Christ Church (Savannah, Georgia)

Christ Church is an Episcopal church at 28 Bull Street, Johnson Square, in Savannah, Georgia. Founded in 1733, it was the first church established in the Province of Georgia and one of the first parishes within the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, earning it the nickname "the Mother Church of Georgia". The present church building was constructed in 1838 and is located in the Savannah Historic District.

Christ Church
Christ Church Episcopal
Christ Church Savannah
Christ Church Episcopal, Savannah, West view 20160705 1.jpg
The church in 2016
32°4′46.3″N 81°5′26.8″W / 32.079528°N 81.090778°W / 32.079528; -81.090778Coordinates: 32°4′46.3″N 81°5′26.8″W / 32.079528°N 81.090778°W / 32.079528; -81.090778
Location28 Bull Street
Savannah, Georgia
CountryUnited States
DenominationEpiscopal Church
Previous denominationProtestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America (1861–1865)
FoundedFebruary 12, 1733
ConsecratedJuly 7, 1750 (first building)
April 26, 1815 (second building)
1840 (current building)
Architect(s)James Hamilton Couper (current building)
Groundbreaking1744 (first building)
1801 (second building)
February 26, 1838 (current building)
Completed1750 (first building)
1806 (second building)
1838 (current building)
Demolished1796 (first building)
1838 (second building)
DioceseEpiscopal Diocese of Georgia
ProvinceProvince IV
Seal of Christ Church Savannah.gif
Christ Church Episcopal
Part ofSavannah Historic District (ID66000277)
Added to NRHPNovember 13, 1966


On February 12, 1733, colonists from England established the city of Savannah as the first city in the newly chartered Province of Georgia.[1] Henry Herbert, a priest in the Church of England, was with them, establishing a mission in the city under the auspices of the Bishop of London.[1][2] While a lot for a church building had been plotted by James Oglethorpe, the first services for the parish were open air and, after its construction in 1736, held in the city's courthouse.[3][4][5] Following Herbert's departure from Georgia in late 1733, several missionaries would serve in the new colony, most notably John Wesley, who served in the city from February 1736 to December of the following year.[6] While there, Wesley founded one of the first Sunday schools in the United States and held services at his house (which he would later cite as being an important moment in the creation of the Methodist movement), but difficulties in evangelizing the Native Americans in the region and friction between Wesley and residents of the city led to his departure less than two years later.[6][7]

Historic American Buildings Survey picture of Christ Church (1934).

Following Wesley, George Whitefield would become the parish priest starting on December 1738.[6] During his time in the colony, he founded the Bethesda Orphanage near Savannah in 1740.[6] Shortly after Whitefield's tenure, in 1744, the cornerstone for the first permanent building for Christ Church was laid.[2][5] The building was completed in 1750 and dedicated on July 7 of that year.[5][6] In 1760, it received what was possibly the first organ in the province.[8] The building was later expanded in 1765.[9] This original church building burned down in 1796, with construction on a new building starting in 1801 and ending in 1806.[6] This rebuilt building was consecrated by Bishop Theodore Dehon of South Carolina on April 26, 1815 in what was the first visit of a bishop to Georgia.[10] On February 24, 1823, Christ Church became one of the three original parishes of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, along with Christ Church on St. Simon's Island and Saint Paul's Church in Augusta, Georgia.[11] On February 26, 1838, construction began on a new building at the same location, which stands today as the current church building.[12] This building, located on Johnson Square in the Savannah Historic District,[13] was designed by James Hamilton Couper, a noted planter from the state.[12] It was consecrated in 1840.[2] During the mid-1800s, the rector was Stephen Elliott,[2] the first bishop of the Diocese of Georgia and the only presiding bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America. On January 8, 1854, Thomas Fielding Scott was consecrated bishop at Christ Church.[14]

In 2006, the church underwent a schism regarding the Episcopal Church's stance on homosexuality. In March 2006, a majority of the congregation of Christ Church voted to break ties with the Episcopal Church.[15] Following a September 2007 vote to leave the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia,[16] this breakaway group continued to hold service at the historic church building while parishioners who wished to remain with the Episcopal Church met at another nearby Episcopal church.[15] The breakaway group vacated the historic building in December 2011 and began holding services at Independent Presbyterian Church.[15] This was after the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled that the historic building was the property of Christ Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.[16] The case also ruled that the church held the rights to "Christ Church, Savannah" and "the Mother Church of Georgia", with the breakaway group taking the name "Christ Church Anglican" to differentiate from the Episcopal congregation (sometimes referred to as "Christ Church Episcopal").[16] Both churches maintain the same history from 1733 to the split.[16]

In 2010, Christ Church Episcopal unveiled a new seal designed by local artist Louise Huntington Shipps, wife of Bishop Harry W. Shipps.[17]

Timeline of notable eventsEdit

  • 1733 - On February 12, the Colony of Georgia and Christ Church, a mission of the Church of England under the ecclesiastical authority of the Bishop of London, are founded.[2]
  • 1736 - The Rev. John Wesley becomes the minister. While here, he starts America's first Sunday school and publishes the first English hymnal for use in America.[18]
  • 1738 - The Rev. George Whitefield becomes the minister.[18]
  • 1740 - Mr. Whitefield lays the cornerstone for Bethesda Orphanage.[18]
  • 1744 - Cornerstone of the first Christ Church building is laid by Mr. Bosomworth.[18]
  • 1750 - The first church building is dedicated.[18]
  • 1750 - On July 7th, a black woman is baptized at Christ Church. It is believed to be the first baptism of a black person in Savannah.[2]
  • 1758 - The cemetery, now known as Colonial Park, is vested in Christ Church.[18]
  • 1796 - The church building is burned in the great fire which destroys most of the city.[18]
  • 1803 - The second church building is begun.[18]
  • 1804 - A great hurricane destroys the unfinished second building.[18]
  • 1815 - The second church building is consecrated.[18]
  • 1823 - The Diocese of Georgia is formed and Christ Church is one of the three founding parishes.[2]
  • 1837 - The second church building is pulled down.[18]
  • 1840 - The third and present church building is consecrated.[18]
  • 1841 - The first Bishop of Georgia, the Rt. Rev. Stephen Elliott, is consecrated in Christ Church.[18]
  • 1841 - The parish is divided. All families south of Oglethorpe Avenue will be in a new parish to be known as "St. John's."[18]
  • 1908 - Frederick F. Reese is consecrated the fourth Bishop of Georgia in Christ Church.[18]
  • 1927 - Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA, dies and is buried from Christ Church, her home parish.[18]
  • 1964 - Henry I. Louttit, Jr. ninth Bishop of Georgia, is ordained to the Sacred Order of Priests at Christ Church by The Rt. Rev. Albert Rhett Stuart.[19]
  • 1968 - City-wide memorial service held in memory of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr at Christ Church.[20]
  • 1969 - G. Paul Reeves is consecrated Bishop Coadjutor of Georgia in Christ Church.[18]
  • 1973 - The funeral of Albert Rhett Stuart, sixth Bishop of Georgia, is held on Holy Saturday at Christ Church.[21]
  • 1973 - The Bishop of London attends the Sesquicentennial of the Diocese of Georgia and dedicates the new organ at Christ Church.[18]
  • 1976 - Johnny Mercer, American songwriter and winner of four Academy Awards, dies and is buried from Christ Church.[2]
  • 1980 - The Rev. Charles L. Hoskins, then Rector of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, Savannah, and author of Black Episcopalians in Georgia: Strife, Struggle, and Salvation, baptizes ten children at Christ Church on July 7 using the same rite of baptism from 1750.[19]
  • 1984 - Harry W. Shipps is consecrated Bishop Coadjutor of Georgia on the Feast of the Epiphany in Christ Church.[20]
  • 1984 - Francis Bland Tucker, our thirty-seventh Rector, dies and is buried from Christ Church.[21]
  • 1985 - Susan W. Harrison is ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacons, the first woman to hold this position in the Diocese of Georgia, by the Rt. Rev. Harry W. Shipps.[19]
  • 1998 - Roger K. Warlick, author of As Grain Once Scattered: The History of Christ Church, Savannah, Georgia, 1733-1983, dies and is buried from Christ Church.[20]
  • 2001 - Malcolm R. Maclean, Mayor of Savannah from 1960-66 and former Diocesan Chancellor, dies and is buried from Christ Church.[21]
  • 2007 - On September 30, the rector, vestry and several members of Christ Church vote to disaffiliate from the Episcopal Church and align with the Church of Uganda, but they refuse to relinquish the real and personal property of Christ Church. The Rt. Rev. Henry I. Louttit defrocks the rector and appoints The Rev. Canon H. Neal Phelps as the priest in charge for the remaining Episcopalians who must now worship at St. Michael and All Angel's Episcopal Church on Washington Avenue.[21]
  • 2007 - The Diocese of Georgia, the Episcopal Church and Christ Church Episcopal file a lawsuit in the Superior Court of Chatham County to regain control of the Christ Church property.[21]
  • 2008 - On July 1, Michael S. White becomes Christ Church Episcopal's forty-first Rector. The Rev. Stuart Kenworthy, rector of Christ Church, Georgetown, Washington, D.C., is the preacher.[2]
  • 2008 - Katherine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church, preaches and celebrates at Christ Church Episcopal (worshiping at St. Michael and All Angel's Episcopal Church) on September 14, Holy Cross Day.[2]
  • 2011 - On November 21, the Georgia Supreme Court rules 6-1 that all real and personal property of Christ Church is held in trust for the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Georgia as provided for in the Constitution and Canons of the Church and the Diocese.  On December 18, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, the Episcopalians hold their first service in Christ Church since being forced to leave on September 30, 2007.[2]
  • 2012 - On February 18, The Rev. Julia Sierra Reyes is ordained to the priesthood at Christ Church by The Rt. Rev. Scott Anson Benhase, the tenth Bishop of Georgia.  The Rev. Reyes becomes the first woman and the first African-American priest in the history of the parish.[2]
  • 2012 - On May 29, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, posthumously awards the presidential Medal of Freedom to Juliette Gordon Low to honor her founding the Girl Scouts in 1912.  Dick Platt, “Daisy” Low’s great nephew and member of the parish, accepts the award on her behalf.[20]
  • 2020 - On May 30, The Rt. Rev. Frank Logue was ordained and consecrated as the 11th Bishop of the Diocese of Georgia at Christ Church. The Rt. Rev. Scott Benhase, 10th bishop of Georgia served as the chief consecrator. The Rev. Julia Sierra Reyes is the preacher.[22]

Rectors of Christ ChurchEdit

  • Henry Herbert (1733)
  • Samuel Quincy (1733-35)
  • John Wesley (1736-37)
  • George Whitefield (1738, 1739-40)
  • William Norris (1738-39)
  • William Metcalf (1740, appointed but died before he could depart England for Georgia)
  • Christopher Orton (1741-42)
  • Thomas Bosomworth (1744-45)
  • Bartholomew Zouberbuhler (1745-66)
  • Samuel Frink (1767-71)
  • Timothy Lowten (1771-73)
  • Haddon Smith (1773-75)
  • John Rennie (1776)
  • Edward Jenkins (1779-80)
  • James Brown (1780-81)
  • John Stewart (1781-82)
  • John Holmes (1783?-84)
  • William Nixon (1786-87)
  • Benjamin Lindsay (1787-92?)
  • Edward Ellington (1793-95)
  • William Best (1804-07)
  • John Bartow (1810-14)
  • Walter Cranston (1815-22)
  • Abiel Carter (1822-27)
  • Edward Neufville (1827-51)
  • Abram Beech Carter (1851-52)
  • Stephen Elliott (1852-59, 1861-66)
  • L.P. Balch (1860)
  • Charles H. Coley (1867-68, having served also as Bishop Elliott's assistant since 1861)
  • John M. Mitchell (1868-72)
  • John W. Beckwith (1873-74)
  • George D.E. Mortimer (1874-77)
  • Thomas Boone (1877-88)
  • Robb White (1889-1905)
  • Francis Brown (1906-14)
  • John Durham Wing (1915-23)
  • David Cady Wright (1924-44)
  • Francis Bland Tucker (1945-67)
  • Warren E. Haynes (1967-73)
  • George M. Maxwell (1973-90)
  • Marcus B. Robertson (1992-2006)[20]
  • Michael S. White (2008-present)[21]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Lawrence 1920, p. 73.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "History". Christ Church Savannah. Archived from the original on September 8, 2016. Retrieved May 14, 2020.
  3. ^ Knight 2006, p. 79.
  4. ^ "Our History". Christ Church Anglican. Archived from the original on August 15, 2020. Retrieved May 14, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c Byrnside 1997, p. 55.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Lawrence 1920, p. 74.
  7. ^ Knight 2006, p. 77.
  8. ^ Byrnside 1997, pp. 55–56.
  9. ^ Williams 2008, p. 28.
  10. ^ Lawrence 1920, p. 78.
  11. ^ Lawrence 1920, p. 77.
  12. ^ a b Knight 2006, p. 78.
  13. ^ Williams 2008, p. 2.
  14. ^ Onofrio 1999, pp. 193–194.
  15. ^ a b c Brimmer 2013.
  16. ^ a b c d Skutch 2012.
  17. ^ Savannah Morning News 2010.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Warlick, Roger K. (1987). As Grain Once Scattered: The History of Christ Church, Savannah, GA, 1733-1983. Columbia, SC: The State Printing Company. p. 181. ISBN 0-9619270-0-3.
  19. ^ a b c "History". Christ Church Savannah. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  20. ^ a b c d e "History". Christ Church Savannah. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  21. ^ a b c d e f "History". Christ Church Savannah. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  22. ^ "Frank Logue consecrated 11th bishop of Georgia". Episcopal News Service. June 2, 2020. Retrieved June 7, 2020.


External linksEdit