Holy Cross Baptist Church is one of those old school churches with a very contemporary pastor. It’s a church that’s deeply rooted in solid Bible teaching and the Rev. Vincent Stokes is a young, energetic pastor who delivers powerful and inspiring sermons and Bible studies each week.
Founded in 1950, Holy Cross was created by its founder the Rev. Dr. Joseph Beatty Sr. In its 62 years, the church has only had two other pastors — the Rev. Calvin Berry III and Stokes. With 32 ministries, Holy Cross has an active congregation that serves the spiritual and personal needs of its flock and community.
Stokes, who celebrated his tenth anniversary shepherding Holy Cross last Sunday said, “Ministry is fluid, ever changing. One thing I have learned is that I can’t do ministry today, as I did ten years ago. The generations have changed, the challenges are different, and I’ve grown. I’m more sensitive to the voice of the Lord.”
When asked about what drew him into the ministry, he said, “Jesus Christ called me to the ministry, this was not my intention, I had completely different plans, yielding and hearing the voice of the Lord and the prompting of the Holy Spirit.”
Stokes is a full-time pastor but he recently re-enlisted in the U.S. armed forces to serve as a chaplain in the New Jersey Army Guard.
Nearly every pastor has other pastors they admire. Stokes said, “I don’t have to look far outside the city of Philadelphia, of course, Pastor Dr. Damone Jones (Bible Way Baptist Church) and Dr. J. Wendell Mapson (Monumental Baptist Church), have been a tremendous blessing. Dr. Mapson mentored me, during my time at Palmer Seminary, I met with him every week for a year, consistently and faithfully.
“He poured a lot into my life in regards to ministry, and challenges of ministry, and how to adapt to those challenges. And to understand, as pastors, we are under attack, and that we’re on Satan’s radar and the crosshairs of Satan, but ultimately, Christ has the victory,” he said.
According to Stokes, Holy Cross is moving to create some re-entry services in the community to serve families of incarcerated and ex-offenders.
Rev. Jones was one of the guest preachers for Stokes’ anniversary celebration. They are good friends as were their respective founding church pastors.
“We’ve been friends the entire ten years he’s been here, and we’re friends beyond the pastoral ministry, just good friends,” Jones said. “I’m supporting him, backing him, I’ve been doing this for 19 years, and I have a pretty good idea of what stage he’s in at this particular time. We all should be supportive of each other. The Bible talks about ‘iron sharpening iron’ and that’s the kind of relationship that he and I have. It’s a joy to be here to celebrate with him and his wife on his tenth anniversary.”
Jennifer Stokes, the first lady, knows her role. Among many things, she is active serving and leading the women’s ministry
“The biggest challenge for me is being out in the public,” she said. “I’m kind of on the shy side, but with the role [of first lady], I keep being thrust in the forefront. Sometimes it’s a bit uncomfortable, but it’s getting better.
On Sept. 26, the Stokes will celebrate 25 years of marital bliss.
“After 25 years and two children later” she said the couple will renew wedding vows. Jennifer is active serving/leading the Women’s Ministry.
The Stokeses get plenty of support.
“I currently serve as the chair of the men’s ministry,” said Demetrius Michael Miller. “I’ve been preaching now for 4 ½ years, I have run the Men’s Ministry for 5 ½ years.”
According to Miller, 50, “One of the biggest challenges we find is that most men refuse to be transparent. Our goal with the men is basically to give the men an environment where they can feel comfortable enough to share their differences, their struggles, their problems, their pains, their victories, to a point where they can be useful in helping some other brothers who may be going through similar challenges.”
Minister Barbara McCoy, 62, has been a member for about 50 years, and she has served as a minister for three years. McCoy, who has an energetic and spunky personality, leads the seniors ministry.
“It’s so exciting!,” she said. “I love the senior saints, they have so much wisdom, and they help me as much as I help them. We go to conferences and retreats, and we have a Valentine’s Day senior luncheon every February and about a hundred saints come out, and we just have a ball.”
The Rev. Joseph Beatty Jr., 55, is the son of the founder of Holy Cross, and his wife Tracye, 54, both lead the marriage enhancement ministry.
“I’ve been a member of the church since its inception, in 1950,” he said. “In my role, I’m one of the ministers, and I’m also co-partners with the marriage ministry and I’m also a part of the men’s ministry and the men’s prison ministry, and I’m an Evangelist.”
The Beattys have been leading the marriage enhancement ministry for about 5 years.
“I’ve been a member of Holy Cross for seven years,” said Tracye Beatty. “Well, we call it the marriage enhancement ministry in hopes that people will come out, not because they have problems, but to help us men and women of God to show the world what marriage is suppose to be like. So, the biggest challenge is most people feel like it’s a (ministry) where people come when they have problems, and it’s not.”
The singles ministry is also important at Holy Cross.
“I’ve been a member for over ten years,” said Shirley Scott, 57, who is in charge of the singles ministry. “I’m also caregiver which is like a walking deaconess, and I’m also on the choir ... I’m also a trustee.”
Scott said single Christians face challenges.
“I think getting along with each other, really learning how to deal with each other on a one-on-one basis [is a problem],” she said. “I think we have a problem with communicating.”
James Miller, 71, has been a member of Holy Cross for about 15 years and he serves as chairman of the deacon ministry. He’s a believer in Stokes and his teachings.
“He’s a preaching, teaching, God-loving, God-fearing pastor, that relates the love of God to us,” he said. “I’m just glad to know that he’s a good teacher, a blessed teacher, he’s an inspiring teacher. He brings out the best in all of us and he lets us know that the Lord loves us, in times of need, as well as in good times.”