Christ Church it is said has an intriguing history. The Magazine for December 1899 records that F.A. Winter in his writings “Reminiscences of Christ Church” reports that the ground on which Christ Church stands, was the cockpit” of the Colony where a good bit of betting on cock-fights went on. Another interesting fact is that Christ Church was established as a proprietary Chapel in the 1830s, while another account claims that it was opened on July 1, 1836. Another account claims that the site was purchased by subscriptions in 1838. No one is certain which is the authentic record. What is generally agreed however is that some of the (European) worshippers from St George’s were offended by the rituals at St George’s and “backed their opinions with their money.” They almost succeed in obtaining permission to erect their building on the Parade Ground which is now named Independence Park. The records indicate that they were able to obtain two lots of land in Waterloo Street and the Church was erected. It appears likely that this proprietary chapel must have been erected in 1836 for it was hoped to consecrate it when Bishop Coleridge visited the Colony in 1838. The original trustees who were sixteen in number set about the selection of a Priest but before the licence was granted, the Rev William Rogers, a Jesuit, held the first service.
Although the church was completed and licenced by the Bishop of Barbados, neither the Bishop nor the Rev James Lugar, Rector of St George’s looked with favour on the new church. It was isolated even though the early incumbents were very able men who counted among that number, individuals who started schools of all kinds and organisations.
It was because of the fact that Christ Church was a Private Chapel which was owned by members of the congregation and was still in debt, that hopes for its consecration in 1839 by Bishop Coleridge, Bishop of Barbados were frustrated. In 1840, a petition was presented to the Government and Court of Policy for funding to pay off the outstanding debt. This was not supported by the then Archdeacon W.P. Austin, who felt unable to recommend the request on the grounds that Christ Church was not a Chapel of Ease within the Parish of St George and not subject to the pastoral authority of the Rector. In addition, as a Proprietary Chapel, it was simply licenced as a place in which certain members of the Church of England met for public worship according to the rites and ceremonials of that branch of the Catholic Church and the Minister thereof was duly licenced by the Bishop.
After Bishop Austin’s consecration, the building and site were transported to the Bishop of the Diocese. It was not until November 21, 1845 that the Church was dedicated by Bishop Austin. In spite of this dedication, the Rector of St George’s still considered himself to be Rector of the whole Parish and would not tell the incumbent of Christ Church to perform marriage services in Christ Church. It was in 1857 that Christ Church was licenced to perform marriages. In 1849, funds were utilised from the Endowment Fund to purchase a “Parsonage House” which was transported to the Trustees of the Diocese in 1850.
As the interior was considered to be “most hideous”, efforts were made by the Rev. Thomas Jordan Moulder to beautify the interior of the building. His contribution included the erection of a suitably vested altar, a properly surpliced choir, the re-seating of the congregation, the restoration of the altar lights and the use of Eucharistic Vestments. Credit must also be given to him for the beautiful chancel and the east window. The Guiana Diocesan Church Magazine for May 1, 1885, describes the Easter Day Services which marked the re-opening after its closure for repairs.
Over the years the stately wooden building was slowly deteriorating as the walls exposed to the prevailing North and North Easterly rains were beginning to rot and threaten the ornate and priceless stained glass windows. A lack of proper guttering and drains around the Church created a small lake beneath the Church and damp threatened the beams and floor boards. In 2012, the Church’s Building Committee commenced work on the repairs and rehabilitation. The first area tackled was the drainage. PVC guttering was installed around the roof and concrete drains were constructed. The leaking roof of the tower and the Western balcony floor were repaired. A new wash room was added to the South Western corner of the Church and the Vestry was extended eastwards to construct a larger modern washroom and changing area. After an examination of the entire roof, minor works were carried out to the major section over the congregation, but the entire roof and supporting beams over the sanctuary had to be reconstructed. Major repairs then commenced to save the stained glass windows. It was decided to change the outer walls from wood to concrete board, plastered and rendered to achieve a lap edged wooden appearance. The major problem was the small North Eastern stained glass window which had shifted. The window was carefully removed without disturbing the lead connected pieces of stained glass. The surrounding frame was repaired, the outer walls were changed and the window re-installed. Luckily there was no requirement to remove the large windows on the East wall, the frames were repaired and the outer wall replaced with concrete board. The ordinary windows in the Chancery were also replaced. While the major repairs were being carried out, the building was treated for termites and the entire Church was rewired, replacing the hazardous old wiring. New lamps were also installed. Work was also done on the rotting floor beams and boards. Recently repairs were carried out to the tower, pinnacles and the entire front of the church using concrete board. A wheel chair ramp was constructed and a program to replace the pews has started. Parishioners have been contributing to the cost of the pews and everyone is invited to sponsor a pew. This can be done in memory of a loved one or in thanksgiving for any blessing you wish to recognize. A plaque on the pew depicts your contribution.
The rehabilitation work was all possible through our own resources, fund raising and donations. Much is left to be done. With God’s help the Church hopes to complete the works on this Waterloo Street landmark in 2015. As such we continue our fundraising efforts with a Curry Que to be held at the Republic Bank Sports Club, Waterloo Street today 2014 from 12:00 noon. You are invited to come and share in Sunday lunch with us and then to our annual fair on October 11, 2014.
Hence for many years Christ Church has made an invaluable contribution to Guyanese Society. It still has the same invaluable contribution to make. In an age which is becoming increasingly secularized and in which, to its detriment, a Humanistic Faith threatens to obscure and submerge the relevance of the Christian Gospel, the disastrous and deleterious challenge must be met confidently and defiantly.
Person interested in contributing to the restoration of our great Church can contact us through our website christchurchgy.com, on facebook or at any Sunday service.