Knoxville church reopens after fire, members say they're coming home

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Saint George Greek Orthodox Church reopened its doors after a fire ruined the building four years ago.

"I was raised here," said Demetrios Klonaris. "It's where we partake in the sacraments and experience Christ."

People like Klonaris walked back into the rebuilt church Sunday morning.

"It was coming home for the first time in so many years and everything was the same, but something was a little bit different and special as we came in today," said Klonaris.

It went up in flames back in April 2015.

"It was devastating," said Klonaris. "I was in school up in Boston. When I got the news, it was so many mixed feelings. It was heartbreaking and the unknown of how bad the damage was."

"It was taken literally down to the concrete block and still beams and rebuilt from scratch," Greg Tampas, who was the director for the construction committee.

Greg Tampas was part of the construction committee. He said his family were founding members of the church in the 1960's, so to be a part of the team to help rebuild meant a lot to him, he said.

"Coming through the doors, seeing the lights, the candles, the smells, it was very beautiful," said Tampas. "We made sure we got it pretty close to what we had before."

For Klonaris, he plans to raise his two songs in the church, just like how he grew up. It was little Panagiotis' first service inside.

"He was baptized actually in our church hall in our makeshift church, so this is his first experience in our own church," said Klonaris.