Stories: Reverence and Joy, Together in One Place
Every Sunday at Church of the Cross, Rector Peter Coelho carries the Bible from the altar to the center aisle as churchgoers turn and bow in reverence of the Gospel, the record of Jesus’ life and teaching. Peter then reads a passage from the Gospel amid the people, symbolizing how central the scripture is to the church’s identity and role.
This weekly scene illustrates what Shirley Wofford loves about the Anglican church and COTC.
“God is so honored and Jesus is worshipped and lifted up…And the Holy Spirit has room to move and work,” she explains.
Many Anglican flairs resonate with Shirley, somewhat surprisingly since most of her faith experiences come from other church backgrounds. In fact, when she first visited an Anglican church in 2013, Christ Church, Shirley expected to find its customs restrictive.
“I didn’t think that liturgical readings and prayers would be able to help me in my worship. I thought they were too rote. Wrong!” she admits.
Now, repeating and memorizing pieces of the Sunday service make the words come alive to Shirley, touching her deeply. As does the freedom she sees in people who attend the church to express themselves as they worship and really celebrate God’s goodness.
“The people are real. Just real,” Shirley says. “I especially love how excited the children are — dancing, laughing and playing — it’s a good thing.”
And being real is a big value of Shirley’s, demonstrated in one way by her inclination for non-judgmental relationships such as the ones that comprise her “gaggle of friends.”
“We come from all kinds of different perspectives on faith or non-faith. The good thing about that is we’ve built relationship and all of us are very open and honest with one another,” she describes.
Living in Mueller, a community near COTC with a strong sense of place, gives Shirley perspective on how the church can care for and bless its neighbors. Part of that is continuing to make the Phillips Event Center — COTC’s temporary home — a hospitable place, and also praying for God to provide a permanent building. A member of the church’s advisory council, Shirley will be a part of that search and other aspects of COTC’s future.
She hopes for the church to continue growing in service, exploring facets of Anglicanism and facilitating transformation in people’s lives through the Gospel. Baptism — a public profession of faith — is just one testament to such transformation, and COTC marked 13 in 2016.
“Baptisms are a huge celebration of God’s goodness,” Shirley says. “Not just for Church of the Cross, but for the family of God.”