For four years, Holy Cross Anglican Church met in a car dealership. The price was right — free — but the congregation wanted a more traditional space.
Holy Cross found it in a place that has made opening its doors part of its mission.
Grace Mid-City, a Southern Baptist church at 630 Richland Ave., has been sharing its facilities with Holy Cross since Oct. 28. The Anglicans worship at 9 a.m., the Baptists at 10:30 a.m., and each has its educational programs while the other is using the sanctuary. Both groups say they’re happy with the arrangement.
“The first Sunday that we both had our services, the chief complaint was that we had figured out how to move around the campus so well to accommodate one another that our congregations didn’t interact. Our folks wanted to interact more,” said the Rev. Jarrett Fontenot, rector of Holy Cross. “We wanted to see each other and meet these new faces and remind each other that at the end of the day, our mission, our work, what we’re about is really the same thing, and it’s bigger than our denominational distinctives. It’s been a lot of fun.”
It’s not the first time Grace has hosted another church. It shared its space with Living Hope Fellowship for six years before it relocated, and during the week, Grace makes space available for more than a dozen organizations such as recovery groups, Spanish language lessons and the Ikebana flower arranging club.
When the Rev. Byron Townsend brought up the idea of inviting Holy Cross to his congregation at Grace, it was approved quickly and unanimously.
Grace Baptist’s background may make it especially open to such moves. In 2011, CrossPoint Baptist Church sent Townsend — its missions, music and administrative pastor — and 60 members to help revitalize Grace’s aging and shrinking congregation.
“We live in a cultural moment where local churches do not have the luxury of competing,” Townsend said. “We must learn to work together for the same of our king and his kingdom. We must learn to work together for the sake of the flourishing of his creation. … For the congregation that I’m privileged to shepherd, partnering with an Anglican congregation is a way that we’re working together for our king.”
Since it began in 2014, Holy Cross Anglican Church met at the Gerry Lane Cadillac dealership on Rieger Road, which parallels Interstate 10. While members appreciated owner Eric Lane making the space available, it was an unconventional location for a church, particularly since it is in a light industrial section of town with few residents.
“That was a big factor for me, as well,” Fontenot said. “In my imagination, having this kind of old, more Catholic idea of parish: This is my neighborhood. This is my parish, and I’m responsible for them whether they believe what I believe or don’t. This is my community, and I feel at least some level of responsibility for them. Personally, I was having a hard time with that there, right on the side of the interstate. That was a factor, too, in wanting to be in a neighborhood and having some focus there.”
Now, Holy Cross has joined Grace and Ingleside United Methodist as Christian churches in a highly residential neighborhood. Fontenot prefers it to leasing an empty commercial building. Sharing it with other believers is a plus.
“It’s been fairly intimate in terms of our folks see them, their folks see us,” Fontenot said. “It’s been really good. It’s a special kind of church. A lot of churches wouldn’t consider this option. We’ve been really thankful.”