Edit ModuleShow Tags

Majesty & Faith

Christ Church, one of the oldest and most historic churches in the United States, embarks on a journey of restorative grandeur



(page 1 of 2)

Christ Church in Greenwich is a triumph of wealth and Trinitarianism in this leafy corner of the United States,” John Cheever wrote in his journal in 1960. “To be buried from this chancel would, it seems, assure one a place in Heaven.”

Well, yes. This grand Episcopal church does seem like that sort of place. The crenellated bluestone tower, the imposing Gothic arches, the dazzling stained glass windows made by Gorham and Tiffany—but wait, wait. Have you noticed that odd black fabric swaddling the sanctuary’s upper edifice? It looks like some sort of very gloomy memorial. But it’s actually safety netting, to ensure that no churchgoer gets clocked on the head by a chunk of falling granite and is thus buried from that glorious chancel before he is quite ready.

Then, too, one hears that the massive “Transfiguration” window on the front façade—depicting Jesus on a mountaintop suffused with God’s light—is in danger of, er… “falling out?” the Rev. Dr. James B. Lemler offers helpfully. “Yes. Every hundred years, you need to do some restoration of windows around the leading and that sort of thing. The problem with the big windows here has been the wood and terra-cotta that hold them in have deteriorated so badly that it’s possible that they could begin to collapse.”

“We did lose a window last year—a minor one on the side,” adds Carter Harris, the church’s senior warden. “To lose the Transfiguration window would be a tragedy.”

These historically sensitive structural fixes require gobs of cash. This is to say nothing of the church’s substandard boilers, water-damaged ceilings, drafty,
energy-inefficient spaces, and peeling paint and plaster in the sanctuary—“our most sacred space,” Harris notes. To address all this and more, Christ Church has embarked on a capital campaign—called “Rise Up, Restore, Rejoice!”—that aims to raise a cool $10 million. One is tempted to think, No problem, this is Christ Church, “one of the biggest, oldest, and richest Episcopal churches in the United States,” The New York Times says, and the spiritual home of Rockefellers, Havemeyers, Converses and in more recent times, Bushes.

But the notion that Christ Church is made of money appears to be overstated. “We’ve named that the ‘bullion in the basement’ syndrome,” says Rev. Lemler, a tall, gentle, funny man who has been the church’s rector since 2008. “People just think we go down and shave some off as we need it, and of course that’s not the case.”

Actually, Lemler has steered the church past a bumpy phase marked by scandal (the 2008 conviction of an esteemed music director for possessing child pornography), wilting morale and declining attendance—the latter an issue for churches everywhere. Christ Church is firmly back on track now, but its bigness, both in terms of physical size and mission, can be taxing. The church’s campus ranges across ten acres, and includes not only the great stone structures of 1910—church, parish house and (former) rectory—but also a chapel, a nursery school and the 1861 Tomes-Higgins house, designed by Calvert Vaux. Christ Church bought Tomes-Higgins in 1963, voted narrowly (and thus divisively) to keep it in 1981, when it was falling into disrepair, and restored it at great expense in 1997. “Now the campus is like the village green of Greenwich,” observes Marnie Dawson Carr, who recalls parishioners braving a snowstorm to vote on the fate of Tomes-Higgins.

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module

 

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Greenwich Agenda

  • Native American Heritage Month

    2014.11.23
     @ Bruce Museum of Arts and Science

    November is Native American Heritage Month, and the Bruce Museum will celebrate with a special Family Day dedicated to Native American traditions...

  • The Enchanted Forest

    2014.11.21
     @ Hyatt Regency Greenwich

    Junior League of Greenwich presents 2014 Enchanted Forest! Holiday Boutiques Gingerbeard Workshops Santa's Breakfast...

  • Junior League of Greenwich The Enchanted Forest

    2014.11.21
     @ Junior League of Greenwich

    The Junior League of Greenwich (JLG) will host its annual holiday fundraiser, The Enchanted Forest on Friday, November 21 through Sunday, November...

  • Parties at the JCC Center

    2014.09.02
     @ Stamford JCC

    A place to celebrate birthdays and special occasions. Be a guest at your own party! The JCC offers a wonderful space for you and your guests to...

  • Holiday Craft Sale

    2014.11.22
     @ First Congregational Church of Greenwich

    Annual Holiday Craft Sale in Old Greenwich, Nov. 22 and 23 The Annual Holiday Craft Sale at First Congregational Church of Greenwich is a great...

  • Flinn Gallery Art Opening

    2014.10.30
     @ Flinn Gallery 2nd floor

    "IN FOCUS" OPENING RECEPTION -  Thursday October 30, 2014 6-8pm. "IN FOCUS"features seven artists' visions in...

  • Antarctica: Photographs by Diane Tuft

    2014.10.28
     @ Bruce Museum

    October 28, 2014 - February 1, 2015 Selections from Gondwana, Images of an Ancient Land Bruce Museum, 1 Museum Drive, Greenwich, CT...

  • Exhibition: Northern Baroque Splendor

    2014.09.20
     @ Bruce Museum

    Northern Baroque Splendor. The HOHENBUCHAU COLLECTION from: LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vienna September 20, 2014 - April 12, 2015...

  • "Paper & Stone" an exhibition by Ellen Gordon & Sary Backer at the Loft Artists Gallery

    2014.11.01
     @ Loft Artists Gallery

    Paper and Stone” An exhibition by Sary Backer & Ellen Gordon November 1 - November 30th Artists’ reception: November 8th from 4 – 6 PM...

  • Exhibition: Native American Pottery from the Bruce Museum Collection

    2014.11.22
     @ Bruce Museum

      Generously underwritten by Gabelli Funds and The Charles M. and Deborah G. Royce Exhibition Fund Over the years, the Bruce Museum has...

  • The Best of 2014: Cecile Chong, David, Ruth Hiller, David Licata, Loanne Mattera, Jill Parisi, Kristen Thiele

    2014.11.08
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    GALLERY I Dates: November 8 – December 22, 2014     Opening Reception: November 8, 6:30 – 8:00 PM Public Invited THE BEST OF 2014:  Cecile...

  • Family Gallery Tours

    2014.10.26
     @ Bruce Museum

    Designed for children ages 6-10 and their families, these tours will provide an interactive, discussion-based tour of the museum’s current...

  • 6th Annual Greenwich Reindeer Festival & Santa’s Workshop

    2014.11.28

    Santa and his LIVE reindeer - Dancer, Dasher, Prancer and Blitzen, are coming back to town for the 6th Annual Greenwich Reindeer Festival &...

  • IMAGINE CANDY- SWEET TASTINGS!!!

    2014.10.24
     @ Imagine Candy

    Imagine Candy located in Scarsdale Village- Winner of 2014 Best West of Westchester by Westchester Magazine- holds a Belgian Chocolate and Candy...

  • Christmas Tree and Wreath Sale for Charity

    2014.11.29
     @ First Congregational Church of Greenwich

    O, Christmas Tree; O Christmas Tree Buy your tree and help those in need this Christmas! It’s time for the annual Christmas Tree and...

  • Tuesday Toddler Tours

    2014.11.04
     @ Bruce Museum

    Children ages 3-5 and their adult caregivers are encouraged to come explore the Museum’s collections and exhibitions through picture books...

  • Greenwich Gives

    2014.12.02
     @ Greenwich Avenue

    Looking for a fun way to complete your holiday shopping and give back to your community?    On December 2, 2014, local non-profits...

  • Holiday WOW At Your Front Door!

    2014.12.02
     @ Garden Education Center of Greenwich

    Beautify your entrance way with luscious holiday evergreens, berries, pinecones and more, sure to last throughout the dreary winter...

  • Exercise as Treatment for Chronic Pain

    2014.12.02
     @ Noble Conference Room Greenwich Hospital

    Presented by Greenwich Hospital and Orthopaedic & Neurosurgery Specialists Exercise as Treatment for Chronic Pain Tuesday, 12/2/14 at...

  • Israeli Film Series | Bethlehem

    2014.12.02
     @ Stamford JCC

    Join us throughout the year for award-winning films direct from Israel that will show you Israel through the lens of a movie camera. Following each...


Show More...
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular Articles

  1. Greenwich Hospital Venezia Gala
    Greenwich Country Club
  2. BCA Annual Luncheon + Fashion Show
    Hyatt Regency Greenwich
  3. Greenwich Happy Hours
    6 places to go in Greenwich for Happy Hour
  4. Greenwich Restaurant Week Opening Night Kick-off Party
    Miller Motorcars
  5. AmeriCares Airlift Benefit
    Westchester County Airport