Christ Church

Christ Church

The following is from 250 Years of the First Church of Bethlehem

The earliest records of the Episcopal Society of Bethlem go back to a legal warning for a meeting issued by David Bellamy, Justice of Peace, wherein 14 men declared themselves members of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of Connecticut, and expressed a desire to be incorporated into a district society. The warning is dated March 13, 1807, and the meeting was called for March 30th at the home of Amos Lake. But at least one meeting, (and perhaps several) was held prior to the momentous step of becoming a "district society". The Rev. Daniel Burhans of Newtown, Ct. was at least partially responsible for initiating a meeting September, 1806 at the home of George Bloss on Carmel Hill in Bethlem.

It was not an easy beginning as money was scarce and the services had to be held in the Center School House. Services were infrequent as it was difficult to obtain a minister on so little money. A church building was clearly needed and on February 15, 1820, Dr. Burhans wrote from Newtown urging the people of Bethlem to get busy and build a church. About this time a Mr. Atwood bequeathed $500 for the erection of an Episcopal Church but the church was not actually started until 1829. Work was slow and in May 1831, it was voted "that our committee be directed to do of the inside of the church after the plan entitled No. 1, with circular seats with one pair of stairs to the pulpit".

In September 1835, Bishop Brownell consecrated the new brick church naming it Christ Church. The following spring, 18 members of the parish subscribed to a "Fund" amounting to $3041.00 from which the interest would pay a preacher. Now the parish had two very important things - a place to worship and some working capital.

While at times the church was "full of life and vigor", it was not always so. The lowest point was reached in 1874 after the church had been enlarged. A year earlier, the Congregational Church invited Christ Church to unite with it and some members took up the offer and left the church. In 1874, a special meeting was called in January to determine whether or not it was worth while to keep the church open after the end of the fiscal year. They had to liquidate the debt of the Society and somehow it was done, for later that year the church sought clerical service for the coming year but at a much curtailed rate.

Physical changes were numerous to the church from the beginning. The high pulpit with stairs lasted until 1839 when it was lowered. In 1840 additions and alterations were made in the seating. At some early date the church had a center aisle. This became apparent in 1955 when repairs to the floor were made. The present balcony is not original and no doubt was added during one of the many changes.

In 1869, Mr. R. W. Hill, a Waterbury architect was hired to enlarge and rebuild the church. In 1870-71, the work was completed with the present chancel added, the ceiling lowered and perhaps the center aisle taken out. The framework for the old windows can still be seen in the space above the present ceiling. In 1955, the last major change was made with the replacement of floor joists and floor. At the same time the center aisle was restored.

The bell in the church weighing 938 pounds was purchased for $288.88 in 1849 from the West Troy Foundry. The present parish house was built in 1932 in memory of Albert E. Johnson who had served the church long and faithfully.

In more recent years, the church saw the need for space to accommodate additional church activities and a Sunday School. The old library building had been vacated because the new brick Bethlehem Library had been built with donations from Christine Bloss and citizens of the town. in 1969, as a result of a request from Christ Church, the Town of Bethlehem leased the old library building to the church for a nominal amount per year, with the church also maintaining the building.

In 1983, Johnson Memorial Hall was joined to the church with a building addition which created a walk way between the two buildings, a meeting room, and offices.

The history of Christ Church is lengthy. Like most churches it has had it's moments of glory and periods of discouragement. Today it lives prominently in the center of Bethlehem, the only building standing made of bricks from a local brickyard, an important part of our small town both physically and spiritually.

This article is from the Waterbury Republican, July 11, 1923
Christ's Church at Bethlehem Adopts Resolutions of Regret

A meeting of Christ Church Parish was held Sunday afternoon at the church to take action on the resignation of the rector, Rev. C. H. Beers, whose health has forced him to give up his missionary work here and return to Colorado. The meeting was well attended by members of the parish and there were also as guests present, Archdeacon Humphery of Roxbury, Mr. and Mrs. Wilbur Mansfield and family of St. Paul's Church, Woodbury, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Clark of Christ Chapel, Waterbury. Archdeacon Humphery presided at the meeting.

"The following resolution was adopted: "Resolved, that we, the members of the Christ Church Parish assembled on this the 8th day of July, 1923, receive with regret the resignation of our beloved rector, the Rev. Clarence H. Beers. It is with heartaches we accept the resignation made imperative by the ill health of one who has labored long and diligently in our midst, comforting those in sorrow and distress, implanting high ideals an inspirations, supporting the poor and needy, giving without stint his strength for the promotion of all that was for the good of the community and church. The example of missionary endeavor, the forgetfulness of self, the heroic sacrifices and hardships will ever remain in our memories and will bear fruit in the years to come. Our prayers and our hopes are for a speedy recover that this missionary of God may soon return to us with renewed health and vigor to develop the work so successfully promoted and carried on by this sincere and devout priest of the church."

Archdeacon Humphery in addressing the meeting said much more could be said than was embodied in the resolutions concerning the retiring rector and his missionary work. He said the sorrow of the Bethlehem people was not any deeper than that of his own and of every clerical associate in Litchfield county. The archdeacon then in behalf of the parish presented Mr. Beers with a miniature trunk, tagged for Denver, Colorado, which contained $109 and a collection of photographs of Bethlehem scenes. Mr. Beers responded cheerfully and reminded the members of his former congregation "that it was more blessed to give than to receive" and that of late the Bethlehem people had been giving and the rector receiving. It was voted to extend a call to the Rev. A. T. Geaner of Waterbury to become minister in charge of the parish. Mr. Beers will leave on Tuesday for Denver and will enter the Oakes Home.

Mr. and Mrs. Beers spent the remainder of the afternoon at the church and attended the evening service conducted by Clifford Leahman of Waterbury. At the close of the service Mr. Beers demonstrated the use of a portable moving picture machine at Memorial Hall in the presence of a few friends, showing one of the State Board of Health films. Mr. Beers purchased the machine before his health became impaired, for use in missionary and community work and has never been able to use it much. The demonstration was given for the purpose of showing local people how to operate the machine, which Mr. Beers has donated for community purposes.

(In the same column of the newspaper)
Red Sox Lose

The Watertown Red Sox were defeated at Ferriday field on Sunday afternoon by the Bethlehem nine, 11 to 4. Anderson occupied the mound for the locals and although he allowed twelve safeties they were widely scattered. Donston, star twirler for the Watertown High nine, was on the mound for the visitors, and although he was touched for only nine hits, they were all bunched and he issued six free passes also. Announcement is expected to be made immediately as to whether there will be a game this year between the Watertown Independents and the locals. A game was originally booked for this Sunday with Abe DeBunkers nine and Manager Johnson is in hopes that the Watertown crew may be induced to come here on Sunday. If they do, a fine game and a huge throng of fans are liable to be in evidence.

A new metal roof is being put on Christ Church.

Mrs. Sage and Mrs. William Smith visited Miss Ina Lake at the Waterbury hospital this afternoon.