Christ Church has its historical roots in the post Civil War growth of the mill village of Harrisburg, a neighborhood between downtown Augusta and the Summerville neighborhood (formerly a town) that sits on top of “The Hill.”

Sibley Mill on Augusta Canal

After the Civil War the textile mills along the Augusta Canal, which  runs  through Harrisburg, began to expand. To learn about the history of  Harrisburg, click here. The mill workers were badly paid, and could not  afford to travel to Episcopal churches in downtown Augusta, or to the  Church of the Good Shepherd in Summerville. In 1880, The Reverend  Edwin G. Weed, Rector of Saint Paul’s, Augusta, and Edward W. Platt, a layman of Saint Paul’s, began discussing the idea of an Episcopal Church  in Harrisburg to minister to the mill workers.

Presentation certificate of Baptismal font, 1870

Mr. Platt owned considerable property in Augusta and donated several lots for the church’s land. At the same time, the Church of the Good Shepherd, which had built its church in 1869, had grown to the point where it had outgrown its church building. Good Shepherd built a new, brick church, and donated the old structure to Christ Church. The church was rolled down the hill on Battle Row on logs (intact!) to the place where it now sits. Christ Church’s building was dedicated by Bishop Beckwith on February 25. 1983, after the church was founded in 1882.

Initially, Christ Church’s membership was small and its future was uncertain. Then, in 1899 Fr. John Chipman, who left a career in engineering to enter the ministry arrived as Vicar. He formed a group of members and friends known as the “Willing Workers,” who recruited the poor, the lost, and the left out of Harrisburg. They organized confirmation classes with an impressive average class size of 50 people, and set about raising money any way they could. Their efforts yielded a parish house, a gymnasium with swimming pool for youths, a free library, and a school for girls.

In 1909 Fr G. Croft Williams, who succeeded Fr. Chipman as Vicar, organized a Boy’s Home in the rectory, taking in boys who lost one or both parents. Several of the boys who lived in the Rectory went on to achieve success in business and all benefited from Fr. Williams’ efforts.

In 1927 Deaconess Ruth Byllesby came to Christ Church. Deaconess Byllesby and her family, who were from Pennsylvania, visited Augusta frequently in the winter months, as was the custom for many to do during that period. When she saw the conditions in Harrisburg she decided to remain, and spend the remainder of her career helping the poor in Harrisburg.

Deaconess Byllesby’s life is recounted here. Among many of the contributions that she made to the citizens of Harrisburg was providing food and supplies to poor families during the depression including clothing and milk money for children. She organized a Sunday school that had attendance of 200 children. She also maintained a Boy Scout Troop and Girl’s Friendly Society

Christ Church circa 1936.

Deaconess Byllesby retired in 1943. On April 4, 1951 Christ Church achieved parish status at the 129th Convention of the Diocese of Georgia. Its membership continued to grow, a new parish hall was constructed in the 1950′s, and the church building itself underwent extensive remodeling in 1979.

In 1999 under the direction of its then-rector Fr. Theodore Atwood, Christ Church began its Soup Kitchen which is held every Saturday, filling an important need for the hungry by providing meals on a day when many social service agencies are closed.

A food pantry, clothing ministry, and medical screening clinic were added at later dates, and constitute the core of Christ Church’s outreach programs today. The changing economic conditions in Harrisburg have resulted in increased demand for Christ Church’s outreach ministries. Over 9,900 meals were served by the Soup Kitchen in 2010, including a significant number to children.

Christmas Pageant, 1984

As Christ Church enters its 131th year in 2013, the congregation looks forward to the next generation of families who will call Christ Church home, offering traditional Anglican worship in the Prayer Book tradition, and serving the residents of Harrisburg by feeding the hungry and spreading the Gospel.