About Our Church
The Mission of Holy Cross Church is to draw people to Jesus and His church through meaningful worship, vital relationships, ongoing training and life changing service to our community and the world.
A Brief History:
Holy Cross began as an evangelistic outreach ministry of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Winter Haven in a small building in the Garden Grove area (where the telephone company is today). On September 6, 1970, thirty-two people attended the first Eucharist of the new parochial mission, “Holy Cross Chapel of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.”During the first three years, Sunday School and nursery were held in nearby homes of members, and the “little building” served both as church and parish hall. Quickly realizing the need for larger and more suitable facilities, the Chapel Council began planning a new building.
On Easter Day, April 2, 1972, Fr. Caldwell led the Holy Cross congregation in a joyous Resurrection Day Eucharist, complete with new peach colored altar and cross. The celebration began in the “little building” and then moved down the street several blocks to the present location, 201 Kipling Lane, land that had been donated to the church by Mr. and Mrs. Wood. There ground was broken for a new building which would serve as the church until 1987 and today, known as The Simmons Building, serves as the offices and Christian education rooms. That building, originally planned as a parish hall, grew into a new church building built by the men of the church. Under the direction of parishioner and master builder Milton Simmons and future parishioner Dave Zellar, the men worked on Saturdays and throughout the summer and fall to complete the new church.
The first Eucharist was celebrated in the new church on November 19, 1972. Those who worshipped at Holy Cross during that time will remember the repainted blue wooden altar and cross and the six six-foot tall candlesticks that were a beautiful focal point behind the altar but gave the acolytes so much trouble! The Right Rev. William H. Folwell, Bishop of the Diocese of Central Florida, consecrated the church on November 20, 1972. The “little building” was relocated to the new site behind the Simmons Building and became an all purpose building for the church and community alike.
In the fall of 1973, the Chapel Council requested and received permission from St. Paul’s Rector and Vestry, to seek Diocesan aid in becoming an independent mission. On Holy Cross Day, September 14, 1974, Holy Cross Chapel became Holy Cross Church, no longer tied to St. Paul’s, but as a new mission of the Diocese of Central Florida. During the next three years, Holy Cross grew. The influx of new families to the area and the enthusiasm of the church members brought many new faces to the Holy Cross family.
The Sunday School program outgrew the “little building,” and the need for a larger parish hall became evident. After much planning by all groups within the congregation, ground was broken (although construction had already begun) on Bicentennial Sunday, July 4, 1976, for a large multipurpose building. Our “little building” was once again moved–this time to Lakeland to become St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, a new Diocesan mission. On October 10, 1976, the present parish hall, with kitchen, nursery, storage area, and offices, was dedicated in memory of communicant Herbert Apple, a founding member and Chapel Treasurer who had been so instrumental in raising funds for the construction of the Simmons Building. A wrought iron arch from St. Paul’s rose garden was moved to Holy Cross to serve as an entranceway to Apple Hall.
The young people shared in many activities at the church and beyond. Our children grew-up to serve as Acolytes, Sunday School and nursery assistants, and enjoy activities like lock-ins, the annual Diocesan Acolyte Festival, Disney World’s Night of Joy, beach trips, Happening, New Beginnings, and Kanuga’s Winter Light. Throughout the years we were blessed by several volunteer and paid youth ministers who have worked lovingly with our youth.
One of our strong lay ministries is our involvement with Scout Troop 515. Between 1981 and 2009 our troop has produced 70 Eagle Scouts. Another evidence of effective Lay Ministry is out commitment to teach the God and Family curriculum to our Cub Scouts and the God and Country curriculum to our Boy Scouts. The number of Cubs earning this award was the largest in our Scouting District.
A new Lay Ministry just beginning is AWANA. This program aimed towards helping our children know Christ.
In 1983, Holy Cross became financially independent from the Diocese and was elevated to Parish status.
By 1986 the congregation was again in need of more space, and a committee was formed to study the growing needs of the parish.In the summer of 1986, ground was broken for the new church building; but first the Simmons Building would undergoing a major renovation.
Everything in the Simmons Building was moved into Apple Hall to serve as our worship space during construction. The stained glass windows were carefully removed and stored, and one third of the building was removed to make room for construction of the new church between the Simmons Building and Apple Hall.
Many in the congregation worked on the Simmons Building (again) to convert it into Sunday School rooms and church offices. A Memorial Garden was also created on the east side of the Parish Hall and a memorial plaque identifying those whose cremains were buried was placed on the wall. The wrought iron archway was relocated as the entrance to the garden.
The new Church Building plan incorporated the original stained glass windows that had been given as memorials or thank offerings in the mid 1970’s. The hanging cross over the altar was made by Richard Brillant, the altar by Fr. Paul Wolfe, and the Baptismal Font from the original church (and before that from St. Paul’s and Holy Trinity, Bartow) was refurbished by Bill Boykin. The new church was completed in time for Easter, and Bishop Folwell consecrated it in a beautiful service on May 17, 1987.
Also in 1987, the Rev. Mark Rivera, Director of Anchor House home for abused and neglected boys in Auburndale, began his ministry as Deacon at Holy Cross. The boys from Anchor House joined our parish family in worship on Sunday and presented us with a major opportunity to minister to them in love, as a parish and as individuals. In May, 1990, several women felt called to form the Holy Cross Chapter of Daughters of the King, an international spiritual order of prayer and service for Episcopal women.
Holy Cross increased its participation in outreach and evangelism, developed a cell group ministry, revitalized youth activities, and increased opportunities for lay ministries. The Rev. Dr. Betty Harrison joined the Holy Cross family as deacon in July, 2003. Angel Tree became an annual outreach ministry at Christmas time. The city’s Pregnancy Center attracted the interest of several of our ladies who volunteer their time and talents to help young mothers. Holy Cross increased its financial and prayer support of overseas missionaries.
In January 2008, after many difficult months of unhappiness with the direction of the national Episcopal Church, The Rector resigned, and along with a number of Holy Cross parishioners, left the Episcopal Church. Once again a faithful remnant met with our Diocesan Bishop, the Right Rev. John W. Howe, and determined that with God’s help, Holy Cross would continue to be a place of worship, service, and ministry in southeast Winter Haven.
Their faithfulness, determination, and dedication to Our Lord and His Church led to the diocese’s approval of aiding in the financial responsibilities and the calling of the Rev. Dr. Richard Bordin as rector in September, 2008.
On Holy Cross Day, 2010, Holy Cross Church celebrates forty years of God’s Grace and Glory as a member of the Body of Christ in the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida.
And so after forty-four years of joys and sorrows, hopes and sadness, dreams and difficulties, what does our Lord call Holy Cross Church to be and do? Without God’s sustaining grace, and the presence of His glory, Holy Cross would not even exist. Through prayer, sharing, seeking, and following the Holy Spirit, this question will be answered. We know this: God is not finished with Holy Cross Church. As we move forward, we are thankful for the challenges and joys of the past and pray that this church might become a living vessel of God’s Holy Spirit to all in the community we serve, to all who enter our doors, and to all who call this place home.