The history of our parish began with a zealous missionary effort but most importantly with the work of the Holy Spirit. Through good times and hard times, the parishioners of Holy Spirit Church have proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ and vigilantly toiled in the Orthodox Christian Faith, to serve our Lord, our church, and our community.
A small group of Orthodox Christians in the Venice area was determined to worship regularly in their orthodox tradition using the English language. This group included full-time residents and winter visitors of many nationalities and backgrounds. In 1984 this group was blessed to receive the Very Reverend Father Lucian T. Grafton. Father Lucian was appointed to serve the Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice area by His Eminence, Archbishop Dmitri of the Diocese of Dallas and the South (Orthodox Church in America – OCA).
The first Memorial Service, including Divine Liturgy, was celebrated by a small contingent of the faithful on September 8, 1984. By word-of-mouth and advertising, the faithful came together and the number of worshipers increased. Soon, services were being held at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Venice. Father Calvin Davis (Rector) and all the people of St. Mark’s, are remembered with deep gratitude for their Christian hospitality during this crucial growth period. Services were held various locations in the early years and religious articles, icons and music, among other things necessary for the celebration of Divine Liturgy, were faithfully relocated for every service.
It became clear that a nucleus of Orthodox faithful had formed and Father George A. Gladky, then Diocesan Chancellor (Diocese of the South – OCA), met with the Venice faithful on January 21, 1985 to explore “mission status”. This meeting resulted in a petition by the faithful , dated January 23, 1985, to the Diocese of the South requesting formal reception and recognition as a Mission of the Diocese. On January 30, 1985, then Bishop Dmitri, informed the Venice faithful that formal mission status was granted under the care of Father Lucian T. Gafton, Priest-in-charge. The mission was attached to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour Church in Miami, Florida. Christ the Saviour Church was instrumental in the success of the new mission.
Archbishop Dmitri advised that when the time came to choose a Patron Saint or Pastoral Feast Day, that the name should be selected after careful consideration and prayer and by majority vote. The members of the mission selected Pentecost Sunday as the parish feast day. The name chosen by the majority of parishioners was “The Decent of the Holy Spirit Orthodox Mission”. During his canonical visit on March 20, 1985, Archbishop Dmitri approved the name and inscribed that name on the Holy Antimension. The fellowship became known as the Holy Spirit Orthodox Mission.
The years 1985 through 1991 were precarious but witnessed steady growth. In late 1985, the general membership and Father Lucian began to examine the overall direction of the new mission and determined that a permanent church building was necessary. A broad committee was in established in 1986 to begin planning. Many temporary locations were used as the mission matured and served the community. In August of 1988 the mission was granted tax-exempt status by the State of Florida. This allowed the mission to get serious about a permanent church. After a number of attempts to establish a permanent place of worship fell through, the Shamrock Boulevard location came open.
On June 30, 1991 Mike and Mary Konfederak learned of a now closed bank building that with work could serve as a parish. By August 6, 1991, with Diocesan approval, the property and building at 700 Shamrock Boulevard in Venice was purchased. An architect was selected and plans for a new church building were formulated. On September 8, 1991, even though renovation was not yet complete, Father Lucian assisted by Father David Milligen and Father Stephen Plumlee, blessed the Holy Cross and placed it on the church building. Holy Spirit Orthodox Church of Venice, Florida was born. The Certificate for Occupancy was received on October 30, 1991 and the first Divine Liturgy was celebrated by Father Lucian on November 10, 1991. Our first wedding service was held on the evening of the same day. Holy Spirit Orthodox Church was officially consecrated on February 15, 1992 by Archbishop Dmitri.