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History of Christ Episcopal Church

In 1869 on Orange Avenue and East 29th Street a small frame chapel was erected with funds garnered from various Episcopal churches. The small church started under the auspices of Bishop McIlvaine, second Bishop of Ohio, was a mission of St. Paul's Church Cleveland. The small German population constructed the pews, altar hangings, alms basins, lectern and prayer desks used in the original building. (The prayer desks and alms basins from the original congregation are still in use today). The first rector, The Reverend J.W.C Duerr, was born and educated in Germany and led the small parish for twenty years. The little German Church was a natural outgrowth of what was happening in Cleveland at the time. The population of the city of Cleveland was expanding in great strides, since Cleveland was on the threshold of the industrial revolution. The early Christ Episcopal Church served effectively among its people during its nearly forty years.

In 1909 the original building on Orange Avenue and East 29th was closed due to the shifting of the population of Cleveland. The building was sold to Hiram House, the furnishings put in storage and the funds of the congregation turned over to the then Bishop, Bishop Leonard, who became Bishop of Ohio in 1892. Meanwhile in 1896 a small congregation called The Mission of the Redeemer started up on East 108th and Superior. The mission met with successful growth. Some of the original German families from the early Christ Episcopal Church had become members of the new mission. In 1909 Bishop Leonard suggested to the members of the Mission of the Redeemer that if they would take the name Christ Episcopal Church the diocese would turn over to them the furnishings of the old Christ Episcopal Church together with the funds which had been derived from the sale of the land. With those funds and other raised by the Mission a Gothic building was erected. The 1909 Gothic building of Christ Episcopal Church was the first building in the Cleveland area to be built of concrete blocks.

The Parish of Christ Episcopal Church continued at 108th and Superior until the late 1920's. Again due to population shifts the Parish of Christ Episcopal Church decided to move to the area of Shaker Heights where most of Cleveland's population had relocated. From 1925-1932 services were held in the assembly hall of University School which had moved to Shaker Heights from its old location on Hough and East 71st Street. The Reverend Edmund Mapes along with a number of congregants came across an abandoned structure on Warrensville Center Road just north of Chagrin Boulevard. Formerly a Methodist parish the congregation of Christ Episcopal Church relocated to the building and proceeded to refurbish the site. After 12 years of free rental from the Methodist Church of Our Savior (located on Lee Road at present) the congregation of Christ Episcopal Church purchased the property and building in 1934.

In 1941 the parish of Christ Episcopal Church called the Reverend Maxfield Dowell to be their rector. In 1942 Christ Episcopal Church reported 116 communicants and a Church School enrollment of less than 100 children. Within two years membership growth had progressed so rapidly that building enlargement was required. Plans were made for adding facilities to the church. During the 22 years of Dr. Dowell's rectorship, parish enrollment and growth constantly outpaced building development. Major additions and their dates are:

1944 - Cornerstone laid for original Parish House
1946 - Erection of the White Spire and memorial tower
1947 - Building of the Alice Johnson Smith Memorial Chapel
1949 - The East end addition
1950 - Renovation of the Chancel

In 1956 fire destroyed much of the church building. With the support of the Shaker Heights Merchant Society and the members of Christ Episcopal Church the decision was made to rebuild Christ Episcopal Church. During the reconstruction services were held in the Mercer School. Work went quickly on the new building and the first service was held on June 14. 1959. Following Dr. Dowell's death the Reverend David R. Thornberry was called as rector in 1965. The Reverend Alan Houghton succeeded Thornberry as rector when he was called to be Bishop of Wyoming. In 1976 the Reverend John Sanders was called to be rector of Christ Episcopal Church and remained until 1986.

The Reverend Jeffery Pattenaude served as Rector of Christ Episcopal Church from 1987-1988.
The Reverend Kenneth Poppe became rector in 1989 and remained until 1999.
The Reverend Nancy A. Roosevelt was rector of Christ Episcopal Church from the winter of 2000 through the summer of 2004.
The Reverend Peter Faass became Priest-in-Charge in September 2006, Rector-Elect in March 2009 and Rector in September 2009.

Christ Episcopal Church today has a firm foundation for growth. For the past few years it has been stable in membership and attendance at Sunday services and parish programs.


3445 Warrensville Center Road, Shaker Heights, Ohio 44122   Phone: 216-991-3432  

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