Orthodox Christianity in Iowa


There are approximately 6000 Greek-Americans living in Iowa today, up from a U.S. Census total of 18 Greeks in Iowa in 1900. Most are descendents of the early immigrant communities of Sioux City, Mason City, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Davenport, Council Bluffs, and Dubuque.

Many of the earliest, almost exclusively male immigrants returned to Greece, but by the 1920s, most Greeks stayed and raised families, establishing a permanent Greek-American community in Iowa. They founded Greek Orthodox churches in Waterloo (St. Demetrios, 1914), Sioux City (Holy Trinity, 1917), Mason City (Holy Transfiguration, 1918), Des Moines (St. George, 1928), Cedar Rapids (St. John the Baptist, 1938), and Dubuque (St. Elias, 1956).

The Eastern Orthodox community isn't limited to people of Greek ethnicity, however. Iowa also has three Antiochian Orthodox Churches. Two of the churches, St. George in Cedar Rapids and St. Thomas in Sioux City, serve primarily Lebanese/Syrian communities. In the summer of 2001, St. Raphael of Brooklyn Antiochian Orthodox Mission in Iowa City was founded by converts to the Eastern Orthodox Church.

In the spring of 2002, a new mission church of the Orthodox Church in America (an offshoot of the Russian Orthodox Church) was founded in Pella, Iowa as the St. Nicholas Orthodox Christian Church

In April of 2002, a group of Egyptian immigrants founded St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church in Urbandale, a suburb of Des Moines. The Coptic Orthodox Church, under the Coptic Patriarchate of Alexandria, is part of a communion known as the Oriental Orthodox Churches, which also includes the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Malankara (India) Orthodox Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, and the Armenian Apostolic Church

In 2012, St. John the Wonderworker Orthodox Church, a mission parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) (not to be confused with the OCA) was established in Des Moines as a Western Rite Orthodox parish. 

The town of Ames, Iowa welcomed the Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, another Orthodox Church in America mission, in 2013.

In 2015, St. Nicholas Orthodox Christian Church opened its doors in Cedar Rapids under the jurisdiction  Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR)

St. Demetrios, Waterloo
St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church,
Waterloo, Iowa. Founded 1914.
Photo by Ben Siepmann
Holy Trinity Church, Sioux City
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church,
Sioux City, Iowa. Founded 1917.
Photo courtesy of Christine McAvoy.

Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church, Mason City, Iowa.  Founded 1918.
Holy Transfiguration
Greek Orthodox Church,
Mason City, Iowa. Founded 1918.
Photo by Panos Fiorentinos, from the book

St. George Church
Greek Orthodox Church of St. George,
Des Moines, Iowa. Founded 1928.
Photo by Ben Siepmann.
Church of St. John the Baptist, Cedar Rapids
Greek Orthodox Church of
St. John the Baptist,
Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Founded 1938.
Photo courtesy of Fr. Basil Hickman.
Front facade of St. Elias the Prophet Greek Orthodox Church in Dubuque
St. Elias the Prophet Greek Orthodox Church,
Dubuque, Iowa. Founded 1956.
Photo courtesy of N.J. Yiannias.


Serbian Liturgy, August 2004
August, 2004: Metropolitan Christopher (second from left,in mitron) of the Serbian Orthodox Church conducts a Divine Liturgy for the Serbian community in Des Moines at St. George's, assisted by (from left) Fr. Peter T. Cade, priest of St. George's, Fr. Sasha Petrovich, and Fr. Aleksandar Bugarin, both of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Photo by Ben Siepmann

On August 14, 2004, our parish hosted a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy for the Serbian community of Des Moines. The service was celebrated by Metropolitan Christopher of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada, Midwestern American Metropolitanate, with the assistance of two Serbian priests from Kansas City and South Dakota and Fr. Peter Cade, priest of St. George's at the time. After the service, the Serbian community members in attendance voted to form St. Demetrius Serbian Orthodox Mission Church in Des Moines. The congregation recently acquired its own church building at 4655 NE 3rd Street in Des Moines. The St. Demetrius parish is under the jurisdiction of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of New Gracanica -- Midwestern America.