Saint John of Chicago Mission was planted in 2011 when a group of Orthodox Christians in Northwest Arkansas contacted Archpriest John Maxwell to explore the possibility of starting an OCA mission.
“Services began with 18 adults gathering in the basement of Carl and Ginger Staff’s home,” said Priest John Wehling, Priest-in-Charge at Saint John’s since 2014. “Soon thereafter the mission relocated to a strip mall located approximately five miles outside of Rogers. In the winter of 2015 we were able to purchase a building in town.”
Since its inception, the mission has more than doubled in membership.
“Most of our growth has thus far been through the arrival of Orthodox Christians into the area, which is one of the fastest growing regions in the country,” explained Father John. “Situated in the beautiful Ozark mountains, Northwest Arkansas is known for its natural beauty, trails, lakes and rivers, as well as a magnificent museum of American art and numerous arts and crafts fairs.”
The majority of the members of the mission, Father John added, are adult converts to the Orthodox faith and their children.
“We also have received new members traditionally Orthodox countries, as well as retired Orthodox Christians who have moved into the area—it’s been listed by Forbes as one of the best places in the US to retire due to factors such as climate and the low cost of living,” Father John added. “And most recently, we have seen an increase in the number of lapsed Orthodox Christians living in Northwest Arkansas returning to the Orthodox Faith at Saint John’s.”
All of that being said, Father John in quick to add, life in a mission is never easy or settled.
“While we are thankful for our building, our present location will not be suitable for the long-term growth and sustainability of the Orthodox Church here,” Father John noted. “We need to be more visible. And, given the fluid nature of the corporate environment today, we face the real possibility that some of our members will be transferred eventually. But we are thankful to God for our continued growth, and we are especially thankful for the Orthodox Church in America Planting Grant, which we are receiving for the first time in 2018, which is helping us through this transitional period. The Grant will, we hope, assist us in establishing a solid foundation for the Orthodox Church in Northwest Arkansas for generations to come.”
Visit Saint John of Chicago Mission’s website to follow the community’s growth and recent activities.