I often speak of a coming new Springtime for the Church, and we are seeing it at Holy Cross parish. While summer is often a slow time for churches, there has been no slowdown at Holy Cross. About the only thing that we have discontinued for the summer is our Christian education program (Sunday School). However, Christian education classes for children, youth and adults will resume in September.
Yesterday (June 17th) was the Second Sunday after Trinity and we had forty-six in attendance at the Eucharist with no "drop in" visitors. Actually, we were missing some of our regulars. We have grown from a small church with an average Sunday attendance of under twenty-five to a medium size church. In fact, our attendance on Sunday equaled the median Sunday attendance for congregations of the Anglican Church in North America. Not bad for summer!
Last Wednesday we had eleven at our 12:10 PM Eucharist, with one of our regular attenders out of State. Participation in the Mid-week Eucharist has grown steadily from two or three to half a dozen, and now to more than ten. Only one couple that attends on Wednesdays is retired. Why do parishioners make such an effort, and sacrifice their lunch hour to come to church? Because they have learned from experience that receiving the Sacrament of Holy Communion twice a week can change their lives! We are now planning to increase our weekday Liturgies by adding an early morning Eucharist. After that, I hope to add an early evening celebration, with the goal of eventually having a daily Eucharist. There is nothing that I would rather see than people receiving the Blessed Sacrament throughout the week, and even daily!
We have very active Women's and Men's groups at Holy Cross parish. Last Saturday the Sisters of Holy Cross held their annual fund-raising Rummage Sale. Between a furniture donation that they had auctioned off and the Rummage sale they raised around $1,700.00. The Women's Group plans to send $500.00 to the Board of Foreign Missions in support of the new indigenous Reformed Episcopal Church in Croatia and Serbia, and to buy a new flat screen TV for the parish hall so we can better enjoy our dinner and a movie nights. In August the Sisters of Holy Cross will sponsor our annual Summer Parish Picnic, and will provide scholarships for our fall Hayrack Ride, Bonfire and Potluck. The Men's Group assisted the Women's Group with their Rummage Sale and will be helping out at the picnic as well.
Every month we support the Open Door Mission with food donations. The needs are great. The Open Door Mission is just one of several homeless shelters in the Omaha area, but they serve 1,800 meals every day! Our goal has been to provide them with 100 pounds of food every month, but we have been far surpassing that goal. On Saturday of last week we delivered 236 pounds of food, and that was just for the first half of the month of June!
In Advent and Lent we used Mite Boxes to raise funds for the Anglican Relief and Development Fund. The ARDF raises money to help those most in need, whether it be clean water wells in third world villages or disaster relief in Japan during their recent nuclear crisis.
We have a new ministry at Holy Cross parish called the Holy Cross Love Squad. The Love Squad visits nursing homes, hospitals, Alzheimer's units and other institutions, providing music, companionship and more to the residents. This is a ministry to lonely, hurting and often forgotten people. Jack, our Love Squad Leader is a real dynamo, and Fr. Craig Smith who assists me at Holy Cross serves as chaplain to the group providing spiritual counsel to those who want to talk with a clergyman. Once a month our Love Squad leader picks up a bread donation from a local gourmet sandwich shop and delivers it to the Francis and Siena Houses, two other area homeless shelters.
Thanks to Jesse, our Outreach Director, we have a new media site up on the Internet. The new media site works in conjunction with our parish website, but it has a regional, national and global reach. Holy Cross Media offers video, audio and podcasts that are designed to help people learn about classical Anglican history, theology, liturgics and spirituality. I hope that you will visit Holy Cross Media, use it, tell your friends about it, and check back often. You can find Holy Cross Media at: www.holycrossmedia.com
Holy Cross Anglican Church is a real parish community rather than just a place to worship. We have fellowship and refreshments in our parish hall every Sunday after Services and a potluck luncheon on the last Sunday of every month. Fellowship is so popular that when my wife and I leave for home in mid-afternoon there is always a group of men still there, drinking coffee and talking not about sports but about theology and church history!
During Lent we began providing Nursery Care for children under the age of four during our 10:00 AM Eucharist, and it has become very popular. We are a youthful congregation with a number of young families with small children. The Nursery cares for the children through the sermon, after which they join the adults for the rest of the Service. I even enjoy hearing a little fussing from the little ones in the pews. It is a sign of a healthy and growing church!
Morning Prayer is at 9:30 AM followed by the Holy Communion at 10:00 AM. We have a proper balance of Word and Sacrament in every Sunday Liturgy. We preach real sermons where we explain the Scripture lessons and teach the Faith. Now that we are in Trinity Season I have begun a sermon series on the Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer. The first of the series was presented last Sunday, but don't worry if you missed it. The series is being filmed and each week's lesson will soon be up on Holy Cross Media.
In addition to all of these ministries I have two priests to assist me, three lay readers and chalice bearers, an acolyte, and a Pro-Life Coordinator. We also have an excellent Prayer Chain which has been a real blessing to those in need. Whenever an emergency situation arises the Prayer Chain springs into action, and within a very short time the parish is praying by name and need for the situation.
Less than half of the people at Holy Cross parish come to us from Anglican or Episcopal backgrounds. Our people come from many Christian traditions and none. We have people that come from as diverse of backgrounds as the Assemblies of God and Roman Catholicism, the LDS and Eastern Orthodoxy.
The Work has prospered here. I am a full time rector and we support our diocese every month. We have already added about 50% more space to our leased facility and have outgrown that. We have a Building Committee and are wanting to build or buy our own church building. Buying would be more cost effective in the present economy, so we are actively looking at church buildings that are for sale. However, we have an immediate need for space, and more space adjoining us to the West is about to come open. Our Senior Warden and I plan to look at it tomorrow.
Don't let anyone tell you that you have to conform to the world and reinvent Anglicanism to grow. Holy Cross is a growing, active and thriving parish, and we are on fire for the Lord. You won't find anything new here. No trendy worship, watered down theology, or compromised morality. We are a classical Anglican parish using the Liturgy of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and the 1940 Hymnal.
Our worship is accompanied by a church organ, we use pews and kneelers, celebrate facing the altar, and partake of the sacrament kneeling. We abstain from meat on Fridays, fast during Lent, support the church with our tithes and offerings, and our mission is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who do not know Him, and the fullness of the Apostolic Faith to those who do.
Rome has learned the same lesson. They have freed up their traditional Roman Liturgy, and reformed the Novus Order to make it more in line with tradition and to improve its beauty and reverence. Don't sell the Faith short and don't shortchange the people. Preach the truth in love, teach the Word, use the historic Book of Common Prayer, sing the great hymns of the Church, lift the hearts of the people to the Throne of Grace through reverent and inspiring worship, and the church will grow. Rather than repackaging the Faith as some sort of Anglicanism Lite, just give them that Old Time Religion. As the song says, it was good enough for Paul and Silas, and it's good enough for us. That Old Time Religion still changes lives!