November 28, 2020

Oldest Episcopal congregation in Mississippi celebrates 200th anniversary

Christ Episcopal Church in the Church Hill community of Southwest Mississippi will celebrate the church’s 200th anniversary with a special service at 2 p.m. Saturday.

“(Christ Church) is the oldest Episcopal congregation in the state of Mississippi,” said Virginia Patterson, 87, who has attended the church since she was a baby. “I am the oldest member.”

Patterson said she has seen many changes at the church over the years.

“Our congregation has dwindled down to where we had very few numbers but in the last two years it has been picking up and we are doing so much better,” Patterson said. “Tate Taylor and John Norris have joined our church, and they have helped us so much.”

Taylor and Norris, movie producers of films including “Ma,” “The Help” and “Get On Up,” have helped revitalize the church, Patterson said, helping restore the church’s original cross and helping grow the congregation.

“We are getting more members, and we are working on the church,” Patterson said. “It is wonderful.”

Patterson said the church now has approximately 12 or 13 members who attend services at the church at 3 p.m. on the third Sunday of each month.

“Members of Trinity (Episcopal Church in Natchez) come out here to church and that helps our congregation and friends come so we are doing better,” Patterson said.

Christ Church was founded in 1820 when services were held in a log cabin located approximately a mile from the current church. Another church was built in 1828 and the current church, which is a built in the Gothic Revival style, was built in 1857-1858.

Saturday’s anniversary celebration will honor the church’s founders and clergy who served the church members over the years, and organizers said everyone is invited regardless of religious affiliation.

The Rev. Brian Seage, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, will officiate and rededicate Christ Church. The Rev. Ken Ritter, vicar of Christ Church and rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Natchez, will assist, as will other clergy.

Patterson, Norris, the Rev. Sam Godfrey and Marion Smith will make remarks and music will be provided by the Trinity Episcopal Church choir, directed by Br. Vincent Ignatius, OSB.

After the service refreshments will be served on the lawn of Oak Grove, an antebellum house adjacent to Christ Church, under the direction of chef Nick Wallace. Music will be by Bubba McCabe and Drew David of Natchez.

Souvenirs will be sold as will a DVD of the festivities.

Trinity Church will offer a bus ride to Christ Church but call 601-445-8432 to inquire about seat availability. The bus will depart Trinity at 1:15 p.m. Saturday and return from Christ Church at 5 p.m.

Christ Church can be reached from U.S. 61 by turning west onto Mississippi 553. The church is about 18 miles from Natchez and about 13 miles from Fayette.