As we look around and see all of the problems in our country, the turmoil in the world, and the apparent weakness of the Christian Church, Christians are praying for revival. But what does revival really look like?
Writing to the congregation in Rome, the Apostle Paul said, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (Rom. 1:8). The Christians in Rome were setting an example for other Christians far and wide, and I think that the same can be said for the congregation of Holy Cross Anglican Church in Omaha, Nebraska. What does revival look like? It looks like what God is doing right here in Omaha.
Holy Cross parish is a congregation of real disciples, and what these disciples are doing amazes me. At the beginning of the year we set a goal of contributing 100 lbs of food to the Open Door Mission every month - 1,200 lbs for the year. That is a lot of food! However, the congregation has blown that goal away. Our last contribution, covering a mere two weeks, totaled 275 lbs; and our food bin is already overflowing again! In addition, we are picking up day old gourmet bread from a local shop and delivering it to two other homeless shelters, the Francis and Sienna Houses, five times every month. Each of these deliveries total 150 to 200 lbs of gourmet bread!
In Advent and Lent we use parish mite boxes to raise money for the Anglican Relief and Development Fund. The ARDF does important work in impoverished and devastated areas of the world. Among the most important things that they do is to dig clean water wells in third world villages.
In August, we sponsored a speaker from the Voice of the Martyrs ministry, and raised $404.00 to support their work in assisting the persecuted Church around the world. This year the Board of Foreign Missions asked local churches to consider donating $500.00 in support of the Work of the Gospel in Croatia and Serbia. Our parish Women’s Group immediately went to work. They held a rummage sale, raised the full amount requested, and sent it on to the Board of Foreign Missions.
We have a wonderful ministry called the Holy Cross Love Squad. The Love Squad is a lay led ministry that has a priest as a chaplain. The Holy Cross Love Squad visits hospitals and long term care facilities every month, bringing prayer, music, jokes, fellowship and companionship to the sick, the lonely, and the forgotten. Squad members visit with residents, help them write letters, and listen to their stories. Our chaplain is always available for spiritual counsel.
We have a full time rector, a retired priest who assists, a salaried music director, a beautiful leased facility that consists of a traditional chapel, modern parish hall and classroom space; we support the diocese financially every month, and do a tremendous amount of ministry; and we have around forty in attendance on an average Sunday. Yes, we accomplish all of this, and more, with a congregation that averages around forty on Sunday. How? Because God has sent revival here, and our church family is made up of real disciples. In the average church only about 20% of the people are active. At Holy Cross it is about 100%. We actually have about as many active Christians as the average church of 200. A Roman Catholic Priest-friend of mine who has been in the ministry for decades once told me that he would be lucky to have 5% of those in the pews on Sundays to be active in church. That means we have as many really active people as a Roman Catholic parish of 800! Holy Cross parish is large enough to meet your needs and minister powerfully, but small enough to be a real church family.
Revival has come through worship and sound teaching. At Holy Cross parish we gather for worship, not entertainment. We use the liturgy of the historic Book of Common Prayer and sing the great, theologically rich, hymns of the Church. Why the historic Book of Common Prayer? Because it is thoroughly orthodox and is the most Biblical liturgy in Christendom. It is the liturgy that reformed the Church of England, inspired the Wesleyan Revival, spiritually formed the founding fathers of the United States, has spread the Gospel from a small island kingdom to more than 160 nations of the world, has stood the test of time, and continues to touch hearts and change lives today.
In a day when most Christians do not know the Ten Commandments, the Apostles Creed or pray regularly the Lord’s Prayer, we use them every week in worship. At Holy Cross we emphasize both the Law and the Gospel. We preach real sermons, sermons that last 30 to 45 minutes and are filled with spiritual meat. We exegete the Scriptures in our sermons and preach for personal conversion. We also balance Word and sacrament, celebrating the Eucharist every Sunday. We kneel in prayer, stand to sing, and receive the sacrament of Holy Communion on our knees.
We take prayer requests and thanksgivings every Sunday morning before the sermon; have occasional healing Services during the Sunday Eucharist, anointing the sick with oil, and have seen God work in wonderful and powerful ways.
Like all congregations, we have had members pass on or move away, and have sadly seen some fail to persevere, but we continue to grow steadily both in numbers and in spiritual maturity. We began by crawling, then began to walk, and are now running. We now have as many or more in attendance at our Wednesday mid-week Eucharist as we used to have on a Sunday morning! People cannot get enough of the Eucharist. I celebrate it every Sunday and Wednesday, and our assisting priest celebrates it on Thursdays.
Our adult Christian Education class is taught at the college level. We have had courses in such diverse topics as Reformation History, classic works of Christian devotion, and an introduction to Biblical Hebrew. Our class is now covering comparative religions and apologetics.
While many churches are made up primarily of women, a typical Sunday congregation at Holy Cross is about half male and half female. We teach a muscular Christianity, and the men of the parish are very involved and committed. We use only adult male acolytes and lay readers, men who are active in the parish and set good examples of discipleship. We do not use boys. We never have. And we do not ask for volunteers.
The Sisters of Holy Cross is our parish Women’s Group. It is a vital, active and very effective parish organization. They meet monthly for prayer, study, fellowship and service, and serve they do! The Sisters of Holy Cross are always involved in advancing and supporting the Work of the church. We couldn’t get along without them!
Holy Cross Anglican Church is not just a place where people go to worship. It is a really community, a church family. Less than half of the members have Anglican backgrounds. Members come to us from every spiritual tradition, and none. We have members with spiritual roots in Byzantium, Rome, Geneva, Wittenburg, Azusa Street and elsewhere, and they all contribute spiritual riches from the Christian traditions from which they came. We have no cliques or factions at Holy Cross, and the Vestry is united, effective and always supportive of me as pastor, and is made up of men and women with a servants heart.
I cannot begin to tell you all that the people of Holy Cross parish are doing. We have a Pro-Life Coordinator, a parish Librarian, many nursery attendants, Sunday School teachers, and active Women’s and Men’s Groups. We feed the poor, visit the lonely, have a Bible study group at a nearby retirement apartment complex, have acolytes and lay readers, ushers, and more. In November our Music Director plans to organize a church choir.
We draw people from all across Eastern Nebraska, into Western Iowa, and up into South Dakota. But we also minister all across America and around the world. In addition to our very effective parish website, we have this blog that you are reading, and a state of the art Media Site where visitors can see teaching videos, listen to educational podcasts, and be introduced to liturgical worship and Anglican liturgy. Seeing a need for sound classical Anglican theological education, we even have a family in the parish that recently purchased the North American Anglican. This quarterly theological journal is the only orthodox Anglican theological journal in North America, and it is going to be published right here in Omaha. I have been asked to serve as theological advisor. Look for the first issue under the new management in Advent!
We have fellowship and refreshments every Sunday after Services, with a potluck luncheon on the last Sunday of the month. We really enjoy being together. We are a a church family. We have also enjoyed activities such a Lenten Fish Fry, Dinner and a Movie Nights in our parish hall, an annual Summer Church Picnic, and our annual Fall Hayrack Ride, Bonfire and Potluck. In fact, the Hayrack Ride, Bonfire and Potluck are coming up on Saturday, October 27th. I hope you will come!
Frankly, I could go on and on about the people of Holy Cross parish. I give thanks for them every day. It is a blessing to be their pastor. Holy Cross Anglican Church is a serious church for serious Christians. We are anything but a “youth group for adults.” When someone says they don’t go to church because of all of the hypocrites, I tell them they need to visit Holy Cross. At Holy Cross parish they will be spiritually fed, encouraged, and supported, they will make friends that will last a lifetime, will grow spiritually, and they will help make a difference in the lives of others through the many ministry activities of the church.
Now that you know what revival is really like, I hope that you will accept my personal invitation to worship with us on Sunday. Christian Education is at 9:00 AM, followed by Morning Prayer at 9:30 AM, and the Holy Communion at 10:00 AM. Nursery Care for children under the age of four is available during the 10:00 AM Service. Fellowship and refreshments in our parish hall follows worship. We are a faithful, friendly and welcoming congregation, and we have a place for you. I hope to see you on Sunday!