THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
TAKES A BOLD MOVE… “TO DEMONSTRATE CHRISTIAN CONCERNS
TO THE IMMEDIATE COMMUNITY”* OF ORLEANS
HONORING GILBERT MERRITT AND NAT GODDARD
The Vestry is pleased to share that at the June regular Vestry meeting it was voted unanimously to take $50,000 from our savings and endowment funds to sponsor the next Habitat house build in Orleans. This gift would make the Church of the Holy Spirit the sponsor of the build. Furthermore, the Vestry voted unanimously to designate the $50,000 gift in honor of Gilbert Merritt and Nat Goddard, two long time active members of The Church of the Holy Spirit as well as key partners with Habitat for Humanity, Cape Cod.
Most of us are aware of the worldwide housing project called Habitat for Humanity and many of us support it with our gifts. It builds homes for families using volunteer laborers and the sweat equity of time by the designated family to build a house from the ground up. It is a combined effort toward the goal of home ownership by a family that would not otherwise be able to own a home. CHS has been represented by volunteers who have given countless hours to building homes on the Cape and Orleans, none more than Gilbert Merritt and Nat Goddard.
As stewards of the CHS heritage we continue to live out the ideals and mission of prior generations who were bold in their initiatives. This decision continues the recognition of community needs and responds, once again, “in a renewed effort to demonstrate Christian concerns in the immediate community.” There is a boldness about the Church of the Holy Spirit that makes it stand out as a Parish. Its genesis was during the Great Depression of widespread unemployment and bank failures, a time of uncertainty. Undeterred, a band of Orleans folks were determined to organize a church.
On Sunday, June 4, 1933, the Church of the Holy Spirit held it first service of Morning Prayer in the spirit of Hope and Faith for better days to come. Called a “maverick church” it was said to be “off to a brave start”.
The new church was always aware of the needs of fellow Cape Codders and adopted a missional way of life that responded to the needs. From its beginning, there was DNA in the parish to “demonstrate Christian concerns to the immediate community”.
In the nineteen-sixties a Head Start Program was started to “teach pre-schoolers from low income families”. The facilities at 204 Monument Road have been made available to Alcoholics Anonymous groups for many years. Outreach to the Orleans community was at the heart of the parish. Over the years other programs and projects were inaugurated in response to community needs.
It was in 1969 that the congregation focused its attention on the need for low income housing “for the many isolated, widowed, and single elderly individuals in the mid-Cape area.” In bold action, the Vestry created a corporation and sought to bring churches together in securing federal funds to build affordable housing in Orleans.
“A parishioner provided the leadership, and the Vestry voted funds — $1,000 to help finance preliminary work and later, $2,600 as a loan to secure an option on land. The fruit of this parish initiative is the 60 unit Tonset Woods development. The Rector was also influential in drafting the Town Meeting article for the organization of the Orleans Housing Authority” that continues today and has and still has members of CHS serve on the Board. From its beginnings the Church of the Holy Spirit has taken bold actions with affordable housing in its DNA.
Now 87 years later CHS finds itself in another challenging time of a worldwide pandemic with accompanying uncertainty. For the first time in its history the sanctuary doors are closed and the congregation is dispersed and locked in their homes.
Unemployment is again rampant, challenging the livelihoods of families and individuals on the Cape and in the town of Orleans. Once again the need for affordable housing is challenging.
Aware of the need for affordable housing and in recognition of the gifts of volunteer time and labor that these two CHS “saints”, Gilbert and Nat, provided Habitat, the Vestry decided to once again be bold and take action and address housing needs for a family in Orleans. The Vestry was guided by the legacy of bold action, by the Church of the Holy Spirit, in response to community needs.
*Note: All quotes in parentheses are from “The First Fifty Years: the story of The Church of the Holy Spirit, 1933-1983”, copyright 1983 by the Church of the Holy Spirit.