Written by Peter Branoff
In the early years of the 20th century, immigrants from Macedonia and Bulgaria began coming to the United States and Canada in large numbers, looking for economic opportunity and safety from the continuing political unrest in their homeland. Most were drawn to the booming factory towns in the Midwest, and after about 1910, a large number were attracted to the Detroit area by the jobs available in the rapidly growing automobile industry. The first immigrants to the area worshipped at Russian or Greek Orthodox churches.
In 1927, the Orthodox Mission of the Holy Synod of Bulgaria sent Protoprezviter Dr. Krustyu Tsenoff as a missionary to the growing Macedonian and Bulgarian communities in the U.S. and Canada , to organize parishes for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. In 192 7 , he came to the Detroit area. The Macedonians feeling ethnically closer to the Bulgarians than to the Russians or Greeks, accepted Fr. Tsenoff as their spiritual guide and the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as their ecclesiastical authority.
Our charter members, together with Fr. Tsenoff, founded the first Detroit-based Macedonian-Bulgarian parish under the name Holy Trinity. The first services were held at St. John Episcopal Church in Downtown Detroit. Later, in 1929, the newly organized parish built its first church, on 25th Street , near Michigan Avenue . The Divine Liturgy was celebrated every Sunday and every Feast Day.
In 1930, the parish priest was Very Rev. Velik Karadjoff, who in 1932 organized the Ladies' Club. It appeared for a short time that the newly founded Church community was thriving. But during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the young church experienced great economic difficulties. Most of the parishioners were unemployed, and the parish was unable to meet the mortgage payment. The church was foreclosed upon and listed for sale, and the parish was dissolved.
According to Michigan law, the church building now could be bought at a much lower price than the original cost. At this time, the Macedonian Political Organization (MPO) "Fatherland" purchased the church properties. On February 17, 1935 the parish was reorganized under the name St. Clement Ohridski Mecedono-Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Father George Nicoloff arrived from Bulgaria to lead the newly organized parish at the end of that year.
In 1938, the parish was once again threatened with bankruptcy and foreclosure. This time, the parishioners rallied and pooled their resources. They organized weekly vecherinkas (dances) and summer picnics, and contributed quarters, fifty-cent pieces and dollars to prevent foreclosure. They were successful. W h en prosperity came during World War II, the mortgage was paid and the parishioners were able to relax. In 1947, they built a hall next to the church. A plaque of the list of contributors who helped pay for the hall hangs in the hallway of our present Church.
By 1963, plans were being laid for the construction of a new church on Ford Road in Dearborn , where the church now stands. However, an unfortunate split in the parish led to the departure of Fr. Nicoloff and a number of church members. Over the years, many people have worked to heal the wounds caused by this split, and a great deal of progress has been made , including cooperation on joint ly-sponsored dances and other events.
The parishioners who remained with St. Clement built a large, beautiful, three-domed Church-like church with Sunday School classrooms and two halls. The ground breaking ceremonies took place on July 12, 1964, and the cornerstone - laying ceremonies were performed in June 1966 by Metropolitan Andrey, Bishop Parteney, a number of visiting clergy and many faithful parishioners. This marked a new beginning for St. Clement.
On S eptember 14, 1968 Very Reverend Panayot Pamukov became the Parish Priest. H e led a long period of growth in membership and activity. He currently holds the title Pastor Emeritus in our Church and is still very active serving in most church services and activities.
The church building was consecrated on July 4, 1976, and the mortgage was retired two years later. In 1978, our parish was honored to host His Holiness Patricarch Maxim as he visited the parishes of our Diocese in North America .
In addition, our records show that since 1964 the following clergymen have served St. Clement:
Bishop Parteney, 1964 and the first half of 1965
Rev. Christo B. Christoff of Akron , Ohio , second half of 1965
Rev. George Geroff, January 1, 1966 to September 1, 1968
Very Rev Panayot Pamukov, Parish Priest and Pastor Emeritus, September 14, 1968 to around 2008
Very Rev. Walter Diachenko served for many years as an assistant priest
Very Rev. Michael Arbanas, Parish Priest November 1, 1999 to 2006
Very Rev. Slavcho Panev, Parish Priest, 2006 - 2016
Reverand Father Antonie Poposki, Parish Priest, 2016 - Present