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History of Christ Church, Reading, Pennsylvania

The following history is from The History of Berks County by Morton Montgomery published in 1908 (p. 1390).


Christ Church, Reading, Pa. For some time previous to the war of the Revolution, and at the beginning of that memorable conflict, the Rev. Alexander Murry, D. D., ministered to the congregation of St. Mary's, in connection with St. Gabriel's, Morlattin, as a missionary, under the patronage of that most excellent and Christian institution of the Church of England, "The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts." The members of St. Mary's, who were probably few in number, possessed no regular place of worship. They had made preparation and procured materials to erect a church edifice on the same lot now occupied by Christ Church.

This laudable undertaking was frustrated by the commencement of the Revolutionary struggle. In the unrestrained zeal of the controversy, many of the clergy of the Church of England, who were from the nature of the case English subjects, were suspected of lack of sympathy with the Revolution. The missionary at Reading did not escape. His house was mobbed, the furniture carried out and broken to pieces. The fragments were then collected, and, together wit books, papers, etc., served to make a bonfire, to blaze abroad the zeal and patriotism of those who instigated and performed the act.

Dr. Murry soon afterward embarked for England, returning to this country after the settlement of the difficulties with Great Britain. On a short visit to Reading He was particularly careful to call on several of those who had been the abettors or actors in the mob; and in the kindness and cordiality which he manifested toward them he presented a noble example of the Christian spirit of meekness and forgiveness. Dr. Murry departed this life in Philadelphia during the prevalence of the yellow fever of 1793.

The lot of ground on which Christ Church stands was number 71 in the plan of the borough, being 60 feet wide and 230 in depth. It was given by Mrs. Rebecca Price, and conveyed by James Diemer, Esq., by a Deed of Indenture, dated November 30, 1815, to James May, Marks John Biddle, and George Douglass, Esq's., to be by them "held in trust, for the erection of an Episcopal Church, whenever it should be found convenient, and as a place of burial, for the Episcopalians, within the town of Reading, and the vicinity, and of such other persons, not Episcopalians, as the said trustees shall permit to be buried therein, and for no other purpose whatsoever." From a sand stone at the head of one of the graves it appeared that the lot of ground had been used as a place of burial a century and a half ago.

Christ Church was organized, and the edifice mentioned above erected, under the ministry of the Rev. Robert Davis, who commenced missionary services in Reading in the spring of 1823, under the patronage of "The Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church, for the Advancement of Christianity in Pennsylvania." The Church was admitted into union with the Convention of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, May 12, 1824, Henry Styles and Nathaniel P. Hobart attending as delegates.

The Holy Communion was first administered by the Rev. Levi Bull, to twelve communicants, in the autumn of 1823, and a Sunday-school started the same year. The church was consecrated by the Rt. Rev. William White, May 10, 1826, the annual convention of the Diocese being assembled at the time.

The Rev. Mr. Davis continued his labors about three years, the congregation worshiping in a room of the "public buildings."

The Rev. William C. Meade, the first rector, elected soon after the consecration of Christ Church, resigned at the close of 1826.

The succeeding rectors have been as follows: Rev. Henry John Whitehouse, 1827-1829; Rev. Francis H. Cumin, 1831-1832; Rev. Samuel A. McCoskey, 1833-1834; Rev. Richard Umstead Morgan, 1834-1850; Rev. Milton C. Lightner, 1850-1861; Rev. Alexander G. Cummings, 1861-1866; Rev. J. P. Lundy, D. D., 1866-1868; Rev. J. Pinckney Hammond, 1868-1872; Rev. William P. Orrick, D. D., 1873 to the present time. [Supplied by Rev. William P. Orrick, D. D.]

Gillis Sampler

Last Modified Thursday, 16-Oct-2008 21:07:46 EDT

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