It may appear that The Kodiak Assembly of God church has not changed much over the years. It is still located on East Rezanof. Each week the church marque features a Bible verse or Christian saying. But the scrutinizing eye will notice its new name — Oceans United. The church on East Rezanof is inhabited by members of two vibrant congregations: Oceans Church, which has been shepherded by Rev. Shannon Panthin since its inception several years ago, and the Kodiak Assembly of God, which has been looking for a pastor since the resignation of its leaders, Tracy and Pam Hodges.
The two congregations merged this spring after having a joint Easter service.
Amongst other locations, the Oceans congregation met in the upstairs of the Ardingers’ downtown building. With the growth of the congregation Oceans began holding services at the Kodiak Christian School. But the congregation outgrew that space, too.
Panthin knew it was time to move to a more spacious location when parking attendants were required to direct traffic. The inside of the church was crowded, too.
At one service, so many people showed up that some were not able to find a place to sit. They had to worship in the hallway
Panthin prayed, “Lord, it’s time to move.” But the glaring question was “where?”
At about that time Panthin received a text from one of the elders from the Assembly of God, asking if Oceans would consider having a joint Easter service with the Assembly congregation. At first Panthin was opposed to the idea.
“Easter is when you fill your church. You don’t want to join with another church,” reasoned Panthin. But he felt a “sharp rebuke from the Holy Spirit, (who said) ‘Don’t promote your church. Promote Me,’” Panthin said. “I don’t want to stand in the way of where God wants to lead us.”
Panthin’s wife, Dawn, suggested having a conversation with representatives from the Assembly of God to discuss the joint service. He agreed.
After the meeting, Panthin learned that members of the Assembly of God were considering him as a pastoral candidate.
The thought hit Panthin like a “ton of bricks,” he said.
Panthin; realized that “if this is God, somehow it’s going to work out.”
“it seemed that God had been working on people’s hearts,” said Panthin.
He found out that someone had a prophetic word, which said “that another church was going to join in with the Assembly of God.
Although the two Kodiak congregations seemed receptive of a merger between the two churches, the national bishops of the Assembly of God and Church of God, of which Oceans is a part of, were skeptical. When they met with Panthin, they said they couldn’t allow the merger. “How could we function,” they asked.
But Panthin had something to share with the hierarchs, which challenged their skepticism. First of all he shared his personal story of how he grew up on the island of Mauritius on the Indian Ocean between Australia and South Africa. He attended high school and college in England. Growing up in a strict Hindu home, Panthin converted to Christ at a church in Wales where he was meeting up with friends. He attended Oral Roberts University, earning a masters in business management. He and his wife are both ORU graduates. Panthin was hired as ORU’s director of finance.
The Panthins moved to Eagle River where he became associate pastor of Harvest Fellowship. He sensed God calling him to Kodiak. The couple and their children came to look the community over in 2014 and a year later came to settle in. At first the Panthins and their small flock met in the Grand Slam building and later moved to Ardingers on the Mall. Panthin named their church Oceans, inspired by a song which talks about leaving a safe haven to venture out into deeper waters.
Panthin also told the bishops about an early morning vision that showed how Oceans and the Assembly of God would work together in evangelical outreach on Kodiak Island and other parts of Alaska.
After listening to Panthin’s testimony, the bishops gave their blessing to the merger. Panthin also met with the general overseer of the Church of God and his second in command, who gave their blessing and full support of the merger.
“As one body (Oceans and Kodiak Assembly of God) made something that was impossible happen. We are 100 percent Assemblies of God and we haven’t cut ties with Church of God. Denominations have been around for hundreds of years. Never once have those two merged,” said Panthin.
“We were coming in full force with everything that we got,” Panthin said. “We did not miss a beat. It’s just God’s grace that has made this transition so smooth.”
Panthin said there were “a few that could not handle the merger,” but he was grateful that this “sifting happened in the beginning. It would be hard to recover if the sifting took place later.”
Panthin said some of the existing programs of the Assembly of God will be continued or revised.
The popular Kids Rock, will be in a different format. Bible study groups, called cell groups, will meet in the homes.
Oceans United plans to initiate the Financial University, inspired by David Ramsey. Various youth and young adult programs have also been implemented.
A program, called, Grow Track, is provided for those interested in getting connected to the church, Panthin said.
Being true to the vision Panthin received on evangelical outreach, Oceans United is looking at ways of reaching the unchurches on the island and in other parts of Alaska with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Panthin said there are about 275 members of Oceans United.
Stressing the importance of spiritual growth amongst the congregation, Panthin said “We grow in circles, not in rows. We’re trying to get people integrated into the mission of the church.”