LIMA, OH [MW Diocese Communications] -- Archpriest Mark Hodges and the faithful of Saint Stephen the First Martyr Church here welcomed His Grace, Bishop Matthias, for his first archpastoral visit to the community the weekend of January 14-15, 2012. Photo gallery here.
During the Divine Liturgy, Bishop Matthias tonsured Joshua Hodges and Jonathan Wey to the order of Reader. He also elevated Reader Joshua to the order of Subdeacon.
The history of Saint Stephen parish is unique. Located in a metropolitan area with a population of over 150,000 people, Lima had no Orthodox presence until February 1995. A that time, through the impetus of Dayton’s Saint Paul the Apostle Church, led by Archpriest Ted Bobosh and Les Homan, over 150 letters were sent throughout the Lima area to determine interest in starting an Orthodox Christian mission. Simultaneously, Father Mark Hodges had met with His Eminence, Archbishop Job, to discuss future ministry and mission opportunities in the region. At that meeting, he mentioned that Lima might be a possible place of ministry.
In November 1995, Archpriest Daniel Rentel, Dean of the Columbus Deanery, unexpectedly received an inquiry into Orthodoxy from the Lima area. In response, he authorized contacts to be pursued and Vesper services to be conducted. The deanery contributed $100.00 “seed money” for advertising costs. A progress report was to be made in less than two months. A plan was quickly established to meet people in homes, visit area campuses, meet area pastors and journalists, and to search for a fitting place to gather for worship. As interest increased, the fledgling mission was offered space at Christ Episcopal Church, where they began to meet.
On December 21, 1995, thirty-four people gathered in the rented facility for an Advent Vesper service. Most attendees were not Orthodox, but were seekers interested in embracing Orthodox Christianity. Several Orthodox Christian individuals and families also attended.
The first Divine Liturgy was celebrated in March 1996, with 49 individuals, Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike, in attendance. By December 1996, Father Mark, his wife Donna, and their children moved to Lima. Father Mark began to celebrate the full cycle of liturgical services in a larger facility -- the Lima YMCA.
In January 1999, the community was granted mission status and was named in honor of Saint Stephen the First Martyr. The community once again sought a larger rented facility, which enabled it to expand its ministries and activities.
In March 2004, Father Mark and the faithful were abruptly informed that the building in which they had been meeting had been sold, which led to renting two additional facilities. Ultimately -- and according to Father Mark "miraculously" -- two small parcels of prime real estate were donated to the mission, on which th current chapel was built. The faithful have gathered therein since November 2005.
Over the years, Father Mark and the faithful of Saint Stephen's have labored tirelessly to build up the parish while maintaining a high-profile within the broader community. Most recently, it hosted a conference on Islam, which attracted many individuals who otherwise might not have encountered Orthodox Christianity.
Visit the mission's web site at www.orthodoxlima.org for additional information -- and inspiration!