Our Church

The Saint Katherine Greek Orthodox Church community of Elk Grove, California, welcomes you to its house of worship.

History of the Saint Katherine Greek Orthodox Church

In 1988, a small group of Orthodox Christians dedicated itself to the task of organizing a parish to serve the religious needs of Orthodox faithful in the Sacramento Valley. Services were first held on August 7th, 1988, in a rented hall. In April of 1989, the congregation moved to a warehouse located on Dino Drive in Elk Grove, which the members converted into a church/chapel. The decision to take Saint Katherine as our patron saint was made through a program in 1989 when the parishioners all voted for the Saint's name they preferred for our new parish. Soon after, the community approved architectural plans for a new church and on September 26, 1993, ground-breaking ceremonies were held at the current church site in the Laguna West neighborhood. Construction was completed in October of 1995 and Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco consecrated the church at a solemn ceremony, on May 21st, 2005.

On November 20, 2004, the congregation celebrated the Grand Opening of its new Tsakopoulos Hall. This beautiful banquet facility measures 8,400 square feet, a complete commercial kitchen, and dinner seating for 300 people.

Then, on September 16th, 2007, the parish dedicated its new Bell Tower, Biblical Garden and Festival Plaza with a special Holy Water Blessing ceremony.

Detailed Timeline

Saint Katherine's Interior Design

The Saint Katherine Church is designed in the classic style of 9th century Byzantine architecture, similar to that of the ancient church of the Assumption, located in the town of Nicaea in Asia Minor. The principle design objective emphasized that the church structure remain faithful to the early Christian style of architecture found in the Byzantine tradition. In true Byzantine style, the building forms the shape of a cross, dominated by a central dome.

It has been said that the churches of Western Christianity with their soaring Gothic arches (and steeples) express a desire to reach toward Heaven. The Byzantine structures of Eastern Christians on the other hand, consciously try to bring Heaven and earth symbolically together into one space – in a type of mystical encounter. The design and traditional adornment of the interior of Saint Katherine is based on this concept. The central dome of the church, rising some 40 feet above the floor, represents God's heavenly realm and bears an icon of "Christ the Judge of All" in the circular apex. The remaining structure, iconography and furnishings of the church depict the truths of divine revelation and the "heroes" of the faith here on earth.

The interior of the church is divided into four main sections:

      Narthex (vestibule) - In the Narthex, the faithful light their devotional candles as they enter the church and reverence the icon of the Saint in whose name the church is dedicated.
      Nave (church proper) - The Nave is the largest area of the church, containing the pews, where faithful gather to worship.
      Soleas (chancel area) - The Soleas is located between the Nave and the Altar. It is the raised area in front of the icon screen where the Sacraments of the Church are administered. On the left is the pulpit and to the right is the Bishop's Throne together with the Chanter's stand.
      Holy Altar (sanctuary) - The Holy Altar is separated from the Nave and Soleas by an icon screen. In the center of the Holy Altar stands the Holy Altar Table with the Tabernacle holding the reserved Sacrament of Holy Communion, the Book of the Gospels, the Blessing Cross and the liturgical candelabra. To the left of the Holy Altar Table is the Prothesis (Oblation) Table, where the Eucharistic bread and wine are prepared for the Sacrament of Holy Communion. In the apse behind the Altar Table is the icon of the Blessed Virgin and the Christ-child.

In front of the Altar area, separating it from the church proper is a large hand-carved wooden partition known as the "Iconostasion" or Icon Screen.

The icons, or sacred images, are arranged on the Icon Screen according to the fixed traditional order. To the right of the main opening or "Royal Gate", is the icon of Christ. Next to it is that of Saint John the Baptist, then the Archangel Michael on the acolytes' door, and at the extreme right, Saints Constantine and Helen. To the left of the Royal Gate is the icon of the Holy Mother of God, to its left, that of the church's patron saint (Saint Katherine of Alexandria), then the Archangel Gabriel and Saint George.

Icons

Icons are simply holy images and are not objects of worship in themselves. Iconography embodies a spiritual value and is the distinctive art form of the Orthodox Church, occupying a prominent place in its theology and worship.

The value of icons in embellishing the House of God is twofold - devotional and educational. Their devotional value lies in their power to create an atmosphere of reverence and to instill a worshipful environment even before the church service begins. They express the tenets of the Christian faith visually and are a meaningful way of adorning the Lord's temple. Both the simple and the learned can appreciate their educational value for they are object lessons graphically revealing the great themes of the Orthodox faith.

To the western eye, accustomed to the religious arts of the Renaissance, Byzantine art may seem somewhat austere and two-dimensional. However, there are deep theological reasons for the development of this style. It is their deliberate purpose to avoid the realistic, representational style of traditional portraiture and to convey instead an otherworldly, mystical appearance. Their aim is not to depict the natural world but the supernatural. They are not portraits of people who once lived in the world, they are reminders of lives lived in holiness and dedication to God.

As the congregation gathers to worship, the icons serve as visual reminders of the perpetual meeting between the earthly Church and its heavenly counterpart.

Interior Appointments

The interior appointments of Saint Katherine: Icon Screen, Altar Table, Bishop's Throne, Pulpit and other liturgical furnishings, have all been fashioned of Slovenian white oak, crafted and hand-carved on the Greek island of Crete. Among other early Christian symbols, carved into many of these furnishings is the wheel of Saint Katherine. The pews, which are made of American red oak, blend in with the other furnishings and feature the wheel of Saint Katherine embossed on each end. Located on the left side of the Soleas (chancel) is the Epitaphios Canopy, an elaborately carved furnishing used every year on Good Friday to hold the cloth icon of the entombed Christ (epitaphios icon). To the left of the pews is situated the church digital pipe organ.