The History of Christ Church

In 1854, when Rochester had 40,000 inhabitants, 45 communicants from two other local parishes petitioned to establish a new parish to serve the growing area east of Elm Street and south of Main Street. Christ Church held its first service on April 29, 1855 in Palmer's Hall at the corner of Main & Elm. On Christmas Day 1855, the new building opened on East Avenue on the site of a former nursery. The large Honey Locust tree on our front lawn is the sole survivor of that nursery. The Rev. Henry Neely was our first Rector and Silas Smith was Senior Warden.

To accomodate more members, the nave was extended and an apse added to the altar-end of the building in 1862. By the 1880's the congregation was much too large for the building and plans were made for the present church building that serves to this day. In 1887, Wilder Hall was added to the original church for parish activites and the present nave and chancel was built across the original building and opened on Easter Day 1894. The distinguished English architect, Robert Gibson, designed the 14th Century French Gothic structure of Albion Sandstone, using the original church as the South Transept Chapel and nearly perfect acoustics within a 79 foot high nave ceiling and 80 foot nave width. Johnson Tower was added in 1903 and the Ward Memorial Chimes hung in 1973 to sound each quarter hour and play a short peal each noon (10:50am on Sunday). Ferris House replaced Wilder Hall in 1924 and houses parish and community activites in its several meeting rooms. 200 seat professional theater, and classrooms.

David Lincoln Ferris, our Rector at the time, became the first Bishop of Rochester when this Diocese was separated from the Buffalo Diocese in 1929, and we served as Pro-Cathedral from 1965 to 1976. Our missionary efforts also helped found St. Thomas' and St. Andrews' parishes, and today we serve over 500 meals each month to those in need through our program, A Meal & More.

At more than 155 years old, we are today a diverse, multiethnic and multilingual community proclaiming God's love in our worship and ministries. We hope you will always feel welcome in this grand building and in our parish community.

The "Te Deum" Window

The “Te Deum” window in the north transept was designed by Frederick Wilson of Tiffany Studios and dedicated in 1896.  It is considered one of Wilson's finest works. This window shows the vision of the  mission of the parish-Christ reigning over the work, illustrating the Te Deum, a Latin canticle of praise. Above Christ are the archangels and around him are the prophets, apostles, martyrs, and saints.  On the right is Moses carrying a tablet. In the lower left panel are three early bishops of the Episcopal Church: William White (who resembles Benjamin Franklin), Samuel Seabury, and Thomas Claggett. Seabury was the first bishop of the Episcopal Church, ordained in Scotland in 1794.  In the center bottom panel is a child with a sword piercing a banner with the name of "Herod."

Our History "Drawn to Tradition, Challenged by Change"

While capable leaders can be credited with nurturing Christ Church – piloting it through the rapid technological and social changes of the past century and a half – the work of hundreds of unnamed heroes and heroines has also kept the parish vital. Their devotion to their religious beliefs and rites, their donation of time and treasure, and their commitment to helping the less fortunate, insured that the founders’ dream would endure. Because of that fact, this volume mentions by name only a few individuals from the early years. Their contributions and sacrifices should be interpreted merely as representing the commitment of countless others who succeeded them and who carry on the Christ Church spirit today.

Click here to view or download the complete 150 year history of Christ Church pdf "Drawn to Tradition, Challenged by Change"written by Teresa K. Lehr. (Download may take a few minutes.)