In 1996, an association of about a hundred Bulgarians decided to establish the Bulgarian Orthodox Church “Sv. Ivan Rilski – Chudotvorets” (“Saint John Of Rila Wondermaker”) in Chicago. It was registered according to all civil requirements and laws of the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago as well as according to the Pan-Orthodox canon and recognized Archbishop Cyril as its spiritual and administrative leader.
Initially, the Holy Service was conducted in the hall of the kindergarten of Mr. Georgi Ivanov. A few months later, His Eminence the Greek Metropolitan Iakovos offered the services of the Greek Orthodox Church “Saint Andreas” for our worship services. Valentin Notskov was assigned as a Bulgarian priest at that time. With gratitude to the Greek Metropolitan for his brotherly hand, he quickly organized proposals for the use of the “Holy Cross” Chapel, in the spirit of the Bulgarian church. The first icons, books, candlesticks appeared. Yet the few Bulgarians during those years were satisfied and happy to respond for help and donations.
However, the wish of Bulgarians to have their own church building was huge. This happened very soon, only three years later with the help and will of the strongly believing Bulgarians. The persistent search quickly came to a successful end. The building of a Lutheran church was auctioned. The place was very beautiful, in the city part of Chicago, in a lovely area populated with a German, Romanian, Polish and of course Bulgarian community. The participation in the auction was very dramatic. Bulgarian representatives were on the verge to quit bidding for the building they liked very much because they knew the funds were limited. The good contacts of old Bulgarians from Chicago quickly came into play and the bank loan was received soon.
It was January, 1999. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church “Sv. Ivan Rilski – Chudotvorets” took possession of a very beautiful old building designed and built by Germans. With a lot of desire and love, Bulgarians started the conversion of the former Lutheran church into a long- awaited and desired home for the Christians. The artist Ognyan Todorv undertook the difficult task to build the altar of the church. A preliminary design sketch with all necessary icons was made. Only a year and a half later, the new altar of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church “Sv. Ivan Rilski – Chudotvorets” irradiated with its carving. The icons were made by our talented artists Ognyan Todorv and Kina Bugovska. The church acquired Bulgarian appearance and made all Christians happy. Very soon, it became a preferred venue for meetings, cultural entertainment and all kinds of gatherings. On October 19, 2008 exactly for the church patron saint’s day, the church management and the priest felt relieved because they managed to finish all changes. The new entrance, the new floor, the balcony and most importantly – the altar were moved according to the Christian canon to the east.
In Chicago, the spirit of the Bulgarian saint and protector Saint Ivan Rilski Chudotvorets vibrates with its power and might. The church turned into a hearth of the Bulgarian community in Chicago.