In 1957, R.E.L. Masters wrote about Holy Cross in The Shreveport Times.
“Within this microcosm, enshrouded and delimited by the swirling mists, the Gothic idiom does not seem unnatural. The awareness of time and place is severed, and there is, instead, a sense of remoteness from the mundane and too-often-vicious strivings of men,” he writes. “Here it is, that on an afternoon when the mists swirl and time fades into eternity, one can say of this church as did Henry Adams of Mont St. Michel, ‘One comes back to it to rest, after a long circle of pilgrimage–the cradle of rest from which our ancestors started.’”
Mr. Masters noted well what members of Holy Cross have always known: Holy Cross is a special place. As the third oldest church building in the city of Shreveport, its history stretches back even further. Despite having only been constructed in 1905, Holy Cross communicates a sense of timelessness. Or in more religious language, the Church exists in the fullness of time.
In 1839 Shreveport was a border town between the United States and the new Republic of Texas. And Captain Henry Miller Shreve had just cleared the Red River for commerce, which would lead to an increase of the river town’s population.
It was this year that Bishop Leonidas Polk held the first religious services in Shreveport on March 24, 1839, at a general store on Texas Street between Spring and Common Streets. Bishop Polk was a wealthy slave owner and Confederate general during the Civil War. His regrettable and shameful legacy is not one with which the church today relates. When the Rt. Rev’d Eugene Sutton became the first African American bishop in the Diocese of Baltimore, he mentioned that many of his predecessors had been slavers. He said that he believed, contrary to the idea of them rolling in their graves at his election, that they were celebrating his election before the throne of the God who longs to reconcile all people to each other and himself. It’s in this spirit that we both condemn the former bishop’s actions and witness to the love of God who draws all people to himself.
This was the beginning of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, the Mother Church of Shreveport Episcopalians. Twenty years later, on the eve of Civil War, the vestry of St. Mark’s voted on Valentine’s Day in 1858 to build a church. It was built on Fannin Street, where today sits a parking lot for the Federal Courthouse. It was consecrated on April 10, 1861.
During the war, Bishop Polk met his end when a cannonball tore through his chest in a battle. And following the war, the little church on Fannin Street began to outgrow its property. In 1900, St. Mark’s Vestry bought the property on Cotton Street for $8500. Then, in 1905, the church was completed for a grand total of $30,500.
Some of the windows and pews, as well as the original altar, altar rail, credence table and corner stone from the first church were moved into the chapel of the new church and remain there to this day.
Over the years, the neighborhood began to change. And beginning in the 1950s, downtown businesses and organizations began to head for the suburbs. St. Mark’s was no exception and in 1954 some of that congregation wanted to abandon the property on Cotton Street in favor of the new church on Fairfield Avenue. But around a quarter of the congregation could not simply abandon this holy place and the neighborhood it serves.
So, these members chartered Holy Cross Episcopal Church which took over the property and ministry that was being left behind. Since then, Holy Cross has continued its legacy of service to the neighborhood through its various programs and missions. We have particularly paid heed to the teaching of Christ that whatever we do for the least of our brothers and sisters, we do also for him.
When St. Mark’s moved to its present location, they took with them the pews, baptismal font, altar, pulpit, and anything else that could be moved. For the first official services of Holy Cross, the church was completely empty save for the organ console. Parishioners brought their lawn furniture to sit in the nave and the first Eucharist was celebrated on a folding card table.
In that first year, members of Holy Cross built a temporary altar, pulpit, etc. until generous members began to refurnish the building. In an attempt to keep with the historical character of the building, they did their best to match the original furnishings. Sometimes the budget would prevent this. Mrs. Margaret Wheless, an instrumental charter member of the church, wrote to an altar builder about replacing the altar.
“Our vestry has approved…that we have a reproduction made of the altar taken from Holy Cross to St. Marks, with only one change–the seven panels to be plain with no carved figures but replaceable, hoping that someday a generous communicant will replace them with handsome carved ones.” (October 10, 1966)
The altar secured by Mrs. Wheless remains as it was ordered but not because Holy Cross lacks in generous communicants. Rather, much of the church’s resources have been spent in service to our neighborhood. Following the expensive refurnishing and the addition of bathrooms to the church building, Holy Cross would not spend any excessive amount of money on itself until the construction of the Education Building, opting instead to ease the burdens of poverty that were growing in the neighborhood.
The first Rector of Holy Cross was an Irishman, The Rev’d Frank Hipwell. Father Hipwell oversaw the formation of the parish in its early years and was very active in the local community. He came to Holy Cross after being the assistant priest at St. James in Alexandria, where he had moved after having served as Rector in two cures in the Church of Ireland. Father Hipwell was also one of the translators of the Book of Common Prayer into Gaelic. He served as Rector from 1956-1962.
The second Rector was the Rev’d Malcolm Prouty. Father Prouty came to Holy Cross following his rectorate at St. Matthew’s in Darlington, South Carolina. He was a graduate of Bexley Hall Seminary in Ohio. His tenure saw the demolition of the “Shabby Shack” or parish house and the creation of the Rose Garden by E.L. Davenport.
In a 1964 article in the Shreveport Times titled “Holy Cross Still Answers ‘Heart of City’ Challenges,” Father Prouty says, “Survival is not enough. We must find more and more ways to minister to the heart of Shreveport. Our parish, unlike that of most churches, is not a pleasant residential suburb. It is a composite of commercial buildings, apartments, rooming houses, hotels, and scattered residential sections. The usual programs found in most congregations are not suited to the truly urban parish and there is little precedent to rely on. That’s why Holy Cross is having to learn the hard way.”
During this time, he began a weekly noonday mass on Wednesdays that continues to this day. He also oversaw a special program for adults with disabilities at the church. And, in keeping with our mission to our neighborhood, Fr. Prouty also maintained a special ministry with the city’s homeless. In a 1966 article about his lunch ministry with the homeless, he said, “It has been the role of this church ever since it was founded to be of aid to the unfortunate. In the depression days of the 1930s, the undercroft of the Church of the Holy Cross was a regular soup kitchen.”
Fr. Prouty resigned from Holy Cross in 1967 to become the Rector of St. Anne’s in Tifton, Ga. In his farewell to the parish he writes, “The service to our Lord and his people here is well known, and it is the prayer of your Rector that you will continue this great work always remembering, “Verily, I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Father Prouty was Rector from 1962-1967.
The third, and longest serving Rector of Holy Cross was the Rev’d Kenneth Paul. Father Paul came to Holy Cross from St. Mark’s and Centenary College, where he served as the Episcopal Chaplain. His time at Holy Cross oversaw nearly 4 decades of change. He is responsible for the beginning of Holy Cross Child Placement, Holy Cross Villas and Villas West, Holy Cross Hope House, and a myriad of other ministries, some of which continue today. He was also responsible for raising up nearly 20 seminarians from Holy Cross, a legacy and gift to the wider Church with innumerable benefits.
In 1974, the Education Building was built behind the church along with the brick patio. During the 1970s and 80s, Holy Cross also saw the acquisition of “Sibleyshire,” a 100 acre property in north Caddo Parish donated to the church by Ahsley Sibley, which Holy Cross still cares for to this day. It was also a period of immense generosity when Fr. Paul began the church’s endowment campaign. The initial and continuing gifts to this endowment have flourished into a prominent fund that pays for a number of ministries in the community, chiefly Holy Cross Hope House, which Father Paul started in 2004.
In 2007, after nearly 40 years at the helm of Holy Cross, Father Paul retired. Today, he maintains the title of Rector Emeritus and still can be found at Holy Cross assisting the current Rector. Father Paul was Rector from 1968-2007.
In 2009, The Rev’d Mary Richard became the first woman to be Rector of Holy Cross. The Rev’d Richard oversaw a number of improvements to the church building and grounds. A gardener herself, she began the Holy Cross Community Garden behind the church, which provides fresh fruits and vegetables during the harvest time for any who want them. After her retirement, The Rev’d Richard was granted the title of Rector Emerita and continues to serve the church with its current Rector and Father Paul. The Rev’d Richard was Rector from 2009-2019.
In 2020, after a brief tenure as Priest-in-Charge, the Rev’d Garrett Boyte was elected the fifth Rector of Holy Cross. Father Boyte’s tenure was very quickly interrupted by the global pandemic of 2019. Yet, Holy Cross has continued its work and legacy of service to the local neighborhood. In 2021, Father Boyte coordinated the update of the Education Building providing new paint, carpet and furnishings thanks to the financial generosity of a parishioner and the labor of many volunteers.
1839 – 1954 – 2021
Episcopal Bishop Leonidas Polk officiates the first Protestant service in Shreveport, Louisiana on March 24.
Bishop Polk returns to Shreveport to establish a permanent church and congregation. He officiates a service at the Caddo Court House on June 1.
The Rev’d William Scull arrives in Shreveport to help establish a permanent Episcopal Church.
Members of the Episcopal congregation in Shreveport vote to establish St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and the Rev’d William Scull becomes the rector on March 8.
St. Mark’s vestry votes to build a new church on February 14.
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church opens on the corner of Market and Fannin Streets.
Bishop Polk consecrates St. Mark’s new church on April 10.
The Rev’d W.T. Dalzell becomes rector of St. Mark’s. Dr. Dalzell later becomes famous for his work with the sick during the 1873 yellow fever epidemic.
Yellow Fever Epidemic
Dr. Dalzell, the rector of St. Mark’s, warns the city that the yellow fever epidemic was in Shreveport. Dr. Dalzell had treated yellow fever patients in Virginia and Georgia.
The Times writes an article denouncing Dr. Dalzell’s claim and has every doctor in Shreveport sign the disclaimer. A day after the article ran, the epidemic had become so widespread a week later the Times issued an apology to Dr. Dalzell signed by the same Doctors who denounced Dr. Dalzell as an “alarmist.”
St. Mark’s starts building their new church at 875 Cotton Street.
The new church at 875 Cotton Street opens its doors.
Fire breaks out, destroying the chancel, part of the nave, and the new Hutchings organ.
B’nai Zion Temple, a block away, offers their space for services while the church is repaired.
The new E.M. Skinner organ is installed.
Armed Forces Day 1944
The Church of the Holy Cross is created.
One hundred twenty-six members of St. Mark’s decided not to move to the new church on Fairfield Ave. They believed downtown needed the church to stay and help the neighborhood, especially as the area deteriorated during the mass exodus to the suburbs during the 1950s.
The Rev’d Frank Hipwell becomes the first rector of The Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross.
Parish House is raised.
The Rev’d Malcolm Prouty becomes the second rector of The Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross.
Elliot Davenport, Junior Warden, creates the Rose Garden where the Parish House was located.
The Rev’d Kenneth Paul becomes the third rector of The Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross.
The Rev’d Donald Heacock joins Holy Cross as the Assistant Rector.
Father Heacock, a licensed social worker, is presently the Director of Holy Cross Child Placement.
The Education Building is built behind the church.
Holy Cross Villas East, a seventy-eight unit low income senior living complex, opens in Bossier City on April 1.
Holy Cross is designated an Episcopal Jubilee Ministry.
Jubilee Centers must be an Episcopal congregation, Episcopal cluster, or an ecumenical cluster with Episcopal presence, and/or an agency with connections to the Episcopal Church. It must be involved in mission and ministry among and with poor and oppressed people wherever they are located. The mission and ministry must be rooted in worship. The mission and ministry must include several programs, including at least one human rights advocacy program and one human service program.
Holy Cross Child Placement was created as a ministry of Holy Cross Episcopal Church in 1984 to help people in our community adopt.
Holy Cross Villas West, a forty-eight unit low income senior living complex, opens in Shreveport on August 13.
Holy Cross Hope House opens. It is a day shelter offering coffee, mailboxes, phone service, showers, washers, and dryers for those without homes.
The Rev’d Mary Richard becomes the fourth rector of The Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross.
Holy Cross Hope House expands their services.
Hope House begins offering daily meals, clothing, additional washer and dryers, additional showers, and an on-site social worker.
St. Luke’s Episcopal Mobile Medical moves their offices and van to Holy Cross.
The Community Garden is created behind the church.
The Rev’d Sally Fox joins Holy Cross as Assisting Priest
The Rev’d Garrett Boyte becomes the fifth rector of The Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross.
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