From Denise Viscuso, Love INC of Brevard Volunteer Coordinator
“I know that this is a protestant gathering. I love Jesus and you do too. I would love it if you would let me hang out,” said the late Father Demetri Tsigas, then priest from St. Katherine’s Greek Orthodox Church, Melbourne. That’s how Father Demetri first introduced himself years ago at his first South Brevard Ministerial Association meeting, a gathering of pastors from throughout Brevard County. It would be those words that were his gift to the Church, transcending the earthly barriers that divide us and bringing into focus what Jesus prayed to the Father at the Last Supper, that we would be One.
Father Demetri Tsigas was one of the most beloved ministers at Love INC of Brevard, and the first Greek Orthodox priest to cross the great divide into an interdenominational Christian ministry which is predominantly protestant.
Transcending Differences with Love
What made this man so special is that despite the several hundred years of Church history marked by separation between Eastern and Western Christians, that this priest would rise above the differences to embrace his present-day calling. Father Demetri was called to this generation in Christ to embrace the people, no matter the denomination with love, hospitality, and a spirit of generosity. In 2015, Love INC of Brevard honored Father Demetri with Love INC’s “Servant-Leader Pastor Award.”
Father Demetri served three years as President of the South Brevard Ministerial Association and was instrumental in promoting Christian Unity in a joint effort with Love INC of Brevard and the South Brevard Ministerial Association, to promote the National Day of Prayer in both Palm Bay and Melbourne. Father Demetri appeared on local radio spots, spoke out at local meetings, and sent a host of emails encouraging people of the Christian faith to participate. Through this joint effort, the National Day of Prayer in Palm Bay and Melbourne grew and now is a well-attended Christian community event.
The Final Battle
So often we go through life in the routine of the day, and then suddenly tribulation hits. Jesus warned his disciples we would face tribulation, something clearly part of the Christian journey. (John 16:33). For Father Demetri, his trial was marked by his three-year battle with Stage III Lung Cancer and its complications, which ultimately ended his life on Nov. 25, 2020, on the eve of Thanksgiving.
In the early months of Father Demetri’s diagnosis; I had an opportunity to attend a Southern Brevard ministerial meeting where Father Demetri was the guest speaker. We had a moment to talk and Father Demetri asked me how I was faring with Multiple Sclerosis. I answered him with what Mother Teresa wrote about suffering, that it is “but a kiss of Jesus.” Father Demetri added a bit of humor about his own suffering, that he wished that Jesus would “stop kissing me so much.”
It would be endurance, perseverance, and hope, that would mark the last days of Father Demetri. Even in the weeks before he passed away, Father Demetri would put “likes” next to Love INC of Brevard social media recruitment posts, encouraging the people to “Join the Movement.” But in the end, there would be no miraculous healing, and Father Demetri would come home to Jesus with his family at his bedside.
It was truly an honor to know Father Demetrios Tsigas, a Godly man filled with the love of Christ, whose early departure will leave us a beautiful remembrance of how God used his life to transcend earthly boundaries to the upward call of love and unity in the Body of Christ. Until we meet again.
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:12-13, NASB).