The Early Days
The Reverend George Pigot and the Reverend Samuel Johnson visited this area of Connecticut as early as the 1720’s as missionaries of the Church of England. The formal organization of Christ Church took place in 1740 under the leadership of the Rev. John Beach, priest of the parish of Newton. Christ Church is believed to be the oldest Anglican parish in Litchfield County.
The first church building was erected in Roxbury shortly after 1740 at the “old center” which is one mile south of the present village center, and now known as “Old Roxbury Road.” The present church building, parish hall and rectory are situated on a single parcel of about 3.5 acres located on the corner of Weller's Bridge Road and North Street. The property, a focal point of the town, is in the center of the historic district next to the Town Green.
The present church was erected in 1807 and originally faced east. In 1861 it was turned to its present position facing south and was completely renovated. The chancel was added at that time and the present pews were installed. The stained glass windows date from that period forward.
The church building is a Carpenter gothic single level wood frame structure, with a bell tower in the front. A loft overlooking the congregation and chancel accommodates the choir and organ. There is seating for 160-170 persons in pews and room for another 20 chairs at the rear. There are commemorative stained glass windows on both sides of the nave, above the altar and on both sides of the entrance.
The Shipman Years
Christ Church experienced the normal trends of the 60's and 70's as attendance dropped and churches struggled to survive. Many parishes in our area became cluster ministries or feared being closed. Through the perseverance of a strong core group, Christ Church survived and when the Rev. Bruce Shipman arrived in 1981 his work was cut out for him with a small parish barely holding on. The congregation was slowly grown, the concepts of stewardship and outreach were introduced, young families and youth were welcomed and encouraged and slowly things changed. The rebirth of Christ church was underway.
In the late 1980's the church was completely renovated. The pews were removed, the ceiling was replastered, structural problems in the belfry were corrected, and a new roof was installed. For nine months all services were held in the parish hall. The church was rededicated on June 5, 1988.
On July 8, 1990 we celebrated the 250th Anniversary of Christ Church. In attendance were Bishop Jeffrey Rowthorn of the Diocese of Connecticut, clergy from the local parishes, town officials and a contingent from our new friends at our sister parish of St. Mary's in Walmer, England. Many parishioners from the past traveled to join with us in the celebration of this great accomplishment.
The Parish House
The Parish House is a separate building which was once the Roxbury Center School, a typical "one room" schoolhouse. In 1942 the schoolhouse was closed and sold to Christ Church. The parish has memories for many of the townspeople who received their initial education there in the 1920's and 1930's. In 1994 with an approved plan for the renovation of the parish house we began the task of raising $200,000. These funds were used in the acquisition of an additional 2 acres for increased parking, new septic system and improvements to the well. For the building itself there were new lavatories, enlarged main meeting hall, new electrical wiring, a new kitchen with dishwasher and state of the art appliances as well as the addition of a church office. The basement which historically was damp and water laden from every passing storm, was refinished. This gave us dry space for classrooms, with separate entrance and storage space. Upstairs in the main hall, acoustical ceiling and floor tiles were installed as well as new chandeliers. In early 1997 with all the interior work completed on the parish house we entered into phase II, the sandblasting and staining of the Parish House. In 2004, the lower level church school area was redecorated and new tile flooring installed. Today the parish house provides a comfortable modern meeting place for parish members and the community.
The Columbarium and Memory Garden
Located on the lawn between the church and the rectory, the Columbarium offers a holy resting place for the ashes of departed loved ones. The slate topped round structure provides 58 compartments each housing 2 cylinders. Those interred there are identified by simple brass memorial plates. The Memory Garden inside the Columbarium contains brick pavers which may be engraved as memorials or thanksgivings. Both are beautifully landscaped and maintained, and managed by the Rector and Vestry.
One North Street, the rectory for Christ Church since 1846, was at one time the town tavern, overlooking the Green. It consists of the original c.1740 colonial with romantic enhancements including a dormer, large south facing open porch and a three story Greek Revival addition c.1845. There have been more than eight owners including Roswell Ransom who commanded the tavern, and the Rev. George Foote who sold the property to the church.
A New Rector is Called
Bruce retired in November 1999 after an 18-year rectorship, subsequently serving All Saints’ Church, Ivoryton as part-time vicar for an additional five years. The Rev. Dr. Robert P. Clements was called as Interim Rector, and served until mid-October 2001. The present Rector, the Rev. John M. Miller, Jr., previously Rector of St. Mark’s Church, Westford, MA, began his service to the parish on December 2, 2001, the first Sunday in Advent and the advent of the newest chapter in Christ Church’s long and productive life. John, now in his sixth year as Rector, is passionate about excellence in liturgy, music, and preaching; new member ministry and church growth; outreach; and Christian Education programs for all
A New Search Begins
In May of 2008, The Rev. John Miller retired, once again sending Christ Church in search of a new minister. The Reverend Patricia "Trish" Cunningham has stepped in as Interim Rector. Trish came to Christ Church after serving as Assistant Minister at St. Peter's Church in Riverton, Ct.
Christ Church Welcomes Reverend Dr. Robert Clements
To many members of Christ Church, The Rev. Dr. Robert Clements is an old friend. To those members who do not know him, let us introduce him. He is the new Rector of Christ Church, Roxbury.
Dr. Clements, 52, is married to Jenni Matheson who is the rector at St. Michael’s Church in Litchfield, CT. Since 2006, he has been Vicar of Trinity Church in Lime Rock, CT. Prior to 2006, Dr. Clements has held several positions as interim rector, including here at Christ Church, ten years ago.
Dr. Clements skills are many. He is a graduate of General Theological Seminary in New York and holds a doctorate in Practical Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. He has taught high school and is an adjunct professor of Christian Education and Spirituality at Hartford Seminary. He is chaplain at both a private school and a hose & ladder company. He is a surfer – on a board, on the waves – and a bass guitarist. He is tech-savvy, writing a blog called The Coracle. These diverse interests nurture and strengthen both his intellect and spirituality. We can look to him to be wise, challenging, creative and forward thinking.
Dr. Clements has a wealth of experience as rector of the small country church. He says he is drawn to the challenge of a church the size of Christ Church. He states, eloquently, that being present to the community is the most rewarding aspect of his priesthood, as well as a potent form of evangelism. To Dr. Clements, the small parish provides a way to really know “a variety of people, ideas and experiences”. He is a joyful and excellent preacher. He speaks without notes and his sermons are lectionary based using stories and personal experiences as illustrations.
It is evident in all that he says that Dr. Clements wants to be the rector of a small parish – this small parish! Those who know him welcome him back with warmth and affection. Those who don’t, welcome the fresh breeze he will be as our new Rector. We are so happy that he affirmatively answered the call made by our Vestry.