A BRIEF HISTORY OF CHRIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH
In 1913, a number of residents of West Englewood Park seeing the need for a church, appealed to The Rev. Flemming James, rector of St. Paul’s church Englewood to conduct services on alternate Sundays in the homes of residents. The first services were held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur F. Edney on Ogden Avenue. This was the only finished street at that time, in this small community that numbered about 25 homes. These services were called “Cottage Services.” In May 1914, these residents organized as a mission of the Protestant Episcopal Church. The Rev. Carl Stridsberg was appointed the Vicar and served until 1923. In the spring of 1915, Christ Church purchased five lots on the corner of Rutland Avenue and Rugby Road. Help was given in this by the gift of $200 from the congregation of St. Paul’s in Englewood, and $1,000 from the Board of Missions of the Diocese of Newark. The corner of Rugby Road and Rutland Avenue was the site of the first Church. It was dedicated on Sunday October 1, 1915. The Right Rev. Edwin S. Lines, Bishop of the Diocese of Newark, conducted the service.
In 1921, as a memorial to his father Dr. Melancthon Ayers, Mr. Nelson Ayers donated additional land at the corner of Rugby Road and Maitland Avenue to the church. In 1927, Mr. and Mrs. Ayers financed the building of the rectory on this site. In 1927, construction of the Parish and Community house begun. With the completion of the Parish House and the rectory, the church buildings covered the entire block on Rugby Road. In 1926 The Rev. William Russell became rector and worked tirelessly to see the expansion of the church. In May 1930, Christ Church was received into union with the Diocesan Convention as an independent parish. As the membership of the church grew, there was a need for a much larger church. In 1933, thirty feet of additional land on Rutland Avenue, west of the original church was purchased.
The present site, formerly The West Englewood Tennis Club, was obtained through the kindness and cooperation of the West Englewood Tennis Holding Corporation. The cost was $4,723.09. $4,700 was a result of gifts from stockholders. Sixteen stockholders, some of whom were not members of the church, donated their interest outright to the church.
The year 1941 saw a new rector, The Rev. John Keene. In 1944, he initiated the first financial drive for a larger church. In 1949, The Rev. John Keene left and was succeeded in 1950 by The Rev. Lynn Greaves as rector.
In 1952 the corner stone for the present church was laid. The building was dedicated in 1953.
In 1961, The Rev. Greaves was succeeded by The Rev. John L. Denny as rector. During the next 23 years, the sanctuary was completed and the Education Building (Blackburn Building) was constructed.
The corner stone for the Blackburn Building was laid in 1964 and the structure completed in 1965. The building was dedicated to the memory of Harold Blackburn by his family whose generous donations saw the completion of this building.
The Rev. Alexander Zabriskie who served as an interim rector for two years followed The Rev. Denny.
On Saturday December 6, 1986, The Rev. Louis Braxton Jr. was instituted as the fifth rector of Christ Church. Rev. Braxton the first African-American priest served for seven years during which time he established the West Englewood Nursery school.
The year 1987 saw the signing of a covenant between the Lutherans, Anglicans and Roman Catholic Churches here in Teaneck. The covenant churches included St Paul’s Lutheran Church, Grace Lutheran Church, St Mark’s Episcopal Church, Christ Episcopal Church and St Anastasia Roman Catholic Church. L.A.R.C., the acronym by which they are known, works to promote the growth and development of interdenominational activities through various programs, among which are a pulpit exchange, the Annual Advent Lessons and Carols and a service for Christian unity.
In 1993 The Rev. Richard Chasse joined the parish as Interim Rector. The Rev. Chasse was followed in 1996 by The Rev. John F. Stanton as Interim Rector. The Rev. Stanton served until June 1998.
After Rev. Stanton left, Christ Church began a search for a vicar. During this period, the Rev. Horton Scott served as supply priest.
On April 17, 1999, The Rev. Michael Joseph Gerhardt was instituted as Vicar Of Christ Church.
During his time as vicar, the joint ministry between Christ Church and Grace Lutheran Church was established. The formation of the Pastoral Care team and monthly joint worship services were hallmarks of his tenure. He served as vicar until September 16, 2007.