Colette M. Jenkins
Mark D. Hanchett is reminded of his responsibility as a pastor each time he looks at the portrait of Jesus that hangs in his office near the door that leads to the sanctuary at St. John Lutheran Church.
“I look at it every time I get ready to go into the chancel. It is the same picture that my [late] grandfather looked at before preaching during his 67 years as pastor of St. Paul’s in Batavia [N.Y.],” said Hanchett. “He really enjoyed being a servant of Christ. He had a passion for caring for people and sharing the gospel whenever and wherever. He was a wonderful pastor and a wonderful example for me.”
On Sunday, Hanchett, 50, will be ordained and installed as the new pastor of the church. His will be the first ordination in the 105-year history of the church, located on Wilbeth Road at the top of the hill just west of Interstate 77.
Hanchett, a second-career pastor, has spent the past year serving the parish as a vicar, or intern. The internship was part of his training to become a pastor in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. He completed his resident studies at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. The goal of the yearlong internship was to give him practical experience to complement his classroom studies.
During the past year, the Rev. John Eiwen, retired pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in downtown Akron, supervised Hanchett.
Eiwen said he knew Hanchett was right for the job when they first met.
“He’s just a very friendly, outgoing person who enjoys working with the people of the church to reach out to the community to share the gospel of Jesus,” Eiwen said. “The goal was to, if everything worked out, have him become pastor after a year. The people love him, and I certainly give him my wholehearted support and approval. It’s going to be a smooth transition.”
Before entering the seminary in 2010, Hanchett, a civil engineer, worked as a surveyor, draftsman, construction site manager, assistant and general project manager, site planner and client liaison.
His engineering career took him from his native Buffalo, N.Y., to Peoria, Ariz. Along the way, as a lifelong Lutheran, he was actively involved in the church.
While in Arizona, he was licensed as a deacon in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and served his home church and others in the Phoenix area. He also served as an instructor in the denomination’s Pacific Southwest District’s Lay Leadership Program.
As a seminarian, he served at Concordia Lutheran Church in Kirkwood, Mo. He also gained experience working in deaf and adult-care ministries and as an assistant chaplain with Lutheran Senior Services.
Hanchett began his internship at St. John on Aug. 1, 2012. The congregation called him as their pastor on May 1.
Mark Hohl, president of the local congregation, said Hanchett has brought new energy to the church.
“People are excited. You can already tell the difference in attitudes. There has been a real connection between him and the congregation since he arrived,” Hohl said. “The congregation has embraced his family, and he really enjoys being here.”
Hanchett and his wife, Kathy, have been married more than 24 years. They have three children: Kaitlyn, 23, who is studying to become a science teacher at Concordia University in Austin, Texas; Craig, 20, who is deployed on the USS Truman as an aviation mechanic with the U.S. Marine Corps; and Jacob, 16, a junior at Ellet High School.
The special ordination and installation service is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at the church, 550 E. Wilbeth Road. Eiwen will lead the service, and the message will be delivered by the Rev. David Belasic, former pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Cuyahoga Falls and former president of the Eastern District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.
The Rev. Terry Cripe, president of the denomination’s Ohio District, will conduct the ordination and installation.
“We knew as soon as we got here that this was home for us. We were warmly welcomed and could feel the love of God being extended through the people,” Hanchett said. “We have already begun to make some connections in the community and look forward to pooling our resources and working with other churches and organizations to share the gospel.
“This is where God has put me, and I will be his hands, feet and voice.”
For more information about St. John, call 330-773-4128 or go to www.stjohnlutheran-akron.org.
Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or firstname.lastname@example.org. She can be followed at www.twitter.com/ColetteMJenkins.