Wednesday, November 24, 2010

George Washington worshipped here: Christ Church Cambridge, part 1

Interior of Christ Church

This is part 1 of a series of post of Colonial churches on the East Coast I have been in that George Washington worshiped in. During my two week stay in Boston in August of 2009 I had the pleasure of visiting the lovely town of Cambridge, Massachusetts during the daytime touring museums and walking the historic streets and by night clubbing at Cambridge's interesting night life. On one of my walk I stumbled upon Christ Church built 1759. One of my fondest memory was visiting the church. The people was very friendly and hospitable. The church was designed by noted colonial era architect Peter Harrison as a Church of England , who also designed the King's Chapel in Boston. Its wooden frame rests on a granite foundation built from ballast stones from ships arriving at Boston Harbor. The church was originally finished in a sanded paint treatment to give the appearance of a traditional English stone church.

During the American Revolution Christ Church was attacked by dissenting colonials for its Tory leanings, Bullet holes are still present in the walls of the church. but it was also the site of a prayer service which George and Martha Washington attended while quartered in the nearby mansion now known as the Longfellow National Historic Site. Martha Washington requested a service be held on Sunday 31 December 1775. Colonel Palfrey read the service and prayed that the King might be enlightened. But the Revolution rolled on and the church was closed until 1790. The church was closed, and its organ melted down for bullets during the Revolution.

For several years after the American Revolution, the church stood empty. In the later years of the eighteenth century the church was re-opened as an Episcopal Church and has remained so. The original chapel was expanded in 1857 to accommodate a larger congregation and to help raise funds for the church by expanding pew rental income. The church was dramatically redecorated in 1883 in the high Victorian style, but it was restored to its original Colonial Classical simplicity in 1920.

Generations of Harvard students from Richard Henry Dana, Jr., author of Two Years Before the Mast, to Teddy Roosevelt, who was asked not to continue as a Sunday School teacher because he would not become an Episcopalian, have made Christ Church their parish home during their studies.

Christ Church has a long history of social activism, supporting the civil rights movement, the peace movement, and ministries of social justice. In April 1967 the Reverend Martin Luther King and Doctor Benjamin Spock were denied access to a building at Harvard University to hold a press conference denouncing the Vietnam War, but the Reverend Murray Kenney welcomed them to Christ Church; a plaque in the parish hall commemorates the event. Another activist to speak at Christ Church was Jesse Louis Jackson, who spoke as part of a Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration in 2004.

Christ Church Cambridge in 1792

George and Martha Washington sat here

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