The History of Christ Episcopal Church
The parish of Christ Church owes its origin largely to
the missionary zeal of two families from England that settled here- an indication of what a handful of people can do when
they are really dedicated. These families came from Rochdale, England, in 1821,
to work in the woolen mill in South Leicester. They were described as, "educated in the church and attached to its ritual
and doctrine." On July 6, 1823, divine service, according to The Book of Common Prayer, was held for the first time in
Worcester County, and worship has been held without interruption ever since.
Services were held in Hezekiah Stone's tavern meeting hall until
the church was built. On August 16, 1823, land on which to build an Episcopal church was deeded by Mr. Stone and his wife
Charlotte. The building was erected in record time: on Easter Day, April 18th, 1824, Christ Church was occupied, and it was
consecrated that May by Bishop Alexander V. Griswold. In February, 1825, the Diocese of Massachusetts recognized Christ Church
as an Episcopal congregation. The original church was well built and is still in use today after close
to 190 years of New England weather.
Christ Church boasts a "Revere-Boston" bell, probably
one of the last cast by Paul Revere and his brother. Music in the early church was provided by stringed instruments until
a pipe organ was purchased in 1852. In 1872 the pulpit was acquired as a gift from Christ Church, Springfield,
and in 1925 a parish house was added. Probably the most significant change to the church occurred in 1957: the
pews were rearranged to provide both side and center aisles, the original oak wood (including the altar) was painted white,
the altar was moved forward to become freestanding, and clear glass windows replaced the older blue and amber stained glass.
At this time a new rear wall for the sanctuary was built, leaving the stained glass windows originally framing the
altar in the vesting area; the windows were restored and reinstalled in the sanctuary in 2012. In 1961, classrooms, the chapel,
an office and a parking lot were added. The grounds around the church were improved by two gardens added in 1982, with parishioners
and friends of Christ Church donating the plantings. Our beautiful grounds are maintained by volunteers
from the congregation.
The parish continues to have a vision for
its place in the larger community and world. Our outreach ministries include sponsorship of the Hope in
Hands Community Garden, active participation in the Leicester Food Pantry, weekly sale of grocery cards to benefit Central
Mass Hope for Housing, ongoing production of crib quilts and lap robes for local shelters, and sponsorship of the annual Leicester
CROP Walk, in addition to regular initiation of other projects assisting with local needs. Between 2010
and 2012 Christ Church coordinated successful fundraising to build a well and water tower in Behwalay, Liberia. The parish
welcomes many groups to use space including AA, Girl Scouts and Brownies, a knitting group and special sewing-related events.