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 met Christ for the first time, but all were challenged to put Christ first in their lives. After returning home, they began meeting together to pray for healing and reconciliation. It was not long before they received permission from the local Episcopal bishop to formally begin meeting together as a group. Ron Winchell, an Episcopal Priest, and two laymen, Dean Bailey and Grady Spiegel, led the bible study and prayer time. Their numbers grew and they were given permission to celebrate communion as a “Community of Faith.” In September of 1986, they began meeting at the home of one of the members. Within a month, 40 people joined the community and it soon outgrew the home setting.
An Episcopal Mission (1986-1987)
The community moved to a conference room at Lewis-Gale Hospital and petitioned the Bishop to recognize them as a “mission” of the diocese. The petition was accepted, and the mission 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, 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 of 1988, 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 October, the Bishop’s Council began searching for a rector. The Rev. R. Quigg Lawrence preached his first sermon and interviewed in November 1988. CHS was accepted as a self-sustaining “parish” in January 1989 and issued a call to The Rev. Lawrence to be CHS’s first rector. Due to space constraints, CHS began looking for a larger facility. In 1990, the bishop arranged for CHS to worship 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. The Terumah Foundation was created to raise enough money to buy a larger tract of land. The 15+ acre site on Merriman Road was acquired June 1995. Construction began on a 27,000 square foot facility. The financial arrangement between the Terumah Foundation 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 Episcopal Diocese. It also led to a letter from the new diocesan bishop, in February 2000, pronouncing, without canonical trial or due process, that neither CHS nor the rector were any longer a part of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia or a part of ECUSA. CHS was in a sense “thrown from the train” but God was already sovereignly at work, making provision for a new spiritual home.
An “Anglican Mission in America” Parish (2000-2012)
In a groundbreaking response to the spiritual apathy and liberalism sweeping the United States, orthodox leaders of the Anglican Church acted to provide hope 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 and Southeast Asia. Its mission in the U.S. was 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 Episcopal church in America to be welcomed into the new Anglican Mission, thus remaining connected to the Worldwide Anglican Communion through leadership in Rwanda and Southeast Asia and eventually becoming a missionary district of the Anglican Church of Rwanda (PEAR).
A PEARUSA and ACNA Parish (2012-Present)
When the spiritual leaders of AMiA precipitously pulled out of Anglican Church of Rwanda (PEAR) in December of 2012, the clergy and congregations who desired to stay canonically resident in Rwanda and in full jurisdiction with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), continued as a missionary district of PEAR to the United States and were named PEARUSA. In February 2013, CHS’s rector, Dr. Lawrence, was consecrated as a bishop in PEAR and in ACNA.
Four years later, in 2016, the PEAR College of Bishops decided that the ACNA (which they helped to create) was mature with godly leadership; there was no longer a need for Rwandan oversight of the U.S. churches from 6300 miles away. So, PEAR gave the PEARUSA churches to the full and direct canonical oversight of the ACNA College of Bishops. CHS helped form and became a member of a new ACNA diocese named Christ Our Hope. Christ Our Hope diocese has member churches from North Carolina to Maine and is headquartered in Chapel Hill, NC.
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 2017, 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 Virginia, 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, in 2017 Orchard Hills had over 800 members and regular attenders. In 2005, we established another church plant, ‘CHS: The River,’ which is located in the Blacksburg area and has over 240 members and regular attenders. In 2013, we helped plant Restoration Church in Salem, VA which now has over 300 members. And of course, we helped or are helping with church plants in Lynchburg, Harrisonburg, Elkton, Boston, Greensboro, Parkersburg, Charleston and Crozet, to name a few.
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, discipleship, 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!
All these happenings in just the first 35 years! Our “history” is only just beginning…pray that the Lord will continue to bless this ministry!