Christ Church Christiana Hundred records1831-1998 Majority of material found within 1888-1987
- Majority of material found within 1888-1987
- Christ Church Christiana Hundred (Greenville, DE) (Organization)
16 Linear Feet
By the mid-1840s, the community surrounding the powder mills had grown and the various denominations that made up the BMSS splintered off to form their own churches and schools. Mount Salem Methodist, Green Hill Presbyterian, and St. Joseph's on the Brandywine Catholic Church left the small BMSS with a diminished student body of Episcopalians.
In 1848, Alfred Lee (1807-1887), Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware, appointed Reverend Samuel Brincklé (1796-1863) a missionary for new Castle County. As part of his missionary work, Reverend Brincklé preached on Sundays at the du Pont's small Sunday School and during this time worked with the du Pont's to establish their own Episcopal Parish. The neighboring parishes in the Diocese initially resisted the creation of this new parish, claiming that it encroached upon other parochial jurisdictions. Nevertheless, in 1851 the corner stone was laid for Christ Church adjacent to the powder mills in Christiana Hundred and on May 4, 1856, Bishop Lee performed the first service at the church.
At first the congregation was small, mostly consisting of members of the du Pont family, and parishioners rented their pews (a practice that would continue into the 1940s). After Reverend Brincklé's death in 1863, the congregation grew and witnessed a succession of rectors. Reverend William Newbold (1839-1903) succeeded Brincklé in 1864 until 1869, followed by Reverend Isaac Newton Stanger (1841-1911), under whose three-year tenure the church was incorporated in 1872. Reverends Dudley D. Smith (1831-1902), Hamilton M. Bartlett (1848-1914), and Charles A. Horne (1869-1930) rounded out the rest of the nineteenth-century rectors.
In 1886, the establishment of Immanuel Chapel in Wilmington siphoned off a large number of communicants from Christ Church, but the diminished congregation remained active. The first women's groups formed during Bartlett's rectorship and the Young Crusaders, a boy's organization and branch of the Church Temperance Society evolved in 1898.
Though the church had declined in numbers, physically the late nineteenth-century represented a period of growth. In 1892, a rectory was built and electricity was installed in the church. A new organ was also put in the church and by 1899, when Reverend Horne departed Christ Church, construction had already begun on a new parish house. Reverend John S. Bunting (1868-1955) brought the church into the twentieth century and worked hard to rebuild church membership and revamp the Sunday School, which he felt had been neglected.
Reverend Bunting initially caused anxiety among the communicants when he introduced a more ceremonial-style service and added candles and a cross to the altar. Christ Church had always prided itself on being Low Church Episcopalian. Any sense of formality and ceremony smacked of high churchmanship, which in the communicants' view would slowly align the church with Catholicism. Bunting reassured his congregation that he did not intend any doctrinal changes to their services, but the parishioners' insistence on retaining its tradition of being Low Church would crop up again in the 1980s.
Reverend Bunting left Christ Church suddenly in 1908 upon learning that it had never been properly consecrated and could not be as long as the du Pont Company held title to the land. Bunting did not feel comfortable serving an unconsecrated church and so Reverend William H. Laird (1871-1919) succeeded him as Rector. During Laird's tenure, major renovations were made to the church. The renovations included enlarging the chancel, replacing wooden arches with stone arches, installing all new woodwork, all new pews, replacing the lighting, putting in new pulpit steps, as well as other alterations and additions to the building. Shortly after the renovations were completed in 1914, Laird left Christ Church and was replaced by Reverend Robert Coles (1862-1935). Coles lasted only three years, vacating the position for Reverend Frederick T. Ashton (1884-1958), who would remain rector for twenty years.
Reverend Ashton faced a similar problem to the one Reverend Smith encountered in the 1880s. The closure of the Powder Mills in 1921 led to a significant decline in church membership. Though the church instituted bus service so as to expand church membership to a larger community, for the next twenty years, Christ Church remained a shadow of its former self.
With the appointment of Reverend William Capers Munds (1892-1976) as rector in 1942, Christ Church entered a time of profound growth and positive change. Under Munds' rectorship, pew rentals finally ceased, the Vestry members began to serve on a rotating basis, a cross was placed on the top of the steeple and in 1948, the church was finally consecrated. In addition, the congregation expanded and a new education building including a chapel was built. For eighteen years, Reverend Munds served the parish and grew to become one of its most popular rectors. When Munds retired in 1960, his replacement had large shoes to fill.
Reverend John O'Hear (1916-2005) took over the rectorship in 1961 and though he had a hard act to follow in Reverend Munds, he succeeded in being as equally popular with the congregation as his predecessor. While Munds had revitalized the church, O'Hear brought the church into the community and onto the global stage. During the 1960s and 1970s, Christ Church offered a number of seminar programs related to social and racial justice. O'Hear also instituted a graduate-level seminar program featuring theological scholars from across the nation. The Church also actively aided the larger Wilmington Community. The West Center City Day Care Nursery provided day care assistance to families in the low-income, areas of urban Wilmington so parents could find jobs. The West Side Larger Parish, started in 1965, was a scholarship program meant to give financial aid to poor, young African-Americans aspiring to attend college.
In addition to providing aid for the communities in its immediate vicinity, Christ Church under Reverend O'Hear provided aid throughout the world. Beginning in 1963, the Campaign for Unmet Needs assisted parishes and dioceses throughout the world to provide basic needs such as church buildings, hospitals, transportation for ministers, funds for missions, schools, training centers for seminarians, water works, generators, equipment, and more. One project in Sarawak, Malaysia even funded the translation of the Bible into Iban. The Unmet Needs campaign operated on nearly every continent, though particularly in Southeast Asia, West Africa, Central and South America and even on Native American Reservations in the United States.
John O' Hear served as Rector for twenty years, retiring in 1981. It took Christ Church about a year and half to find a new rector. Though the assistant rector, Reverend John C. Scobell (1925-2003) took over temporarily, the church lacked leadership. When Reverend Adam Lewis (1937-) was appointed in 1983, the transition was a challenging one. Lewis did not always get along well with the vestry and the predominantly conservative congregation who feared that Lewis' minor alterations to worship services and preference for ceremony would carry the church away from the Low Church traditions that they had always valued. Lewis eventually called upon Reverend Philip Porcher (1932-), an outside religious consultant to help improve the working relationship between himself and the Vestry. Yet in spite of the difficult transition, Lewis served the parish for eleven years, leaving the rectorship in 1994.
Today Christ Church continues to be an active parish and to follow its mission to "share the beauty and the power of God's transforming love through our worship, community, and service in the world."
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- Christ Church Christiana Hundred (Greenville, DE) (Organization)
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- Christ Church Christiana Hundred records
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