By Lance Hickey
Madison County – The local church is the hope of the world. It’s a phrase that has been popularized by many church leaders across the globe. While the words may have some religious connotations, one constant about the local church around the world and across Western North Carolina is the impact churches make on our communities via local giving to individuals and local charities, volunteerism and other outreach endeavors.
One church that has worked to follow this impact principle is The Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in Marshall, yet moments from downtown Mars Hill. The church also serves as the focus church for our Where We Worship series.
Founded in 1985, the congregation began as a house church. A few short weeks later, the group moved to a room at Mars Hill College, now known as Mars Hill University. Susan Sherard served as the church’s first rector.
After meeting for several years at Mars Hill College, the congregation built its current location on Bone Camp Road. The Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit currently serves as the church home to many in Madison County.
Since its inception, the congregation has continued to help in many community endeavors. The church continues to contribute to Neighbors in Need Crisis Center in Madison County, volunteers with the Hot Springs hospice program and other community endeavors. The Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit also takes a monthly offering for a select group of nonprofits.
David McNair serves as the congregation’s rector and has worked in this capacity for 10 years. McNair had a quite unique start before becoming an Episcopalian minister. A graduate of Wake Forest University, he obtained his Masters of Divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1993, according to church records. Following some time in ministry, McNair would later attend the University of the South School of Theology, an Episcopalian university, nearly 15 years later. He was then ordained as an Episcopalian priest in 2008. McNair is married to his wife, Lynn, and the couple has two teenage children.
Service, also known as a “Rite,” began at 10:30 as parishioners filled the sanctuary following a musical prelude. A procession of liturgical ministers was led by a minister holding a cross as they entered the sanctuary and headed to the altar through the middle of the pews. Father McNair then welcomed the congregation as the church sang a hymn titled “Will You Come and Follow Me.”
The church then stated aloud an opening acclamation as the parishioners stood to their feet. Following a collection for purity, the church sang “Glory to God in the Highest,” the song of praise for the day.
An acclamation from the Book of Common Prayer was later stated.
As service continued, I began to glance around the room. The sanctuary is an intimate setting. Large windows stand at both sides of the altar.
Picturesque snow-topped trees showed through the windows and provided an alluring and appealing view from inside the room.
The time came for McNair’s Sunday morning sermon. He began speaking on the power of becoming a beacon of light to the world. McNair enthusiastically presented his message to his attentive flock. Following the sermon, the congregation stood as they stated the “Nicene Creed,” an ancient statement of faith believed to unite all generations of believers.
Service continued as parishioners stated more readings from the Book of Common Prayer, before the invitation to communion. The congregation stepped forward to accept communion. McNair led the church in two more hymnals before a time for participatory announcements and service was dismissed.
Service at The Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit proved to be uplifting and inviting for the community and guests. The worship experience was traditional in presentation. Look for the congregation to continue in its outreach and endeavors to become a beacon of hope to Madison County.