Paul Risler, Senior Pastor
I have served as the senior pastor of Central for over 18 years. It’s been an amazing and exciting journey watching Central grow and change — yet I believe our best years are still ahead of us. There is no place I’d rather be and no people I’d rather be with than this community called Central. Beyond Central, I am the architect of the West Ohio Intern Program, serve on the Conference Board of Ministry, and serve as a coach and mentor for several pastors throughout the conference. I’m currently working on my doctoral degree in Preaching and Church Leadership at Asbury Theological Seminary.
When not doing the pastor thing, I love hanging out with my wife and daughter, reading, and doing photography. I also love to travel, laugh, and enjoy long walks on the beach at sunset. And world peace. In addition to our daughter, Lydia, we have two other “kids;” McGee, age 6, and Callie, age 2. They have four legs; big, cold, wet noses; and are very furry (they are very embarrassed about this, so we don’t talk about it much). Both are mutts. McGee is “employed” as our home security staff and is currently guarding our front door. Callie is the “emergency back-up dog” and is now off duty, curled up in a ball, clutching her fake bone.
My wife and I came to Athens in July 2014, so that I could become the new associate pastor here at Central. Before coming here, I was serving a church in Defiance, Ohio and was appointed by the Bishop as an opportunity to learn how to reach young people in intergenerational communities. I’ve learned so much about leadership and vision, and love being able to work alongside so many talented, passionate Christians. For fun, my wife and I love to hike, kayak, read, sleep, and watch Netflix.
Alex Shaver, Director of Family Ministries
I moved to Athens in July of 2016 from the Columbus area. I graduated rom Ohio State in May of the same year, and interned with children, worship, and student ministries at my previous church. I also led Young Life for two years while in college. Over the past four years, I have developed a passion for young people and sharing the Gospel with them. I believe they are a huge part of today's church and desire to form relationships that will help them learn and grow.
I love spending time with my family, even though we recently moved away from each other. Being outside, sitting with my dog, Stevie, watching Netflix, and drinking coffee are some of my favorite things to do.
Barry Oches, Director of Administration
I came to Athens in 1977 to finish an undergraduate degree I had started at a different university. Not only did I finish the degree in Special Education, I went on to earn two more degrees from OU over the next 20 years. I visited Central for the first time at the end of my first year in Athens. That summer, my wife, Kate, and I got married and, when we returned, we began attending regularly--that puts us at 37 years at Central.
Central is my family's community. Our four kids grew up, were dedicated, then baptized here. (Paul even officiated all of their weddings.) I have served in many capacities at Central over the years, from the Chair of various leadership committees, to leading a small group, to the Nursery. When I retired from OU and learned of the opening, I was intrigued at the idea of joining the staff and serving the church in any way I can with the skill set I have developed in my professional life.
In my extra time, I volunteer at ATCO, mentor through Friends-Allies-Neighbors advocacy group, and serve on the board for Athens County Children's Services. Kate and I enjoy visiting our kids and grandkids spread across four states.
I grew up in Canton, Ohio but moved to Athens for school. I was told by a friend that I should check out Central. This was before Central Venue was open, so the Westside was a solid 30-minute walk from my dorm and I kept sleeping in too late to make it to service. On a weekend when it was Daylight Savings, a couple of my friends and I were determined to make it to Central. So, we packed a bag with a blanket and other supplies and elected to spend the night in the alleyway next to the church. We moved to the church steps at some point in the night, assuming that someone would wake us up in time for service. Early Sunday morning, a jolly, whistling Jake Householder (my predecessor) arrived at the church and let us in. We took a quick nap in the basement and Jake's smiling face woke us up to attend service. That was my first week.
I graduated from Ohio University in December of 2016. I have served on the worship team at Central for the past five years and have helped create graphics and videos with Creative Team. I also interned with Central for a summer in worship and media. In my extra time, I like making short films/documentaries and playing/writing music.
Allyssa Graves, Director of Connections
Originally from the Columbus-area, I came to Central as a Summer Intern through the West Ohio Conference in 2010 while I was an undergraduate student at Ohio Northern. I earned a Masters of Divinity from United Theological Seminary, where I also met my husband. Joe and I moved to Athens and Central in July 2014.
I am passionate about helping other people find their best place to serve and get connected to each other, the Church, the community, and God. Outside of that, I enjoy binge-watching tv shows and playing with my dog, Stella.
I came to Athens to work at Ohio University, and have been a part of Central for the past 34 years. In 2012, I joined the staff, and have learned so much about how the church runs and all the details that go into Sunday morning. For fun, I love spending time with my grandchildren, and enjoy taking care of our 4 businesses, mentoring athletes, and leading weekly Bible studies with the OU Women’s Basketball team.
Rick Matulja, Maintenance Coordinator
Originally from the Youngstown-area, my wife (Johnna) and I moved to Athens in October of 2012 and began looking for a new home church. We "church-shopped" for a brief season, arrived at Central, and have been here ever since. I had been looking for a steady job, and was seeking a way to serve. This position was a great combination of the two.
I am a full-time student in Civil Engineering at Ohio University. I am also a member of the Ohio Army National Guard with the 16th Engineers. When I'm not working or studying, I love to hang out with our son, Thad, who will be three this year.
Maria Smith, Treasurer
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Debbie McAdoo, Westside Caretaker
Back in the spring of 2008, my daughter (Shannon) and I were looking for a new church home. We were invited to Central by Shannon's Younglife leader, and I've been attending here since that first visit! I love teaching the wee folks (3-6 year olds) in Children's Church on Sunday mornings.
I enjoy being outside - gardening, yard work, walking, etc. When the weather is adverse, I read. I also enjoy spending time investing in little children. They love to hear the Gospel and are so quick to grasp and accept it's truths.
Central Avenue United Methodist Church is located in Athens, OH and seeks to minister to the body of Christ, our local community, and the wider world. This includes Ohio University and the wider Athens Community. We have two locations, one uptown and the other on the westside.
9:30am @ Uptown (29 E Carpenter St.)
11:00am @ Westside (73 Central Ave.)
507 Richland Ave., Suite 105
Athens, OH 45701