In the 1980′s a large number of Campus Crusade for Christ members ended up converting to Orthodoxy. Fr. Peter Gillquist (one of the leaders of this group) told their story in Becoming Orthodox: A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith. This week, another one of their leaders, Fr. Jack Sparks, passed away:
Fr. Jack Norman Sparks–Author, Project Director for the Orthodox Study Bible, mentor to many, Founder and Dean of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, father, grandfather and great grandfather–fell asleep in the Lord in Eagle River, Alaska, on February 8, at 7:30 a.m. Fr. Jack reposed on the twenty third anniversary of his ordination to the diaconate.
Fr. Marc Dunaway, Pastor of St. John Cathedral in Eagle River, Alaska, writes:
“It is with sadness and prayers for his family that I relay to you the news that the servant of God, the Archpriest Jack Sparks, fell asleep in the Lord early this morning. He was 81 years old. Fr. Jack did much research in the 1970′s and 80′s that helped the journey of the Evangelical Orthodox into the Antiochian Archdiocese. After this he was the principle overseer for the Orthodox Study Bible, which was just recently published with the Old Testament. Fr. Jack has lived in Alaska for the last five years and has several of his children here. Fr. John Downing, Kh. Betsy and I joined Kh. Esther Sparks and her family and prayed the Trisagion Prayers of Mercy for the Departed around him. We have truly lost a good soldier in the Church today.”
In an Ancient Faith Radio reflection, Fr. Peter Gillquist remembers Fr. Jack as one who lived a full, rich life of service to the Church and to his family. “He was a scholar and incredibly intelligent,” says Fr. Peter, “but he played football for Purdue as well, so he was really all kinds of people. Most importantly, if he knew something was true, he would commit to it, no matter what the cost.”
Fr. Jack was born on December 3, 1928 to Oakley and Geraldine Sparks in Lebanon, Indiana. After he received his PhD in 1960 he taught at the University of Northern Colorado and Penn State University. In 1968, Fr. Jack began his ministry with Campus Crusade for Christ, and after years of serving college students and studying church history, was received with the other Evangelical Orthodox, into the Antiochian Archdiocese. “He asked the question, ‘How did the early church worship?’” remembers Fr. Peter Gillquist. “And he came back and told us, the worship was liturgical and sacramental. It was pivotal.”
Pray for the soul of Fr. Sparks and for his whole family.