It is the last day in November and I have been meaning to mention this tidbit of flyover Episcopal church history all month…Four years before St. Louis was chartered as a city in 1823, Christ Church was organized by 26 people who assembled for a service in a building that previously had been a dance hall and a courtroom. That worship service on Oct. 24, 1819 was the first for an Episcopal-Anglican congregation west of the Mississippi River.
On November 1, 1819 a charter was circulated by Col. Thomas F. Riddick for the first Episcopal church west of the Mississippi. Almost 50 signatures were obtained for the document, including those of some of the city’s most prominent citizens–Gen. William Clark, Thomas Hart Benton, Alexander McNair, Frederick Dent, John O’Fallon, James Clemens, Jr., and William Carr Lane, who in 1823 would be elected first mayor of St. Louis.
Nearly 50 years and two church buildings later, the growing congregation constructed a permanent church at their present location. It was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior in 1994. Christ Church Cathedral is now headquarters of the Missouri diocese of the Episcopal Church and ranks among the finest English Gothic structures in the nation.
I was sorry to miss this special service and the “Chat N’ Chew” (!) in the Nave with Esley Hamilton, historian and preservationist, as guest speaker that followed. That was a busy weekend and I couldn’t pull it off.
Of course, there was nary a mention of this milestone in our local paper. 150 years! Oh well, I suppose they think no one cares about the history of a small (and shrinking) denomination like ours. And they are too busy feeding us headlines about Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, et al.
Well, I certainly hope I am around in two years to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Episcopalians in this city!
*Be Thou My Vision, hymn #488