Saint Michael the Archangel Orthodox Christian Church , a Western Rite congregation in the Antiochian Archdiocese, hosted The Right Rev. Bishop Basil (Essey), Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America, for its first Divine Liturgy in its new church temple in Park City, KS, on April 7, 2013. This service on the third Sunday in Lent was a significant milestone in the life of the parish which has experienced many challenges and successes in the nine years of its existence.
St. Michael’s began when Fr. John Flora and a group of his former Episcopal parishioners sought to become members of the Orthodox Church. Father John and 37 members were accepted as catechumens by Bishop Basil in the narthex of St. George Orthodox Christian Cathedral in Wichita on Dec. 31, 2003.
During the time St. Michael's parishioners were catechumens, they attended services in the Cathedral and later held morning prayer services in the chapel at St. George. Father John was ordained on Pascha, 2004, and St. Michael’s then celebrated Divine Liturgy in the cathedral chapel until it moved into a rented space of its own in March 2010.
The rental location, a former Episcopal church in Wichita that had been purchased by an art school, was cramped. Sharing the facility with several other businesses had its challenges! In addition, the rent and expenses for the space consumed a sizeable portion of the church’s budget. When the landlord notified St. Michael’s that the rent would increase 20% in April 2013, the parish council decided that it was time to find a new, permanent home.
There were a few church properties for sale in the Wichita area, but most were far larger and more expensive than St. Michael’s could afford. The church even considered purchasing a commercial property or home and re-purposing those properties as a church. Then Dn. BasilAnderson found a listing for a church at 2710 E. 61st St.,N., Park City, a northern suburb of Wichita. The church building is 2,850 square feet, has 40 parking spaces and it sits on a two acre lot.
It was decided that the Park City property was ideal for St. Michael’s. It was in a central location for the membership, and since the neighborhood has several new subdivisions, Park City could prove to be a fertile location to grow the church. While the present building is perfect for the current size of the congregation, there is plenty of land to add on to the church as the need arises.
An offer was made to purchase the property and after a few weeks of negotiation, a selling price was reached. An anonymous donor pledged $50,000 to match contributions from other donors. Within a few short weeks, St. Michael’s was able to put down a $100,000 down payment and obtain a mortgage from a local bank. As a result, the monthly mortgage payment is 40% lower than the rent St. Michael’s previously paid! The church plans to increase its outreach programs and to help support an Alaskan seminary student with the newly available funds.
The closing for the property was scheduled for Monday, April 1, to enable the Baptist congregation to celebrate its Easter services in the building on March 31. Immediately after closing on the property, a moving crew, congregants and some college-age volunteers from the local Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) began moving church property into the church.
With the help of a member who is an interior designer for an architectural firm and many other church members, the process of transfiguring the space into a suitable space for Orthodox worship began. The first Divine Liturgy was held on Wednesday, April 3 and was followed by a potluck dinner and Lenten study program on St. John Cassian. By Sunday, April 7 the new St. Michael the Archangel Church was ready to welcome Bishop Basil.
The church is eagerly anticipating the arrival of a rood screen to be installed between the narthex and sanctuary sometime in June. Several other modifications to the church building are planned, such as changing the steeple to look more Orthodox, and adding a bell tower. The church has plans for both a neighborhood Vacation Bible School program this summer as well as a Christian arts camp. Truly, the parish feels blessed to have been guided by the Holy Spirit and by our Diocese, as it has added members and moved forward in its mission to proclaim the Gospel.