Thursday, August 7, 2008
Church prepares for 150th anniversary
By SUE WATSON
The only thing known for sure to be original to the 150-year-old Christ Episcopal Church in Holly Springs, aside from the four walls, is the steeple bell.
It is to be taken down and refurbished by the Verdin Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, and reinstalled in time for the October 5 celebration of the 150th anniversary of the completion and consecration of the church, said Rev. Bruce McMillan. The bell was cast in 1843 by George Washington Coffin in Cincinnati.
“We are going to have a big homecoming and our bishop will be here, too,” he said.
The church has been through many transitions since the congregation was established in 1839. The church, as it stands today, was finished and blessed in 1858. It had plain glass windows, and likely lacked the rich elegance it holds today - a result of long years of contributions of members and non-members of items of worship and holiness from individuals and families who lived in Holly Springs.
A breeze through the sanctuary last week with McMillan was an educational and spiritual experience, with just a few of the furnishings and worship articles given a close glance.
A large Madonna and Child, painted in oil by Italian painter Benelli in about 1850, is installed in the recess on the back wall, purchased from the estate of the late Dr. J.A. Hale.
One of the first items of business McMillan said he attended to, when he arrived as pastor, was the brass chandeliers.
“They were black when I came here, and we had them burnished and lacquered,” he said.
McMillan sat at the Henry Pilcher & Sons tracker organ made in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1899 and played “Amazing Grace.” The piped instrument is all mechanical - wires, pulleys and pipes and is played regularly at Sunday services by Susan Warren.
A conservatory grand piano sits near the west wall opposite the organ, a gift to the church in September 2004 from Hale in honor of the ministry of Father McMillan.
The church had no stained glass until after the 1878 Yellow Fever Epidemic, when families began to contribute glass in memory of dearly departed loved ones. All windows were made in the United States, one over the altar depicting Jesus in the garden of Gethsemene, given in memory of the grandparents of famed Memphian E.H. “Boss” Crump.
Another window was purchased in memory of secretary of state Kinlock Falconer and his brother and Holly Springs businessman, Howard Falconer. The two brothers lost their lives helping the community during the Yellow Fever Epidemic, one dying within three days of the other. The young statesman came home to help fight the epidemic, McMillan said.
The wooden beams and fretwork were designed by a German architect who built Arliewood and other antebellum homes. The hammerbeam design and fretwork was hand-constructed by slaves, McMillan said.
The pulpit came later after the church was constructed but the date it was consecrated is unknown, McMillan said. Plates on the pulpit indicate the pulpit was contributed by Mr. and Mrs. Harry Smith Jr. and the maker’s name is etched in wood - A.F. Strohmeyer. Anyone who knows anything about A.F. Strohmeyer and the date the pulpit was installed is asked to call McMillan at 252-6172. He said the pulpit could have been built in the 1930s.
Parishioners of Christ Church have enjoyed a glorious history in Holly Springs. The congregation is comprised of a wide diversity of people and is very active in the community at large and the Diocese.
The steeple bell has been idle for a number of years because of chronic problems with the bell cradle, pulley mechanisms and other unknown conditions. When it is reinstalled in a new cradle, a modern digital system will be installed to set the bell on a timer.
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