(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) Father Justin Havens stands at 3157 W. 13800 South in Bluffdale, a site that Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Christian Church wants to buy for a new church and religious campus. The parish, which has outgrown its small church in Salt Lake City, has raised half of the $500,000 it needs to purchase the land— but the contract is running out soon. It’s not just individuals and families who are struggling to find affordable housing in Utah.
(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) Father Justin Havens looks out at the open field of 10 acres in Bluffdale at 3157 W. 13800 South in Bluffdale, which Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Christian Church wants to buy for a new church and religious campus. The parish, which has outgrown its small church in Salt Lake City, has raised half the $500,000 it needs to purchase the land— but the contract is running out soon. It’s not just individuals and families who are struggling to find affordable housing in Utah.

The high price of real estate is making the dream of a new church and religious campus more difficult for one Eastern Orthodox parish and could pose the same obstacle for another.

Hoping to ease the congestion, the parish has found a 10-acre site in Bluffdale to build a second Byzantine-style church, along with classrooms, offices, a community hall with a large kitchen, a bookstore, a play area for children and an Orthodox cemetery.

Saints Peter and Paul has the Bluffdale property under contract and, so far, has raised half the $500,000 needed to secure the first 5 acres, Havens said.

“But our plans have changed because the property is so expensive,” Havens said. “There’s a real push to get the $500,000 in the next two months to procure the property.”

Saints Peter and Paul has a diverse membership, Havens said. Many are U.S. converts to the Orthodox faith, but there also are a dozen members from Eastern European countries, including Russia, Serbia and Greece.

“We are packed to the gills,” Havens said. On major religious holidays, like Easter, attendance swells and worshippers flow into the church entrance (called a narthex) and down the front steps.

But unlike Saints Peter and Paul, which was established several decades ago, the St. Anna property search is less urgent.

The mission parish, also part of the Eastern Orthodox faith, conducts services in a rented space on the campus of St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Cottonwood Heights.

The church ultimately would like to buy 4 to 7 acres in Cottonwood Heights or Sandy, not too close to the two other Greek Orthodox churches in the Salt Lake Valley — Holy Trinity Cathedral in downtown Salt Lake City and Prophet Elias in Holladay — to offer more geographic options.

“If there is an existing building on the market, and the price is right,” Savas said, “we are open to transforming that into an Orthodox worship space.”

“We are just a toddler of a community, we’re not even 4 years old,” Savas said. “We need to be patient and understand that nothing needs to be rushed.”

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