A “Community of Faith” (1985-1986)
By 1985, a number of people from area Episcopal churches had experienced a life-altering weekend while attending a Cursillo renewal weekend. Some individuals met Christ for the first time, but all were challenged to put Christ first in their lives. After returning from the weekend, each returned to his/her home church to serve the Lord. However, many missed the contemporary praise and worship music, small groups, and prayer that had touched their hearts during Cursillo. Before long, they began to search for a way to continue to be fed in these ways.
One afternoon, they met at the Roanoker Restaurant to discuss the situation and decided that they wanted to meet and pray for healing and reconciliation. The local Episcopal bishop was contacted to seek his permission for the group to meet formally. They were cautious about meeting together without an experienced teacher but soon learned that Ron Winchell, an Episcopal Priest, was willing to lead the study. Attendance continued to rise, and in addition to prayer and Bible Study, the group began celebrating communion as a “Community of Faith.” The Bishop’s permission was contingent on representatives from the group meeting with the area Episcopal priests because their population was drawing from those area churches.
The Episcopal priests voiced no opposition, so the community began meeting on Sunday mornings in September 1986 at one member’s home. Other Episcopalians heard about the community that was worshipping in a Cursillo-type manner, and soon the number grew. Within a month, 45-50 people joined the community, and it was not long before it outgrew the home setting.
An Episcopal Mission (1986-1987)
The community moved to a conference room at Lewis-Gale Hospital and soon decided to petition the Bishop to recognize the community as a mission church. The petition was accepted, and the mission church was named “Church of the Holy Spirit” (CHS). As a mission, CHS was under the direct authority of the Bishop. The Bishop appointed Ron Winchell as Priest-in-Charge, and he appointed a Bishop’s Council similar to our Vestry.
As membership increased, it became apparent that a larger facility was required. In December 1986, CHS moved its worship services to the Salem Civic Center.
An Episcopal Parish (1988-2000)
In August, Ron Winchell tendered his resignation as Priest-in-Charge. In September, CHS began sharing the facilities of a small Lutheran church on Melrose Avenue, and by November, the Bishop’s Council began searching for a Rector.
In January 1989, Rev. Quigg Lawrence had been interviewed, and he had accepted the call to be CHS’s second priest. Due to space constraints, CHS began looking for a larger facility. Soon thereafter, the bishop arranged for CHS to meet at North Cross School on Sunday mornings. With continued growth in attendance, offerings, and ministries, the CHS Vestry recognized the need to have our own church home. Initially, a small tract of land was purchased. Before long, though, it became apparent that more land would be needed. A foundation was created to raise enough money to buy a larger tract of land, and the 15+ acre site on Merriman Road was acquired June 1995. Construction began on the 27,000 square ft. facility. The financial arrangement between Terumah and CHS enabled CHS to keep the land and the building when its convictions concerning the authority of Holy Scripture strained its relationship with the Diocese. It also led to a letter from the new bishop, in February 2000, pronouncing that CHS was no longer a part of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia or a part of ECUSA.
An “Anglican Mission in America” Parish (2000-2012)
For generations, the United States and other nations in the “west” sent missionaries armed with the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the far reaches of the globe. But the light that was once America had dimmed; our nation had become a home to the largest population of unchurched and spiritually disconnected English-speaking people in the world. At the same time, Christianity was experiencing a dynamic renewal and expansion in many other parts of the world, including Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia…the “global south.”
In a groundbreaking response, leaders of the Anglican Church in Africa and Asia acted to provide hope for the dire situation in the United States by establishing the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA). AMiA was originally established as a missionary outreach to the United States sanctioned jointly by the Anglican Archbishops for Rwanda (in central Africa) and South East Asia, and existed to glorify God by building an alliance of congregations committed to gathering, planting, and serving dynamic churches in the Anglican tradition. In January 2000, the Anglican Archbishops consecrated two Americans as missionary Bishops to the United States.
In February 2000, CHS became the first AMiA church in America remaining connected to the Worldwide Anglican Communion through leadership in Rwanda and South East Asia and eventually becoming a missionary district of the Anglican Church of Rwanda (PEAR)
A PEARUSA and ACNA Parish (2012-Present)
When the leaders of AMIA precipitously pulled out of Anglican Church of Rwanda (PEAR) in December of 2102, the clergy and congregations who desired to stay canonically resident in Rwanda but in full jurisdiction of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) continued as a missionary district of PEAR to the United States and were named PEARUSA. The call to be a worshiping, healing and missionary community where Jesus Christ transforms lives continues to be blessed by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
We have been planting churches both in the US and overseas. As of July 2015 we had planted or helped plant over 25 churches in the US, Rwanda, India, Cuba, Vietnam, and China. Many of these churches have been built in partnership with ICM.org.
In the US, it was noted that many of our members were traveling to Southwest Roanoke County from the Botetourt area. So in October 2002, we planted a new church, ‘CHS: Orchard Hills,’ located on Cloverdale Road in the Daleville area. First launched with about 80 CHS members, today Orchard Hills has an average Sunday attendance of nearly 400. More recently, in 2005 we established another church plant, ‘CHS: The River,’ which is located in the Blacksburg area and now has over 200 members; in 2013 we helped plant Restoration Church in Salem, VA which now has over 300 members.
Throughout all that has transpired, God has continued to bless us through the outpouring of his Holy Spirit on this congregation. We have grown in many ways: Sunday attendance, staffing, ministries, small groups, missions and through facility expansion. We are excited to see how God will continue to grow CHS as we stay focused on making disciples! We want people to GROW in relationship to Christ in relationship, GATHER as a church in corporate worship, exercise their GIFTS in the work of the ministry, develop GENEROSITY in expending their time and resources and be discipled in GROUPS if life-changing community. As we stay focused on the main goal – making disciples – we trust the Lord will continue to add to our numbers daily those who are being saved.
All these happenings in just the first 30 years! Our “history” is only just beginning…pray that the Lord will continue to bless this ministry!