Formed in September 2002 as Saint Sophia Orthodox Church, Saint Nicholas of Myra Church here was received into the Diocese of the Midwest of the Orthodox Church in America in 2009. Served by Priest Joshua Lollar since June 2011, the community is one of several receiving Church Planting Grants through the OCA Department of Evangelization. The parish has made steady growth and the faithful are in the process of constructing a chapel to accommodate the growing number of faithful.
“We continue to improve our new property and worship space,” Father Joshua added. “During a break in the cold weather, members helped clear debris from the property, filling a 40 cubic yard container (the second one so far!) with the remains of years of neglect. We’ve also started the process of clearing some of the over- and undergrowth on our 2 acres of woodland. We are in the early stages of putting together a building vision and are working with a builder from New England who builds beautiful and elegantly simple wood barns and homes to design an authentic Orthodox temple that will fit in to our context here in Lawrence.”
Parishioners hope “to effect a translation of Orthodox architecture into a natural American vernacular and we think we’ve found the person to help us do that,” said Father Joshua. “We are using traditional Georgian Orthodox churches as models for our design because they resonate with certain key aspects of the American barn vernacular.”
The faithful have been involved in a number of other ministries and activities.
“In January 2014, we celebrated an extremely cold Theophany and outdoor Great Blessing of Water,” said Father Joshua. “The faithful braved the elements to go down to the Kansas River, which flows through the north part of Lawrence, for the blessing. All the Kansas City area Orthodox Churches gathered two weeks later on Old Calendar Theophany for the Great Blessing of Waters at Kaw Point, the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers, where Lewis and Clark once stopped during their explorations. This is a yearly sign of Orthodox unity in the Kansas City area.”
Father Joshua has also been involved in starting a Late Vocations and Catechist training program in conjunction with Holy Trinity Church, Overland Park, KS, under the auspices of the Midwest Diocese’s Late Vocations program.
“This is a three-year program of instruction in liturgy, spirituality, theology, Church history, and pastoral care,” explains Father Joshua. “We have 12 students in the initial class and meet three hours per week.”
Father Joshua also has been involved in the early planning stages to form an ecumenical social justice ministry in Lawrence to address structural components of inequality and oppression in the area.
Currently the faithful gather for worship and fellowship at 1301 Iowa Street, Lawrence, KS. Visit the parish’s web site at www.saintnicholaschurch.net.