As I mentioned earlier, Father David spoke about our mission on the Come Receive the Light Radio program in July. Here’s a transcript of the segment (from 2:36 to 8:36 in the program) that featured Saint Athanasius Orthodox Church:
“The Orthodox church is to us the last hope for Americans who hunger for classical Christianity in all of its power and all of its fullness.”
Announcer: Reverend David Rucker is the priest in charge at a relatively new church planted just outside Lexington, Kentucky in Nicholasville and, as the directions on their website say, only a couple of blocks from the Dairy Queen. [chuckles] Sounds nice to me. Church growth is a primary emphasis for the Orthodox church in the twenty-first century and Father Rucker shared his passion for expanding the church in a phone conversation recently with Emmy.
Host Emmy Louvaris: What was the motivation for planting an Orthodox church in Nicholasville, Kentucky?
Father David: Ah, well, Emmy, first of all we didn’t plan on planting that first OCA parish in Kentucky. The work here was a surprise to us. I think it was the fruit of what God was doing in our own personal lives. We were on a pilgrimage and we found out where we were going and then we stubbornly stuck to it and others seemed to appear almost out of nowhere who decided that they wanted to go there too. The Orthodox church is to us the last hope for Americans who hunger for classical Christianity in all of its power and all of its fullness.
I’m reminded of this every week by those learning the faith in our parish—the catechumens or inquirers who visit our services:
One Sunday a man came up to me after the Sunday morning liturgy and he began to interrogate me in the back of the church in the narthex. He said “How long has the Orthodox church existed?”
I told him that this was the church of the apostles and it went all the back to the book of Acts.
He looked at me sternly and he said “Well, how long has the Orthodox church been in America?”
I said, “Well, the first missionaries came to Alaska in the late 1700s.” And then I began to really get nervous because as a missionary my instincts were kicking in and I thought I knew where he might be going.
And then he asked, “Well, would you please explain to me why this is the first time I have ever had the opportunity to hear what I’ve heard this morning about God. This news about the incarnation, the death, the resurrection, and the ascension, all that God has done to have communion with me.” He said, “I’m over 50 years old. Why hasn’t anyone told me this before?”
[Sighs] I have to say that my answers were pretty lame. And really I, I just, made some excuses that morning and then I went back to my study and I sat for a long time.
You know, this is why we’re planting a mission church. In fact, we’ve just welcomed back our first short term missionary from Romania even though our parish is just two years old as an OCA parish. We’re committed not only to being a mission but to being missionaries—the entire church. And this is the nature of the church. As Archbishop Anastasios likes to say this is the very DNA of what it means to be church.
Emmy: So tell us about your vision for the mission.
Father David: We’re not interested in building a mega church. We like being a local community and even a walking distance church, if possible. And so our vision is not only to plant the mission here just south of Lexington in the heart of the bluegrass, but already on a map in back of my desk we have pinpoints, and we’d like to work with all of the Orthodox churches — the other four orthodox churches, we only have five in the whole state of Kentucky serving nearly 3 million people — our hope is to work with our other churches and to plant new churches in other parts of the state and we have our eyes on those areas.
And then, aside from numerical growth and all of that, which is good and a healthy sign of a healthy and a growing church, we’re really committed to the spiritual formation and serving in the lives of each one of our families and our people. We have wonderful foundation stones here at Saint Athanasius Orthodox church. Of course that’s what it’s about: the priest can’t do anything alone. The priest and the people along with their bishop form the orchestra that plays the music of God. So we have a grand vision here — nothing which could be accomplished in our lifetime, [chuckles] but I don’t guess anything worth doing could ever be accomplished in one lifetime.
Emmy: Well, thank you so much. Thank you for all that great information.
Father David: Yes, Emmy, please pray for our work here in Kentucky. And we ask all of your listeners to, too, for the work, this work. Please visit us, if you can. We’re in the heart of the bluegrass of Kentucky just south of Lexington in Nicholasville. To find out more you can call us at (859) 881-8144 or visit our website at AthanasiusOCA.org. We have a very full schedule of weekly services, and we have guests at every service. All are welcome, especially Orthodox Christians who visit us—they’re a tremendous encouragement to mission work. So plan your vacations and that sort of thing to stop in and encourage a mission in your area.
Announcer: That’s a great recommendation. Again, that was Reverend David Rucker of Saint Athanasius Church in Nicholasville, Kentucky and their website is AthanasiusOCA.org. And the phone number once more is (859) 881-8144.