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A historic church with a living mission

Invested in the city of Canton from the very beginning

a vision that captivates us...

The whole body of Christ in Canton, perpetually growing in health and unity, creating the conditions for spiritual and cultural renewal throughout the city. 

a mission that animates us...

Cultivating relationships and work that embody and extend the good news of God's kingdom for the sake of others and the city of Canton.
Story
The history that shapes us
Beliefs
The convictions that guide us
Team
The people who lead us
1805-1835 

First Generation 

Founded in 1805, Canton’s first European inhabitants were primarily Germans of Reformed and Lutheran heritage who were migrating west from Pennsylvania and Maryland.

As early as 1806, Rev. John Staugh, a Lutheran minister, and John Peter Mahnenschmidt, who served several Reformed congregations, paid visits to Canton as circuit-riding preachers. Their visits inspired the people of Canton to construct a modest church building on the 500 block of West Tuscarawas which became known as Union Church since it served both congregations from 1810-1823. 

In 1818, Rev. Benjamin Faust became the Reformed Church’s first resident minister, serving until 1832. The principal event of Rev. Faust’s pastorate was the relocation of the church in 1823. A new site was bought a half mile east of the original edifice on the 900 block of East Tuscarawas, and the second Union building was erected. 

Peter Herbruck, who was to serve the church for more than fifty years as its pastor and to play a vital part in Canton’s religious life, began his ministry here in 1832.

1836 – 1861 

Second Generation 

In 1837, as a desire for English-speaking services was growing, a group of members from the Reformed congregation united with a similar group from the Lutheran Church, and organized a new English-speaking church, Trinity Lutheran. Around the same time, Rev. Dr. Herbruck actively cooperated in establishing the first Theological Seminary in Canton. 

The 1830’s and the 1840’s were marked by two major and related national trends: the Temperance Movement and the Second Great Awakening. Both trends impacted the city of Canton in profound ways. Steadfast through these turbulent times, Rev. Herbruck sought to lead from a place of fidelity to Scripture and the longstanding traditions of the Church. As a result, he emerged as an outstanding religious leader in the State of Ohio.

The building of the Pittsburgh-Fort Wayne railroad through Canton in 1851 brought industry, jobs, and another wave of German and Swiss immigrants. Membership in the church grew quickly, and Union Church was bursting at the seams. In 1858, as it became apparent that the two congregations would grow into their own identities, Rev. Herbruck took it upon himself to raise the money for a new church building. 

1862 – 1887 

Third Generation 

On account of a close personal friendship between Rev. Herbruck and Rev. Fr. John Baptist Uhlman, pastor of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, all the lumber for the new building was donated by a local Catholic man, Andrew Meyer. The new church building was dedicated in October 1862 under the name Jerusalem’s Reformed Church. The steeple reached 145 feet, the tallest structure in Canton. Beside the church building, a schoolhouse was also constructed and maintained by the church for many years. 

In 1871, amid increasing calls for English-speaking services, a second Reformed Church was organized. This congregation, Trinity Reformed Church, worshipped for a year in the mother church before constructing its own building just down the road. In 1914 the Trinity congregation relocated to Market Avenue North and 6th Street. Today, this congregation exists as Trinity UCC and worships at the intersection of Blackburn and Fulton Roads. 

In 1886, Rev. Dr. John B. Rust succeeded Rev. Herbruck as the church’s fourth pastor. In just three years, Rev. Rust introduced the first English-speaking services on Sunday evenings, created the first written record of church members, corrected clear patterns of the abuse of alcohol which had become part of the church’s culture, and oversaw several major additions and improvements to church property.

1888 – 1913 

Fourth Generation 

With thirty years of pastoral experience, Rev. Dr. Frederick Stassner was called by the church in 1890. He oversaw the building of a parsonage on the east side of the building and instigated the founding of “A Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor” as well as a “Junior Society,” both of which instilled a vision of servant leadership in young people. 

In 1896, Rev. Frederick C. Nau became the church’s sixth pastor. In order to secure funds to build more space for the growing congregation and Sunday School, the church was legally incorporated in 1897 under the new name, “The First German Reformed Church of Canton, Ohio.” In 1899, a major addition to the west end of the building was dedicated, the basement was remodeled as a social and dining hall, and memorial stained-glass windows were added to the sanctuary thanks to the Frauenverein, a society of German-American women organized to provide relief of widows, orphans, and the sick.

1902 saw the creation of “The Woman’s Missionary Society,” and in 1906 Andrew Carnegie contributed half the cost toward the purchase of a new organ, with the other half coming from memorials and congregational donations.

Rev. Dr. Theodore P. Bolliger was called by the church in 1907, becoming the church’s seventh pastor. Rev. Bolliger’s pastorate began with the addition of English services on alternate Sunday mornings.

1914 - 1939 

Fifth Generation 

In 1914, the church began to partner with other congregations in purchasing land and committing both finances and people to plant new churches, such as Lowell Reformed church (1917), and to start other local missionary endeavors.

In 1917, Rev. Bolliger published “History of the First Reformed Church in Canton, Ohio.” This book constitutes an invaluable record of the first one hundred years of the church’s life. Rev. Bolliger concluded his ministry at the church in September of 1919.

The church’s eighth pastor, Rev. Dr. R.W. Blemker, was called in 1920. In the summer of that year, the church published its inaugural edition of The Helper, a monthly publication meant to connect, inform, and equip the congregation, something it continues to do one hundred years later! 

In 1926, the congregation launched construction of “The Parish House” on church grounds. This building was to be used for the rapidly expanding Sunday School program, as well as other educational, recreational, and social purposes. 

Historically, in 1934, the Reformed Church in the United States merged with the Evangelical Synod of North America to form the Evangelical and Reformed Church, a joint body of 850,000 people. As a result, the church changed its name to, “First Evangelical and Reformed Church.”

1940 – 1965 

Sixth Generation 

As German speaking services were eliminated during World War II and sensing the need for younger leadership, Rev. Blemker resigned in May of 1946 and two months later, Rev. Dr. Karl Koepke accepted a call to become the church’s ninth pastor. Under his leadership, the church’s already generous posture toward needs throughout the broader body of Christ and in the world grew to an even greater degree. This was expressed in making sacrificial contributions to the building of senior living homes, orphanages, and discipleship programs. Additionally, the church participated in relief efforts to war-stricken countries by sending clothes, shoes, and finances to aid with rebuilding projects. 

Through the generous donation of church members, the “Evangelist” stained glass windows were installed in the north wall of the sanctuary in 1948. Additional stained-glass windows were installed around the second story of the sanctuary as memorials to loved ones. 

In 1951, the church helped to purchase land on Market Ave. North between 31st and 32nd Streets to help establish Market Heights Mission Church. 

In 1959, after several years of development, there was a merger between the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Church. This merger represented over eight thousand churches and two million people. As a result, the church’s name was changed to “First United Church of Christ.”

1966 – 1991 

Seventh Generation 

Rev. Koepke, to whom the Memorial Chapel was dedicated in 1979, ended his ministry at the church in 1975. In 1976, Rev. Dr. Paul Carmany became the church’s tenth pastor. Under Rev. Carmany and his conviction that “the good news cannot ignore suffering,” the church’s food ministry was transformed from a hallway closet to the 901 Food and Clothing Ministry, utilizing the former parsonage as a distribution site for the Stark County Hunger Task Force and operating a weekly clothing sale that was operated by members of the congregation and the community.

In 1987, Rev. Dr. Cliff Price became the church’s eleventh pastor. During his thirteen years of leadership, the congregation formed a missions committee that expanded the church’s engagement with mission locally and globally. The church also increased its social gatherings and fundraising efforts for ministry and mission partners such as Habitat for Humanity, through which it participated in several house building projects in Southeast Canton. It was also during this time that many members of the congregation participated in Walk to Emmaus, a three-day experience of Christian spiritual renewal and formation that God used to bring a fresh sense of life and vitality to the church.

1992 – 2017 

Eighth Generation 

As Rev. Price’s ministry ended in 2000, Rev. Bill Seymour was called from his role as Youth and Associate Pastor to serve as the church’s twelfth pastor. In 2002, as an expression of its commitment to downtown Canton, the church launched a major renovation that included interior upgrades, a new entranceway and gathering space to better accommodate visitors, and an addition for office and classroom space. 

In January 2005, the congregation voted to part ways with the United Church of Christ, becoming an independent, non-denominational church under the name, “First Church of the Resurrection.” Rev. Dr. Bruce Mont was called as the church’s thirteenth pastor later that year.   In 2010, the church celebrated its two hundred year anniversary. During Rev. Mont’s pastorate, the Constitution and Bylaws were updated and a new leadership structure was adopted for the spiritual leadership of the church, with an emphasis on outreach and evangelism. In 2016 a wooden cross was dedicated in the far west parking area to mark out a sacred space for neighbors and passersby.

2018 - now 

Ninth Generation 

In 2018, as Rev. Mont concluded thirteen years of ministry, the congregation made two major decisions concerning its future. First, as new questions arose over the church’s viability in downtown Canton, the congregation again voted to remain, believing that God had more in store for its life in this place. One expression of this was the church’s willingness to donate several parcels of land to Refuge of Hope for the construction of a new men’s shelter and meal ministry.

Around the same time, the congregation was approached by RiverTree Christian Church about partnering to found a community development and leadership initiative. Sensing the leading of the Holy Spirit, First Church of the Resurrection donated its building to RiverTree, helping to found The One Center for Leadership.

In 2019 the church took another step of faith, calling Rev. Dr. JR and Rev. Amy Rozko to serve as Co-Lead Pastors. As the church’s fourteenth pastorate, this call represented an embrace of a style of leadership that the church had never known in its more than two-hundred-year history.

2020 was an era-defining year in the United States and around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic brought massive forms of disruption in all facets of life, especially church life. From March 2020 through March 2021, the congregation gathered for worship virtually and in parking lot services. In-person services resumed Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021.

At the most fundamental level, our identity is rooted in the Great Tradition of historic Christianity and so we fully affirm the Apostle's Creed:

The Apostles' Creed:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

We also operate out of a particular context and history as a local church. How we have understood ourselves, the way we have articulated our core beliefs, and how we have structured our life as a congregation are set forth in our current Constitution & Bylaws.
Beyond these, we also joyfully see ourselves as participants in global evangelicalism as a movement and heartily embrace the 2010 Cape Town Commitment: A Confession of Faith and a Call to Action.

The Cape town Confession of faith:

The mission of God flows from the love of God. The mission of God’s people flows from our love for God and for all that God loves. World evangelization is the outflow of God’s love to us and through us. We affirm the primacy of God’s grace and we then respond to that grace by faith, demonstrated through the obedience of love. We love because God first loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.[1]

We affirm that such comprehensive biblical love should be the defining identity and hallmark of disciples of Jesus. In response to the prayer and command of Jesus, we long that it should be so for us. Sadly we confess that too often it is not. So we re-commit ourselves afresh to make every effort to live, think, speak and behave in ways that express what it means to walk in love – love for God, love for one another and love for the world.

Read more here.

[1] Galatians 5:6; John 14:21; 1 John 4:9,19

Our God whom we love reveals himself in the Bible as the one, eternal, living God who governs all things according to his sovereign will and for his saving purpose. In the unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God alone is the Creator, Ruler, Judge and Saviour of the world.[2] So we love God – thanking him for our place in creation, submitting to his sovereign providence, trusting in his justice, and praising him for the salvation he has accomplished for us.

Read more here.

[2] Deuteronomy 4:35, 39; Psalm 33:6-9; Jeremiah 10:10-12; Deuteronomy 10:14; Isaiah 40:22-24; Psalm 33:10-11, 13-15; Psalm 96:10-13; Psalm 36:6; Isaiah 45:22

Through Jesus Christ, God’s Son, – and through him alone as the way, the truth and the life – we come to know and love God as Father. As the Holy Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children, so we cry the words Jesus prayed, ‘Abba, Father’, and we pray the prayer Jesus taught, ‘Our Father’. Our love for Jesus, proved by obeying him, is met by the Father’s love for us as the Father and the Son make their home in us, in mutual giving and receiving of love.[3] This intimate relationship has deep biblical foundations.

Read more here.

[3] John 14:6; Romans 8:14-15; Matthew 6:9; John 14:21-23

God commanded Israel to love the LORD God with exclusive loyalty. Likewise for us, loving the Lord Jesus Christ means that we steadfastly affirm that he alone is Saviour, Lord and God. The Bible teaches that Jesus performs the same sovereign actions as God alone. Christ is Creator of the universe, Ruler of history, Judge of all nations and Saviour of all who turn to God.[4] He shares the identity of God in the divine equality and unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Just as God called Israel to love him in covenantal faith, obedience and servant-witness, we affirm our love for Jesus Christ by trusting in him, obeying him, and making him known.

Read more here.

[4] John 1:3; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; Hebrews 1:2; Colossians 1:15-17; Psalm 110:1; Mark 14:61-64; Ephesians 1:20-23; Revelation 1:5; 3:14; 5:9-10; Romans 2:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:9-12; Matthew 1:21; Luke 2:30; Acts 4:12; 15:11; Romans 10:9; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 2:10; 5:9; 7:25; Revelation 7:10

We love the Holy Spirit within the unity of the Trinity, along with God the Father and God the Son. He is the missionary Spirit sent by the missionary Father and the missionary Son, breathing life and power into God’s missionary Church. We love and pray for the presence of the Holy Spirit because without the witness of the Spirit to Christ, our own witness is futile. Without the convicting work of the Spirit, our preaching is in vain. Without the gifts, guidance and power of the Spirit, our mission is mere human effort. And without the fruit of the Spirit, our unattractive lives cannot reflect the beauty of the gospel.

Read more here.

We love God’s Word in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, echoing the joyful delight of the Psalmist in the Torah, ‘I love your commands more than gold… Oh how I love your law.’ We receive the whole Bible as the Word of God, inspired by God’s Spirit, spoken and written through human authors. We submit to it as supremely and uniquely authoritative, governing our belief and our behaviour. We testify to the power of God’s Word to accomplish his purpose of salvation. We affirm that the Bible is the final written word of God, not surpassed by any further revelation, but we also rejoice that the Holy Spirit illumines the minds of God’s people so that the Bible continues to speak God’s truth in fresh ways to people in every culture. [5]

Read more here.

[5] Psalm 119:47, 97; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:21

We share God’s passion for his world, loving all that God has made, rejoicing in God’s providence and justice throughout his creation, proclaiming the good news to all creation and all nations, and longing for the day when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.[6]

Read more here.

[6] Psalm 145:9, 13, 17; Psalm 104:27-30; Psalm 50:6; Mark 16:15; Colossians 1:23; Matthew 28:17-20; Habakkuk 2:14

As disciples of Jesus, we are gospel people. The core of our identity is our passion for the biblical good news of the saving work of God through Jesus Christ. We are united by our experience of the grace of God in the gospel and by our motivation to make that gospel of grace known to the ends of the earth by every possible means.

Read more here.

The people of God are those from all ages and all nations whom God in Christ has loved, chosen, called, saved and sanctified as a people for his own possession, to share in the glory of Christ as citizens of the new creation. As those, then, whom God has loved from eternity to eternity and throughout all our turbulent and rebellious history, we are commanded to love one another. For ‘since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another,’ and thereby ‘be imitators of God…and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.’ Love for one another in the family of God is not merely a desirable option but an inescapable command. Such love is the first evidence of obedience to the gospel, the necessary expression of our submission to Christ’s Lordship, and a potent engine of world mission. [7]

Read more here.

[7] 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14;1 John 4:11; Ephesians 5:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 4:9-10; John 13:35

We are committed to world mission, because it is central to our understanding of God, the Bible, the Church, human history and the ultimate future. The whole Bible reveals the mission of God to bring all things in heaven and earth into unity under Christ, reconciling them through the blood of his cross. In fulfilling his mission, God will transform the creation broken by sin and evil into the new creation in which there is no more sin or curse. God will fulfil his promise to Abraham to bless all nations on the earth, through the gospel of Jesus, the Messiah, the seed of Abraham. God will transform the fractured world of nations that are scattered under the judgment of God into the new humanity that will be redeemed by the blood of Christ from every tribe, nation, people and language, and will be gathered to worship our God and Saviour. God will destroy the reign of death, corruption and violence when Christ returns to establish his eternal reign of life, justice and peace. Then God, Immanuel, will dwell with us, and the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ and he shall reign for ever and ever.[8]

Read more here.

[8] Ephesians 1:9-10; Colossians 1:20; Genesis 1 – 12; Revelation 21 – 22

Photo courtesy of Adrienne Gerber Photography: Family life in COVID lockdown! 
Hello! 

We're Amy and JR Rozko | Co-Lead Pastors

A NE Ohio native (JR) and a transplanted world traveller (Amy), we accepted a call to become co-lead pastors of First Church of the Resurrection in the fall of 2019.

Amy is a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University who has over 20 years of experience in international and cross-cultural missions mobilization and training as well as being a leadership and life coach. JR is a Malone University grad who has spent most of his vocational life with one foot in local church ministry and the other in the world of theological education and formation, including 8.5 years as co-founder and national director of Missio Alliance, a national network of pastors, churches, and Christian institutions committed to exploring & engaging faithfulness in God's mission after Christendom. JR also serves as Executive Director of The Telos Collective, an initiative aimed at the formation of leaders at the intersection of gospel and culture.

We met at Fuller Theological Seminary where Amy did an MA in Global Leadership and JR an MA in Theology. Later, JR went on to do a Doctorate in Missiology.

In 2016, after 12 years out of the area (for JR), we made a prayerful decision to relocate from Chicagoland to Canton where we sensed a unique calling to invest in the life of the Christian community and the city of Canton.

Though First Church of the Resurrection is a non-denominational church, we are ordained and serve as (Amy's in process) Anglican priests through Churches for the Sake of Others.

 
 
Hi! 

My name is Tina | Office Administrator

My name is Tina Copeland and since 2014, I've been blessed to serve as Office Administrator for First Church of the Resurrection. I have been married to my wonderful husband since 1983 and we are the proud parents of 3 awesome children and 2 daughters-in-law. I love the outdoors and am an avid runner, biker, and swimmer. I love spending time with my family.

 
 
Hey! 

We're Seth & Katrina | Music Director & Worship Leader

Seth has been studying piano since he was 17 years old. He went on to study music education at Malone University and completed his masters in music composition from Akron University in 2019. Seth has had the opportunity to serve First Church of the Resurrection since 2014 and stepped into the Music Director position in 2018. Outside of his musical interests, Seth also enjoys spending time with his family, working on projects (whether it be home improvements or creative endeavors), and spending time with Katrina and their cat.

Katrina Kenyon is a 2019 graduate from Malone University where she studied music with an emphasis in vocal pedagogy and production. Katrina has been working at First Church of the Resurrection since March 2019 where she has had the privilege to serve as Worship Leader. In addition to her love of music she also loves to create art, spend time with her family, and snuggling with their cat (Primrose).

 

 
 
Hey there! 

I'm Dan Grogan | Head of Building and Grounds

Hello, I'm Dan, and I enjoy tending to the care and development of our building and property. I am blessed to be able to do this job as an expression of God's call on my life. I'm grateful to be here - when not at the beach!

 
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