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Join us Feb. 22 to honor Christ Church’s founders

On my way home, as I round the bend of Mississippi Highway 553 at the intersection of Church Hill Road, I always look up at a terraced little hill.

What I see is my church, Christ Episcopal Church.

The scene is so calming that it makes me smile. The message the church sends to me is, “I’m solid and substantial. I’ll always be here for you.”

If it is after dark, the church’s lighted stained-glass windows are beacons. They radiate beauty and hope and love. I like to slow down so I can enjoy that sense of peace.

This winter I join others in giving thanks to those far-sighted, generous people who long ago moved to southwest Mississippi, built dwellings, cleared land and put in crops.

They wanted an Episcopal church in their agricultural community and they did something about it. In 1820 they founded the first Episcopal church in Mississippi.

At 2 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 22, Christ Church will honor those founders as well as all clergy who have served there and all church members who for 20 decades have worshipped there as we celebrate the church’s bicentennial anniversary.

Everyone is invited to help us celebrate. You don’t have to be an Episcopalian to attend.

The event will be at the current Christ Church, which is not the original church building. The first was a log cabin built in 1820 about a mile away from the present church. In 1828, another church was built on the present site. 

In 1857-1858, today’s church was built at the same location.

Today’s church is a pure expression of Gothic Revival architecture with original pews, altar and marble font. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A picturesque church cemetery lies on three sides of the church, filled through the decades with graves of area residents and their families.

At the service, the Rev. Brian Seage, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, will officiate and rededicate Christ Church. The Rev. Ken Ritter, vicar of Christ Church and rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Natchez, will assist, as will other clergy.

Remarks will be by The Rev. Sam Godfrey, Virginia Patterson, Marion Smith and myself.

Music will be by the Trinity Episcopal Church choir, directed by Br. Vincent Ignatius, OSB.

After the service will be a “jollification.” This term, which means “merrymaking,” was used 100 years ago for the church’s 1920 centennial party.

During this time, informal tours of the church cemetery will be available.

Refreshments will be served on the lawn of Oak Grove, an antebellum house adjacent to Christ Church, under the direction of chef Nick Wallace. Music will be by Bubba McCabe and Drew David of Natchez.

Souvenir items for sale during the party will benefit the church’s maintenance fund.

They include a limited number of signed watercolors of the four seasons at Christ Church by the award-winning artist Will Smith Jr. of Natchez and New Orleans. Priced at $100 per set, the prints are suitable  for framing.

Also for sale will be a limited number of polished plaques made from a fallen cedar tree near the church. Inscribed with the church’s name and date, the wooden pieces are both decorative and functional. They are priced at $35 each.

Orders will be taken for DVDs of the afternoon’s activities. They are $20-$24, including shipping.

Those wanting a free ride to Christ Church from Trinity Church should reserve a seat by calling 601-445-8432, by Feb. 17. The bus will depart Trinity at 1:15 p.m. Feb. 22 and return from Christ Church at 5 p.m.

Christ Church can be reached from U.S. Highway 61 by turning west onto Mississippi Highway 553. The church is about 18 miles from Natchez and about 13 miles from Fayette.

John Norris is a resident of Church Hill and a member of Christ Church.