Christ Church, sometimes called the Mother Church of Georgia, is arguably the most historic colonial church of the southern colonies. Established in the 1730s, it boasts two of America’s most storied religious figures among its ministers: George Whitefield, and John Wesley. Although an Episcopal Church since its founding, Christ Church of Savannah is closely associated with the Methodist movement in America thanks to its ties to John Wesley. Christ Church is the oldest continuously active Christian congregation in Georgia.
The Church of England was established in Georgia in 1733 at the same time the city of Savannah was founded. The first congregation, which later became the congregation of Christ Church, counted some of the greatest theologians of its day among its early leaders. In 1736, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was appointed as minister. While in office he published America’s first hymnal and is credit with establishing the first Sunday school.
Wesley was followed by George Whitefield, another proponent of Methodism who was instrumental in the Great Awakening movement. In the 1740s the church under Whitefield constructed Christ Church, the first major church in Georgia and the largest in the American south at the time. It was dedicated in 1750. In that same year, a woman of African descent was baptized at the church.
The 19th century was a turbulent period for Christ Church. The building was destroyed several times in the first half of the century. The final building was completed and consecrated in 1840. Shortly thereafter, Christ Church became home to the first Episcopal bishopric established in Georgia. The church survived the American Civil War thanks to the peaceful surrender of the city.
Throughout its history, many of Savannah’s most prominent citizens attended Christ Church. Perhaps most famous was Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts. In addition, George Washington worshipped here during his tour of the South in 1791. From 2007 to 2011, the congregation of Christ Church was torn in two and a legal challenge was required to keep the church as part of the Episcopal Communion. Today Christ Church is once again an Episcopal parish. It is arguably the most historic, and one of the most visited, Episcopal churches in the American south.
Christ Church of Savannah is a rarity among America’s older churches in that it was constructed in the Greek Revivalist style. A large church to begin with, its impressive, brilliant-white façade fronted by a half-dozen magnificent marble columns makes it seem even bigger, almost more like a small cathedral. The close quarters of the surrounding streets and buildings adds to this impression.
The church interior is similarly impressive, with wide aisles, high ceilings and balconies that run the long length of the church. A magnicient stained glass window depicting Jesus is behind the pulpit. The sanctuary also features a beautiful choir niche and massive organ.
Christ Church is located just off Johnson Square in the middle of Savannah’s historic district. As of this writing no visitor information was available. Web: www.christchurchsavannah.org (official website).
Around the same time that the current Christ Church was completed, its sibling, St. John’s Church, was completed about a half mile to the south. This local bishop split time between both churches and the two congregations have been closely associated fort the better part of two centuries.