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Faith and Family: Christ Episcopal Church to celebrate bicentennial in February

By Carolyn Vance Smith

Special to the Democrat

Christ Episcopal Church, the oldest Episcopal congregation in the Diocese of Mississippi, will celebrate its 200th anniversary at 2 p.m. Feb. 22 with a special service and a festive party.

Preaching at the service will be The Right Rev. Brian Seage, Bishop of the Diocese. During his remarks, Bishop Seage will rededicate Christ Church. Others will provide a brief history of the church and share special memories of church activities.

“We invite everyone in the Diocese to celebrate with us,” said The Rev. Ken Ritter, vicar of Christ Church and rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Natchez.

“Christ Church is the mother church of our diocese,” he said. “Founded in 1820, it is sacred to all Episcopalians in Mississippi.

“Though the congregation is small, it is vibrant and growing,” Ritter said.

Christ Church is located in a pastoral setting 20 miles north of Natchez and 13 miles west of Fayette on Mississippi 553 in Jefferson County in southwest Mississippi. It is 8 miles east of the Mississippi River and a few miles west of the Natchez Trace Parkway.

The church is a Mission Station of the Diocese of Mississippi and a Partner-in-Mission to Trinity Church, Natchez.

It was organized by The Rev. Adam Cloud, a missionary priest who first arrived in the area in 1790. Cloud was banned from the area by the Spanish government, but by 1815 he had returned and was holding church services near Church Hill.

In 1820 Cloud and the congregation organized the church in conformity with the constitution and canons of the Protestant Episcopal Church.

The current church building is not the original. The first was a log church built in 1820 on property about a mile from the present church. A second church was built in 1828 on the present site on land donated by Col. James G. Wood.

Today’s church, built in 1857-58, is a pure expression of Gothic Revival architecture with original pews, chairs and marble font. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Music for the bicentennial service will be provided by the Trinity Episcopal Church Choir, under the direction of Brother Vincent Bache, OSB.

“A celebratory birthday party after the service will take place at Church Hill Variety, across the road from Christ Church,” Ritter said.

“The place is owned by movie producers Tate Taylor and John Norris, who are communicants of Christ Church. The party is free of charge.”

Church Hill Variety features culinary creations by Nick Wallace, an award-winning chef formerly of Jackson.

Free transportation will depart Trinity Church, 205 South Commerce St., Natchez, at 1:15 p.m. Feb. 22 and return approximately 5 p.m.

“Those wanting a ride should reserve a place by Feb. 15 by calling Trinity Church, 601-445-8432,” Ritter said.

Members of the Mission Committee of Christ Church are Marion Smith, Trinity Church Warden; John Norris, Junior Warden; Adolph Wagner III, Bishop’s Warden; David Paradise, Treasurer; Virginia Patterson and Rose Thompson. Ashley Harriss serves as secretary to the committee.