FONTANA — “God willing, we’ll continue to grow and build a permanent home for our church in the future.”
Maria Klesmith is a member of the small but still-growing group of Orthodox Christians in Fontana.
Every Sunday, the home church on Highway 67 fills with 18 to 40 people from the area.
While the church occupies a small renovated shed and apartment structure, the group can’t put up signs or install a parking lot.
The church approached the village of Fontana and the town of Walworth for a conditional use permit.
“Right now, it’s all agricultural zoned,” Klesmith said. “We’d like to keep it that way as much as possible. That’s why we didn’t apply for a rezone.”
She hopes church membership grows and a larger church can be built nearby in the future.
“We get more visitors in the summer, when people are up visiting,” Klesmith said. “This past Sunday we had about 18 people, but a few Sundays ago we had 35 or 40. It really varies.”
Klesmith said she stumbled onto finding an area Orthodox Church.
“I had been driving with my family to Milwaukee every Sunday for church,” she said. “We were speaking with a priest and he suggested we start a church. I didn’t realize that was something that could be done.”
Klesmith said she came home and prayed about creating a church closer to home.
“For a few weeks, we just waited, thinking and praying about it,” she said. “Then I was reading the Beacon, and I saw a little ad seeking Orthodox Christians. I reached out to that group right away.”
The church met at Williams Bay Elementary School for a few years until moving to its new location in 2012.
“We met biweekly then,” Klesmith said. “Now we are able to meet every week.”
A priest and deacon come from Milwaukee to celebrate Divine Liturgy in the chapel in Fontana.
The church is a part of the Orthodox Church in America, which traces its roots in the United States to 1794, according to the church association website.
The name for the chapel was chosen based on the proximity to Geneva Lake.
“Our feast day is Jan. 6, and we bless the waters that day,” Klesmith said.
Theophany, Greek for appearance of God, is the day Orthodox Christians commemorate as the day Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Western Christians celebrate Epiphany the same day, commemorating the Magi who visited Jesus after his birth.