History of Christ Church in East Orange
The history of Christ Church began on a Saturday evening in September of 1868, at a meeting in the depot at “Orange Junction.” The meeting was held to explore the need for an Episcopal parish in the rapidly growing town of East Orange. A new parish was formed soon afterward, and for the next thirteen months, services were held in the schoolroom of the Reverend V.G. Mulholland, who donated both his space and his services to the new parish.
When it became apparent that Christ Church needed its own building and a full time clergyman, the Rev. Dr. Horace Bishop was chosen as its first rector. On September 11, 1879, he began a ministry that lasted for twenty-four years, until he retired in 1894. Shortly after he became Rector, the property on which Christ Church now stands, was bought, and a small wooden church was built for slightly over five thousand dollars. A rectory and a parish house were built adjacent to it. The continued growth of the congregation led to four separate building enlargements between 1874 and 1886.
Tragedy struck Christ Church on December 23, 1888, when it was completely destroyed by fire. Construction of a new building began early in 1889 and ended just in time for Easter services on Sunday, March 29, 1891. The new structure was built of limestone in the Cathedral-like English Gothic style, seating 700 people in contrast to the original church, which seated 230 people. It is that same building in which we now worship. In appreciation for his leadership and his numerous contributions to the church’s remarkable growth and progress, the vestry elected the Rev. Dr. Horace Bishop, “Rector Emeritus.”
The next rector, The Rev. W.W. Davis, served from 1894 to 1906.
The rectorate of the Rev. Dr. Charles E. Hutchinson spanned thirty six years, from 1906 to 1942, when he retired. Under his guidance, the parish was freed of all debt and the church was finally consecrated in 1917. By 1918, Christ Church’s 50th anniversary, the choir section of the Parish House had been built. In 1943, both the 75th anniversary of the parish and the 50th anniversary of the present building were celebrated, taking place during the time that the Rev. Charles Allen served as the church’s fourth rector, which was from 1942 to 1944.
The Rev. Frederick W. Cooper became the fifth rector in 1944 and served until his death in 1968, the one hundredth anniversary of the parish. On June 25th, 1968, a second fire struck and destroyed the newly rebuilt and redecorated kitchen wing, youth room, and part of the Parish House. Parishioners rallied, promptly raising funds to rebuild those facilities.
The sixth rector, the Rev. James H. Waring began his term of service in May, 1969, and remained until the fall of 1976, when he left to become the Dean of Calvary Cathedral in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Emphasizing the strengthening of relationships between fellow worshipers, he assisted parishioners in adjusting to, and embracing an increasingly diverse membership.
Under the spiritual guidance of the Rev. Walter E. Lewis, the seventh rector, who served from 1977 to 1980, lay leadership was encouraged and gave their support, and Christ Church experienced a corresponding increase in size. In 1980, he left to accept the position of Associate Rector of St. Peter’s Church, in Essex Fells, NJ.
From April 1, 1981, to May 1, 1987, the Rev. Robert A. Mayo served as the eighth rector. During his tenure, parish life expanded both organizationally and programmatically, as evidenced by the establishment of the Parish Council, Birthday Groups, Vestry Retreats, and Homecoming Day.
The next successor the Rev. Henry C. Mikaya, left in 1991 after three years of service, to accept the invitation of St. Paul’s and St. Clement’s church in Mount Vernon, New York, to become its rector.
The tenth rector, the Rev. Dr. William A. Guthrie, began his term of office on September 30th, 1992. Concerned about the deterioration of Christ Church’s architectural and other treasures, foremost amongst them the organ and stained glass windows he formed the preservation and Restoration Committee to address the problem. Both of these restoration efforts were successfully completed. In addition, he initiated an annual Civic Service Day to recognize the contributions of various occupational groups.
He has also promoted efforts to improve the level of understanding and appreciation of cultural differences within the highly diverse parish. His full and continuous support is responsible for many of the improvements to the church building and rectory. On June 26th., 2011, The Rev. Dr. William A. Guthrie delivered his final Sermon, and retired from his lengthy career of 36 years, which included 18 years of fulfilling service at Christ Episcopal Church, East Orange, NJ.
With a proud history of community service, Christ Episcopal Church is responding to the challenges of today, by spreading the Good News of Christ’s love for all people.