Holyrood Church is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt congregation of the Diocese of New York which is part of the Episcopal Church and the world Anglican Communion. The Holyrood Church (Holyrood means “Holy Crucifix” or “Holy Cross”) was founded as a Protestant Episcopal congregation in 1893 by Rev. William Oliver Embury, who was chaplain of The House of Refuge for Problem Girls and was operated by the Sisters of St. Mary in Inwood Hill Park. In 1895, a country-style church with a tower designed by R.D. Chandler and built on upper Broadway at what is now 181st Street.
On November 16, 1901, the church was involved with the dedication of the Fort Washington Memorial Plaque. This plaque is located on the Fort Washington side of Bennett Park, located on Fort Washington Avenue between 183rd and 185th Street. The bell in the Parish House reflects the story of the War for Independence with a quote: “On battlefield, where foemen fell, the glorious tale of peace I tell.”
By 1910 the area had become more densely populated, and a new church was built on the northeast corner of Fort Washington Avenue and 179th Street. Designed in the Gothic style by Bannister & Schell, the completed church was opened in 1914.
At the present moment we are the Holyrood Church/ Iglesia Santa Cruz, a multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic, multigenerational community of people who congregate to worship in three languages; English, Spanish, and Sign Language (ASL).
We understand this to be a moment of new beginnings, filled with infinite possibilities to rediscover God in and with each other, and to perpetually recommit, as a church, to deepen our individual and collective responsibilities in the face of all the challenges we face, both the timeless and the newly emerging. In this life-giving and life-sustaining work, we are inspired to movement by the Book of Jeremiah (29:11): “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Guided by this prophetic moral light, we envision and practice our church as one of connectedness, openness, and ongoing reaffirmation. Through these visions and practices, we invoke and revitalize our ancient human vocation of mutuality and care, and we support emerging expressions of love, respect, compassion, justice, mercy, beauty, and liberating faith between those with whom we congregate, between all in the community whose relationships and well-being we treasure as precious and interdependent, and with our shared planet that has honored and humbled us as its entrusted stewards.
Our mission is to root a church in the midst of all peoples, attuned to the God who liberates us – and who we, in congregating together, may liberate. This is a God of imminent transformation and becoming, a God we welcome in and through our presence with each other, and a God whose presence reveals Iglesia Santa Cruz / Holyrood Church as the peoples’ church. We strive to sustain this work of the peoples’ church by inviting and welcoming everyone, and by opening ourselves to the pleasure, joy, and vulnerability we might experience when any beloved sister or brother accepts our humble invitation.
We begin by reaffirming Holyrood Church/Iglesia Santa Cruz as a house of refuge for people who defy the problems of daily life.
As a church of all peoples, especially those embodiments of a shared humanity regarded as problems, we declare with lucidity and solemnity that we are a sanctuary church. A sanctuary church is a liberating place where those who congregate share spiritual, moral, emotional, psychological, social, cultural, financial, material, political, and legal support and protection with anyone experiencing the dehumanizing violence, suffering, pain, and fear of systematic dynamics of oppression, exploitation, and exclusion. We recognize that these dynamics sow seeds of division and mistrust, target the most vulnerable, and often appear as racism, ethnocentrism, classism, ableism, heterosexism, sexism, patriarchy, nativism, ageism, consumerism, elitism, colonialism, authoritarianism, and other demons.
In these practices of cultivating and sustaining sanctuary, we open ourselves to being transformed, and we recognize each other’s openness to the possibilities and processes of mutual becoming. Relationships of health, interconnectedness, and care are the continually emerging embodiment of sanctuary spaces, through which we learn to work in concert to generate the visionary futures whose existence become possible when we open ourselves to each other. Our faith is in our shared capacity to weave together a healthy church and a healthy society as a fabric of sanctuaries. In our pastoral theology, we understand God’s fundamental concern to be humanity. An abiding faith in God must, as a result, consist of spiritual, social, historical, political, emotional, and cultural dimensions, among others.
Faith, hope, and love have always required risk, all the more in moments like the perennial present, pregnant with possibility and uncertainty. Thus, it is with the deepest and most unwavering commitment to practice faith, hope, and love in our individual, interpersonal, and institutional lives, that we support each other to confront these risks with courage, determination, solace, and joy.
Indifference to pain and suffering of others or of our own selves – is a capital sin. We are inspired by the prophetic words of our St. Romero of America: A church that doesn't provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn't unsettle, a word of God that doesn't get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn't touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed — what gospel is that?