox community in the Boston area. 

Up until World War II, the parish of Saints Constantine and Helen was populated predominantly with families of Greek immigrants. After the Second World War, as immigration from Greece began to wane, the population of the parish began to shift towards more second-generation Greek Americans and Greek Orthodox Christians from the larger Boston region seeking cultural and spiritual guidance at the church. Over the coming decades, the church cemented its position as a hub of Greek Orthodoxy and Orthodoxy in Cambridge in general, opening its doors for faithful Orthodox parishioners from all over Boston, with an increasing presence of students from nearby Harvard, MIT, and Boston University as the populations of those institutions began to diversify. The current demographic of the church looks different than when the church was first founded: many of the faithful identify as third- or fourth-generation Greek Americans, carrying on the legacy of their ancestors who established this sacred space in Cambridge more than 100 years ago, while others would simply identify as Orthodox Christian. The church periodically hosts members of the Coptic Church and Oriental Orthodox Church as well, including some parishioners who attend the traditional Greek services. Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church continues to serve the community as a hub of Orthodox Christian life in Cambridge, along with their fellow Orthodox churches of Serbian and Antiochian descent. 

For a more creative and in-depth look at the history of Orthodox Christianity in Cambridge and the Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, check out the documentary “100 Years of Orthodoxy in Cambridge”!

Leadership: Rev. Fr. Vassilios Bebis currently serves as parish priest for Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church. Fr. Bebis has also served as an Orthodox chaplain for Harvard University since 2018, providing spiritual guidance to the larger community of Orthodox Christians at Harvard. In addition to the guidance of Fr. Bebis as priest, the Parish Council leads the church, with Eric Sioras serving as the current president of the council. Saints Constantine and Helen Church also hosts a branch of Philoptochos, a Greek Orthodox women's organization dedicated to service and one of the oldest women’s groups in the country.

Description: The structure of the church stands as a proud representation of the traditional Byzantine church architecture, defined by a relatively austere exterior composed of multicolor stone walls and windows, leading toward two domed towers on either side of the façade.  The interior of the church, the main worship hall, is much more ornate and extravagant, keeping within the tradition of Byzantine church spaces. The altar boasts sweeping iconographic murals following up the side of the walls and a carefully etched wooden partition that separates the main worship space from the portion of the space reserved for clergy and altar boys to prepare aspects of each service. 

The main worship hall, which makes up the bulk of the main church building, can serve about 300 worshipers during normal conditions, but was limited to 70 parishioners due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing restrictions. In addition to the sanctuary and worship hall, the church extends into an additional building which contains the priest’s office, secretary’s office, and all six classrooms for Greek school, Sunday school, and other meetings. Finally, this extension of the building offers a community hall in the basement, which often serves as a place for lectures, presentations, performances, and community dinners. As of summer 2020, the church is in the process of finalizing the transition of part of this hall into an official community space for the young adult Pan-Orthodox organization hosted by the parish. The aim of this transition is to create a new space for young adult members of the Pan-Orthodox group to relax and socialize together.

Services, Schedule, and Programming: Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church offers services every Sunday, starting with a Matins service from 8:30am-10am in Greek, followed by the Liturgical service from 10 am-11:30 am offered in both Greek and English; the priest’s sermon is also offered bilingually. Every other Saturday, the church hosts a Coptic Orthodox service in its worship hall, opening its doors to Coptic families in the larger Boston region. Sunday School traditionally follows communion, and a coffee hour is offered after the final blessing of the Liturgical service. 

In addition to Sunday services, Saints Constantine and Helen Church offers a variety of other programming. Every Wednesday morning, the church offers Supplication Service specifically catered to the senior citizens of the parish, providing these worshipers an opportunity to talk about faith and socialize with their fellow parishioners. Bible Study is hosted every Thursday evening from 7-8:30 pm in the extended building of the church. Additionally, members of the church seeking to strengthen their Greek language skills can study in the Greek School every Saturday from 10am to 1 pm. Finally, the Pan-Orthodox young adult program hosted by the church convenes every Monday evening from 7-9 pm in the community hall. 

Saints Constantine and Helen Church boasts an extensive calendar of community events, including a series of guest speakers and lectures hosted in the main hall, at least once a month and often featuring professors from Harvard and other local universities. Past topics of these lectures have included historical dissertations to an in-depth discussion of the nutritional benefits of the “Mediterranean diet.” As part of their larger goal of preserving and sharing Greek American culture, the church also hosts an annual Greek Festival, usually on Fathers’ Day weekend; however, the festival was cancelled in 2020 due to public health concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Mission and Community: Fr. Bebis and the parish at Saint Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church have embraced an increasing focus on fostering the larger Orthodox community in Cambridge, whether that be by hosting the Pan-Orthodox young adults group or by hosting Coptic services every other week. In particular, student members and young adult members of the parish have demonstrated an increasing interest in creating a sense of Orthodox unity at the parish. Fr. Bebis has also sought to connect and collaborate with other faith leaders in the Cambridge area, most often through his service as a chaplain at Harvard, which affords him the opportunity to extend his ministry beyond the walls of the church itself. In the past, the church has been involved in meetings and conferences intended to increase solidarity among the faithful community in the region, including those hosted by the Massachusetts Council of Churches and the Boston Ministers Club. Finally, the parish seeks to support the needs of the broader community and those in need by organizing clothes and food drives at least four times a year in collaboration with local food banks and homeless shelters.