New Board Member
Our new board member Ryan Timothy LaFerney has come a long way since his days of teenage rebellion, when he failed his driving test twice and became familiar with every other way to get to where he needed to be.
Ryan was born in St. Louis, Missouri to a dad who managed a thrift store for a social service agency and a mom who was a secretary for a chiropractor. His parents divorced when he was about five, so Ryan sometimes accompanied his mother to work where he read, sketched, and drew comics to keep himself occupied.
His dad was interested in end times theology and kept a picture of Jesus on the wall. Some children might find comfort in that, but Ryan always felt freaked out when he looked at the mystical portrayal.
In school, Ryan excelled at History, Art, and English. Math? Not so much. However, rather than talking about disliking math, Ryan simply explains, “I wished I would have applied myself more.” His academic focus was on visual and performing arts. He studied classical guitar and art (painting with both oils and acrylics) and played percussion in the band. When asked if he still plays classical guitar, he explained, “These days, I can’t play classical guitar, but I can easily knock out a Bob Dylan song.”
Plans to be a rock star
His mom encouraged him to go to college, but Ryan in his rebellion explained to her that he was going to be a rock star touring the country and would have no time for college. Eventually he went to college – who knows why? Maybe he figured out that you can’t tour the country without a driver’s license!
Ryan went to Kansas City Art Institute where he studied Inter-disciplinary Art: video art, installation art, and sculpture, which included welding, and the lost-wax method. He based his art on perception and memory and included light play. Sculptors of the 1960’s whose art played with light were his inspiration. Ryan worked as a Resident Assistant in college and did odd jobs for spending money.
After college Ryan worked for five years. Hindsight tells him he would have been better off if he had worked a regular job during college and set aside some savings to use during an after college career search. He became interested in attending Fuller Theological Seminary because they had a program that included art and theology. During a visit, he came across a room with a large display of Orthodox icons! He applied and was accepted but, as many of us have found out, our plans do not always match up to God’s plans. Ryan ended up going to Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas. But – we’re getting ahead of the story.
Backstory: from Atheist to Christian
During his early college years, Ryan was an atheist. He had Christian friends who would invite him to various activities at their non-denominational church. However, Ryan had observed their tight-knit community and felt that accepting their invitation would be like a stranger barging in to join a family dinner. He didn’t want to get into that kind of situation. Around this time his grandfather was dying of cancer. Ryan had observed how much his grandfather had changed when he became a Christian and joined the Baptist Church. He quit drinking and smoking and became a firm believer in Christ. The obvious reality of the change in him left an impression on Ryan. He started to read the Bible and expressed an interest in joining his friend’s Christian community for artists.
Attending an Artist Identity Weekend Retreat was a life-changing event for Ryan. Pastor Adam Cox, and Ryan’s friends Isaiah and Stuart prayed for Ryan who became elated. God is Real! God is Real! What an amazing revelation for a depressed atheist. Ryan’s turn to Christ was very real as evidenced by his friends who told him, “Before you became a Christian you were so mean to us!!”
Ryan started attending the non-denominational church, but something was missing. He had experienced depression after his grandfather’s death, and it had been addressed medically. However, Ryan felt that he needed spiritual development to know how to address life from this new Christian perspective. He decided that his real interest was in the liturgical aspects of the ancient church. A friend took him to St. Mary’s Orthodox Church in Kansas City. He loved it.
After graduating from college, Ryan explored Orthodoxy some more, became a Catechumen, and then in 2013 was baptized with Robert and Cecilia Garrett as his sponsors. He became involved in church activities, at one point running the bookstore. He also participated in the Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black, during which time he developed a love for St. Moses the Black. We asked him why this saint? “Well,” he explained. “St. Moses is a shining witness of repentance, radical hospitality and nonviolence and these saintly traits are important to me and the brotherhood.”
Back to the future in Emporia
In deciding to go to grad school, Ryan assessed his skill set. What were his talents, what did he like to do, and how could he make a living? He finally realized that his love of reading and literature could be combined with his desire to be of service to people – a perfect match for the field of library science. He finished at Emporia with a master’s degree in library science. During his time at Emporia, he was blessed to travel to Serbia and Bosnia to study International library science as well to go on spiritual pilgrimage to the holy monastery in Lelić (where St. Nikolai Velimirović relics are) and Celije Convent. Looking at his story, we can see God weaving the thread of Orthodoxy through his life in unexpected ways.
Moses and the matchmaker (sort of)
Being sincerely involved in the Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black, Ryan attended their conference in 2016, conveniently held at Joy of All Who Sorrow in Indianapolis. His long-time friend Ann Breitwieser said to him, “Have I got a girl for you!” Okay, those were not her exact words, but you get the idea. Ann introduced Maureen Eichner (a librarian) to Ryan (a librarian), and they sat together during a meal at the conference. Later, they discovered a mutual interest in Lord of the Rings. We won’t go into long distance dating, but this was when Ryan decided that if he was going to date Maureen, he needed to learn to drive. Finding this new motivation resulted in getting a driver’s license! Fast forward to November 12, 2017 where, at the same church the conference was held, Maureen and Ryan were married, and in the same hall they shared their first meal, they celebrated at their reception.
Fr. John Miller, Fr. Stevan Bauman, Fr. Justin Matthews (from Kansas City), and Fr. Deacon Michael Walker Ryan and Maureen
Ryan and Maureen live in Indianapolis where they both continue as librarians. As a reference librarian Ryan assists individuals with technology questions, develops collection guides for their archival documents, creates book displays, and purchases nonfiction books (specifically in the range of 640s-999 in the Dewey decimal system – that’s basically books on home and family management to extraterrestrial worlds). He is also in the process of developing a circulating table top gaming collection.
Ryan’s interests involve wildly varied kinds of music, including: Sun ra, Rush, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and Bach.
When asked what comment he would like to make about being the new member of our church board he replied, “Please just ask everyone to pray for me!”
The 2019 Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black Conference will take place during the weekend of November 8-10 and will be hosted by St. John the Compassionate Parish in Atlanta, Georgia. Find out more about the saint, the brotherhood, and the conference here: http://mosestheblack.org/
Find a list of Dewey Decimal numbers here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Dewey_Decimal_classes#Class_900_–_History_&_geography
Photos courtesy of Ryan LaFerney
Moses the Black icon from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moses_the_Black
Writer Anna Glass is a member of Joy of All Who Sorrow and is very appreciative of Ryan’s suggestions and edits. Anna is always on the hunt for submissions to and ideas for the blog. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.