The parish gathered on November 19 to celebrate the end of our Stewardship Campaign with a potluck dinner and a raffle. Lots of food and fellowship was shared, and the raffle doled out some fun, interesting and useful prizes. It’s always a good time when the Holy Cross family gets together for a meal and a good time.
I have been a member of Holy Cross my whole life. I was baptized here as a baby, I attended the first Atrium in the basement of the old church, and grew up enjoying all the levels of the Atrium and the Youth Group. My experience here has left me with a deeper understanding of community and has given me countless opportunities to open a new window into the rest of the world. Not only is Holy Cross a place for my family, but it is a place for everyone to gather and support each other all as children of God. Holy Cross continues to be the foundation for all of my beliegs, as well as somewhere I can just be myself.
Although Holy Cross is the only church I have ever known, I have a strong feeling we are very unique. When I discuss church with my friends from Bishop Brady High School, they exhibit the typical “teenage” responses of an overwhelming dread of Sunday mornings. Not only do they have to be dragged out of bed at an extraordinarily early hour, but they have to spend time with just their family. The fact that I have to spend time with my family at church doesn’t phase me much though, it’s actually one of my favorite aspects of Sundays. Holy Cross has introduced a time to build a stronger relationship with my family away from the stress of our busy schedules. I can’t imagine my life without this place because everyone here has become a member of my larger family.
This is a place where we can sing as loud as possible, no matter how our voices sound, a place where I can sit by myself and still feel like I’m included as a part of the family and a place where we are amused rather than bothered by the talkative children during the service.
This place is home, to all of us.
As I tried to put together this Stewardship Campaign, I realized how much Fr. John and Anne did for us. I know we’re supposed to look to the future and break some of those ties that we had, but I think it’s OK to look back and miss them. I realized this so starkly when I knew that there was no way I could put together those thoughtful and personalized words within the Pledge Letters, as he used to do. I know many of you, but certainly not all of you, and certainly not in that way that Fr. John knew you. In a way, I feel like we lost that “adult supervision” that we took for granted, particularly (for me at least) regarding God and other things spiritual. What do I know about stewardship? Who am I to head up the effort to fund Holy Cross and its mission? That was Fr. John’s Job!!!
But then Kerri reminded me, “Sometimes you don’t grow unless you have to”.
AND my how we’ve stepped up! Treasurer, Warden, Convention Delegates, Stewardship, Children’s Formation, Outreach, Search committee, Chicken Barbeque, the weekly “Cat Herding” that Will and Phyllis Townsend do to put together these beautiful services. WOW! There’s a lot of work to be done, but WE’RE DOING IT. We have two amazing interim ministers. Fr. Huddleston, your words are careful and thoughtful and prayerful. Bishop Walmsley, we’ve been blessed with your experience and wisdom for so long – when you give sermons, it’s almost like we’re not going through this transition.
It’s funny – the more I think about our theme this year, the better it sounds – “Sustenance”. We don’t need to change too many things for now. We don’t need a new building, we don’t need new landscaping, we don’t need anything new or big. What we have already is big enough. Sure we must continue to grow this congregation, but right now, our primary focus has to be on sustaining what we have.
All the Stewardship Campaigns we’ve done in the past were important – last year, with its theme of “Transition” propelled us forward with a record number of pledges. But for some reason this year seems more important than ever. This year is our opportunity to say to those search candidates – “Holy Cross is good”… “Holy Cross is worth it”.
The bottom line is that, I believe, God want Holy Cross to survive. God wants us to be successful. God want us to keep doing the good work we’ve been doing in this community for so many years.
Anne: The first Sunday we were at Holy Cross Douglas Clegg was the “organist,” He played “Tis a Gift to Be Simple” on the fiddle. As we sang the words, “when we find ourselves in the place just right” I remember thinking to myself, yes, I feel as if I have come home, and I stood up and said so to the small congregation gathered there. I who do not like to stand up in public! But Holy Cross has been for me a place where I can sit down if I need to, where I feel people take me as I am, anxieties and all.
John: The thing I have valued most about Holy Cross is your readiness to try new things, to reach out boldly. So many congregations are locked in the past, resistant to change, fearful of failure. I’ve served churches where everything had a bronze plaque on it; someone gave it as a memorial and no one better mess with it! I’ve served churches where individuals and cliques had their turf – the altar guild, the music program, the Sunday School, the liturgy – so that there was no common ground, no way for new people or new ideas to be welcomed in. Holy Cross has been just the opposite. We’ve built a new building, instituted the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, pioneered Come With Joy liturgies and Come and See evangelism programs.
Anne and I are energized by creativity, challenge and change, so this has been personally important to us. But we also believe it’s essential as churches like this one try to respond to the needs of today’s world, to younger generations with different cultural contexts, to people turned off by traditional church. The Bible is a record of change. God is always moving ahead of God’s people. We’ve had a lot of joy here with you trying to keep up with God.
Anne: One of the things I love about Holy Cross is that this is a place where I have been able to develop the ministry of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, I have met others who love and support that ministry. I have been formed at least as much as I have formed any of the children. This work has been a huge gift to me as well as my gift to Holy Cross.
John: Liturgy is the heart of a church, and something very important to Anne and me. I’ve tried here to develop our worship drawing on the richness of the Anglo-Catholic tradition, but without stiffness, without preciousness, making it the work of the whole people of God, not just the priest and the ministers up front in costume. Just as Jesus is both human and divine, liturgy must be both warm and personal and also open to the transcendent, to mystery, to the breaking through of God in the beauty of music, liturgical environment, word and movement. It’s been a delight that you’ve allowed me to develop with you a liturgy that builds on the rich tradition of the Book of Common Prayer and the 1982 Hymnal but incorporates elements from other resources. Anne and I really pray here on Sundays; I don’t just lead prayer. There is much more to be done, of course, but I can’t think of another congregation that has come so far liturgically.
Anne: There is so much richness here and people are so willing to share their gifts. We have all been the recipient of loving community, friendships, spiritual growth, support in times of trouble. I am comfortable offering tai chi, singing Gilbert and Sullivan, gathering to make rosaries, attend other people’s quiet days, and lots of GOOD FOOD. In short I can bring all of myself and find it redeemed, and I am filled with overwhelming gratitude
John: I’ve left for last what has been most important to both of us: you, the people of Holy Cross. The Episcopal Church these days flourishes best in suburban settings, in college towns, in settings where historic endowed churches carry on an array of sophisticated programs. Weare is none of these. If you were looking to plant an Episcopal Church, you wouldn’t put it here. But that has been our gift. We have such a mix of people economically, in terms of age, education, occupation, background, politics, people in suits and ties, people in jeans and T-shirts. We’re small enough so that I know every one of you personally, something of your joys and sorrows, trials and triumphs. And you know each other. No one has a basis for feeling left out here. You’ve taught me much about how to love, and I love you. As I listen to you talking about the transition, I hear people saying that they’ll miss Anne and me, that they value what we’ve brought here, our gifts. But I don’t hear anyone saying that Holy Cross will not go on without us – and go on just fine. And you will. You’ve been a great gift to us, but you are a greater gift to each other.
Pat Karpen came to Holy Cross through our Come and See invitational evangelism campaign last spring. She came, saw, stayed and became an active member of the congregation. Among her gifts, Pat brings a career as a professional actor in New York City and as a teacher at John Stark High School and, now, at St. John’s School in Concord. Her Ministry Minute reflects Pat’s gifts of imagination and expression.
I wasn’t looking for fellowship. I wasn’t looking for warmth. I wasn’t looking for inclusion or welcome. I wasn’t looking for friendship. I wasn’t looking for a new path or a new destination. I was looking for a new car.
I had pretty much been driving my car all my life. It had always given me some problems. Quite frankly, there were a few occasions when I parked the car and just walked the path. Lately, though, it was starting to break down for me an awful lot. I was having some real difficulty reconciling some of the discrepancies I was finding in the manuals. I really wasn’t crazy about the mechanics. It especially bothered me when they would all gather together and tell me that most of my problems with my car were probably due to the fact that I was, well, after all, just a woman driver.
I had become so frustrated that annoyance had started to spill over into anger and downright rage. So much so, that most of the time I wasn’t focused on the path or the destination at all. All I could do was scream at my vehicle and weep and rage and mourn. I had stopped marveling at the scenery along the path. I could hardly even see the path.
Then Heidi asked me to come and see. I did. It was not an easy decision for me. I’d been in that same car for an awful long time. But I kept coming back. I like the feel of this car. I like how it takes the corners. I’m reading some manuals. I’m kicking the tires. I like the mechanic. I like his intelligence and his kindness. But there’s more.
To end as I began: I wasn’t looking for fellowship. I wasn’t looking for warmth. I wasn’t looking for inclusion or welcome. I wasn’t looking for friendship. Then I met you all. For whatever reason the particular tap dance that my DNA has always done has always kept me on the periphery of people. Most days I’m ok with that. Most days it doesn’t bother me. Most days. Then I met you all.
Your welcome has been palpable. Some of you have invited me into your homes. Some of you have even invited me back again. It’s always extremely difficult for me to show up; to come in from out of the rain, but your warmth has been enticing. Since I met you all, I’ve had the strangest feeling that if ever I were to be faced with an emergency…say Weare has lost power in an ice storm and because my sump pump is inoperative my basement is filling with water…that if I called any of you up in the middle of the night that you would leave your homes and come and try to help me. I don’t have the words to explain how that feeling has affected me. It is a strange and overwhelming moment in my life as a periphery person.
I am in awe of this small, beautiful holy place that houses your huge hearts and minds. Since I met you I am so…something…eased, happy, inspired…I don’t know…to be here and I must say thank you.
So forgive me if I wax philosophical for a moment… Life is funny, huge volumes of our past come into our minds like a flash and seem like they came and went so quickly – my Madeline was tiny when we started coming here, now she’s so big. The point is, we reflect fondly on our past, but we always look to the future, and we should! But we cannot forget to live in the present.
We all know how great Fr. John is as our priest and leader. How, with Anne’s help, he faces the divisions within our community unflinchingly and somehow brings us together. We know how important he is to us as our friend and spiritual leader, but now we need to look forward.
So where do we go from here? What will the new priest be like? Will she realize what a strong community we have? Will he accept us, with all our strengths and flaws, as we are? Will she have the patience to put up with us when we have a hard time making those commitments of Time… Talent… Treasure? I think the answer is yes. I firmly believe, perhaps fool heartedly, that a new leader will come in and take Fr. John’s place and move us forward in a positive direction, with God’s love as the foundation for all of it.
This community of people embodies so much of what is important to me and to my family. From our youngest members with their energy and innocence (and being an endless source of entertainment) to our eldest members with their experience and wisdom, I’m constantly reminded of how I want to be, how I want myself and my family to turn out. We’re certainly doing our part to keep this thing alive and kicking, or at least we’re trying. Sometimes we feel that we can’t do enough and get discouraged, but we never give up. We look to the future, but focus on the present, and make our contribution.
I’ll leave with this final thought – let’s not fear the future. Let’s trust in God and be determined to have the church that He wants us to have. Let’s continue to love each other and help our neighbors. Let’s continue to tolerate, to have patience, to have joy. Let’s be that church that picks up the broken candle and patiently repairs it, puts it back in its place, imperfect, but wonderful.*
* Mike Goulet’s young son Alex was commissioned as a new acolyte on this Sunday when Mike presented his Ministry Minute. The first Sunday Alex acolyted, he tipped the processional candle holder he was carrying and the candle fell off and cracked. Alex was upset, but we just melted some wax over the cracks and fixed the candle, putting it back, as Mike says, “imperfect but wonderful.” A lovely metaphor for Holy Cross Church!
Holy Cross Junior Warden Heidi Clow is a longtime resident of Weare. With her husband Tom, she owns Colburn’s North Village Store. When the Clows retired after long careers as educators in the Manchester public schools, they bought Colburn’s and adopted a daughter, Amanda. Amanda brought Heidi to Holy Cross. Heidi is a weaver, and at the conclusion of her Ministry Minute, she presented the church with a lovely set of woven Altar clothes.
When I was a teacher, we started every day on the floor in a circle at “Morning Meeting.” We greeted each other, shared, discussed what we were learning and talked about behavior. I tried to teach the children that everyone was unique, special, and that everyone had good qualities which they could use to be contributors to the world. I couldn’t, of course, say, in a public school, that we are all children of God, but it was what was meant. Our class talked about what we were learning, how to behave in certain situations, how to solve classroom problems, and ways to help each other. I miss those meetings. Children were so open, kind and thoughtful during that part of the day, and often, other adults mentioned the way my class was caring of each other.
The bullying incidents which have been in the news lately have bothered me a lot, and it is one thing I pray about. These innocent children who have taken their own lives because of bullying had a right to be the people they were, God’s children. We are all children of God, and I do not understand why children feel they can target another child, even if that child is different from them. I pray that the children I taught remember what we discussed and that they are compassionate with others in our world. And I pray that other adults model correct behavior in front of children so that this needless bullying ends.
At Holy Cross one of the things I find extremely special is the caring way everyone is with others. When we say the “Peace” each week, sing a hymn together, pray for others in our community, or celebrate communion, sometimes I feel like crying, because it is so wonderful. I wish the world were more like Holy Cross. From the first Sunday I came here, I have felt included and I am happy to be a part of this morning meeting, in which we solve problems together, share our lives, and try to be the best children of God that we can.
I have truly grown up here at Holy Cross. Of course when I say this, you will immediately think, yes you have, you are very tall. This is natural; it is the reaction I get at every extended family get-together or whenever I meet someone new. But when I say that I have grown up here, I mean it in a different way. I feel like I have grown in character, in leadership, and in overall attitude during my seventeen years here. Going to church has meant a lot more than coming to a building to worship for an hour then leaving. Memories that will stay with me certainly involve getting here at seemingly unhealthily early hours for a Sunday morning, and staying well into the start of many football games in the afternoon. However now as I grow up and am preparing to head off to college, I can see that I have reaped many benefits from this time at Church. It had given me ample time to reflect on my views and beliefs in all aspects of life.
Over the past few years I have really started being able to take a side when it comes to issues of both morality and spirituality, which I do not believe I would be able to do if it hadn’t been for my time at church. It has also sparked an interest in me in church history and social justice, which coupled with my Catholic school education has given me the opportunity to study many aspects of the origins of religion as a whole and the Episcopal tradition. This study has given me a much more informed belief and has shown me that I really do believe in what we stand for here and in the Episcopal Church at large. Because I feel so strongly about the sense of community and belonging that comes from going to church here, I have dedicated my time and energy in many hours of community service to try and give back to the community here. This year, I hope to continue this spirit of service in helping with the search process and giving back in every way I can before I leave Weare for a new life in college. Overall going to Holy Cross has given me a much different outlook on life as a whole and I am sure that wherever I may end up, the lessons that I have learned here will travel with me and impact every decision that I make in the future.
My mother had to leave Middlebury College at the height of the Great Depression after running out of tuition money. There was no work anywhere in her native Vermont and very little hope anywhere in New England, so she went to New York City to find a job and some sort of security in a very difficult time.
She settled in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn with some old family friends, found a job, and joined Christ Church, a long-time Episcopal foundation of the community. There, at a YPF (Young Peoples Fellowship) dance, she met my father, and after the usual courtship of the times, they were married. When my father returned from World War II, they moved to suburbia and joined St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Connecticut. I was born, baptized and confirmed there, and the church became 100% of our spiritual and social environment. My parents’ friends were in “our church,” so of course were my friends. My mother taught “Sunday School.” My dad was active in the “Men’s Club.” I flipped my first egg by his side at one of the monthly Communion Breakfasts. I was an acolyte, a crucifer, and very active in YPF. I joined the church-sponsored Boy Scout Troop. For years, I went to the summer camp owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut. The highlight of every holiday season was the midnight candlelight service that always required folding chairs in the lobby. We never missed one. When I came home from college for Christmas vacation, a high point was having the honor of serving as an acolyte at the midnight service.
I went off to college in 1968, and except for weddings, funerals, and the occasional baptism, never went back to the church. I do not know why.
Thirty-four years later, after successfully partnering with my wife to raise a family, sending the children off to college, attaining a reasonable level of professional success, maintaining friendships and becoming part of our New Hampshire community, a painful midlife crisis took its toll, and emerging on the other side, I was thankful to be there reasonably whole, and looking for a link to a much simpler time.
I showed up at Holy Cross one Sunday in 2002, sat in the back (where I still am), perhaps wearing shorts (as I do in all but the coldest months of winter) and found the connection I was looking for. Sitting next to me was someone I knew. “Welcome,” she said. And that was what I needed: a welcome with no judgment, no questions, just friendship. Church is a time every week I can count on with no cell phones, no computers and plenty of opportunity to reflect on all those things we have no time to think about during the week: A time to put things in proper perspective.
I always used to laugh at my Catholic friends who always “had to” go to church on non-Sunday evenings just to get in the time. When the period finally came in my life that the “have to” turned into the “want to,” it was time to reconnect; and the Holy Cross community was there waiting. Thank you.
I’ll begin by taking you back to 1935. I was a Roman Catholic. My Mom and Dad were French Catholic all their lives 90 some odd years. Then when I became a young man and I wanted to have a family of my own, I wanted them to go to the Roman Catholic Church. That lasted 24 years until I got divorced. Which changed my life.
A couple of years after that I met Ellie and she changed my life again – for the good. But in my mind there was a big void in my life, I went on with day-to-day life, but didn’t have a church. Then, Ellie and I decided to go to the island of St. Martin in the Caribbean. We’d gone to several other islands and enjoyed them, but the first night we were there, we walked to a restaurant, which you could see from the hotel and we heard a roar come up behind us and a man jumped out and put a 9 millimeter gun in my belly and demanded all of our money. He grabbed Ellie’s bag off her shoulder.
When we got back to Rhode Island, where we were living at the time, we were asking, “Why did it happen to us?” That man wanted to shoot me, but he didn’t. We felt we had an angel on our shoulders, And decided it was time to find a church. We went to St. Matthias and met Father Morgan and it was so close to the Roman Catholic Church, I felt very comfortable with it. Ellie and I became part of that church family for about six years, and enjoyed doing things for the Church.
Then we decided to move back to New Hampshire. We searched about 20 towns and ended up in Hillsborough, of all places. Then, it was time to search for a church. Hillsborough didn’t have an Episcopal church, so we tried a couple of Episcopal churches in nearby towns, but they didn’t feel right for us. Then we heard about Weare. Ellie’s brother had helped move the old church from East Weare to Weare Center years ago, and bragged about that, so we had that connection. A couple of days later Father John was sitting in our living room, explaining things to us about Holy Cross. I enjoy Father John and his sermons very much.
I feel apart of our new church building because I worked on it … painted the posts, and am proud that I was asked to help build the Altar and built the kneeler in front of the icon. I feel good about mowing and raking the lawn because it’s for the church.
We have some great people here… talented people here. In Rhode Island, I was the only one that would read the lessons and here there are a dozen and more people who read – not that I want to read, you all do fine. I’ve met some wonderful friends – John Heckman, Don and his wife, Marge, and all of you are great friends. I’ve seen kids grow up … mothers brought them in cradles and now they are practically grown up … I think Laura Arvin was one of the mothers.
I’m proud to be a part of Holy Cross