In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create, but by what we refuse to destroy
— John Crittenden Sawhill
— John Crittenden Sawhill
WORK IS COMPLETE, BUT FUNDRAISING IS ONGOING
The nave, sanctuary and beautiful stained glass windows at Christ Church have been preserved for another generation. The aging walls, of this 1832 church, and the stability of the structure, required extensive restoration. A Preservation Team was established under the leadership of Susan Cooper to ensure this work was appropriately done. Bill Egan, a structural engineer and member of CEC, provided the engineering plan and technical leadership, and C W Brinkley, Inc. was selected to do the work to save this old building. Epiphany Glass Studios was contracted to restore the lovely windows. A project originally estimated to cost $500,000 was reduced when Mr. Egan gave his expertise to the project. This small congregation is still paying on a special loan that allowed the work to go forth. Christ Church welcomes contributions as it continues to fundraise to repay this loan.
WHY IT'S IMPORTANT
Christ Episcopal Church is the oldest original standing church in Smithfield’s Historic District and has served the community for almost 200 years. During the 1700s, the lot now occupied by Christ Episcopal Church was owned by the town’s founder Arthur Smith IV. Early in the 19th century, the property was acquired by Mallory Todd, a well-known shipping magnate, and the gentleman who developed the Smithfield Ham as a product to export. Mallory Todd gave the property to his son, Mallory Moore Todd who donated the property to the congregants of St. Luke’s Church, four miles south, to build a Protestant Episcopal Church within the town of Smithfield.
An existing brick structure on the lot became the foundation. In 1858 the building was enlarged to add a sanctuary and contains numerous historically and architecturally significant elements including areas of brick and oyster shell mortar, and stained glass windows from world-renowned art glass studios including Tiffany & Co. that were installed between 1892 and 1910.
Christ Church parishioners and staff support many vital community programs including Souper Saturday, Angel Tree Christmas gifts, Local Blood Drive, and the COP Food Bank. The church houses a concert quality grand piano and serves as a venue for the Sundays at Four classical concert series, hosting performances by exceptional teen musicians and nationally and internationally recognized artists.
WHAT IT NEEDED
The exterior walls of the CEC sanctuary—designated as a Landmark in the Smithfield Historic District—had structural instabilities that in turn compromised the stained glass windows. Parts of the underlying brick and mortar foundation were crumbling. Roof trusses needed to be repaired. Framework around some of the windows, particularly the multi-section “Life of Christ” window, had deteriorated, and the windows themselves required maintenance. Remedies were identified in a structural evaluation prepared by the firm of Sinclair Pratt Cameron PC, located in Virginia Beach.
Priority A measures, required to stabilize the structure, were completed by C W Brinkley, Inc. of Suffolk in 2020. These measures included:
· South Wall Repair, including re-anchor of stained glass window.
· Roof Truss Repair
· Installation of Second Floor Tiebacks
Priority B tasks for preservation of the exterior was completed in 2021.
During construction, stained glass windows were restored by Epiphany Studios of Middletown, Virginia.
WHY YOUR HELP IS VITAL
Like many church communities throughout the United States, Christ Church parish is facing huge expenditures to restore and maintain its historic property. A stewardship program covers most operational expenses but does not provide funding for large capital projects. Sinclair Pratt Cameron estimated that $410,000 would be required for construction, and the Epiphany Glass tab for the windows preservation was $67,000. All members of the church community have been asked to donate. Generous contributions have been made, but much more is needed. Christ Church is reaching out to area residents, businesses and visitors to help preserve this priceless Virginia landmark.
HOW THE FUNDS WILL BENEFIT THE COMMUNITY
Stabilization and preservation of historic Christ Church contributes value not only to the parish itself, but to the Smithfield Historic District and the broader Isle of Wight community as well. As the oldest, original standing church in Smithfield, it adds to the Historic District of the town. The central location makes Christ Episcopal Church an integral part of the local scene, and has been a beacon at the crossroads of Church and Main Streets. Originally the building was later described as a simple rectangular building with a steeple and four small, blinded windows. Then the structure underwent a major transformation during the period 1892-1910, when two prominent vestibule towers and most of the stained glass windows were added. In 1999 the interior of the nave was restored to the look of that period. During 2009—2011, flood damage to the undercroft was addressed as the space was converted to offices, and the roof was repaired. It is important to establish a fund to maintain this historic building, so in the future money will be available without the need for loans, which are very difficult to obtain for churches.
Today the sanctuary is much admired by parishioners and visitors alike. Many of the latter come from the Office of Tourism, either through referrals or inclusion of our Church in its walking tours. Others come from IOW Museum, located just across the Street. We also partner with these organizations in joint programs—e. g. observance of the Battle of Smithfield. (On February 1, 1864 a Union patrol was captured while retreating downhill past the church—one man was caught inside—and a Union gunboat was sunk in Pagan Creek).
The atmosphere of the sanctuary has made it both a welcoming house of worship and a place for growing community services. Notable examples are:
· Since 1885 Christ Church has provided continual support for restoration of Historic St. Luke’s Church. In 1966 “the Old Brick Church” (where our congregation began) was designated a National Historic Landmark.
· Our facility housed the “Catholic Church in Smithfield” from 1984 until they were able to occupy their own Church of the Good Shepherd in 1992.
· In the 1990s Christ Church hosted the first “Souper Saturday.” This fundraiser for the needy led to creation of the countywide Christian Outreach Program.
· Over the years Christ Church has served as home for other service programs. For two decades our Pennywise (clothing) Shop was a prime example.
· The year 2008 saw the founding of the Sundays at Four concert series, which has expanded the arts offerings in Smithfield and provided a springboard for the careers of its performers—both students and professionals alike.
· The recent addition of “Open Mic” has expanded our performance offerings to the Parish Hall, where a variety of styles are represented.
SO, HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Please consider a donation to the Preservation Fund. To make a gift, or to volunteer your time, please leave a message for the Preservation Team and one of the following team members will get back to you. Inquiries can be directed to the business office at (757) 357-2826 between 10am-2pm on Tues, Wed, & Thursdays.
· Preservation Team Chairman: Susan Cooper
· Bill Egan, Structural Engineer
· Curtiss Peterson, Interface - Epiphany Glass Studios
· Wayne Willis, Preservation Treasurer
· Bill Wyrick, Grants & Publications
· Mary Cole, Marketing
· Sue Plummer, Media