Church moves for­ward de­spite chal­lenges

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Front Page - By Jean Bon­chak For The News-Her­ald For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www. saint luke or­tho­dox church. org.

A small but ded­i­cated group of An­ti­ochian Or­tho­dox Chris­tians have been work­ing for 19 years to es­tab­lish a church.

A small but ded­i­cated group of An­ti­ochian Or­tho­dox Chris­tians have been work­ing for 19 years to es­tab­lish a church to serve its mem­bers as well as oth­ers liv­ing in east­ern Cuya­hoga and west­ern Geauga coun­ties.

The en­deavor to in­sti­tute a per­ma­nent home for St. Luke the Evan­ge­list An­ti­ochian Or­tho­dox Church has faced sev­eral chal­lenges since 2000. That was the year ap­proval was re­ceived from a Pri­mate of the An­ti­ochian Or­tho­dox Chris­tian Dio­cese of North Amer­ica to ex­plore in­ter­est for a new place of wor­ship.

“At that time those liv­ing in the Solon, Cha­grin Falls, Twins­burg and West­ern Geauga coun­ties trav­eled to Or­tho­dox churches in Men­tor, Cleve­land Heights, North Roy­al­ton, Maple Heights, Akron, Youngstown or down­town Cleve­land to at­tend church,” said Anne Thomas, a mem­ber of St. Luke’s church who lives in Bent­leyville.

The need for a church closer to home was ev­i­dent to Thomas and oth­ers. How­ever, cost was an is­sue.

“We were so small,” Thomas said. “In or­der to build you need to raise a lot of money.”

By 2002 suf­fi­cient funds were made avail­able to pur­chase six acres of prop­erty with fu­ture plans to build a church and hall.

Dur­ing the in­terim ser­vices took place in Cha­grin Falls Mid­dle School Cafe­te­ria, Ur­su­line Col­lege Chapel in Pep­per Pike and other lo­cales, but parish­ioners be­lieved that a church in the tra­di­tional Or­tho­dox style would at­tract more mem­bers.

In 2006 the par­ish moved to St. John Byzan­tine Catholic Church in Solon where it shared space with that con­gre­ga­tion. Thomas noted that the Byzan­tine style sur­round­ings boosted the spirit of St. Luke’s mem­bers.

A few years later Rev. Matthew Thur­man moved from Colorado with his wife and chil­dren to serve as a full-time per­ma­nent priest for St. Luke’s con­gre­ga­tion.

In 2010, the par­ish chose to move to a build­ing in Cha­grin Falls that was owned by a Greek Or­tho­dox man.

“The thought was that a per­ma­nent space that could be used when­ever needed would help peo­ple un­der­stand that the church was per­ma­nent as we grew mem­ber­ship and raised money to build,” Thomas said.

In 2018 that prop­erty was sold and St. Luke’s parish­ioners re­turned to St. John Byzan­tine.

Soon af­ter a build­ing at 18060 Chilli­cothe Road in Bain­bridge Town­ship was put up for sale. It once housed the orig­i­nal Holy An­gels Par­ish and New Life Fel­low­ship Church.

St. Luke’s Par­ish pur­chased the 5,000-square­foot build­ing for $599,000, about half the cost of build­ing a new church.

Util­i­ties were trans­ferred into the church’s name on Jan. 28 with the le­gal trans­fer of the prop­erty oc­cur­ring the next day.

On the day of the prop­erty trans­fer, with tem­per­a­tures in the sin­gle dig­its and drop­ping, the gas was shut off by a util­ity com­pany caus­ing the wa­ter pipes to freeze and burst, in­cur­ring dam­age to the build­ing.

While le­gal is­sues are sorted out and cleanup takes place, the St. Luke con­gre­ga­tion is mak­ing plans.

“We be­lieve we can make the sanc­tu­ary Byzan­tine style and we be­lieve we can use it as a church home un­til we are able to build a church with domes,” Thomas said. “Our hope is that once we’re es­tab­lished in this new church build­ing and have a per­ma­nent church school for our chil­dren, that we will at­tract Or­tho­dox fam­i­lies and con­verts who are look­ing for the Or­tho­dox church.”

They’re hop­ing for do­na­tions from churches that have closed. Items such as can­dle stands and a bap­tismal font are needed.

“Our hope is that once we’re es­tab­lished in this new church build­ing and have a per­ma­nent church school for our chil­dren, that we will at­tract Or­tho­dox fam­i­lies and con­verts who are look­ing for the Or­tho­dox church.” — Anne Thomas, a mem­ber of St. Luke’s church

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