KENT: The Light Church is taking its ministry of compassion to the streets of Kent.
“We look at ourselves as missionaries. If we were missionaries someplace else, we would adapt and see what we could do to meet the needs of the people,” said the Rev. Larry Noel, who serves as co-lead pastor with his wife, Mary. “That’s what we’re doing here. We’re not waiting for people to come to us; we’re going to them.”
The Noels began planting the independent church, at 156 N. Water St., in 2011 and moved to its current location in July 2012. Although the space (about 1,000 square feet) is small, it is sufficient for the 15 to 30 people who typically come to Sunday worship services and the young adults and college students who gather on Mondays and Wednesdays for worship and prayer.
“Our focus goes beyond what we do within the walls of this building, we are more concerned with what goes on outside these walls,” Mary Noel said. “We are here to meet the needs of the community.”
To that end, the church dedicates the last Sunday of each month to feeding those in need via Kent Social Services, which provides food to low-income people in Kent. The Noels and their seven-member leadership team regularly walk the streets, stopping to talk to people at the local restaurants, coffee shops, businesses, homes and on the Kent State University campus.
The Noels’ son, Michael Grimes, 25, leads the 8 p.m. worship services on Mondays and Wednesdays. Monday’s services focus on prayer and intercession. On Wednesdays, the group goes to the KSU campus to evangelize.
“Our time together in worship is a time of intense intercession and teaching. We pray for our community and the campus, and we pray for God to be made known,” Grimes said. “When we’re on campus, we talk to people and pray for them. It gives us a chance to find out what kind of needs the students have and what we can do to help them.”
The emphasis on college students is rooted in a statistic Alpha Omega Campus Ministries highlights: 80 percent of students who enter a secular university with “faith” will leave with it severely distorted or completely lost by the end of four years.
The Light is working to help reverse that trend, said Larry Noel, who has been in pastoral ministry for more than 25 years at several churches, including East Market Street Church of God in Akron.
“We are not a campus ministry, but we want to come alongside other campus ministries to help students overcome the challenges that may threaten their faith,” he said. “The Light is a place for people who want to get out there, reach out to people and meet their needs. We work at a street level. We go where the people are.”
The ministry is based on three principles:
• Spark: worship services, which begin with a meal, at 1:30 p.m. on Sundays. On the last Sunday of each month, the service starts at 11 a.m. to give worshippers time to prepare to serve a hot meal for Kent Social Services.
• Fuel: small “life” groups that meet on and off campus in dorms, homes and other places. The groups provide a place to talk and discuss how the Bible can help guide people through life’s challenges.
• Burn: going out and making a difference in the community by collaborating with local agencies and organizations.
“We came in burning. We went about asking people what they needed us to do. That’s how we started doing the hot meals with Kent Social Services,” Larry Noel said. “Before we had a building, we did prayer walks around the city.”
John Poling, of Northfield Center, got involved in the ministry after joining the Noels on prayer walks. He now is part of the membership team at The Light Church.
“I just came to love what they were doing, and then I came to realize that this is where I’m supposed to be,” Poling said. “People don’t always want to come to church, so sometimes you have to take the church to them. That’s what we’re doing here.”
On Good Friday (March 29), the ministry is sponsoring a screening of The Passion of the Christ at 7 p.m. at the Kent Stage as a gift to the community. Admission is free, with tickets available at the ministry center and Logos Bookstore, 976 W. Main St. Because the film is rated R, children 17 years old and younger will not be permitted without a parent. Tickets can be reserved by calling 330-818-6913 or emailing email@example.com.
“We consider this an outreach to the community,” Larry Noel said. “We think the film is a great way to remember what Christ went through for us.”
More information about The Light Church can be found at www.thelightinkent.com.
Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or firstname.lastname@example.org.