Christ Church was founded in 1854 as a mission of the city’s first Episcopal parish, Trinity Church. The church was created through the generosity of the three Edwards sisters, parishioners of Trinity who were strong adherents of the Oxford Movement. The early mission enabled New Haven Episcopalians to receive Holy Communion more than once a month and to attend Morning and Evening Prayer services during the week, and by 1856 attendance at Christ Church grew to ninety-three families, with over one hundred and fifty Sunday School children.
The Church Building
From 1895–98 Fr. George Brinley Morgan oversaw the construction of the current church, a masterpiece by the Gothic revival architect, Henry Vaughan. Vaughan designed both the building itself, and also the interior fixtures and decorations, including ornate mahogany carvings by the Bavarian sculptor Johannes Kirchmayer. The completion of this elaborate building enabled the blossoming of Christ Church as a center of Anglo-Catholic worship and devotion. When the parish celebrated the hundredth anniversary of Henry Vaughan’s building, a masterpiece of sacred architecture, there was a year of festive Solemn Masses culminating with a rededication of the building by the Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev’d Frank Griswold, on the Eve of Pentecost.
St. Hilda’s House
In 1910, Fr. Frederick Burgess established deaconesses in habit (eventually three in number) to be resident at Christ Church. These deaconesses served the sacristy of the church, the children of the church school, and the poor and orphaned of New Haven until the early seventies. They lived in the Red House, and the parish still has pictures of their daily community life, including eating ice cream.
St. Hilda’s House continues today in the form of an intentional community of young adults who choose to spend a year serving the community of New Haven. They seek to continue the mission of the deaconesses in their ministries, although they do not wear habits!
The Community Soup Kitchen
The Community Soup Kitchen has been running out of Christ Church since 1978, when the Rev’d David Boulton (rector from 1978–83) proposed they make use of the large dining hall. Today, it is New Haven’s primary soup kitchen, providing a vital ministry to the urban poor by serving as many as 400 people in a day.
Christ Church has long been a center of Anglo-Catholic worship. Anglo-Catholicism seeks to promote authentic praise of God by sharing in the traditions of worship practiced by Christians since the Early Church. At Solemn High Mass on Sundays we try to bear witness to the divine mystery through the music of our professional choir and a liturgy which centers around the full ministry of Word and Sacrament.
In 2009 Christ Church was the site of the inauguration of the North American province of the Society of Catholic Priests. The parish still seeks to be an example of progressive Anglo-Catholicism, eschewing the false dichotomy of worship or service and instead seeking to ground people's lives in the intentional worship of God and acts of service to the community. It has long affirmed the role of women in the church's ordained ministry, and is inclusive of all persons irrespective of race, gender, sexual orientation, social class, or any other differentiation.