About Our Church

crossAs a community of Christians, we welcome inclusively all who seek to learn and grow in the Christian faith.

Our congregation is part of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. We celebrate our congregational life through traditional worship, exceptional musicexcellent education and energetic mission programs.

We are an open and caring congregation striving to provide access and welcome to all. Learn more about the beliefs of Presbyterians here.

 

Our Mission

As members of Presbyterian Church of the Cross:

  • We affirm that God is the foundation of our lives
  • We believe that the Bible reveals God to us.
  • We believe that God came into this world in Jesus Christ and is active in the world today.
  • We believe through faith in God we will have everlasting life.
  • These beliefs lead us to a willingness to obey and serve.


Our church is a community of individuals with common beliefs affirming our faith through worship, education, service, fellowship and love.

As a community, Church of the Cross:

  • Proclaims the Good News of the grace of God
  • Unites God's family in praise and thanksgiving
  • Attends to the spiritual needs of our members, and
  • Reaches out with an evangelistic effort to the wider community.
  • Our church provides a focus for the comfort, care and support of those in need, and empowers us to serve God and the needs of others.

 

 

Our History

Our church was first proposed in 1957, as Omaha began moving west, and land was purchased in the brand new Bel-Air area. But almost immediately it was learned that the State of Nebraska looked at Southwest Omaha much as the Omaha Presbytery did: a growing area with lots of residents. Where the church saw worshippers, the State saw traffic. Church DedicationThey were planning a new Interstate Highway, and its intended path was right through the newly purchased property. A providential solution was reached, and roughly 4 acres of land were obtained in the same neighborhood — for the sum of One Dollar. Two additional lots were purchased as well for $4000. The higher price was because a farmhouse stood on one of the lots, and the farmhouse would be the home of the Discovery Pre-school and other youth-oriented activities for years.

The church was organized by Charles Young and until a church building could be built, met in the basement of the manse at 1604 Shirley. Ninety-eight persons were in attendance at the first service in the basement of the manse and by the time the church would be formally recognized on Palm Sunday, March 30, 1958, 172 men and women would be listed as charter members.

The church took its name from its first piece of furniture: a communion table borrowed from Wheeler Memorial Presbyterian Church. Charter member Cal Wheeler, taking inspiration from the large cross carved on the table, proposed the name Church of the Cross be adopted and the suggestion was unanimously approved.

The first months were devoted to organizing the church, including study and fellowship opportunities. It wasn't until July that the congregation would vote on a building plan — a $118,000 building ($862,000 in 2007 dollars) designed by Colorado architect James Hunter. Hunter's work is widely praised today; one of his Colorado buildings is on the National Registry of Historic Places and several others are designated as landmarks by the state of Colorado.
Although today Church of the Cross is widely known for its exceptional music programs, there were no choirs or organized music until the end of 1958.

For many, a new church begins when the "church" is built. In the case of Church of the Cross, this is particularly true because completion of the new building coincided with the arrival of a new pastor: the Reverend Ralph Gerber. Ralph and Elinor Gerber moved into the manse in September 1959, and for the next 21 years would shepherd the new church from infancy to young adulthood. Rev. Gerber was installed on October 4, 1959, and the church held its first service in the new fellowship hall on Christmas Eve of that year. The formal dedication would come three weeks later on January 10, 1960.

Mr. Hunter had included in his plans suggestions for expansion and it was clear even before the new building was a year old, that expansion would be necessary. Large and active organizations such as the Women's Association (later renamed Presbyterian Women), Senior and Junior Youth groups, and a growing music program corresponded with a huge influx in new members.

In the five years from 1959 to 1964, church membership increased from 245 to 831. In 1964 alone, 178 new members were added, and ten adults and thirty-nine children were baptized. There were 64 young people in the Junior Choir — nearly triple the number of adult voices. Expansion was not just desired — it was essential. Working from one of Hunter's concepts, architect and congregation member Irving Dana went to work on plans for a new sanctuary. In 1965 the loan for the first building was paid off and new loans taken out for construction on the church addition. After several construction delays (including a six-week long strike by construction workers), the new sanctuary was ready for occupancy on Easter Sunday of 1966.

During the 1960s, the church sponsored its first candidate for the ministry, established the Worship, Evangelism, and Special Programs committees as part of the deacons; addressed social issues of racial unrest and segregation in housing and education; and substantially increased church giving, even in the face of serious financial concerns and "austerity budgets". A series of associate pastors answered calls to the church.

By 1974, the church had ten separate choirs and a full time minister of music was clearly needed. Dana Sloan recalls that it was the congregation's strong commitment to, and love of music that was a deciding factor in his decision to answer that call. His arrival would elevate the music programs at Church of the Cross to new levels and establish its identity as "the church with the music" that is maintained even today.

Three years later, Richard (Dick) Murdoch answered a call as Minister of Christian Education. In 1980, he was installed as co-pastor with Ralph Gerber, as Reverend Gerber moved toward retirement. It was a successful venture and, at their 1981 retreat, the Session voted to retain the co-pastorship model after Rev. Gerber's retirement. The Reverend Leslie Borsay joined the church in August 1982 as co-pastor with Reverend Murdoch.

However, the system was not as successful with the Murdoch-Borsay pairing as it had been with Murdoch and Gerber. Both the clergy and the church leadership sensed it had been a mistake. But it was too late to salvage a solution satisfactory to everyone, and in 1985 both Reverend Murdoch and Reverend Borsay accepted new calls. After nearly three decades of stability, the church was suddenly without a minister. The pulpit would be filled by a series of interim and guest pastors until November 1986, more than a year after Reverend Murdoch's departure.

Coming to a church torn by controversy would be a difficult choice for anyone. Dr. Kirk Ryckman remembers 1987, his first year at Church of the Cross, as one filled with challenges; a "trying" year spent settling into the job, mediating between groups with differing views of the theological direction the church should head, the lack of an assistant pastor, overseeing the church's transition from bi-cameral to unicameral government, and getting to know the more than 1000 members. At times, the job seemed almost overwhelming. When his service of installation was snowed out in March of 1987, it seemed to be another in the series of misfortunes which had troubled the church over the last four years.

But Dr. Ryckman proved to have both the temperament and the heart for the job. By the end of the year, a year when he candidly admits thoughts of leaving did surface from time to time, the new pastor and his congregation had formed a powerful bond. The church was able to return to the kind of stability it had under Reverend Gerber and turn its attention back to matters of faith and fellowship.

In 1989, the church adopted a new motto, Lift High the Cross, to lead it into the 1990s. While overall membership declined both nationally and at Church of the Cross, the congregation dedicated itself to more varied and meaningful activities.

Attendance remained high at worship and church events. New fellowship opportunities were created. The Advent dinner established itself as the church's single most successful annual event. A new emphasis emerged on Evangelism and Mission. Young people were attracted to youth group under the guidance of the new associate pastor, Reverend Ronnie Osborne. As the 1990s ended, the church reluctantly released him to answer a call in Georgia and at the beginning of the new century, two new associate pastors were added to the church clergy. In 2000, Dr. Nancy Redman (Caring Ministries) and Regina Maas (Educational Ministries) joined the staff.

In 2008 as the church completed its fiftieth year, it was once again ready to expand. Ground-breaking for a new addition coincided with its golden anniversary.

In 2009 the church experienced several changes in clergy. In August Regina Mass was released to accept a new call followed shortly thereafter by the retirement of Dr. Nancy Redman in September. Sheri Sessions was hired to become the director of Christian education, taking over the duties of Rev. Maas. Next, a vibrant individual was added in November of 2009 when Nadia Mullen, recently out of seminary, was welcomed as the new associate pastor. Despite her youth Nadia’s maturity and deep faith sparked a fresh enthusiasm. The congregation was quick to embrace Nadia into the church family.

Upon the departure of Rev. Mullen in September of 2013 to relocate with her husband and new baby to New York to be closer their families, the church was again in need of a new associate pastor. At about that time Dana Sloan, Kirk Ryckman and the long tenured business manager announced their intentions to retire in the near future. The church was facing some big decisions. In a relatively short period of time we would need two new pastors, a music director and a new business manager. The church was up to the challenge and adopted a plan to smooth the transition to a new group of leaders.

The transition began with the hiring of Kristi Treu as the new music director and Rock Sumner as the new business manager in August 2014. Dana Sloan agreed to stay on part time as the church organist and to assist Mrs. Treu while she settled in to her new responsibilities. Next the pastor nominating committee came up with a novel solution for the position of associate pastor. Deciding it would be best to allow our next head of staff to have input into the selection of any associate pastor, the committee sought a temporary associate pastor, one who did not intend to remain indefinitely. A recently retired pastor, Lynda Dinsdale, agreed to accept a temporary, year to year associate pastor position with the church. This arrangement also enabled her to return from Texas to her home state of Nebraska. Reverend Dinsdale assumed the position of transitional associate pastor in July of 2014.

In a departure from its regular order, the Presbytery accepted the church’s plan to allow Dr. Ryckman to delay his retirement until a new pastor could be called and to permit him to temporarily work with that new pastor to facilitate a smooth transition. After an extensive search our prayers were answered when Dr. Marshall Zieman was found to be the perfect replacement. Dr. Zieman accepted our call and became the pastor in January of 2015. Dr. Ryckman and Dr. Zieman quickly became friends and collaborated for several weeks as the church seamlessly transitioned to its new pastor. A grateful congregation turned out en masse to honor Kirk Ryckman and to celebrate his 28 years of faithful, dedicated service to our church.

Annual mission giving is well over six figures — indeed, over the last ten years, church benevolence has totaled more than one million dollars.

The music program continues to thrive and attracts both visitors and new members.

The church has second, and even third generation members, active Christian education, fellowship, and worship. It stands poised for its next fifty years, strong and confident, thanks to the efforts of the clergy, the leaders, the members and the enduring grace of God.

 

Our Location

Presbyterian Church of the Cross
1517 South 114th Street
Omaha, NE 68144
phone: 402-333-7466
fax: 402-697-9084
e-mail us