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Christ Church, Huntley, celebrates its 185th birthday

Parishioners gathered with the Rev. Mary-Cate Garden at the doors on the sunny November day when they marked Christ Church's 185th birthday.
By on December 27, 2023
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Parishioners at Christ Church, Huntley celebrated the 185th birthday of the church on Nov. 9.

In her remarks, the Rev. Mary-Cate Garden said that in her reading of a parish history published for its 150th anniversary, she learned that the deed for the building was signed in November 1838. The land for the church was given by John Cavanaugh.

Remarkably, the church survived the Great Fire of 1870, although the rectory, fence and a nearby schoolhouse were all destroyed.

But Garden said, most of the parishioners already know the church’s history. “You know it so well in the way that longtime parishioners of any church know the history. You know it in a deep way, a way that comes out of your own family histories. A lived way. A way that is deeply embedded in the land; in the community; in all that is this place and all your places. Something that we don’t see that often anymore, something that is quite amazing,” she said.

Indeed, some of the parishioners are descendants of the original parishioners. Suzanne Thompson told Crosstalk that she is a descendent of two families in the church’s early history. She is in the fifth generation of the Cox family to attend the church and in the sixth generation of the Wilson family. The Cox family came to the area from Limerick County in Ireland in 1848, and the Wilsons from Fermanagh County in 1819. Members of both families are buried in the church cemetery, so when Thompson comes to Christ Church, she is literally surrounded by her ancestors. It adds more meaning to her work as the secretary treasurer of the Christ Church Cemetery Board.

Her own history is closely tied to the church too. She was baptized, confirmed and married there, as were her two children. “It’s a very important part of my life,” she says.

Margie Cox entered into the church’s history when she married Suzanne’s brother, and the church has been an important part of their lives and family as well. “We were both confirmed and baptized there, we were married there. Our daughter was baptized and confirmed there as well,” she says.

Cox says the building itself feels a bit like family. “It’s lovely. You go inside the church, and you just get this feeling of comfort.” It still has the original pews, altar and wood carvings, she said.

Christ Church is part of an unusual parish that has three church buildings, but functions happily as one congregation. “We share services and go back and forth from one church to the other,” Cox explains. St. John’s and Christ Church alternate Sundays until Christmas, she said.. “We both have a 9 o’clock service, and then St. James is always at 10.30 am.”

The parish keeps up involvement in the community. This Advent they hosted a fun day that included a living nativity scene.

At Christ Church the saints of times past had a vision…, Garden said at the anniversary service, “even when they were newly arrived, even when there were fields to plough, houses and barns to build. And it was a vision and a care that has continued down to this very day by our living saints. To the care with which the building is tended, to the memorials and windows and goods that have been so generously offered. It’s seen in the people who tend the altar, the cemetery, who greet visitors, shovel snow, fix signs and more. It’s seen in the welcome that comes from a joy of being together in this place.”

 

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