Lord, you are in the midst of us, and we are called by your Name.
Christ Church was established in 1854 as a free church with a particular obligation to daily prayer. At a time when it was usual for Episcopal parishes to rent out their pews, Christ Church was founded as a place of worship with seats open to all. We continue to hold the service of Morning Prayer each morning, and to celebrate the Holy Eucharist daily as well (four days a week in the summer months). Through our prayers, and through the breaking of bread and sharing of the chalice in the Eucharist, we bear witness to the mystery of the Incarnation, the Word made Flesh in Jesus Christ - remembering Christ's sacrificial death, and proclaiming his victory over death and sin in his glorious resurrection. In Christ Jesus we see God's love for the world made manifest, and we ardently pray to be made worthy of that great redemption promised for all who believe in and follow him.
We are an Anglican-Catholic parish of the Episcopal Church, founded in response to the Oxford Movement’s call to renew the true catholicity of the Church Universal, Christ's body in the world. We seek to remain true to that legacy, drawing upon two millennia of liturgical tradition in our worship, while also striving to keep ourselves open to the further unfolding of the Church’s catholicity in our time.
As an urban parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, Christ Church draws worshipers from our immediate neighborhood, in downtown New Haven, along with many others who come from nearby towns or further afield. Our proximity to Yale University ensures that there are always a number of students and scholars among us (including seminarians and others from the Berkeley Divinity School, the Episcopal seminary affiliated with the Yale Divinity School.) Yet our parishioners are of all ages, and all walks of life.
Everyone who passes through our doors is welcome here. You do not have to be a member of the Episcopal Church, or any church at all. All are invited to come forward to the Altar to receive a blessing during Holy Communion, and all baptized Christians are invited to receive the Sacrament. The clergy is always glad to talk with anyone who would like to become baptized, or to explore Christian faith at any level.
At the center of our life as a parish is Solemn High Mass our principal weekly Eucharistic liturgy, held at 11 am on Sunday mornings. For this service, which is (usually) partly sung by The Christ Church Choir, we employ the traditional, formal language prescribed as Rite I in The Book of Common Prayer. Christ Church is unusual among Episcopal parishes in retaining for our principal services the language of Rite I, which dates back (in part) to the era of Shakespeare and the King James Bible. But we do also regularly conduct services in Rite II, the modernized-language liturgy that is more prevalent today in the Episcopal Church. Solemn High Mass is preceded on Sunday mornings at 9 am by a service of Holy Eucharist according to Rite II, celebrated at a free-standing altar in the nave; this is often the preferred service for families with small children. (In the summer months, the 9 am and 11 am congregations are combined for a single service at 10 am: Rite I Solemn High Mass in June and August, and the simpler Rite II mass in July. So really we aren't so fussy after all.) There is also an earlier (and shorter) spoken mass held in the chapel at 8 am on Sunday mornings (Rite I, year-round).
There is always a lot going on at Christ Church. The candlelit service of Compline on Sunday evenings at 9 pm (during the academic term) draws a large congregation of college students and other young people from around New Haven. During the season of Lent, there is a weekly soup supper in the parish hall, accompanying a discussion program on topics of spiritual formation. In the summer, a casual barbecue in the garden follows the 5:30 mass on Tuesdays. he parish's 20s/30s group organizes service projects and social events throughout the year. And parishioners of all ages, together with the residential interns at St. Hilda's House, are involved in the St. Andrews' food pantry and other community outreach programs. The best way to find out what's going on at Christ Church at any given time is of course to come to church on Sunday morning. You'll find upcoming events and ongoing programs listed in the back of the service leaflet. There is also a (more or less) weekly parish email bulletin, the E-pistle - you can subscribe by leaving your name and email address in the book at the back of the nave after the service, or by emailing the parish office. (In theory, announcements should also be posted on this website, but we seem to be prone to technical difficulties on that front.) And yes - we now have a page on Facebook too.
What is it like to walk into Christ Church?
At Christ Church, we are always happy to meet and welcome visitors and newcomers. But you are just as welcome here if you are a more private person in your religious devotion. Many of us are shy and private about the time we spend with God ourselves, so have no fear of being "glad-handed."
When you enter the church, first you will be greeted by an usher and given a leaflet for the service. If you have any questions, the usher will be glad to assist you. You may then find a seat for yourself wherever you like in the nave, and take a few moments to look through the service leaflet. The leaflet contains the order for the service, the Scripture readings, the prayers, and the music that is sung by the congregation. The leaflet also refers to pages in one of two books located at your seat. The red book is the Book of Common Prayer; the leaflet will guide you to the texts of longer prayers that are not printed in the leaflet itself. The blue book is the Hymnal, and the numbers of the hymns of the day are found in the leaflet. After the service, the clergy will be standing in the back of the nave, to greet people as they leave. After the 11 a.m. Solemn High Mass on Sundays, coffee and refreshments are served in the parish house, out the back door of the church and through the garden.
Coffee Hour after Solemn High Mass is only optional here at Christ Church. You don't have to stay for it if you don't want. But you should consider staying, because Coffee Hour is actually pretty nice.
The good Christians who erected our present church building, back at the end of the nineteenth century, must have firmly believed that attendance at Coffee Hour was a matter best left to each individual worshiper's conscience, and inclinations. At any rate, the building seems to have been designed to keep it this way. You can very easily just slip out after Solemn High Mass, without going anywhere near Coffee Hour. This is so easy, in fact, that longtime parishioners sometimes do it by accident. After Mass, you shake hands with the clergy, and you see two sets of doors to choose from, one at either side of the nave. Doesn't matter which one you take: either way, you’re out on the sidewalk, no coffee in sight. Fortunately, this is easily corrected. If this happens to you, all you have to do is look for the gate to the garden (right in back of the church on the Elm Street side, a little farther down on Broadway). The garden isn't so huge, and there are big glass doors to the parish house; you'll see Coffee Hour happening through those doors.
If you’d rather not have to exit the premises, here’s what you do. At the rear of the church on the left there’s an inconspicuous little wooden door that looks like it must be a closet or something. You go through that door, and you find yourself in a grim little stairwell that you think couldn’t possibly be the way you’re supposed to go. You’ve just got to be brave about it and persevere. You go down the steps and out the door straight ahead. Then you’re in the garden, and you’re all set. Just follow the covered walkway to the parish house, and there you are.
Probably nobody around Christ Church would put Coffee Hour at the very top of their list of the things they love and cherish about coming for Solemn High Mass on Sundays. This is just not that kind of place. Still, Coffee Hour is nice. There’s only so long you can spend milling around chatting in the rear of the church after the service, and it can be hard to know what else to do with yourself after Solemn High Mass. Also there’s coffee, and usually a decent amount of food. With the food it’s like most things at Christ Church, in that there’s a certain amount of unexplained variation from week to week. Sometimes the food is far on the cookies-and-cakes end of the spectrum, and sometimes it’s more in the way of little canapés and so forth. There are times when it can be pretty close to a stand-up lunch, at least if you get there before the choir shows up. Either way, there's plenty of coffee, and there’s also hot water for tea.
Coffee Hour is actually a lot like that milling around and chatting that goes on in rear of the church after the service. Apart from the fact there's coffee and stuff to eat, the main difference is the fact it is held in a space that looks about as unlike the church building as is humanly possible. Also, the clergy are back to wearing regular clothes (relatively speaking), and there’s no big line of people standing behind you when you’re talking to them. The way you can tell you're still at Christ Church is that everyone’s happy you’re there, but you don’t have to do a lot of talking if you don’t want to. Nobody will ask you to wear a name tag, or expect you to account for your presence. People basically figure that if you’ve made it that far, you’ve got as much business being there as anyone. If they’ve never seen you before, their first thought will be that you’re probably someone who usually goes to one of the earlier services, or maybe you’ve been faithfully attending Solemn High Mass for years, but just never felt like sticking around afterward. Maybe this seems weird if you’re used to a different kind of church experience. But actually it’s nice.
On the other hand, once you've been to Coffee Hour for a few times, there's no good reason why you can't also offer to take a turn at providing the food. Then you get to be the one who decides what it's going to be. The person to talk to about that is Chris McDaniel. He's also the one who's been looking after the garden, so if you'd like you could talk with him about helping with that instead. Or in addition.