Grace and Peace to you in Christ Jesus our Lord!
It should come to no surprise for many of you now that I have some exciting news to formally announce about how the Lord is guiding us forward as a church plant. In some ways this news is about a mutually beneficial partnership between an existing church and a newly formed church plant. In other ways it is about God’s unfolding story in North East Ohio. Still in other ways it is about an adoption of a newborn daughter church plant by a mother church. Finally it is about the work of the Kingdom of God: making disciples, setting captives free from their bondage of sin and death, and loving our neighbors with a holy love that only comes from our Father in heaven!
Our Two Saints
In the current timeline of history, saint Luke and saint George never got to work side-by-side in sharing the story of how God has redeemed humanity in His only Son Jesus Christ. Nearly three centuries separated these two saints. St. Luke was there in the beginning of the Jesus movement and has given the Church the gifts of the Gospel according to his name (Luke) and the Book of Acts. St. George is less known than his predecessor in the faith, however, he is a saint that demonstrated with his life and martyrdom faithfulness in the face of violent persecution as well as victory over that dragon of old (Satan). Both these saints offer us an example of what Revelation 12 says of the church that overcomes our accuser (Satan),
They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.
How Two Saints Become One
We are at a place in history where we can do together what our two patron saints were unable to physically do: partner together for mission in North East Ohio. As I alluded to at our last worship service, there has been a developing relationship over the past couple of months with our church plant in the city of Medina, St. George’s and St. Luke’s in the Akron/Copley area. Fr. Mike Kranyak, the Rector at St. Luke’s and I (with the approval of our respected bishops) have agreed to enter our two distinct churches into a more formal relationship with each other. Therefore, St. George’s will become a church plant out of and supported by St. Luke’s as her “mother church”.
Another way to think of this is that St. Luke’s will be for us what the church of Antioch was for St. Paul and St. Barnabas (read the first couple verses of Acts 13). Our two churches named after two distinct saints will formally participate in our one mission: making disciples as we go, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything given to the Apostles (see Matthew 28).
When Bridgette and I moved to Medina this past summer we came knowing that God was with us in his Holy Spirit and had confirmed this calling by many witnesses, wonders, and in his Word. We came with a humble spirit, knowing that God’s grace always precedes, infills, and follows such missionary endeavors. Therefore, from the beginning we wanted to partner with what God had and was still doing in Medina County. So what WAS God already doing in the region before Bridgette and I came on the scene?
Well, part of what God had been doing (at least in Anglican circles) was stirring up St. Luke’s to plant churches, launch missional communities, and do Gospel work with other churches (sound familiar). Mike+ for many years now has had a strong guiding from the Lord to plant a church in the city of Medina. He felt so strongly about this that he even started something called the Caleb Commission to equip and inform interested St. Luke’s members who desired to learn more about church planting (some of these folks may bless us by joining our core launch team at St. George’s). Around the time they were looking for someone to shepherd this plant in Medina… guess who the Lord brought home to north-east Ohio? That’s right, the Kocak Family! It was about a year ago at a party for the newly installed Bishop of the Diocese of the Great Lakes, Roger Ames, that I was introduced to Mike Kranyak (i’m sure to his surprise) by my Bishop, Doc Loomis, as “the new Anglican Church planter in Medina.” Talk about timely confirmation right?!
Since my family moved back home to NE Ohio, St. Luke’s church has loved us well – not as competitors, but as co-laborers for the Gospel. Mike and Jeremy Lile (also a priest at St. Luke’s) and I have attended workshops on missional communities and how to successfully incorporate them as the DNA of a church, discussed planting churches across the region (including medina county), and have seen St. Luke’s doing a lot of the Gospel initiates that I would like us to do someday do in Medina. I saw them doing and talking about doing a lot of what we were doing and talking about doing at Plant Medina and St. George’s… This announcement is making official what our Lord has been bringing together for years now. I believe this partnership will result in helping all of us to make lasting disciples of Jesus Christ in Medina County! Join me in prayer to ensure this indeed happens.
The Road Forward
I’m sure there are many questions about what all this means for the future of our church plant. Let me assure you that we aren’t “starting over” or experiencing a “hostile takeover”, but are merely at the next stage in the Lord’s development of St. George’s as a church plant. The LORD is in control of our work and his Holy Spirit is guiding us in these initial stages as he will when we have a public service launch in the future.
Our affiliations: I (Ryan) am still a presbyter (Priest in the shorthand) canonically resident in the Anglican Church of Rwanda, under the guidance of Bishop Doc Loomis from the Anglican Mission in the Americas. St. George’s is also now under the covering of St. Luke’s ministries as her daughter church, so we should not to be confused as a distinct entity from St. Lukes.
I have explained the nature of this merger in military terms. Back in 2007 I was part of what was once referred to as a “purple mission” in Afghanistan. While I was in the Air Force and strategically was under my Air Force Colonel back at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, I was tactically under the command of the Army while in Afghanistan. It was all about accomplishing our mission! Though some were from the Air Force and others from the Army and Navy, for the sake of missional effectiveness we were one team in Afghanistan.
I recently came across this Proverb below. As I read it for the first time, I sensed the Lord saying that “fast” or “far” are our two options, not only for St. George’s and St. Luke’s, but also for the future of North American Anglicanism.
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together - African Proverb
Lets go far together St. Luke’s and St. George’s!
Where we are at: Right now, we are still in the initial stage as a church plant. While we have had “practice” services, they have been private and have not been advertised. Our work these past 4-5 months has been to recruit interested Christians to help with planting, see where we need more help, learn to worship together, grow and mature in Christ, and make new disciples of Jesus Christ. This will not cease, but will only gain momentum and support as we merge with interested members from St. Luke’s to further work towards making disciples in Medina!
Where we are going: With the merger there will definitely be a season where the two groups can truly grow together as one body. To help foster this unity and to continue to grow (in size and depth) our core group, we will begin having “in-formation” gatherings.
* Our first in-formation gathering will be next Sunday evening, the 26th of February from 5:30-7:00 PM at St. Luke’s ministry center (3810 Ridgewood Road, Copley, OH 44321- across from Copley High School).
These gatherings will be a time for interested members from St. Luke’s as well as St. George’s to gather for prayer, worship, and to hear about what the Lord has been doing in planting a church in Medina. There is no commitment during the first couple of gatherings, but eventually we will begin to focus more on core group development as well as pre-service launch work (spiritual gifts assessments, formation of ministry teams, discerning of mission statement & core values, missional community training and formation, a timeline for a public launch, and all the other details that need to be prayed through and planned out).
I am humbled and filled with wonder by the many ways the Holy Spirit has confirmed the Lord’s work here in Medina. It has become clear to me and others that we cannot (and shall not) do this work apart from His leading. If you or a friend is interested, feeling called to, or if you just curious and want to know what’s going on, then please join us for our first ‘in-formation’ gathering next Sunday night.