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- The Early Days
Our church was organized on March 19, 1919. The Rev. Fr. Vangel Chamche was the first priest to serve the spiritual needs of the community. Divine Services were held for six months at the Knights of Pythias Hall and in a hall above Grupposo’s Market, Summer Street, Natick. Later that year, Fr. Chamche took monastic vows and was elevated to the rank of Archimandrite. In 1929, he was consecrated to the Episcopacy, serving as The Right Reverend AGATHANGEL, Bishop of Berat in Albania.
Religious services were temporarily suspended from 1919 until 1927, but several meetings were held by a core group of royal Albanian Patriots from the towns of Natick, Framingham, Marlborough, Hudson and Brockton, Massachusetts, to assess the new community’s needs.
The meeting established a branch (dega) in each town and the members in attendance were responsible for collecting dues and fees from the members in their respective branch. A set of by-laws to govern the daily operation of the church was also formulated.
All the group members agreed the church be located in the town of Natick and registered as the Albanian Orthodox Church, Annunciation (Ungjillezimi). The monthly salary for the new Priest was set at $100. He would not only serve religious services in Natick, but any community where a large Albanian population resided.
The following dues and fees were established for chapter members: Membership-$6.00 per year, Baptism-$8.00, Wedding-$15.00, Funeral-$8.00, and a Memorial-$4.00.
A copy of the 1926 Annual Report of St. Nicholas Albanian Church, Southbridge, Massachusetts, revealed the church received a payment of $531.00 that year from these chapters. This payment suggests the Priest assigned to St. Nicholas served the religious needs of the chapter members of these communities from 1919 to 1927.
The first general meeting of the Albanian Orthodox Church, Annunciation (Ungjillezimi), was convened Saturday, July 30, 1927, at 7:00 P.M. at a hall located above Grupposo’s Market, Summer Street, Natick. The leader of the organizing committee, Efthim Kreshpani, was elected Chairman of the meeting and Nuci Cojo was elected Secretary.
The Chairman presented an overview of their meetings and recommended a set of by-laws for adoption. A vote was taken and the by-laws presented were approved by the majority in attendance.
The Rev. Fr. Lazar Kozma was appointed as the Parish Priest. He was born in Poradetz Albania in 1881 and served at St. Nicholas Albanian Church in Southbridge before his appointment to Natick. Fr. Kozma served as the Parish Priest until 1933.
The first Parish Council was elected to serve the church at this meeting. The following individuals were elected: Chairman-Loni Peristere, Treasurer-Efthim Kreshpani, Secretary-Nuci Cojo, and Controllers-Pandi Vangjel, Kristo Kosta, and Kosma Angello. The meeting adjourned at 2:00 A.M., Sunday, July 31, 1927.
The Albanian Women’s Society Vetetima was found in 1935. The purpose of the society was to financially support the church and assist member families in need.
- The Current Church Building
In 1938, the present church building at the corner of Washington Street and North Avenue was purchased from the Knights of Pythias. Extensive interior and exterior renovations were made to the church to maintain and enhance its beauty and worship in the Byzantine Tradition.
The parish was originally established as a constitutional trust. Serving as trustees were: Koco Checani, Rako Efthim, Kosta Mangelly, Ligor Petro, Dhimitri Raphael, Michael Spiro and Dennis Zicko. The constitutional trust was dissolved in 1954, and the parish became a corporation in 1955.
The building was consecrated the Albanian Orthodox Church, Annunciation (Ungjillezimi) by Metropolitan +Fan S. Noli, Sunday, October 16, 1955. The church choir was organized and Thomas Nasse was its first director.
The 50th Anniversary was celebrated Sunday, May 25, 1969, with Divine Liturgy followed by a banquet and dancing at the Monticello, Route 9, Framingham.
The Parish Council with John Mandozzi as the Chairman instituted the pledge system in 1977. The pledge system still remains as a means for members to support the church’s mission. In 1977, the Parish Rectory was purchased on Pleasant Street.
The 70th Anniversary was celebrated Sunday, October 15, 1989, with His Grace, Bishop JOB, officiating at a Hierarchal Divine Liturgy followed by a festive banquet at the Natick
The 75th Anniversary was celebrated, Saturday, May 21, 1994, with a banquet at Loehman’s in the Apple Hill Plaza in Natick, and a Divine Liturgy, Sunday, May 22, 1994, to praise God for the many blessings bestowed on the church.
- Renovations to the Church
Major renovations were undertaken to the church’s interior following the 75th Anniversary. Installation of plasterboard and electrical updating and painting of the church’s interior, installation of an elevator and air conditioning in the church were completed. Some renovations to the Parish Rectory were also completed.
In 1998, the Parish Rectory on Pleasant Street was sold and a larger rectory was purchased on Temple Street in Framingham. A lightning protection system was installed in 2001 following two lightning strikes to the church belfry resulting in a minor fire and water damage. Air conditioning was installed in the church hall.
Beginning in 2002, new carpet was installed throughout the church along with new church pews, donated by individual members and families in memory of departed loved ones. The interior church entrance was renovated and painted.
In 2008 a more energy efficient system was installed to heat both the church and hall. New mahogany church entrance and hall doors replaced the existing doors and a sanctuary sound system was installed. Refurbishing and painting of the church hall was also completed.
A donation to the Archdiocesan Chancery Renovation Fund was presented at the 2008 Annual Assembly on behalf of the church membership in the amount of $5,000.
The construction of a roof extension at the front entrance of the church and the installation of new hand railings was completed in 2009.
- Current History
The 90th Anniversary was celebrated Sunday, October 4, 2009, with His Grace, Bishop NIKON, officiating at a Hierarchal Divine Liturgy followed by a banquet at the Natick Elks Lodge.
Now we continue our journey to 2019 when we will celebrate our centennial year. We pray our Lord, Jesus Christ will continue to grant us wisdom and strength to continue to be the beacon of light, hope, and love to all who search for Him.