- Parish House
“Currently Christ Church is undergoing the same revitalization that is taking place in the rest of downtown Little Rock.”
On Sunday, March 10, 1839, the Rt. Rev. Leonidas Polk, missionary bishop of Arkansas, held an Episcopal service in a Presbyterian Church in Little Rock kindly loaned for the occasion. This small wooden church was located at Main and Second, at that time called Cherry Street. After the service, the group met in the home of Senator Chester Ashley and organized Christ Episcopal Church, named after Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia, of which several of the group had been members.
Shortly after its organization, Bishop Polk arranged to buy property at the church’s present location, 5th & Scott Streets, and in June of 1840, the little flock welcomed its first pastor, the Rev. Wm. Henry Christopher Yeager. His leadership led to starting a fund for a church building. Two years later, in October 1846, the small but beautiful church was ready for worship.
In 1873 the church was destroyed by fire, thought to have been caused by lightning. All parish records were lost. Services were held in various public buildings from time to time, but plans were immediately drawn up for a new church. After five years a chapel was ready for services, which continued until the entire edifice was finished, and used for the first time on Easter Sunday, 1887.
After about fifty years of much use, the congregation decided to redecorate the entire interior. On Saturday night, October 2, 1938, the day before the planned dedication, the church burned to the ground. The cause was never determined, but one theory is that painter’s supplies left in the undercroft may have spontaneously combusted. Plans were again drawn for a new church, this time in a neo-gothic style, with the exterior of Arkansas stone rather than the red brick of the former church. The present church building was ready for dedication on September 28, 1941.
Currently Christ Church is undergoing the same revitalization that is taking place in the rest of downtown Little Rock. Census figures reveal that the downtown census tract is the only one in the central Little Rock area to grow in the 1990s. Christ Church is located in the very heart of that tract, and it has begun to find new ways to participate in this growth. Part of its new view of itself is as a place for meditation, prayer, and learning for people who live and work downtown.
The church building is again becoming a venue for musical events and community involvement, and is now open daily for prayer and meditation for anyone who wants to come in. This is particularly good news for people who work downtown and need time away from the “busy-ness” in their offices. The labyrinth is open during office hours for quiet walking meditation. And the Christ Church Bookstore is now open on weekdays, offering books for those who want to learn more about spiritual growth, contemplation, ethical issues, religious history, and for those who want award-winning books for children.