OUR MISSION STATEMENT
discover the joy of belonging!
The mission of Church of the Holy Spirit is to be a diverse community
dedicated to spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.
We welcome you and your family to come grow in your faith
through worship, outreach and Christian education.
God's work is being done in this exciting faith community
and there is a place here for you to use and discover your God-given gifts.
All are welcome here in God's house!
In 2006, the lay leaders of Episcopal
churches in the city of Fall River came to believe that God was calling them to
explore the possibility of new shared ministry. So, leaders from Church of
the Ascension, the St. John’s/St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, and St. Mark’s
Episcopal Church formed an “Inter-Parish Council” to pray and discuss what such
a ministry would look like. In their discussions, it became clear to the
Inter-Parish Council that God was calling them to consider merging into one new
parish so that they could have a stronger Episcopal presence in Greater Fall
And so, each of the parishes involved asked its members to vote whether they believed God was calling them into this merger, and all three parishes voted yes. And so, on April 6, 2008, with Bishop “Bud” Cederholm in attendance, all three parishes signed a Covenant to merge together as a new parish with a name they had picked for themselves - the Church of the Holy Spirit. On November 8, 2008, the diocesan convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts voted unanimously to accept Church of the Holy Spirit as a new parish in its family of churches.
Initially, it was decided that Church of the Holy Spirit would make its temporary church home at 160 Rock Street in Fall River, the former home of the Church of the Ascension. But, on October 18, 2009, members of Church of the Holy Spirit voted to make 160 Rock Street their permanent spiritual home. So, now, Church of the Holy Spirit is a community looking to its future in this space, confident that the God who has been faithful to them in years past will continue to do so.
History of the Parishes that Formed Church of the Holy Spirit
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church:
In 1870, a small group of people began meeting for worship in the tenement of Edward Hargreaves. Joseph Shaw and Richard F. Smith soon organized an accompanying Sunday School in Shaw’s home. In 1876, they moved the Sunday School to the second floor of the Wampanoag mill. And, in 1879, they purchased an old one-room school house for $100 as the St. Mark’s mission church and then, in 1880’s and 1890’s, new land on Mason Street was purchased. It took time but, by the 1920’s, a new wood church was built on the land on Mason Street. And then, in the 1940’s, stonemasons, who were members of St. Mark’s added stone to the exterior of the building, drawing the materials from a Fall River mill. To this day, the building stands due to the skill of those stonemasons.
Over the years, St. Mark’s engaged in many charitable acts, becoming known in the Flint neighborhood of Fall River as a place that would help the needy. When Bishop Gayle Harris deconsecrated the building on October 18, 2008, many tears were shed, but parishioners could take solace in the fact that the building was being sold to Lighthouse Ministries, a church that ministers to the homeless, continuing St. Mark’s legacy of bringing the love of Christ to those in need.
St. John’s/St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church:
On October 6, 1878, St. John’s held its first worship service at Connell Hall (which has been known as the “Broom Factory.”) By 1880, St. John’s had achieved mission status and erected a church on South Main and Oliver Streets. And, by 1890, a second church edifice was completed. On, September 29, 1900, Bishop William Lawrence consecrated it St. John’s Episcopal Church. However, more notably, the women of St. John’s were allowed to vote in parish elections beginning in 1894.
In 1893, St. Stephen’s mission church began worshipping in the south end of Fall River. On December 5, 1897, St. Stephen’s held its first service in the basement of its new building. The building was completed in 1910 and so on Whitsunday (the Day of Pentecost) of that year, the first service was held in the upper church. St. Stephen’s was influenced by the Oxford Movement and so worshipped in the “High Church” style that came to be known as Anglo-Catholic.
Over the years, St. John’s and St. Stephen’s worked together, establishing a relationship of trust and mutual concern. And so, in 1966, St. John’s and St. Stephen’s called a rector together and would continue, on and off, for the next 30 years to share clergy. And then, in the early 90’s, discussions began to merge these two parishes. In 1993, the parishes elected to merge as the St. John’s/St. Stephen’s Partnership Church. Despite having vastly different worship styles and traditions, the peoples of St. John’s and St. Stephen’s had a long of history of working together and being willing to compromise. They understood that God called them to ministry within their walls and mission outside their walls and so they were willing to sacrifice beloved customs for the vitality of the Church and for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Church of the Ascension:
Church of the Ascension was the Episcopal church that was born of the first known instance of Episcopal worship in Fall River. On a Sunday evening in 1835, a small group of Episcopalians worshipped in the Unitarian House of Worship in Fall River and this small group quickly grew and built its own church. It was Bishop Alexander Griswold that suggests that this worshipping community name itself the Church of the Ascension and then, in 1838, the Rev. George Maxwell Randall arrived to become the first Rector of the Church of the Ascension. Rev. Randall would later be consecrated as the first Missionary Bishop of Colorado. On Christmas Eve of 1850, the first church building burnt down, allegedly due to the burning of “fragrant Christmas greens which were too resinous.” The second Church of the Ascension was built soon thereafter of wood but the community longed for a more grand stone building. Over the next twenty-five years moneys were raised for the current building which was dedicated on November 29, 1875.
Church of the Ascension also has a history with mergers. In 1963, an Episcopal church in the northern portion of Fall River called St. James Episcopal Church closed and merged with Ascension. The windows, altars and other furnishings from St. James were incorporated as a new St. James Chapel of the Church of the Ascension.
For its one hundred and seventy years, Church of the Ascension was known for its grand worship but also for its generosity in helping the less fortunate. One of the primary reasons it was chosen as the building that would be kept in the recent merger was because it hosted so many agencies that worked to help those in need: two soup kitchens, three recovery groups, Habitat for Humanity, a Thrift Shop, and United Interfaith Action, a community organization. Church of the Ascension, even from its inception, lived into that Gospel call of Jesus Christ to share generously with others knowing that all we have comes from God.