Just as Michael and Tess Langer were starting a church plant in Iowa City, eastern Iowa experienced severe flooding. So, in the summer of 2008 One Ancient Hope began as a relief work to help flood victims by cleaning out and restoring damaged homes. PCA church teams from across the U. S. worked alongside a few local volunteers associated with the new church plant. With One Ancient Hope’s focus on “Seeking the Welfare of the City,” it was a providential beginning.
The church body began to form in August 2008 with a Sunday afternoon Bible study. As more people joined, it outgrew all available homes, and by November it moved north of Iowa City to Preucil School of Music’s Northgate location. Regular Sunday morning services began in August 2009. In November 2010 the church moved to the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center, a more centrally-located building that is easily accessible by foot to university students and the homeless community. The story of One Ancient Hope, then, is about the Lord calling together committed, praying, gifted, hard-working brothers and sisters in Christ to plant a church that strives to meet the needs of its members and the Iowa City community.
As a church planter, Pastor Michael worked with a “session on loan” from the Iowa Presbytery, referred to as the Commission. It included two elders from outside One Ancient Hope - Larry Hoop, a teaching elder, and Tim Hall, a ruling elder. Two members of the church also served on the Commission and met frequently with Pastor Michael, Josh Vahle (RUF pastor to the University of Iowa) and Fred Skiff who came to the church as an ordained PCA elder. In August 2011 Ian Hard came on board as the Assistant Church Planter, along with his wife Rebecca. Then on April 7, 2013 One Ancient Hope particularized and formed its first session when members voted in Cary Covington, Fred Skiff, Josh Super, and Chris Sutton as ruling elders. That day the congregation elected Pastor Michael to the position of Lead Pastor, and Pastor Ian as Associate Pastor. Pastor Michael currently serves as Director of Faithful Presence in Washington D.C. and Pastor Ian serves as pastor to Christ Church PCA in Pembroke, New Hampshire.
In June of 2016, the congregation welcomed Rev. Didi Wong as their Pastor. In his four years here, he got to know the beautiful college town of Iowa City and faithfully shepherded the congregation of One Ancient Hope. Didi helped the congregation transition from leadership under the original church planters and into a more established congregation. He led the church to work collaboratively in creating a new vision statement and implementing that vision in the community.
In addition, Didi led the effort to purchase the beautiful building we now minister through at 500 N Clinton St. and began to lay the groundwork of ministering to neighbors in that location. He also led One Ancient Hope in building a relationship of trust with Inside Out Re-entry Community. OAH inherited Inside Out as non-profit that serves the community through the church building. They are a non-profit that supports the formerly incarcerated to re-enter society meaningfully. Didi and his family moved to Durham, North Carolina, in July of 2020 to plant a multi-ethnic church, Missio Church, in his wife’s hometown. OAH supports Missio Church financially and with prayers for the gospel to go forth winsomely through their efforts.
Iowa City is often named one of the best places to live, and with good reason. A community of just over 100,000 people, this strategic Midwestern city has a lot to boast about. Best in the nation schools, excellent health care, and plenty of high paying jobs are just the start. Lots of owner-operated restaurants and shops populate the downtown area. Each summer brings the Iowa Summer of the Arts: featuring the Shakespeare Festival, an Arts Festival, the Iowa City Jazz Festival, the Landlocked International Film Festival, and Uptown Movie and Music nights.
The University of Iowa also affects the culture of the town in many ways. It includes top tier business, law, medical, and dental schools. The Iowa Writers’ Workshop is considered to be the best writing program in the country, and one of the best in the world! Iowa City has been designated by the United Nations Council on Education, Science, and Culture as one of a select number “Creative Cities of Literature”. It is also home to the Iowa Hawkeyes, and their first class sports programs.
In short, Iowa City is a great place to live!
In Iowa City, post-Christian thought and progressive ideology meet “American apple-pie” values. Iowa City is a center for progressive thinking and politics that prides itself on its “open and affirming” stance on a variety of social issues. Iowa City is one of the most educated cities in the United States with over 47% of residents holding a Bachelor’s degree, and over 27% holding a graduate degree. Iowa City, in many ways, is the head of the culture-creating stream! And since the gospel speaks to all of life…One Ancient Hope seeks the flourishing of our city through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ!
As Christians we find our identity and our understanding of our beliefs in the Bible. We believe that the Scriptures are our loving Father’s means of communicating His will for a full and abundant life to the people that He created, and also His way of expressing His desire to have a relationship with us through His Son Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
We believe there is only One God who has always existed as three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – the Trinity, and that He really did create the world and everything in it.
We believe that His only Son, Jesus, was fully God and fully man, and that he came and lived, and suffered, and died just as the Old Testament had predicted. That He did it all on our behalf, in order to restore our relationship to God that was broken by our own selfishness and pride. That His victory over death was declared when he was raised from the dead on the third day. And that Jesus is the promised One Ancient Hope.
We believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. That we were all created to live forever. And that personal trust and commitment to follow and serve Jesus, and admittance of our own inability to pay the penalty for our sinful actions is needed to secure this promised Ancient Hope. Fortunately for us, the faith required to come to Christ, is a free gift of grace.
We believe that the Holy Spirit is God’s gift to everyone who calls upon the name of Jesus, and He works in us to conform and transform us towards more Christlike character, and to provide assurance of the Hope that is waiting for us…even when things seem hopeless.
We believe that Jesus Christ sits as the head of the Church, and that the Church is made up of all those people from every tongue and tribe and nation around the world who trust in Jesus, and that the Church is a family that God created to weep with those who weep, and laugh with those who laugh – for our mutual encouragement, and for our accountability.
We believe that the world, our culture, and our lives present complex problems; and yet, far too often, the truths of the Bible have been misused, misunderstood, and misapplied to those complex issues – yet the gospel has the answers we seek. As Christians, we hope to bring the peace and hope of the true gospel to all of life, and especially in our home – Iowa City.
We believe that how we live in this world is crucial to the advance of the gospel of Jesus. As Jesus prayed in the garden before his capture and crucifixion, we ask that “God would make us one, even as He and the Son are One, so that the world may know that God loves them, and sent His Son Jesus for them (John 17:21).”
As Presbyterians (PCA), we find our more specific identity in the Westminster Confession of Faith. It is a centuries-old document, written by men who loved God, and sought to bring some specificity to their understanding of the Scriptures.
Will is originally from Indianapolis, and became a Christian during his freshman year of college. After ministering in both Vietnam and the Chicago area, Will was called by One Ancient Hope to pastor the congregation in April of 2021. He is currently completing his PhD in Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS), and he has degrees from TEDS, Wheaton College, and Purdue University. He is married to Kristin, and they have five kids (from oldest to youngest): Ezra, Oren, Maxwell, Lucy, and Margot. The whole family is very excited to be here in Iowa City and to invest deeply in the local culture and community. Will enjoys reading, running, camping, and gathering friends and family around a good book, meal, or cup of coffee.
Matthew Penning is a Minnesota native and grew up in the Lutheran church where his faith began to be formed. He holds the Bachelor of Arts degree in church music from Luther College (Decorah, IA) and a Master of Sacred Music degree from Luther Seminary (St. Paul, MN). Since high school, he has served churches in Minnesota, Oregon, and Iowa. Matthew and his wife, Tamera, came to Iowa City in 2001 when he was called to serve as Director of Music Ministries at St. Andrew Presbyterian to work with all ages, equipping and discipling people through music and worship. Matthew and Tamera have two daughters, Margaret and Helen, who were born in Iowa City.
Matthew became involved with One Ancient Hope in 2009 while on a sabbatical leave. Since then he has served in multiple capacities, mainly behind-the-scenes. He is excited to devote his full-time attention to the people and ministries of One Ancient Hope and to continue to love and serve the Iowa City community.
One Ancient Hope is an elder led congregation (we call that group a “session”). In addition to our pastoral staff (known as teaching elders), our ruling elders are nominated and elected by the congregation to shepherd and lead our community.
Fred Skiff is a Professor of Physics at University of Iowa specializing in plasma physics. His wife Janet is a poet. Fred’s work has taken them both around the world, including a stint at L’ Abri, and they enjoy getting time with their four adult children.
Josh Super is a Supported Living Coordinator at Systems Unlimited, helping people who live with disabilities and mental health needs. His wife Rachel is a 4th grade teacher at Heritage Christian School in North Liberty. The Supers have two daughters and enjoy hosting people for supper, playing games, and gardening.
Chris Sutton and his wife March live in Solon with their four children. March is a librarian who works in the Solon school district. Chris is a software developer. He grew up in Brazil and enjoys soccer, planting, stories, hiking, hunting and snowshoeing.