The history of Christ Church as a parish dates back to July of 1841 when Dr. George Washington Dame an Episcopal priest from Danville (30 miles east) began monthly visits to Martinsville to hold services. The small congregation initially met in the private home of Dr. Anderson Wade but within a year was able to expand into a small wooden building where little parish began to grow.
By 1888 planning began for the erection of a much larger, grander church building and by the turn of the century construction was under way on the new structure which remains essentially the same as when it was consecrated in 1903. Unique in design, the building is in the shape of an Anglican or Celtic cross with two side aisles but no center aisle. The nave is dominated by huge cross built into the ceiling and is accented by four stained glass windows, three in the nave and one behind the altar in the chancel.
The most significant alteration to the church building came in 1966 when modifications were made to address some of the shortcomings of the older design. The 1966 redesign added a large Narthex that provided a gathering point for the congregation exiting through a new center exterior doors. Further modifications to the interior moved the choir loft and organ to the rear of the nave and expanded the chancel with a larger communion rail and added a free standing altar. Over the years the beautiful old church has been improved with modern heating, air conditioning, lighting and other updates.
Our worship has been enhanced by the installation in 1983 of a beautiful Zimmer twenty rank tracker organ. A completely rebuilt bell tower houses a three bell set of cast bells that ring out over downtown Martinsville. In 1985 a columbarium and small adjacent chapel were added at the undercroft.
Ancillary buildings include our Parish House, the mansion house of prominent local family, that provides meeting rooms, class rooms, a nursery as well as church offices. This beautiful old structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a Virginia Historic Landmark and serves as a gathering place for many parish and community functions. Adjacent to the church is a four bedroom brick colonial house that for many years served the parish rectory and is presently being refurbished to be available as a rectory or for other congregational uses.
The first Episcopal services in Martinsville were held in July, 1841, by Dr. George Washington Dame of Danville at the home of Dr. Anderson Wade. This year we celebrate the 175th anniversary of that first service, the origin of our church. Our 175th Anniversary Celebration Service will be held on All Saints Sunday, November 6th, 2016. Projects are underway in preparation for the Celebration Service, and for the many special events during the months preceding that service.
Work has begun updating the timeline on the walls of the Undercroft. We have sixteen years to add to our history on eight feet of wall space. Take a look at the timeline as it stands today and notice the intertwining of world, local and church events for each decade. Which events of the past 16 years do you consider important enough to include? If you have photos, documents, or ideas, please give them to Marty Gardner, our chairman, or to committee members Sue Rosser, Melinda Penn and Jean Morris. If you’re interested in the portrayal of our church history, please join us in making decisions about events to include.
During the fall, we’ll have wonderful music, choral performances, very special surprise guests and speakers, children’s entertainment, youth contributions (perhaps a time capsule?), and many more events. This is an important milestone for our church which all of us and our families will enjoy celebrating.
Christ Church, Martinsville, had its beginning in the winter of 1841-42, when the Rev. George Washington Dame, (later D.D.) came to “Henry Court House” to visit a former classmate. Urged by families here who had clung to their Episcopal worship since colonial times, he agreed to give Martinsville one Sunday a month from his duties in Danville. Dr. Anderson Wade, M.D., traveled by buggy to North Carolina to the nearest bishop to become the first confirmed male member and following the brief ministry of The Rev. W. E. Webb, Dr. Wade was ordained in 1848 to become the third rector of Christ Church.
In the same year the first building was erected, three blocks west of the present building, on land donated by Marshall Hairston, and the name was recorded as Christ Church. It was then Patrick Parish, one of the last divisions of the original Charles City Parish of Colonial Virginia.
The second member confirmed was Mrs. Ballard Preston of Stuart. Another member also confirmed here was the mother of General J. E. B. Stuart. These two ladies drove forty miles by buggy to attend services.
Four months after The Rev. Alfred W. Anson became Rector, the present church building was begun in 1894 on land donated by Miss Ann Marshall Hairston, daughter of the first donor. The small congregation of some seventy communicants led by the Chairman of the Building Committee, Judge Stafford G. Whittle, worked mightily to complete a building.
The structure was consecrated in 1903 by The Rt. Rev. A. M. Randolph, Bishop of Southern Virginia.
Following The Rev. Alfred W. Anson’s ministry of 26 years, The Rev. Wilfred E. Roach became Rector. The congregation grew steadily and reached 200 shortly after World War II. During the ministry of The Rev. Charles C. Fishburne, Jr., 1935-1956, the congregation of laymen and women sponsored an open evangelistic series, at which world prominent theologians offered a post-war restatement of the faith.
The subsequent growth made it apparent that expansion was imperative and the Vestry, headed by Justice Kennon C. Whittle, Senior Warden, and Mr. T. J. Burch, Junior Warden, determined to renovate the present church with needed additions with the idea that rather than build a larger structure, the congregation should establish a mission congregation when growth demanded.
Accordingly the adjoining property for parish activities was purchased in 1960, while The Rev. Philip Gresham was Rector. Under the leadership of its present Rector, The Rev. Jere Bunting, Jr., all of the parish property has undergone extensive renovation and redecorating. With the rector, the lay leadership of Mr. Clarence P. Kearfott and Mr. Thomas J. Burch, once more Christ Church has accomplished a major step forward.
(Information taken from a bulletin published by West Window Co. 1960-66).
The Anglican Church, the only recognized religious institution in Virginia from the colonial period until the revolution, found itself more and more as a symbol representing the oppression of British rule. So, by 1776 Anglicans were often equated with loyalists and through the revolution fell into unpopularity among the citizenry, especially with the rural settlers. For that reason few congregations survived the war years intact and it was only after the fervor began to die down and the country began to grow, that small parishes sprung up in the towns and villages throughout the state. Thus, as our church history has taught us, it was some fifty-eight years after we had won our independence that our parish began its tentative journey to its present status. From the 1841 gatherings in private homes, to the beginnings of a church building in 1847, by 1900 we were in our present building which, though modernized, remains remarkably true to its original design.
Little known, but clearly documented, Christ Church while in its early years of growth embarked on a venture of establishing a mission church, far away in the town of Ridgeway! In February of 1869, just 22 years after acquiring the land for our original building, the Rev. John R. Lee, Rector at Christ, led a group of trustees who acquired a tract of land on Marrowbone Road at or near the town of Ridgeway establishing Emmanuel Chapel. This plot, sold by King and Ann Jones, was a rectangle of 120 feet wide and 195 deep, amounting to just over a half acre, coincidently about the same size of the original church plot at Church and Moss Streets. Apparently there was no building on the land when acquired.
The Trustees of Emmanuel Chapel, in addition to Rev. Lee, were Susan M. Martin, Matilda Penn, Susan J. Hairston and George H. Watkins. Scarcely anything is known of the purpose and growth of this little mission but it is mentioned in the Report of the 76th Council of the Virginia Episcopal Church wherein Bishop Whittle reported that on October 13, 1871, he “consecrated Emmanuel Chapel Ridgeway and preached. Rev. J. R. Lee, Rector assisted.” This would suggest the actual building was completed some two years after the mission was started. Two years later, things didn’t work out as well since Bishop Whittle reported on September 12, 1873, that he “was prevented by rain from visiting Emmanuel, Ridgeway” Luckily, the next day on the 13th he preached and confirmed one at Christ Church, Henry Courthouse. (That’s us).
There is no documentation of the progress (or lack thereof) after the 1873 mention by Bishop Whittle, but apparently it did not go well as by 1894 the remaining Trustee, George H. Watkins, on behalf of Christ Church had to bring an action in the Circuit Court to appoint a special commissioner to sell the property. The Court ordered that T. G. Burch be named as the special commissioner to sell the Chapel property upon terms he deemed best. This would imply that the trustees were no longer functioning and that there were little or no members remaining.
On April 15, 1897, less than thirty years from its founding, the last vestiges of Emmanuel Chapel, Ridgeway were extinguished when Mr. Burch conveyed the original property to Dr. J. Beverly DeShazo. The building constructed on the tract was still in existence as the deed refers to the conveyance of land and the “appurtenances thereon” which means there was a structure on the property. The sale brought $200.00, which is further evidence that more than raw land was conveyed. There is antidotal word that the building was eventually sold to a Baptist or Primitive Baptist congregation but it appears Dr. DeShazo sold the building to George R. Jones and it was moved to a lot on Magnolia Street where it burned in the 1920’s. Dr. DeShazo, a prominent physician, built his home on the tract once serving the Chapel.
More information as to this interesting mission into the outlaying lands of Henry County would surely be discoverable by a more thorough scouring of early church and courthouse records. Any volunteers?
Note: I have used the spelling Emmanuel but the early deeds variously used Immanuel or Emanuel.
Researched and submitted by John Swezey
Our parish has grown over the years under the leadership of many fine priests, two of whom have moved on to the Episcopacy. The era of 1950 - 2000 were certainly high growth years for our parish but as with many main stream denominations the changing demographics of our community and the demise of local industry have led to a stagnation of growth and new challenges to our parish family to keep our beloved church vibrant moving into the twenty first century.
The good news is that we are determined to overcome the obstacles that are presented by the ever changing challenges of modern life. Through Christian education and mission outreach; an outstanding music program and church fellowship; traditional Anglican liturgy and contemporary variations of the liturgy as well as numerous programs both within and outside of the church structure, this congregation is committed to spreading the Gospel to all we can reach and to build our parish into an ever stronger instrument of God’s will on earth.
Realizing that young people are the lifeblood of our future, a group parents and church leaders brainstormed the entire Christian Education program and came up with a unique “out of the box” concept of a family church school. This approach has taken the traditional 9:30 Sunday morning classroom from a school-like setting and moved it to a dynamic series of lessons that may take place beside a river or at a lake; on a mountain top, in a kitchen or anywhere the lesson may lead.
Our mission outreach has flourished through our Loaves and Fishes monthly offering of a free supper to the community for all who want or need a hot meal; our parishioners are active in the Community Outreach Ministry provided by Grace Network which we also support financially; the Mission Committee makes regular gifts to charities of all sorts in the community.
As this article is being written in August of 2016 we, the congregation of Christ Church, are in the midst of celebrating our 175th year as a parish, full of special services and events with lots of history. As a background for many of the stories is a photograph of an idyllic white frame country church with a white horse in the church yard which is used as a historic reference. But is that proposed to be a photo of our early church?
What is the origin? Where was it located? There must be a story.
Many of the articles on church history refer to the first church as being on a plot of land a couple of blocks west of the present church building. With this as a reference much can be learned from courthouse and church records. In fact, the exact location can be pinpointed based on early deeds and maps plus a twentieth century photograph of downtown Martinsville.
With our history telling us that the first services were held in private homes as early as 1841, and that the first church was built on land deeded from Marshall and Ann Hairston of the Beaver Creek Plantation, the deed was easily found in the records of the Henry County Clerk’s Office. Deed book 13, page 341 records that on June 12, 1847, Mr. and Mrs. Hairston conveyed a one-half acre lot to the “vestrymen of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the ancient Patrick Parish in the County of Henry”, “situate in the Town of Martinsville” The one-half acre was described as lot 62 on the “plan of said town”. While it is often mentioned that the land was “donated” by the Hairstons, the deed recites that it was transferred for “the consideration of fifty dollars cash in hand paid” not a small amount in 1847.
The location, while probably an unimproved lot, was not in the country but about a block west of the courthouse and directly across the street from the John Redd Smith estate in the middle of town. Using current day landmarks, the tract was basically all of the Farmers Market plus the two office buildings formerly occupied by the Young law firm and the Frith law firm across the street from the Municipal Building which structure occupies the site of the John Redd Smith estate. The church itself was located where the Young building parking lot is sited and the church graveyard about where the present brick office building stands.
The vestrymen who held the title on behalf of the congregation were a virtual who’s who of the local history; Dr. Anderson Wade, Rector, William T. Clark, Hughes Dillard, Jesse Wootton, Sheriff of Henry County, and George Hairston, a large landholder. Work must have begun soon after the deed was recorded as Assistant Bishop Johns recorded of his visit in 1847 “A very neat church building has been erected at Henry Court House, and is now ready for consecration.” In fact the building was consecrated by Bishop Meade who in 1848 reported “In Henry, I spent two days, where I consecrated a Church and confirmed three persons.”
So what does the building look like? Was it a white frame church with a white horse in the yard? Definitively no. The building was a one-story brick church about thirty-five feet long with a small narthex at the entry. It had a high pitched roof and there were two windows on each side of the nave. How do we know this is fact and not embellished oral history? For one we have the original deed, a plat of survey from nineteenth century sources and several contemporary written descriptions of the church in the Town “west of the courthouse”. But this writer is even more certain of these facts as I, as well as any Martinsville resident who may be old enough to be cognizant of the City of Martinsville fifty years or more ago, would have seen this church as it stood since it was not demolished until 1965. My personal testament to its existence and appearance, graveyard and all, comes from my summer job with the Coca Cola plant which occupied much of the area of the present Farmers Market, and I parked my car next to the fence that surrounded the grave sites.
Photographs have been hard to come by but not non-existent. Without being able to obtain a stand-alone shot of the church I have relied on an aerial photograph of downtown Martinsville taken in the mid 1950’s. This photo shows the church as it was located from the 1840’s until its destruction, also showing the John Redd house before it was destroyed. The fuzzy photo attached is an isolation of the building taken from the aerial view. All of the local history sources have been scoured, but a better shot has not been found. The plea for such a picture remains.
As the congregation grew, the need for more space was recognized by the Vestry. As early as 1885 discussions began among the church leaders to seek a location for a new building, larger and grander than the simple structure built in 1848. After five years of planning, the vestry eventually acquired the tract upon which we are now sited and plans for the new church were approved. The land was deeded from Ann Hairston, Ann M. Wilson and W.H. Hairston, Jr., daughter, niece and nephew of the original grantors of the church property in 1847. By 1896 services were held in the basement of the new church which was ultimately completed and consecrated by Bishop Randolph in 1903.
What happened to our little church? With the acquisition of a new location and plans for a new building, church leaders abandoned the old building in the mid 1890’s and began to seek buyers for the property. Apparently a quick sale was not forthcoming as the building was on the market for several years before T.G. Burch purchased it in January of 1898. In August of 1899, Mr. Burch conveyed the property to the Trustees of Martinsville Primitive Baptist Church, which owned and occupied the church until 1965. That church sold a large portion of the land to Mr. Tuggle and others in 1927, later to become Piedmont Creamery and the Coca Cola bottling plant. In 1965 the building was sold to the law firm of Young, Kiser and Frith and the structure was then demolished with the grave sites moved, making way for the present offices.
How did the frame church with the white horse come to be associated with our original church? That may remain an unsolved mystery as it seems as if it just suddenly appeared. My theory, and it’s just a theory, is that during the national bicentennial in 1976, several historic books dealing with local history were published. Among the most widely circulated was “Martinsville & Henry County Historic Views” published by the Martinsville - Henry County Woman’s Club. A citation on page 119 of the book described Martinsville Military Academy. The inscription read: “The headquarters of the Martinsville Military Academy was originally built as the Episcopal Church and later became the Primitive Baptist Church. It stood a short distance east of the intersection of Church and Moss Streets on the north side,” Continuing the additional caption read, ”The Academy was chartered on October 18, 1897, and was in existence only three years.”
A picture of the white horse church was accompanying the inscription. There seems to be no relationship between the Academy and the white church as the Academy was chartered in October 1897 and the Christ Church building conveyed to Mr. Burch in January 1898, less than three months after the school was founded. It may have been that, with no picture of the actual church, the picture of an old country church was used as representative of an early building. We may never know for sure.
All of this begs the question – What about the white horse?
“For those who may be interested, contact the church office for a copy of the original church deed and its translation along with a copy of the 1950’s aerial of downtown with the church and the John Redd Smith house located.”
Article and documents researched and submitted by John Swezey
The name of Frank Stringfellow may be familiar to some and foreign to others but his story is a saga worthy of examination by all. This man, small in stature but large in daring and courage, has woven a biography that is as full of excitement and intrigue as any fictional character conjured up by authors, present or past. His story as a courageous cavalry soldier who rode with Stuart and Mosby during the civil war and as a daring confederate spy in that same conflict is the subject of many articles and scholarly works, even as a leading character in a television drama.
While a brief recounting of his war exploits follows, it is his years as an Episcopal Priest, particularly in our parish, that are emphasized in this article.
Frank Stringfellow, born in Culpepper County in June of 1840 was by all accounts a dutiful young man true to his Virginia heritage. As might be expected of a boy from a landed family of his era, he attended Episcopal High School in Alexandria, graduating in 1860. In order to use his skills in Latin and Greek, he traveled to Mississippi to teach those subjects.
Frank’s stay in Mississippi was short lived as by April of 1861 the war was on. True to his Virginia heritage, he rushed home to take up arms to defend his homeland. Unfortunately, Frank was plagued with a disability that prevented an easy path to his military career; he was of a small frame and weighed barely 100 pounds, unacceptable to at least four confederate units he sought to join.
Stringfellow was nothing if not daring and clever, an accomplished horseman, he longed to join the cavalry. It is told that he wrangled his way into the Powhatan Guards by capturing three inattentive soldiers of that company and parading them to the Commander’s tent who was impressed enough to give the small man a place in the troop. This led him to Manassas as the troops gathered for the first skirmish of the war and where he came to the attention of the flamboyant cavalry officer Jeb Stuart who asked the young soldier to join his troop of scouts. This stroke of fate was Stringfellow’s first association with our part of Virginia as Stuart was raised in Patrick County some thirty-five miles west of Martinsville - his mother a member of Christ Church.
As a scout, a soldier was in the business of intelligence gathering; that is - a spy. In that role Frank Stringfellow was as good as the South had to offer and is the subject of many thrilling and fanciful gambits in and around Alexandria and Washington. When not being the eyes and ears of the South in the nation’s capital, Frank was in the company of Stuart and Mosby riding through Virginia, around McClellan’s army and scouting battlefield positions. By war’s end he was labeled as “the most dangerous man in the Confederacy” with a $10,000.00 bounty on his head. He fled to Canada where he became fascinated with matters of theology and underwent a religious transformation. In 1867 he returned to Virginia and after a try at farming, he married his long-time girlfriend Emma Green, entered Virginia Theological Seminary and was ultimately ordained as an Episcopal Priest in 1876.
Stringfellow’s tenure as a priest could as easily be described as a classic circuit riding preacher. Between 1876 and 1895 he was Rector of at least eight parishes from Powhatan to Martinsville to Massies Mill, averaging scarcely more than two years per charge. In each of his home churches he was constantly evangelizing in the surrounding unchurched villages and towns. His restlessness was intentional as he is quoted as declaring “I don’t think it is good for a minister to hold a church too long. His congregation gets used to him and they’re likely to stop listening to what he says.”
It is believed that Rev. Stringfellow was in Martinsville as early as May of 1890 as the local Confederate Veterans group was chartered on May 26 listing Frank Stringfellow as Chaplain. It is known he began his tenure as Rector of Christ Church on September 1, 1890 as it is written in his own hand in church records “I began work in this Parish on 1st day of September 1890 – found 54 communicants.” He was never reticent to record his accomplishments and by April of 1892 recorded the membership at 72 communicants. Anxious to build the congregation and church facilities as well, records show that within a month of his arrival the construction of a new rectory was begun and completed in April 1892 for “the total cost of buildings and improvements on the lot, about $3000”.
The successful completion of a new residence must have stirred his desire to continue the addition of new infrastructure as he wrote as a notation next to a series of the names of persons confirmed on March 14, 1892: “Bh Randolph confirmed, congregation very large, more than 150 persons were unable to get in the church, some of the candidates for conf. were crowded out, all the standing room was occupied – This means a new church building.” F Stringfellow Rector (emphasis added) It is hard to imagine the tiny brick church of 1892 with 150 persons crowded in and around it!
The persistent Reverend needed a little over a year to stir action from the Vestry as the minutes of the April 18, 1893 meeting chaired by the Rector records “On motion of F. Stringfellow, George Pearman and Mr. Peyton were appointed a building [committee] to select plans and specifications and arrange with Col. Bryant as to size and location of new church and report to full Vestry their proceedings for approval.” Stringfellow was not to see the commencement of construction as on December 1st of that same year he resigned his duties at the church. The new church building was not to be consecrated until ten years later.
Citizen, Soldier, Spy and Priest (continued)
Our man in the pulpit was renowned as an orator and an aggressive evangelist, taking his inspired preaching to the population of the rural areas of the surrounding counties. Writing for the archives of Christ Church the Reverend Stringfellow recorded that he “preached the first service in Patrick Co. ever delivered by an Episcopal minister – the services were held at Patrick Springs ...” Later he wrote of preaching in Stuart and Floyd County “which to-date has never had an Episcopal service held in the County.” Apparently he was a regular priest at Trinity Church in Franklin County as in November1892 he recorded that “By consent of the Vestry Franklin Co. was united with this parish, temporarily, six persons were confirmed at Rocky Mount on 15th of March ’92 ...”
Also, in November of 1892 Rev. Stringfellow writes that at the Council of the Diocese of Southern Virginia “Rev. Wm Alexander Barr – ex Presbyterian Minister, was confirmed and presented to Bp. Randolph by the Rector of this Parish. He is officiating at Rocky Mount as my assistant and licensed to preach ...” Interestingly, the register of marriages for Christ Church reflects on February 1, 1893 that the marriage of Wm Alexander Barr to Ida Stringfellow was performed by the bride’s father in the church Rectory. It appears within a two and a half month period our Priest turned a Presbyterian, married off a daughter, gained a son-in-law, and obtained an assistant minister! (see the newspaper story telling how this marriage almost never happened on page 5).
During his priestly duties at parishes throughout Virginia, the fascinating preacher also gained a national reputation as a lecturer on tales of his exciting years as a spy and a scout. Reports from Baltimore to Atlanta extol his spellbinding oratory to overflowing crowds of admirers. Even as he served our parish he gave a series of lectures to packed houses in Atlanta.
His inspiring words are attributed to the salvation of our sister parish at Christ Church, Roanoke. As reported in the fifty-year history of that Parish, published in 1942, the Roanoke church was on the verge of extinction in 1893 having had their property sold at foreclosure and only able to hold services through the kindness of the new owners permitting the congregation to use the building. When the Rector left to take a charge in Danville, the parish was left in a near hopeless state and as a supposed last effort the Bishop asked Reverend Stringfellow and his son-in-law Reverend Barr to hold a series of services at the church. The church history records that “the Reverend Frank Stringfellow, on June 17th , preached a stirring sermon to the congregation, using as his text God’s command to Moses ...” so inspired was the congregation that “Miss Lizzie McClanahan came to the rescue and endorsed the note for the repurchase” [of the church property] The Roanoke Church is now one of the strongest in our Diocese.
Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow resigned as Rector of Christ Church Martinsville on December 1, 1893 having accepted a call to Grace church in Massies Mill, Nelson County. He would move on from there to become the first chaplain of Woodberry Forest School in Orange, Virginia. He died on June 8, 1913 and is buried with his wife Emma in Ivy Hill Cemetery, Alexandria.
There is one more tale of Stringfellow’s clever ability to maneuver his fate. Even at age 58 our soldier/priest could not resist the call for military duty and applied to serve as an army chaplain in the Spanish–American War, but was rejected as being too old. Undaunted, this always resourceful man drew upon “chips” he had gathered from his war years and presented to President McKinley a letter from none other than Ulysses Grant commending Stringfellow for sparing Grant’s life when he had an opportunity to shoot him at close range. In his letter (in response to Stringfellow’s letter telling of the incident) Grant promised that he or any future President would be inclined to look favorably on any petition from Reverend Stringfellow. The favor was granted by McKinley and our man of the cloth was given his commission in the Army. What irony! The “most dangerous man in the confederacy” was able to use the good will of one of the most despised men from the north to further his ambition to re-enter the U.S. Army!
Much more of Stringfellow’s biography can be found on the internet by Googling Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow I particularly commend: The Free State of Patrick Blog: Mercy Street and Martinsville
Virginia by Tom Perry
: My Henry County.com frank stringfellow
“Mercy Street” a PBS drama
Rev Barr went on to be a prominent Episcopal Priest ultimately becoming Rector of the historic and prestigious Monumental Church in Richmond and Dean, Christ Church Cathedral, New Orleans
Ida and Alexander Barr are the parents of Stringfellow Barr, one of the most respected historians and scholars of the twentieth century; he was a former President of St. Johns College in Annapolis MD
Article and documents researched and submitted by John Swezey
Music and Musicians in the Service of the Church
As I look back on my thirty years of service to Christ Church, it occurs to me that my musical "memories" actually go much farther back in time. Holladay Yeaman was organist for 50 years, and I worked with him for his last 10 years at the church, and had the benefit of his many years of experience. From him I learned how to play the service music, what hymns the congregation loved and what anthems worked for the choir. His mentoring was invaluable and has given me a window into the last 80 years or so of music at Christ Church.
In the late 1980s and into the 90s the choir and I were fortunate to have once a year weekend workshops with guest conductors and teachers. Our favorite and most outstanding was Dr James B. Erb, head of the Department of Music at the University of Richmond. Dr Erb, who passed away last fall, was and is considered the world's leading authority on the motets of the Renaissance composer Orlando de Lasso. Dr Erb was himself a composer of some note---if you have ever heard a choral group sing "Shenandoah", you have heard Dr Erb's composition. Christ Church choir was highly honored to have two anthems composed for them by Dr Erb; one is a setting of "Amazing Grace" and the other "Tender Thought" is a setting of the hymn "Lord, Thou Hast Searched Me and Dost Know Where E'er I Rest, Where E'er I Go". The choir will be singing both these anthems on November 6, in celebration of All Saints Day and and the celebration of the 175th anniversary of our church. These anthems are very much part of the history of our church and our choir, and we are privileged to sing them to the glory of God and to the memory of Dr. Erb.
St. Augustine said "He who sings, prays twice". The music of the Episcopal church is beautiful and an essential part of worship. The dedication of the members of the choir who meet to rehearse every Thursday and come to the choir loft every Sunday to glorify God in song is a gift and an offering to the worship of the church, and I am very grateful to all of them. It is a huge commitment and gladly given. Finally let me say that my years serving the church in music have been, and continue to be, a joy in the giving of my small talents in the service of the church. One of my favorite hymns is hymn #9, particularly the last verse---
To give and give, and give again what God hath given thee;
to spend thyself nor count the cost;
to serve right gloriously the God who gave all world that are,
and all that are to be.
Submitted by Lynn Gardner
8:00 AM: Holy Eucharist, Rite I
10:30 AM: Holy Eucharist, Rite II