Christ Church Tour
Text Author: Terry L. Martin
"...I trust, there will always be heard the common prayer of that liturgy, which both in England and America has proved itself the best expression through many generations of the joys, hopes, and aspirations of a large portion of those who speak our language..."
--Thomas Hughes, Founder of Rugby
--Opening Day Speech, October 5, 1880
Many will say, and rightly so, that much of what Thomas Hughes had hoped for in the founding of Rugby was never fully realized. However, with the words from his Opening Day Speech we now know that at least one of his prophecies came true. At Christ Church Episcopal, the liturgy of The Book of Common Prayer has been in continuous use since 1880, serving Episcopalians and all others, who have over the last century entered these lovingly crafted doors to worship the one true living God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Come in and meditate for awhile. Sit or kneel in prayer if you feel so inclined. Spend a few minutes surveying the seemingly untouched surroundings, and consider that thousands of others have done the same since the building's construction in 1887.
Built of native poplar, pine and walnut by Cornelius Onderdonk of Dutch descent, resident architect and builder responsible for several of Rugby's original structures, the style of architecture is called Carpenter Gothic. The beaded, tongue-in-groove paneling is of heartwood yellow pine; the chancel furniture, also made by Onderdonk, is black walnut; the pews in the nave are pine but with a matching walnut stain.
The exquisite stained and painted glass windows were ordered from Germany by Bishop Charles Todd Quintard, Second Bishop of Tennessee, and given in memory of Margaret Hughes, Thomas Hughes's mother, and Mary Blacklock, mother of the Rev. Joseph Blacklock, first full-time rector of Christ Church. Both ladies were very old when they came from England to Rugby to support their sons' labors. Madame Hughes, along with her granddaughter Emily, and the Ladies Church Working Society, stitched the original kneeling pads at the altar rail, exact copies of which are now in use for Holy Communion. In the apse or bay surrounding the altar, notice the stenciled fleur-de-lis, an old church symbol representing the Holy Trinity. The white paint of this, along with the dark red background and green trim is of a buttermilk base, entirely original and hardly faded over time.
The 1849 harmonium reed organ at the back of the church is of rosewood veneer and was brought from England by the Blacklocks. It was used in the worship of the church well into the 1980s. Today electronic instruments are used including a Viscount Contorum Electronic Organ and a Yamaha Electronic Piano/Organ with multiple adjustments. Rarely has a Sunday gone by that one of these instruments has not been joyfully played by a long succession of devoted musicians.
Still in use for baptisms is the original walnut font, a type seen in many churches of the era and of fine design and workmanship. The weekly offertory is collected in walnut plates hand-carved by Hughes's friend, Henry Fry, who once carved a throne for Queen Victoria and who did much restoration carving at George Washington's 'Mount Vernon.' The detail on these alms basins is extraordinary. The gorgeous hanging lamps, now electrified, with their hand-blown and etched glass globes once burned coal oil. They were brought from England by the Gilliat family. Some of the original colored altar hangings, made by Anglican nuns, are still in reasonably good condition and are sometimes used. The priest's vestments and other garments commonly worn for worship, and other service implements are stored in the sacristy, the area behind the red curtains where the altar guild prepares before worship.
Since Bishop Quintard established the congregation on Rugby's Opening Day, Christ Church has been a center of community activity.
Rugby began to experience a slow decline in population by the 1890s, although the town never died. During the many decades following, Christ Church continued its mission, and today is the only Episcopal Church on this part of the Cumberland Plateau. Since the 1980s, Rugby and the church have grown again.
In 1992, our new parish hall, "Friendly House", was constructed near the site of a former building which bore the same name and from which mission work once centered; it now does so again. The church properties belong to the Diocese of East Tennessee.
We invite everyone to come to our 11:00 a.m. (Eastern Time) Sunday morning service of Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion). Baptized Christians from every church affiliation may receive the elements of bread and wine.
May the blessings of God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Be with you always.
Christ Church is open throughout most of the year for those wishing to tour the church and other Historic Rugby buildings. Contact Historic Rugby for tour information. All visitors are welcome to the 11:00 a.m. service on Sunday mornings, all year long.
For more information about Christ Church, please call or email any vestry member or the priest.
To make a tax-deductible donation for the preservation of this unique historic site, please make check payable to Christ Church Episcopal-Rugby, and send to:
Christ Church Episcopal
Highway 52, PO Box 25
Rugby, Tennessee 37733