When a church meets the basic needs of people, it will experience an upward spiral of joy and sharing, says the Rev. Thomas H. Cross, new associate minister of the Christ United Methodist Church, 2375 E. 33rd South.

And in his new ministry assignments, he is implementing this philosophy."But I've only been here four months now, so I'm still in the process of clearly defining my goals," he said.

One that already has been handed down to him from senior minister Tom English is to develop a more complete sponsor program for new members.

That charge addresses one of those basic needs - the feeling of belonging. "We need to hook onto new members - help them feel welcome, help them get acquainted, take them to lunch," the Rev. Cross said.

Another program to meet people's needs is the care-giving ministry, where focus is on members who have handicaps or are elderly - those who need a visit, an act of kindness, or a word of encouragement.

"We have a group of people in the church here who are trained in care-giving," he said. "But the program really isn't working yet. We plan to concentrate on it early next year."

The Rev. Cross came to Utah after one year as an associate minister in Lamar, Colo., which is next to the Kansas border.

"I've come from one corner of the conference to another." He said the Rocky Mountain Conference is composed of Colorado, Utah and part of Wyoming.

Several factors led to his Salt Lake appointment.

"My senior pastor in Lamar was leaving, and the church there wanted to bring in a husband and wife team. At the same time, the church here was looking for someone with youth experience."

While in Lamar, he and the senior minister shared assignments. The Rev. Cross said this sharing helped him gain a good overview of a number of the ministries in the Methodist Church.

At the Christ United Methodist Church, he and the church's senior minister have divided up the ministries. The Rev. Cross's specific responsibilities include:

-Conducting the youth ministries for junior high and high school students and young adults. The junior high group meets Sundays from 5:15 to 6:45. They involve themselves in a variety of activities. And for the young adults, a new class begins Sunday at 9:30 a.m. This includes people "in their second 18 years of life - single and married."

-Helping investigators and new members feel welcome. This is partially accomplished by holding orientation classes for interested people who are not Methodists as well as members who are transferring from other Methodist churches. "There are no hard-and-fast boundaries in the Methodist Church," he said. "Members have the flexibility to transfer from one Methodist church to another."

-Serving the church-and-society work area ministry. This deals with social concerns. The Rev. Cross said two projects are planned this month. On the morning of Nov. 20, the homeless will be served brunch under the viaduct. Later in the day, 30 needy families will receive baskets filled with food for Thanksgiving dinners.

The Rev. Cross is a native of Stillwater, Okla. When he was 7, he, his two older sisters, and his parents moved to Fort Collins, Colo.

"I stayed there all the way through high school. In fact, my parents still live there. My father is a professor of experimental psychology at Colorado State University."

Although he was very active in the Methodist Church since he was 4 years old, the Rev. Cross attended a Baptist church during his college years. He even taught Sunday School there.

"I made the decision to go to seminary around Thanksgiving time my senior year," he said.

There were two experiences that prompted this decision. While majoring in psychology at the University of Colorado in Boulder, he took several courses in theology as well as a seminar.

"I found myself just loving the courses and the seminar group," he said.

He also had an opportunity to serve as a camp counselor at a Christian camp the summer of his junior year and enjoyed it.

So he enrolled in Princeton Theology Seminary in Princeton, N.J., where he studied for three years.

While there, he worked with a high school youth group in a nearby Lutheran church.

"Having been exposed to different traditions has helped me see where the Methodists fit in the entire picture."

He added with a smile, "My welcome here has been a warm one. I have found many members friendly, committed and involved. I've also discovered that the Methodist Church is doing better in Utah than anywhere in our conference."

With his seminary training and one year of ministerial service behind him, the Rev. Cross is looking forward to an exciting, rewarding future as he helps to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those around him.