Jonesboro is a town located near the Eastern border of Arkansas, with a population of approximately 60,000. From a human standpoint, it’s not the most likely candidate for a traditional Orthodox mission, but for an Orthodox Christian who orders his priorities around Christ and His Church, it makes perfect sense.
They’re building a parish Church in Jonesboro, on South Culberhouse Road. It’s a beautiful building, with a traditional Orthodox façade, a dome, and all the details. Weather has delayed its completion, but it’s slated for a grand opening in the Spring.
The idea was conceived a few years ago, when an Orthodox man born in Greece and raised in Chicago settled in Jonesboro with his American wife. They would travel to Chicago to continue their participation in the Old Calendar parish of Holy Unmercenaries, but as the children grew, it became harder to make the arduous eight-hour trek. Holy Unmercenaries is a parish of mostly Greeks, but it had its beginnings in the ROCOR Cathedral there in the 1960s under Archbishop Seraphim. He was open to the Greek Old Calendarists and lent them a helping hand. Our Church builder thus grew up in a multi-ethnic Orthodox atmosphere. Being married to an American, he also appreciates an English liturgy when one is available.
Unlike many missions that start by a group of people meeting and struggling for years to build a parish, St. Matthew’s Mission is still small in terms of numbers, but its founders discerned a call to build now, establishing a firm foundation for the future. “It may seem unusual but I am going on the premise that ‘if I build it they will come.’ There are a few Greeks here and they are New Calendarists. There are more Russians in the area and I hope to have some 20-30 people over time. The church can hold more, I would say a hundred comfortably. I have been reached by many who are interested and others who are Orthodox and don’t have a place to worship. I am not worried; God will help those He wishes to find us,” he said.
Some might liken it to a Field of Dreams approach to missions (after the 1980s movie starring Kevin Costner) but it seems quite a logical step to take when one has been blessed with the resources and opportunity. Each local mission of our Metropolis starts from a different place, and each circumstance is different. Many Christians in our days are blessed with resources that are wasted on material goods, but if one loves Christ and His Church above all else, how could he not follow in this course?
Once the building is complete, priests will begin to visit on rotation as a core community is established. Within a few years, perhaps a permanent priest will be located. However it unfolds, there will be a local parish for Orthodox to meet together for worship, fellowship, and instruction. Those living in the area who are interested in Orthodoxy are welcome to contact the community for more information, and are invited to check the schedule for the first Divine Liturgy, once it is definitely scheduled. We ask all our readers to pray for this mission and for all those doing missionary work in this vast continent!
Visit St. Matthew the Evangelist Orthodox Mission Church's website for more information.
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