“Please excuse our holy dust—we are Expanding the Kingdom” reads the sign posted at the entrance to Saint John the Evangelist Mission here—a sign that indicates the excitement that fills the air as the community is completing the long-awaited expansion of its facilities.
The community has “come a long way” in the three years since Priest Andre Paez and his family arrived in Tempe. In 2013 there were 16 tithing families; today there are 32 pledging families with a roster of over 100 members, 30 of whom are children.
“I believe the number one reason God has blessed our mission with growth is because our community is so welcoming and hospitable,” says Father Andre. “When people visit they can sense and experience the love and care that people have for one another, and it is something in which they want to share. People are hungering for authentic communion with God and their neighbors, and Saint John’s provides an intimate family environment.”
Another element driving the mission’s growth, adds Father Andre, is the generous OCA Planting Grant which has enabled Father Andre to serve as a full-time priest and pastor. Saint John’s is currently in the second year of its grant.
Numerical growth has raised the need for additional space. Saint John’s meets in an industrial building—in a 2,500 square foot space—for worship and fellowship. However, at their January 2016 annual meeting, the faithful made a faith-filled vote to expand into the adjacent 3,000 square foot office space that had become available.
“The vote was unanimous, and it has been a tremendous blessing for our community,” says Father Andre. “Under the leadership of Subdeacon Steven Robinson, a commercial contractor for over 40 years, and with the help of all the parishioners, the newly acquired space was beautifully remodeled, providing us with a spacious fellowship hall, full kitchen with stove, refrigerator and dishwasher, two Sunday school rooms, a choir room, a children’s recreation and reading room, a teen room, a bookstore and a library, and an office for the priest.”
The next phase of the expansion will take place shortly after Pascha 2016, at which time the original 2,500 square foot space will be converted into a larger sanctuary.
“The new sanctuary space will hold over 250 people comfortably,” says Father Andre. “Our goal will be to fill the space to capacity over the next few years. Then, God willing, we will move on to our next phase—acquiring a permanent ‘home of our own.’”
Follow the growth of Saint John’s on its web site.