Saturday, January 12, 2002

Faith Matters

Church is traditional and activist

By Richelle Thompson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The passenger seat of a Toyota RAV4 holds the Rev. Rob Matheus' filing cabinet, a briefcase stuffed with papers, Scripture lessons and dreams for a different kind of church.

        A year ago, the Rev. Matheus, 48, served a small Episcopal church in Cynthiana, outside of Lexington, and co-owned a healing arts clinic and wellness center.

        He felt the call to return to full-time ministry and wanted the right fit.

        About the same time, members of St. Timothy Episcopal Church in Anderson Township were considering planting a new church. The congregation was fresh from an eight-year period when Sunday attendance doubled to about 425.

        “We wanted to give away what we had experienced,” says the Rev. Roger Greene, of St. Timothy's. “We wanted to help another congregation grow.”

        Members of the Lord of Peace Episcopal Church came to St. Timothy's, asking for help.

        Founded in 1981, Lord of Peace never took off. Attendance languished at 35 to 40 people for 20 years, despite being the only Episcopal church in the county.

        The Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio decided to restart Lord of Peace, with the help of a handful of St. Timothy members, who would lend leadership and expertise. The Rev. Matheus moved to the Cincinnati area in July to become vicar of the newly named Church of the Good Samaritan.

        The Rev. Matheus hopes to tap into a public hungry for both traditional liturgy and contemporary social justice activism. Already, the congregation plans to get involved with a low-income housing outreach. It also will focus on incorporating healing and wellness issues into the ministry.

        “We are going about this very differently,” says the Rev. Matheus.

        The congregation worshiped for the first time as Church of the Good Samaritan in December. Members will launch a media campaign next week with radio ads, a billboard and mass mailings.

        On Jan. 19, the Rt. Rev. Kenneth Price Jr., bishop suffragan of the diocese, will perform a Celebration of New Ministry and officially launch the new mission.

        It's fitting the service falls during the international Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which runs Jan. 18-25. Not only is another Episcopal church helping establish the Church of the Good Samaritan, but a United Methodist congregation is lending a hand, too.

        Summerside United Methodist opened its doors for Good Samaritan to hold worship services on Saturday evenings.

        “All of us have been there at one time or another,” says the Rev. Dr. Tom Rand, of Summerside. “To help another church sprout, blossom and grow is an opportunity we can have to share with them and help them expand on the mission of the church.”

        Plus, he says, it's payback.

        “The Methodist church evolved out of the basements of old Anglican churches in England, so this is our opportunity to welcome them into our worship space and help them develop into a thriving community of faith.”

        Church of the Good Samaritan worships at 5 p.m. at Summerside United Methodist Church, 638 Old State Route 74. It also holds Sunday services in members' homes. Information: 513-753-4115,

        Send religion news to or contact Richelle Thompson at 513-755-4144, 755-4150 (fax).


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