St Elias Maronite Church
St Elias Maronite Church is a Maronite Rite (Antiochene Catholic) church, serving primarily the Lebanese-American community of Birmingham, and located at 836 8th Street South in the Glen Iris neighborhood. It is the only Maronite church in Alabama, and one of about 35 parishes in the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles. It is one of about 69 parishes that are part of the National Apostolate of Maronites (a lay organization).
The pastor is Chorbishop Richard D. Saad, assisted by deacon Joseph R. Stephens and sub-deacon Samuel J. Wehby. Liturgy is celebrated on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings and daily at 8:00 AM. Confession is heard on Saturday afternoons or by appointment.
The Maronite church is a distinct body within the Catholic church. Its head is the Patriarch of Antioch, the first of whom was St John Maron, elected AD 686. The Antiochene church developed its liturgy in the Syriac language (a form of Aramaic) and were swept up in a schism over the Eastern church's adherence to Monotheletism (The belief that Christ's will was purely divine, rather than both divine and human). This view was held to be heretical by the Roman church, and caused a schism in the 7th century, leading the Maronites to take refuge in Lebanon. The Maronites returned to the Catholic communion in the 12th century. The sect spread from Lebanon by emigration to Cyprus, Palestine, Egypt, and to South America and the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The St Elias parish was established in 1910 on 6th Avenue South between 20th and 21st Streets with the purchase of an existing brick building that was converted for use as a Catholic church. The first pastor was Reverend Mobaarek Bellama. The church was officially dedicated and named for St Elias (Elijah) on February 14, 1914.
 Current building
In 1939 the church closed briefly, reopening the following year. In 1945 a new site at 8th Street South was purchased. The design, commissioned from the firm of Pembleton and Mims, was altered greatly before construction. The completed church consists of a brick gabled nave with a central tower over the entry. The tower features a large six-pointed star window over the entry, surmounted by a bellchamber with a clock, and a steep pyramidal roof topped with a cross. The interior is divided into nave and altar by a raised bema (platform). The altar area is a semicircular apse. 19 arched stained glass windows surround the nave and altar. The first liturgy was celebrated in the new building on midnight of Christmas Eve, 1950.
The vestibule windows depict St Maron, the father of the Maronite Church in Syria and St John Maron, the first Patriarch, both facing toward the front of the church. On the sides are St Mary, depicted crowned as Queen of the Universe, and her mother, St Anne, patroness of mothers and children.
In the nave are windows depicting the Apostle Philip, St Anthony of Padua, St Theresa of Lisieux, Our Lady of Fatima, St Joseph, and Jesus the Good Shepherd. Smaller windows depict the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Windows around the altar depict Saints Peter and Paul, The Agony in the Garden and Crucifixion, The Annunciation and the Archangel Michael, and in the center, St Elias, prophet and patron of the parish. His motto, "Zelo Zelatus sum pro Domino Deo exercituum" (I have been most zealous for the Lord, the God of Hosts) is inscribed in a shield at the top of the window.
A church hall was built nine years later and that building was dedicated on the parish's golden anniversary.
Pastors of St Elias Maronite Church have included:
- Reverend Mobarrek Bellama, first pastor
- Reverend Joseph Koury, second pastor
- Reverend George Aziz, third pastor
- Reverend Joseph Abi-Chedid, 10th pastor
- Reverend Richard Saad, 15th pastor
 Lebanese Food and Cultural Festival
Since 1999 St Elias Maronite Church has hosted an annual Lebenese Food and Cultural Festival at the church.
The 2007 Food and Cultural Festival was held on April 13-14 with a full menu of Lebanese foods and sweets available a la carte and as platters. A display of historical and Lebanese artifacts was placed on exhibit to supplement tours of the church and its stained glass windows. Demonstrations of traditional dances were made inside while Lebanese bands entertained in a tent outdoors. Various imported Lebanese and religious articles were offered for sale and at silent auction.
- Bostany, Gary and Richard Kassouf (n. d.) "Your Guide to St. Elias Maronite Church." brochure.
 External links
- St Elias Maronite Church website