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Warren congregation says farewell to longtime pastor

WARREN — As the Rev. Jonathan Cholcher served the past 14 years as pastor of St. John’s Orthodox Church in Warren, the church saw new iconography added to the walls and ceiling of the sanctuary.

Members of the congregation of the Reeves Road church gathered in the parking lot and later in their cars Sunday for a drive-thru farewell to Cholcher, who is moving to Bradenton, Fla., to serve at St. Mark’s Parish.

The congregation presented Cholcher and his family several gifts, including a icon image similar to the ones painted on the walls of the church sanctuary.

Mark Malacky, parish president, said the congregation members wanted to each say goodbye to Cholcher and his wife, Diane, and their three children, Daniel, Christian and Mariah. So, each family got in its car and lined up in the driveway.

Cholcher handed out letters he wrote to each congregation member as he / she left the parking lot.

“We did the best that we could because of social distancing. Father Jonathan and his family have a special place in our hearts. We are sorry to see them go, but we are happy for the new ministry that they have in Florida,” Malacky said.

He said Cholcher will keep his vestments.

Malacky said the new priest, the Rev. Brian Crivella, began serving May 18.

Cholcher said the near 14 years “were wonderful” and went by quickly.

“My family will treasure the time we were here for the rest of our lives,” Cholcher said.

He said he was very proud of the many new icons that were added to the church during his time in Warren.

Malacky said when Cholcher came to the church, there was very little iconography.

“He has been tremendously instrumental in getting the iconography put up in the church during his 14 years. It was one of his main goals. The icon gift we gave him was painted by Ivan Roumiantsev, who did the iconography in the church,” Malacky said.

Roumiantsev is spending part of the summer doing more iconography for the church’s walls and ceiling.

Malacky said the congregation has Roumiantsev return when they can afford the next iconography work.

“We look forward to you being able to all get back inside the church and see what has been done,” Cholcher said.

Cholcher also was well known in the local area for his participation along with other priests with the Blessing of the Waters held each January at Perkins Park, often in very cold weather.

Those waiting in the church parking lot to say their last farewells shared memories of Cholcher to share.

Chris DiGiacobbe of Ravenna said she always will remember how active Cholcher was with the church’s youth.

“He was able to do so much for the youth of the church through his great involvement with them in so many ways,” she said.

DiGiacobbe said Cholcher was able to help get a Holy Trinity Orthodox school started in Mogadore.

Anthony DiGiacobbe of Ravenna said he remembers in August 2006 when Cholcher had just started how he attended his first church picnic and was able to get out his guitar and start playing for everyone at the event.

“He is a phenomenal guitar player,” he said.

“He is one of a kind,” Alex Loychik said.

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