Mourning the passing of Greg Ryan

Published 6:47 pm Saturday, June 3, 2017

In the few short years he was a part of the Suffolk community, the Rev. Greg Ryan made a huge impact. That’s evident from the outpouring of support he and his family received following his diagnosis in May 2016 of acute myeloid leukemia while on vacation in Hawaii.

The support will be especially important for Ryan’s family — including his church family at Oakland Christian United Church of Christ — as they navigate the grief left by Ryan’s death on Wednesday at age 54.

Ryan had been the church’s beloved pastor since 2013, but in the few short years he was in Suffolk, he made a big splash, and he pressed the congregation to engage with and serve its community.

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Ryan believed community outreach was a crucial part of the church, and he led the members to participate in numerous community programs.

The Suffolk Night Stay Program, a ministry of Coalition Against Poverty in Suffolk, houses the homeless overnight during the coldest months of the year. The Fourth Friday dinner club allows members to break bread and connect with community residents. Those are but two of the examples of the outreach Ryan encouraged.

Strong evidence of Ryan’s success in getting the church to reach beyond its walls came on the heels of his cancer diagnosis. The fundraisers that were organized brought support not just from church members, but from many who had never heard him preach a sermon, from folks who had never stepped foot in Oakland UCC. That kind of community support would never have happened if the community had not first recognized that Ryan was sincere in his own outreach efforts.

It’s a terrible thing to lose a family member who is so young and vital, and that’s especially true when that person has made so many people his extended family. We join the Ryan family and the Oakland family in their grief. But we celebrate the legacy of outreach Greg Ryan left.