Nadine Blank was visiting her sister back East on their mother’s birthday in 1974 and spoke to one of the deans. She asked him to send an Orthodox priest from the then Metropolia out to Northern California to help in the SF East Bay Area. A few weeks later, In September of 1974, on the Feast of the Elevation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross, Father Michael Prokurat, a graduate of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and recently assigned to the Diocese of San Francisco, composed a letter to the Orthodox people in the area of Walnut Creek, CA. In it he stated that by order of His Eminence, Metropolitan Vladimir, Archbishop of Berkeley and acting primate of the Western Diocese, a survey was being taken of Orthodox folk in the area to determine whether there was any potential for the opening of an English speaking mission and starting a program of religious education.
By the end of 1977, 26 families had become members of the new mission. A slate of officers was functioning, a choir formed, a ladies’ auxiliary, a pledge system adopted, Sunday School classes for children and adults, a diocesan and national dues paid, articles of incorporation and by-laws affirmed, and the mission had representatives on both the Metropolitan and the Diocesan Councils. At this time a search had been going on for a suitable piece of property, with the mission operating in the red and the priest receiving a woefully inadequate stipend.
Before every service at the chapel, members would carry in the makeshift iconostasis, analogia, table of oblation, assemble the altar, bring in the candle stands, hang the icons, set everything up, and then disassemble everything after the Liturgy to be put back in storage. This went on for 4 years! The Methodists took pity on us and allowed everything to remain in place.
The mission engaged in numerous fund raising activities: carnivals, casino nights, dinners, concerts, recycling paper, etc. Members also solicited donations from friends and relatives in the east, and from other Orthodox churches. Within 2 years we had raised $13,600 toward a building fund.
Property was purchased at Donna Lane in Danville to be used first as a rectory, and then as a chapel and parish house. The price was $60,000. We put a $12,000 down payment and the balance borrowed from a bank. It was not learned until years later that two parish members had personally co-signed the loan, thus risking their own money. Plans were begun to utilize the buildings and grounds for a Day Care Center under the exceptional directorship of Matushka Margaret Prokurat and Katherine Vitko.
Permission was given by the county to convert the home dwelling into a chapel and parish house, but limited to an occupancy of 30 (already far exceeded). An itinerant Orthodox contractor, Theodore Evangel offered his services at a modest figure, and work was begun to convert the building, add a large multi-purpose hall which served as a nave. Members of the mission helped with the myriad chores necessary to bring the building and grounds into accordance with the county’s requirements. Without their help it would have proved in vain.
In addition, many gave generously both for the buildings and their interiors: church plate, vestments, icons, analogia, etc. The list of their generosity goes on and on. Shrubbery and sprinkling systems enhanced our property.
After a great deal of effort and despite an agonizing number of disputes with building inspectors, the Toddle Inn Day Care Center, completed in the Spring of 1981, was open to the larger community.
In the Autumn of that same year, Father Michael Prokurat was transferred to the Diocese of the Midwest to become its chancellor, and Father Michael Regan became the new rector.
In 1983, mounting costs and the move of Matushka Margaret Prokurat, brought about the closure of the day care center. There was hope that with a move to a larger facility, the day care center would flourish, but that was not to be.
In 1993 the membership was enriched by a most welcome infusion of several converts to Orthodoxy and by a group of families of the Western Rite Mission of the Antiochian Archdiocese. They entered immediately into the life of the parish and began making valuable contributions to its activities.
Four years later, in 1997, the parish purchased a new piece of property, our present location in Concord, on Olivera Road, a former Salvation Army church for $500.000. Subdeacon John Vitko was ordained deacon and assigned to the parish, which enhanced the Liturgy. Nadine Blank became the director of music as she had been at the mission. Presently, Katherine Gaudreau is the Choir Director. Sheila Bliss is the Director of children’s religious education. John Vitko was ordained priest and moved to Virginia. A group of Georgian immigrants was added to our number. Archpriest Michael Regan retired in 2018.
In November of 2018, Father Peter Fermeglia became the pastor. The present church stands as a tribute to all those who contributed time and resources. A huge debt of gratitude is given to all those who contributed time, talent and treasure. We can never forget. New life continues as God, the Sower of the seed, continues to cast His Word upon the soil of Concord and the surrounding area.
Glory to Jesus Christ!