The first services of the Episcopal Church in Warwick were held during April 1854 in the Methodist Church and were conducted by the Rev. William H. Carter, rector of St. Thomas’ Church, Vernon, NJ. In 1857, $1,000 was raised to build a church. A lot was purchased at the corner of Main and Church Streets. Trenches for the foundation were dug, but for an unknown reason, the effort was abandoned.
The beginning years of the parish were uncertain and difficult. No services were held from 1859-1862. Services resumed on July 4, 1862, under the Rev. George Gray. He remained only until the second Sunday in Advent that year. Services ceased once again until July 17, 1864, when they resumed under the Rev. Nicholas F. Ludlum, rector of St. Thomas’ Church, Vernon. Father Ludlum held services in the morning in Vernon, and in the afternoon in Warwick, where the congregation averaged 40 souls.
On Sept. 23, 1865, a meeting was held to incorporate the parish and a building committee was appointed. The property at the corner of South and Second Streets was purchased and construction began. The “carpenter gothic” church, designed by Mr. Jardine of New York, was built by Henry McElroy for about $9,000 including the cost of the land. The cornerstone was laid on July 17, 1866, and the building was completed in December. The first services were held on the fourth Sunday in Advent, Dec. 23, 1866. On a very warm July 3, 1867, the building was consecrated by the Rt. Rev. Horatio Potter, Bishop of the Diocese of New York. The church maintained a strong role in the community throughout the 19th century.
Early in the 20th century, the church built the present rectory on an open lot at 5 Second Street. Before that, the dwelling just west of it had served in this capacity. In the 1940s, the Drew House, adjacent to the church, was purchased for use as a parish house. In 1964, this was torn down and the present parish house was erected. On April 5, 1975, this building suffered a disastrous fire. It was rebuilt and rededicated on May 23, 1976, by the Rt. Rev. Harold L. Wright.
In 1988 the exterior of the church building was preserved and in 1992 a new pipe organ was installed. The Peragallo Organ Company built the organ, which contains 11 ranks of pipe work and 726 speaking pipes. It was dedicated at an evening ceremony and concert on November 29, 1992. In 1996 our tech-savvy rector, the Rev. Mark Cyr, was early to register the now much sought-after domain name christchurch.org and put us here on the worldwide web.
In 2001 the congregation and the community came together to restore and preserve the rectory. The floors and woodwork were restored, the kitchen was enlarged and modernized, wiring was upgraded, appliances were replaced with energy-efficient ones and the entire building was painted inside and out. The rectory was rededicated at a special service on November 11, 2001 by interim pastor, Ralph E. Peterson D.D.
We celebrated our 150th year in 2004, with former rectors Mitchell, Harbort, and Cyr joining our rector, J. Scott Barker, for a celebratory service. The 1866 time capsule was located in the foundations of the church in October 2004; the contents were perfectly preserved. Those documents and pictures were copied, archived and replaced in the capsule. On All Saints’ Day 2006, the 1866 time capsule was reinterred with a new time capsule containing present-day mementos and family histories; the location is marked by a plaque in the northern exterior wall of the church.
2009 was a year of “firsts.” Deacon E. Suzanne Wille, originating from the Diocese of Chicago, was hired as our first assistant (and first female) priest. She joined us in June and was ordained a priest by Bishop Catherine Roskam in December – the first ordination held at Christ Church instead of the cathedral.
In June 2011 our rector J. Scott Barker was elected the 11th Bishop of Nebraska. His last service with us was on Wednesday evening, Aug. 31; Sunday services had been canceled because of numerous power failures, impassable streets and flooding from hurricane Irene. Assistant priest Mother Suzanne then became our interim pastor through August 2012, when she became rector of All Saints’, Indianapolis.
In November 2012 the church floors were refinished and the sacristy, loft and center aisle were re-carpeted.
The Rev. Jim Erwin became our rector in December 2012. From 2013 to 2015, our assisting priest was the Rev. Beth Phillips, who left to become rector of Christ Church in Portola Valley, Calif.
As the church continued to grow and thrive, the space became too small for our many ministries and programs. After several years of discernment and planning, construction began in 2017 on a major expansion of the parish house and parish hall. The project also made our worship and program space more accessible and welcoming.