Termites and Trusting God

Holy Cross, Stateburg, “Gets Serious about Ministry,”
Receives $1.5 Million in Anonymous Gift; $250,000 Grant

By Joy Hunter

(This article was originally appeared in the February/March 2008 issue of the Jubilate Deo, the Newspaper for the Diocese of South Carolina.)

Seven-and-a-half years are a long time to be out of your main church building. It’s also a long time to be without a full-time rector, but that was the reality for the parishioners of Holy Cross, Stateburg. Severe termite damage, discovered in 2000, rendered their historic building unusable. That same year their rector left, and the church was assigned an interim rector.

As the “interim” period stretched into years, Bishop Salmon called the vestry to get serious about ministry. He urged them to step out in faith, look for a full-time rector and purchase a rectory. (They had sold their dilapidated rectory a few years prior.)

Funds were available to cover a rector’s salary for two years. During the interim period they had been able to put money away. However they still were hesitant. With the building in severe disrepair, how could they spend funds on anything other than facilities?

Heeding the Bishop’s Call

Yet, in September 2007, they heeded the Bishop’s words and called The Reverend Tommy Allen to be their full-time Rector. When Tommy joined the parish, he and his wife, Kimberly, moved into a newly purchased rectory.

“When I came in September, I knew it was going to be a challenge,” said Allen. “The parish chapel, where we currently meet, is small and cramped. After a couple of nights of tossing and turning in bed, the Lord had to teach me to let it go.”

Bishop Salmon also reminded Allen to focus on pastoring and teaching. “This community is growing,” Allen said. “There are plenty of opportunities for ministry.” In addition to Shaw Air Force base, just two miles away, the Third Army US Headquarters is planning to move between five and eight thousand people to the area in the next two to three years.

Allen found it a stretch, but he focused, as the Bishop suggested, on pastoring and teaching, and he cast a vision for ministry. “I’ve always believed that if you have strong biblical teaching and preaching, traditional liturgy, and a genuine love for those you serve, there is no better recipe,” Allen said.

The week prior to Thanksgiving, Allen received a phone call from someone asking to meet him to discuss a financial donation. They agreed to meet the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving. Following the phone call, Allen received an engineering report that said their building was in need of “immediate shoring up” or the roof would collapse. “I already knew what it was going to cost to have the building restored,” said Allen. “This would be an additional $30,000 – $50,000.”

Jesus Takes Material Matters Seriously

The vestry was scheduled to meet the next Tuesday and, after praying about it, Tommy felt led to speak about making the incarnation relevant to how church business is conducted. “Jesus Christ came here in the flesh,” said Allen. “He takes material matters seriously. And we need to, too. I told them that it was our obligation to take care of the building. ”˜You can disagree,’ I said, ”˜but it’s important for all of us to be unified and on the same page. We need to shore up the building and make plans to expand our already existing chapel so we can grow and get back in our sanctuary.’”

“When we took a vote, everyone’s hand went up,” said Allen. “You could actually feel the Holy Spirit moving. It was as though a wind blew right through the room.”

“The parishioners of Holy Cross were determined to keep this ministry alive,” said Allen. They were ready for something to happen.”

Something did happen. The very next day Allen was handed a check for $1.5 million. To say the least, it was much more than he expected. “I had thought we might receive $10,000 – $15,000,” said Allen, “something we could use to offset the cost of the new landscaping at the rectory.”

Instead, the gift will enable Holy Cross to repair the damaged trusses, pay off the mortgage on the new rectory, set aside funds for ministry expansion and get them back into their sanctuary. In addition, the church received a $250,000 grant through SC Senator Jim DeMint’s office from America’s Treasures. “That program has to do with valuing and restoring buildings that are part of America’s rich history,” said Allen. The Vestry’s goal is to restore the sanctuary to its original condition.

“The moral of this story is profound,” says Allen. “The church has to decide to step out and engage the culture with the gospel. This was a movement of the Holy Spirit. The donor saw what was going on here, the enthusiasm and excitement and wanted to share in the vision. I could tell things were going to happen. I just didn’t think it would be this soon. We’re baptizing people. We’ve got weddings scheduled. Our youth ministry is starting: God is on the move.”

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Parish Ministry

5 comments on “Termites and Trusting God

  1. Wilfred says:

    Out-of-sight from most of the laity, theological termites have been weakening the Episcopal Church for many years now. It’s too late for fumigation alone; complete re-building of most of the structure will be required, if it can be saved at all.

  2. Utah Benjamin says:

    “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – Phil. 4:8

    Wilfred, God still is able to work, even while our beloved Episcopal Church is in peril. May we not forget to take time out from criticizing others to praise God for his grace and mercy, especially in ministry.

  3. Billy says:

    #2, you are so right! If we focus on God’s will for us, first, then all other things will fall into place. I firmly believe that! If we come down off that mountain-top, like Peter, James and John were forced to do, and stand in the light of our Tranfigured Lord, we cannot fail to do God’s will, and that will be enough where our church is concerned and where our neighbors are concerned.

  4. gerry says:

    I was rector of this parish when the termites were discovered and know something of what this parish has experienced. My prayers are with them and their new rector.

  5. yohanelejos says:

    I’m really happy this is happening — this is where my parents got married, almost 50 years ago!