In May of 2003, several interested Episcopalians met to discuss the possibility of establishing a parish in the southern end of New Hanover County. There were concerns that all the major denominations had begun new churches in the area, but the Episcopal Church had no representation. Five of this group met with the rector of St. James the Fisherman in Shallotte to learn the procedure for establishing a church. He advised working through the Lower Cape Fear Deanery. This led to an appointment with The Rev. Canon Matthew Stockard, Canon to the Ordinary in the diocese. At that meeting, Canon Stockard was elated to be approached by a group with the desire to begin a church in the southern end of the county. He cited demographics the diocese had obtained showing the growth rate in the area and the need for an Episcopal church. He assured the group it had the diocesan backing and support to begin the process.
Over the remainder of the year, this group met once a week for prayer and guidance, asking for direction on their new task for establishing a congregation. On December 14, 2003, at the invitation of the group, The Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel 3rd, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina, celebrated Holy Eucharist at Carolina Beach. He was most surprised – expecting 6 to 10 people; he was received by approximately 60 people at the first official service of the Emerging Episcopal Fellowship.
On January 11, 2004, Holy Cross Episcopal Church (so named in late December 2003) held its first Sunday church service at Ashley High School in a choral room with The Rev. Dr. Richard Warner, Jr., celebrating and 39 in attendance. After several months, the church outgrew the choral room and began holding services in the school cafeteria. The first vestry of seven members was elected in December 2004 to serve for the year 2005. In February 2005, Holy Cross Episcopal Church was officially received into the Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina at its annual Diocesan Convention held in Wilmington. During the Holy Cross annual parish meeting in December 2005, the vestry was expanded to nine members. In September 2005, a Sunday school program for children and also an adult class were formed; additionally, a Bible study group met once a week in parishioners' homes.
In October 2005, a Talking Points Committee was formed to define both a short- and long-term vision concerning membership, music, youth program, land purchase, and nature of a building. Sufficient progress on all goals was made to warrant land acquisition in May 2007. Nearly five acres were purchased for a permanent church home at 5820 Myrtle Grove Road. Included on the property was a prefabricated, well aged, three-bedroom double-wide, which was renovated through parishioners sweat equity to provide a meeting place for midweek Holy Eucharist services, weekly Bible studies, and various committee and parish functions. Several fund raising events, such as yard sales and BBQs, have been held on the property.
In the fall of 2009, a plan was presented to the parish to begin development of the property. Through the direction of Holy Cross’s Building Committee, a modular building was proposed, with the project being funded by Holy Cross members' investments. This project entailed the formation of a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) as a separate financial entity from that of Holy Cross. The project was embraced by the membership, and the needed funds were quickly committed. The LLC purchased the modular building and is leasing it to Holy Cross. Once the lease is satisfied, Holy Cross will own the building. Site development work began in December 2009 with the modular units delivered in February 2010. Through the Building Committee and efforts of several dedicated individuals, Holy Cross held its first service in the new building on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2010, with more than 200 in the congregation. Bishop Clifton Daniel and The Rt. Rev. Santosh Marray, Bishop Assisting, Diocese of East Carolina, consecrated and dedicated the building on June 6, 2010.
Seven Basic Premises created by our founding members:
- Holy Cross exists for those who are not yet members.
- We welcome and accept people wherever they are in their faith journey, and trust God to take them where He wants them to be, and on His timetable.
- People want relationships, not religion.
- We play to our strengths. We aren't interested in trying to be another church. We learn from others, but we adapt what we like to our situation. There isn't one single way that works, or one size fits all.
- Just because we've always done things in a certain way is not, in and of itself, a sufficient reason for continuing to do it that way. God loves us just the way we are, but He doesn't expect us to stay that way.
- God pays for what He orders.
- With God, nothing is impossible.