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Church, Pensacola, Florida, USA
Worshipper: Preacher's Kid.
Church, Pensacola, Florida, USA.
Episcopal Church, Diocese
of the Central Gulf Coast.
The present building dates from 1905 and replaces an earlier
structure. Its appearance is unlike any other the Kid has ever
seen. Classified as Spanish Colonial Revival, the building is
faced with stucco made from a fossilized coquina sea shell,
now classified as endangered. Upon entry you are presented with
the highly decorated interior of a domed structure. The dome
is supported by four columns, the caps of which bear the symbols
of the four evangelists. The windows are deemed to be among
the finest examples of turn-of-the-century glass and are often
mistaken for Tiffany (but in fact predate Tiffany). The five
flags that have flown over Pensacola (Spain, England, France,
United States, the Confederate States of America) are mounted
on the back wall, along with a sixth: the Royal Navy Ensign,
a personal gift of His Royal Highness Charles, Prince of Wales,
who attended services here along with his brothers when their
ship called at the Pensacola Naval Yard. The church really has
no chancel the quire sits at the very front of the nave
with the sanctuary behind it. During Hurricane Ivan in 2004,
the tower bell fell through the barrel-tiled roof at the rear
of the nave all the way into the undercroft. This gave rise
to an opportunity to make some improvements during the restoration,
which took well over a year.
Early records indicate that the Bishop of London assigned a
missionary priest to Pensacola as early as 1725. Christ Church
was ultimately incorporated by an act of the territorial legislature
of Florida in 1829. During the Civil War, Old Christ Church
was used by the Union troops as a hospital, and after the construction
of New Christ Church it was conveyed to the city for use as
a library, among other things. During restoration of Old Christ
Church the 1990s, several graves of former priests of the parish
were discovered that appeared to have been desecrated during
the war. When the restoration was complete and the building
rededicated, some attendees reported seeing the apparitions
of the long-dead priests in white robes participating in the
procession of choir and clergy. New Christ Church is said by
some to be haunted as well: certain members and visitors have
reported seeing a middle-aged man in a sexton’s uniform sitting
in the front row. By the time he is approached he disappears.
He has been identified by older members as a sexton who was
found murdered some 50 years ago on the steps of the church
on Easter Day. Today, Christ Church is an active, vibrant parish,
with a respected and growing parochial school and all the organizations
one would expect from a large parish for children and adults.
The ladies of the church sponsor an antiques show in which noted
vendors throughout the country are invited to participate, with
the profits going primarily to the school.
The position of Christ Church is so intertwined with the life
and history of Pensacola that it is hard to discuss one without
the other. Pensacola is the oldest community established in
what is now the United States – even older than other cities
whose chambers of commerce attempt to lay claim to that accolade.
Christ Church is the traditional downtown church, in close proximity
to the historic Lutheran church, St Michael’s Basilica, a United
Methodist church and a Baptist church. This convergence of Palafox
and Wright Streets has been "church corner" since
the British laid out the street grid and the Spanish named the
streets. The commercial part of the city is south and toward
the port. That area has become transformed over the past decade
into art galleries, points of entertainment and white-table-cloth
restaurants – the center of interest for many tourists who arrive
by car, air, and ship.
The Revd Tim Backus, associate curate, was the officiant. He
was assisted by the Revd Deacon Betty Jo Brenemen. In charge
of the music were Kenneth Karradin, associate for music and
liturgy; Paul Shimel, music assistant; and Treece Efird, choral
assistant. Several lay members of the parish read the lessons.
The date & time:
December 16, 2012, 5.00pm.
What was the name of the service?
A Festival of Lessons and Carols.
How full was the building?
About 80 per cent, with numerous visitors from other congregations.
Did anyone welcome you
Not really. Notwithstanding a large attendance for an afternoon
service, the ushers simply stood in the narthex and passed out
service leaflets, leaving the congregants to fend for themselves
in finding a seat. Those who were unfamiliar with the church
or came late found themselves wandering the aisles in search
of proper accommodation.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. The pews are of the design originally furnished in 1905,
although some were replaced due to damage. Pew cushions have
been added recently, creating havoc with the acoustics. The
kneelers are covered in a blue fabric.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet, with people coming early to get the best seats. Recognition
among friends was obvious.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Beloved in Christ, let it be in this Advent-tide our care
and delight to prepare ourselves to hear again the message of
What books did the congregation use during the
The entire service was set out in a service leaflet.
What musical instruments
Organ, an opus of Gabriel Kney & Co., Ltd, of London, Ontario,
Canada, and donated anonymously in 1973.
Did anything distract
The verger, a middle-aged woman, did not participate in the
procession or the service, but rather wandered about the church
checking to see that votives were burning properly and the offering
plates were placed in conspicuous locations, there being no
formal offertory in this service. Somewhere in the rear of the
church was a child who was openly rowdy.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Christ Church, like most of the other churches in the Diocese
of the Central Gulf Coast and throughout the Deep South, are
low, low church. There was no incense, no crucifix, no genuflection,
no kneeling (except for the final prayer), no bells, no academic
hoods worn by the choir members. The only oddment was a sanctuary
light guarding a never-used aumbry.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
Christ Church is justifiably proud of its music program. The
choir are totally volunteer but include some very good musicians.
The group were spot-on in tune and on time. The choirmaster
has served for over 25 years, and the communication between
him and the choir was instantly and completely apparent. The
organ fits the room perfectly and its sound is glorious.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
Although the service leaflet was printed in the grandeur of
the language of the original 1918 Service of Lessons and Carols,
all the readings were from a more modern version of the Bible.
The congregation got to sing only once, other than the first
and last song, and that was a hybrid of setting singing alternate
verses of "O little town of Bethlehem" first to Forest
Green and then to St Louis – thank God, they are
both in F major.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
Although the service had begun with a procession led by crucifer
and torches, they failed to show up during the final hymn; hence
no one led the procession out of the church. At the end of the
hymn the choir appeared at a loss as to what to do next, and
congregants began to wish each other Merry Christmas. The organist
struck up a Bach recessional, and some people stayed behind
to listen to that.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
There was none. What a missed opportunity for a cup of wassail!
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 If the choir are this fine every Sunday, I'd gladly
come just to hear them. I do, however, enjoy a bit more congregational
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The organ, the choir and the music.
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