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Welcome to Christ Church, Frederica, an Episcopal community on Saint Simons Island. We’re glad that you’ve found your way to this parish, a place of prayer, sacrament, relationship and service.
Our grounds and our faith are historic, built upon the foundations laid by our ancestors on this island and the host of saints who have come before us. We combine the ancient ways of Christ’s followers with the modern needs and experiences of today’s people. If you seek Christ or a deeper knowledge of him, we invite you to join us on the way.
We’re pleased that you want to find out more about Christ Church. Whether it’s information on services, people, history, or something else, use these links to find out what you want to know about us. If you can’t find what you want, don’t hesitate to call or email us!
We have two locations on St. Simons Island. The main Church and offices are located at 6329 Frederica Rd., St. Simons Island, GA 31522. St. Ignatius Chapel is located at 2609 Demere Rd., St. Simons Island, GA 31522. Telephone: 912-638-8683 FAX: 912-638-4030
We have weekly services to help us encounter God through prayer, scripture and sacrament.
To learn more about our services, click here.
An Early History of Christ Church, Frederica
The Colonial Period – The Mission
In February of 1736, General James Oglethorpe, who had founded the colony of Georgia at Savannah nearly four years before, arrived on St. Simons Island and laid the cornerstone of the town of Frederica and its fort. The outpost on St. Simons was a significant part of Oglethorpe’s charge to take control of “the debatable land” between the English colony at Savannah and present-day St. Mary’s to the south, claimed by the Spanish.
On the first day, Oglethorpe and the new colonists joined in Evening Prayer, quickly planting the roots of Anglicanism in island soil. A month later, The Rev. Charles Wesley, a priest of the Church of England and Oglethorpe’s private chaplain and secretary, took charge of the Frederica mission of Christ Church, Savannah on St. Simons Island. One of the first structures built within the walls of Fort Frederica was a 12-by-20 tabby building housing a storeroom on the lower floor and a chapel on the upper floor. Chapel services were held as long as the soldiers were there, as well as outside under the oaks.
The Rev. Charles Wesley lived and served at Frederica for just a few months. His insistence on daily services and “vigorous shepherding” of the Frederica flock led to a rebellion among his parishioners, and he sailed back to England in the summer of 1736. Charles is most widely known for writing 6,000 Christian hymns.
The Rev. John Wesley, Charles’ brother, was the Rector of Christ Church, Savannah. After Charles left Georgia, John made five trips from Savannah to Frederica over a period of several months, traveling by foot and canoe. He returned to England in December, 1737. John, along with Charles and others, founded the Methodist movement after returning to England.
In 1742, Oglethorpe’s army prevailed over Spanish forces, and the “debatable land” was secured for England. Oglethorpe sailed to England in July 1743, and his regiment was gradually withdrawn from Fort Frederica and was completely disbanded in 1749.
Georgia became a royal colony in 1752 and, in 1758, the province was divided into parishes with Frederica and Saint Simons Island designated as Saint James Parish. The town’s population decreased, a fire swept through in April of 1758 destroying most of the town, and by the time of the Revolutionary War, St. Simons was practically abandoned.
Following the war, however, these early beginnings were strengthened. And at the dawn of the nineteenth century, families began to arrive from Europe, the Carolinas, and Virginia, bringing their own Anglican traditions and an interest in growing cotton. The Episcopal Church was founded in America in 1789 as part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. St. Simons emerged as a producer of the finest cotton in the world, and an Episcopal church, was established on the island.
The Plantation Period – The Church Established
By 1808, St. Simons was home to 14 large cotton plantations, and the planters felt the need for an established church. They petitioned for a charter and won incorporation by act of the Georgia State Legislature on December 22, 1808 as the “Episcopal Church in the town of Frederica called Christ Church.” Former Fort Frederica land was granted for use by the church which became the second oldest Episcopal church in Georgia after Christ Church, Savannah. The planters were instrumental in the construction of the first church on the site in 1820.
While the new church was being built, the congregation met in the home of John Beck, who was paid $1.00 per week for rent, plus $.50 for cleaning and preparation of services. The Reverend Dr. William Best, an Englishman, was called as the first rector. However, he resigned after two years, discouraged by the church’s failure to construct a building immediately.
The Reverend Dr. Edmund Matthews replaced Dr. Best in 1810; he is remembered as “The Sometimes Rector of Christ Church, Frederica” in the small windows above the altar of the present church. During the War of 1812, British troops invaded the island, causing significant losses to the planter families and further delaying construction of the new church. An early 19th century recession added to the delay.
Not until 1820, did the church’s governing body feel financially comfortable with constructing a building. George Abbott laid the cornerstone of the church and preached the first sermon from its pulpit. Christ Church parishioners worshipped there until the outbreak of the Civil War.
The little church was a community and social center as well as a place of worship. Parishioners could pick up their mail, delivered by John Couper of Cannon’s Point Plantation, catch up on the news, and generally enjoy being together. The congregation’s leadership consisted of the planter families that had founded the church, names familiar in St. Simons history – Page, Couper, King, Hamilton, Demere, Abbott, Gould, and Hazzard.
In 1823, the three Georgia Episcopal churches – Christ Church, Savannah, Christ Church, Frederica, and St. Paul’s, Augusta – formed the first Episcopal Diocese in Georgia. Though the smallest of the three, Christ Church, Frederica played an important part of the life of the diocese. In 1837-1838, Warden James Hamilton Couper designed the building for Christ Church, Savannah, the mother church of the diocese, in which its congregation still worships.
Three more rectors served the church following Dr. Matthews’ death in 1827. The church sold the “glebe lands” to church member, Captain Charles Stevens, in 1848. These lands had been part of the land grant given by the town in 1808, which had been rented by planters with proceeds to be used for erection of a new church building. The church retained five acres and invested the sale proceeds in a Savannah bank.
Christ Church, Frederica was a vital congregation during this time, but with the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, St. Simons Island was evacuated and all but abandoned. Union troops occupied the island and the little church. When island families returned after the war, they found their little church damaged beyond repair, and the church’s endowment, deposited in a Savannah bank, did not survive the conflict.
Rev. Edmund Brown tried to renew Christ Church after the war, but with a congregation too poor to rebuild the church and support a priest, he left the post in 1868. The islanders were faced with the destruction of their church and way of life, and began meeting for Evening Prayer at Black Banks Plantation, the home of Horace Bunch Gould, a vestryman and planter.
The Dodge Years-The Church Rebuilt
As the island moved into the later nineteenth century, timber mills began appearing in Darien and on St. Simons Island offering jobs to former plantation workers, management positions for planter families, and income for mill owners. Georgia pine and oak boosted the local economy when planters were struggling to hold on. “The Mills” became the commercial, social, and religious center of the island with the construction of a nondenominational chapel, St. James Union Church. Christ Church parishioners were once again able to worship in a church building. Today, the rebuilt church, located at Epworth, is known as Lovely Lane Chapel.
Anson Greene Phelps Dodge, Jr. was the grandson of one of the largest mill owners on the island, William E. Dodge of New York. Anson first visited the island in 1879 at the age of 19, dispatched to help his family with the lumber mill which his uncle George was overseeing at the time. He discovered the ruins of the little church and met its parishioners who touched his heart. With a plan to restore the church and become its priest, Anson began studies at General Theological Seminary in New York City. In 1882, Rev. H. E. Lucas, Rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Brunswick, was appointed Priest-in-Charge of Christ Church to serve until “the Rector-designate, Mr. Dodge” completed his studies.
Anson and his wife, Ellen Ada Dodge were on an around the world trip in 1883 when she tragically died in Allahabad, India, probably of cholera. Heartbroken, he resolved to continue his call and resumed his theological studies in New York. In 1884, construction began on the new church, to be dedicated to the memory of Ellen; it was funded with Anson’s inheritance from her and his own substantial resources. Anson was named Rector in June of 1884 and ordained to the priesthood in 1885. The church had been completed and was consecrated in January of 1886 on the Feast of the Epiphany to the joy of its parishioners.
The Rev. Dodge conducted services at Christ Church, Frederica, at St. James, and at three new churches he established with Dodge funds. He was the center of missionary activity in southeast Georgia, setting up a number of trusts for the church and establishing The Georgia Mission Fund. In all, the Dodge Fund was responsible for the founding of some 34 Episcopal churches in southeast Georgia.
In 1890, Anson married Anna Deborah Gould of Black Banks Plantation, a descendent of the Gould and Abbott families who had helped establish the early church. Anson and Anna had a son who tragically died in a runaway carriage accident. Heartbroken, they responded by establishing the Anson Dodge Memorial Home for Orphan Boys in 1895 in their home at Frederica.
Anson Dodge did not enjoy good health, and at his suggestion, the vestry appointed The Rev. Watson Winn “Associate-Rector, with the right of succession” in 1897. The following year, Anson Dodge died at the age of 38 after giving his life totally to service.
Rev. Watson Winn was a Virginian and a descendent of a sister of John and Charles Wesley. Described by a church member as having a “versatile nature,” Winn would regularly go from the pulpit to the organ to play hymns and then back to the pulpit during church services. In 1910, he wrote a Commemoration with a detailed history of Christ Church, Frederica. He served as rector for 28 years, the longest term of any rector in the church’s history.
During Winn’s tenure, the island’s financial health waned again with the closing of the mills in 1906. Winn died in 1926, followed by Anna Dodge in 1927. Months after Anna’s death, the Dodge Home burned. Again, it seemed the church and its missions might nor survive. However, shortly before his death, Rev. Winn provided the benediction for the event that would usher in modern times, prosperity, and a small amount of fame for the island – the opening of a causeway to the mainland. Tourism provided the next economic boom for the island, and people began finding the island a delightful place to build a home and raise their families.
The History of St. Ignatius Church
Rev. Anson Greene Phelps Dodge, Jr. built St. Ignatius on Demere Road in 1886 for the formerly enslaved freedmen and women who were now living and working on the island, primarily in the mills. Following damage from a hurricane in 1898, parishioners immediately rebuilt the church and rotated it 90 degrees. St. Ignatius closed as a mission in the 1980s and merged with Christ Church, Frederica making it a full member of our parish. Saturday evening services are held here.
Future plans include rotating the church back to its original position, completing some renovations, and stabilizing the parking lot. As with Christ Church, the wood is heart pine which has never been painted or stained. The altar rail is hand carved. The lectern, Bishop’s chair, Priest’s chair, and Baptismal font were all donated by Lovely Lane Chapel. The stained-glass windows behind the altar were made in Philadelphia by the Willet Company depicting the Trinity.
The bell was installed in the 1980s and is from the WWII Liberty Ship, Henry Wynkoop. For years the windows in the church were translucent, jalousie-panel glass. Beginning in the year 2000, ten new stained-glass windows were designed by Mary Beth Keys, a parishioner of Christ Church, completed by the Wippell Company of Exeter, England, and blessed by The Rt. Rev. Henry I. Louttit, Bishop of Georgia, on April 29, 2001.
A plaque displaying some of the list of names of the first baptized members of St. Ignatius from 1870-1970 was installed in the church in 2009.
We Are Episcopal/Anglican
About the Episcopal Church
Christ Church is an Episcopal parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. The Episcopal Church is a part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which now numbers 85 million Christians in 165 countries around the world. Anglicanism has its roots in the Church of England, which spread around the world in the colonial period, and is now comprised of autonomous churches like the Episcopal Church in the United States.
- As Episcopalians, we are followers of Jesus Christ, our Lord, and we believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
- The Episcopal Church has members in the United States, as well as in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Haiti, Honduras, Micronesia, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Venezuela, and the Virgin Islands.
- We strive to love our neighbors as ourselves and respect the dignity of every person.
- The Episcopal Church is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and traces its heritage to the beginnings of Christianity.
- Both men and women, including those who are married, are eligible for ordination as deacons, priests and bishops.
- We believe in amendment of life, the forgiveness of sin, and life everlasting.
- Lay people exercise a vital role in the governance and ministry of our church.
- Holy Communion may be received by all baptized Christians, not only members of the Episcopal Church.
- We uphold the Bible and worship with the Book of Common Prayer.
- We affirm that committed relationships are lifelong and monogamous. Episcopalians also recognize that there is grace after divorce and do not deny the sacraments to those who have been divorced.
- We affirm that issues such as birth control are matters of personal informed conscience.
- We celebrate our unity in Christ while honoring our differences, always putting the work of love before uniformity of opinion.
- All are welcome to find a spiritual home in the Episcopal Church.
Good News of God in Christ
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare THE WAY of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’
~ John the Baptist, Luke 3:4-6
The prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist both told people to prepare the way of the Lord – the way of Jesus. Jesus himself said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” For Christians, those who follow Jesus, he is the Way. The first Christians referred to their new community as the Way in the book of Acts for this reason. It was understood that the way to God, was the Way of Jesus Christ. In those early years following Jesus looked a lot different than the institutional church we know today. The focus was on discipleship; learning the Way of Jesus – how we lived, how he treated others, how love is the most important thing in this world. Ultimately, what Christ Church tries to do is to help people learn the Way and then to live it out in their own lives.
Why we follow the Way at all?
Who was Jesus, and why does he matter, to history and to us today?
Those are good questions, and to answer them, let’s back up and start at the beginning.
In the beginning, God created the world and everything in it, including us. We don’t know the particulars and the timetables, but we know the ancient stories of scripture that our ancestors told about the origin of our world through God’s creative touch. Because of those stories we believe that when God created us, God knew that what he created was good – that we were good. But good does not mean perfect. We have within us the God-given capacity to think and choose for ourselves, which means that at times we can choose things for ourselves that God may not wish for us.
Over many centuries and generations God’s people and God drifted further and further apart. Those who came before us thousands of years ago often described God as angry and distant and they had trouble relating to God in a positive and life-giving way. We often got caught up on rules and laws, which while helpful, do not a healthy, life-giving relationship make. Relationship is about interaction and closeness, and up to a certain point in history, a tangible relationship with God was elusive and mysterious. But God acted yet again, in response to the goodness of God’s creation and out of a love for us. Since we were having trouble finding our way to God, God found a way to us.
Our God is a great and mysterious God, to be sure. We talk about God as one, but in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, or in some circles: Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. We call God a Trinity in shorthand. All three persons of the Trinity have been active since the beginning of time, and as God took action to come to his people, we would get to know one of those persons really well.
God made the radical decision to come to earth in human form, an incarnate God alongside God’s people. We believe that that person, was and is Jesus Christ, who was both fully human and fully God. Christians believe that the clearest picture we have of God is found in Jesus of Nazareth who lived, died, was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven. Jesus was a real historical figure, and as a result of his short life, millions of people have found new life in God through a relationship with the risen Christ.
The third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is the active presence of God that helps us connect to Christ and our creator through our prayer, our study and our worship. The Holy Spirit moves in and through us, and through Christ’s Church, letting us know the presence of God and God’s desires for this world. It is the Spirit that speaks to us as we read Holy Scripture and experience the presence of God in our worship.
How did people come to follow Jesus?
Why did people lose their lives in order to teach others the Way of Christ?
Jesus was a radical for his day. He was also faithful in keeping ancient traditions alive at the same time. Jesus’ teachings added up to a reinterpretation of God’s laws and God’s hopes for all people. Prophets had long tried to interpret God’s desires, but their teachings often fell on deaf ears, or were misinterpreted. Jesus’ message was one of service to “the least of these”; reaching out to heal the sick, touch the untouchable, love the unlovable and to seek peace instead of violence. It may not sound like a radical message to us, yet it threatened those who held power in Jesus day, as it still threatens the powerful today. People began to realize that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah – the one who would usher in God’s kingdom. Jesus was more than just a good teacher, and a seeker of justice and peace. Jesus was also God’s Son and his life, death, and resurrection accomplished something even greater than his example.
Ultimately Jesus was put to death because of his defiance of authority, both within the religious and the secular cultures of his day. He was sentenced to death by hanging from a cross as a punishment, and he did indeed die. His followers were distraught; this was not the way things were supposed to happen to the Messiah. Clearly they had been wrong. But they weren’t wrong after all. Three days after he died, Jesus was raised from the dead, and suddenly, the Way of the Messiah could be understood. It was not to bring God’s kingdom to bear through violence and force, but through love and peace. That love has never been more evident than in the offering of his life so that we could know life for ourselves.
One of the aspects of Jesus’ death and resurrection is that in doing so, all of God’s people were found worthy; all peoples then, before and since were redeemed through the life-giving love of Christ. Christ showed us that God loved us despite our failures and our shortcomings; despite our fears that we were unlovable, Christ showed us that we were loved more than we could ever imagine. This love is the basis of our understanding of sin and its place in our lives. Sin is a very real part of our lives. Sin is the name we give to those things that we do (or don’t do) that are contrary to God’s desires and expectations for God’s people. It is important that we can name our sinfulness – the places where we fall short and miss the mark – and that we can ask forgiveness for those sins. The assurance of forgiveness is already ours through Christ’s death and resurrection – a reminder that our sin is not enough to separate us from the love of God – a love displayed in Jesus Christ. It is important for us to realize and confess our brokenness and see and accept our wholeness in Christ at the same time.
So what is The Way?
The Way of Jesus is the clearest way to God that has been revealed to us. But what exactly is the Way? Jesus once summarized the laws of God very simply. At a time when the religious tradition of the day had thousands of laws to follow, Jesus was asked what the greatest of God’s laws were, and he said it this way: ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ (Matthew 22:37-40). The Way is about loving God and one another, learning from and sharing the love we have already received from God.
We who are followers of Christ and his Way seek to live lives of intentional service to others, to be faithful in prayer and worship, and to share the life in Christ we have discovered with others. We believe that it is in living into the example of Jesus Christ that we learn what it means to have an “eternal life”. Eternal life is not just some point in the future when we have died, but here and now. We believe that in following the Way, we bring God’s kingdom to bear here and now for those who so desperately need it. God loves us, and has always loved us, and we know this chiefly through Jesus Christ.
If you would like to know more about The Way of Jesus and how to live it out in your own life, come and join us as we journey together at Christ Church.
Some scripture passages that help us understand
what The Way is all about:
The Parable of the Man with Two Sons
“Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.
‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” ’”
Jesus Speaks about what judgment will look like
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”