Although Serbs first immigrated to Iowa around 1905, it was not until 2013 that they had their own dedicated church: St. Demetrius Serbian Orthodox Church. Since then, Serbs of all generations have had a place to come together not only to worship but also to preserve their culture. (Previously, they worshipped at St. George Greek Orthodox Church, where they could practice Orthodox Christianity but not preserve Serbian culture.) There, they remember the first Serb immigrant to Iowa by hanging his hat on a basement wall. In fact, though, commemorations of Serbian culture can be found throughout the Church, if you know where to look.
The worship space at St. Demetrius is not large, though it is filled with so many icons that it appears larger than it is. Directly up the main aisle is an icon of the Church’s patron, St. Demetrius himself. The iconostasis, ornate and golden, also features traditional Orthodox Christian icons such as Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and John the Baptist. Used during the Divine Liturgy for both the Little and Grand Entrances, the iconostasis is the focal point of both the services and the space.
Although St. Demetrius’ resembles other Orthodox Christian churches in many ways, small but distinct elements of Serbian Orthodoxy are prevalent. For example, although Serbian Orthodox Christians cross themselves the same way as all Orthodox Christian, i.e., in the opposite direction of Roman Catholic Christians, they do so with the first three fingers together instead of with a flat hand. St. Demetrius’ also employs Church Slavic for its Divine Liturgy service, unlike St. George’s, which uses a mixture of Koiné Greek and English.
At the conclusion of most Sunday Divine Liturgy services, the congregation participates in a sensory experience that is every bit the equal of the service itself: a scrumptious and decadent meal. Three times a year, they are joined by the Serbian Orthodox communities of Kansas City and Omaha, the two closest Serbian parishes.
The community at St. Demetrius Serbian Orthodox Church is remarkably immersed in Serbian culture and community. Here, you will find people willing to share their stories and beliefs, as well as their food and conversation. As it was said to me at the St. Demetrius Slava, “not everyone’s English will be good, but everyone will be glad to meet you.”
By Lauren Schleich
Regular Meeting Times:
- Sundays: Divine Liturgy at 10am
Location and Contact Information:
- 4655 NE 3rd St., Des Moines, Iowa
- (515) 897-5563
- Facebook: Dimitrije Srpska Pravoslavna Crkva St. Demetrius Orthodox Church
Etiquette While Visiting St. Demtrius:
- Please remain standing while the gates at the altar are opened