Written by J. Bennett Guess
February - March 2008
New church forming in Dallas' Oak Cliff neighborhood
Taking seriously a challenge by the UCC's Local Church Ministries for the denomination to start 250 churches in the next five years, Cathedral of Hope UCC in Dallas is doing its part to make that dream a reality.
"As one of the largest churches in the denomination, the Cathedral of Hope has decided to start five churches in the next five years," says the Rev. Jo Hudson, senior pastor. "Since there is not a UCC south of the Trinity River until you get near Waco, we thought Oak Cliff would be a logical place to begin."
Oak Cliff — touted as "the howdy capital of Texas" by its tourism commission — is a collection of communities just south of downtown Dallas. The population of Oak Cliff is estimated at nearly 400,000.
"There is a great need for more UCC churches in the South, and we want to plant a strong, vibrant and active one," says the Rev. Michael S. Piazza who, as dean and national pastor of Cathedral of Hope, is heading up the new-church effort.
On the evening of Sunday, Jan. 13, Cathedral of Hope held a worship service and organizational meeting in the sanctuary at Oak Cliff 's Trinity Presbyterian Church.
"After 127 years of ministry, that congregation has made the decision to close," Piazza said. "They have graciously invited us to use their space at a minimal cost until we decide where to permanently locate."
"It was an amazing, Spirit-filled gathering," said Piazza. "Although we were competing against a very close Dallas Cowboys playoff game, 75 people gathered to share their hopes and dreams for a new open, affirming and diverse church. It was clear that there is a need in the community, and there was a definite excitement among those gathered."
Cathedral of Hope UCC will host Lenten Bible study gatherings at the Oak Cliff location, starting Feb. 10 for six weeks, in preparation for the new church's official launch on Easter Sunday Morning, March 23.
Not afraid of significant challenges, the new church venture comes just a few months after Cathedral of Hope's "miracle project" offering on July 29.
In order to build an interfaith peace chapel designed by the late world-renowned architect Philip Johnson, church members "prayed, saved, sacrificed and worked hard," according to senior pastor Hudson, to offer more than $3.1 million in a single offering to build the chapel in commemoration of the church's 37th anniversary.