History of Christ Church
Founding and Early Years
Christ Episcopal Church in Poughkeepsie was founded in the 1760s, and received a royal charter from the English king, George III, in October 1773. The first Rector, John Beardsley, had been called in 1766, and he served two congregations, the one in Poughkeepsie as well as that of Trinity Church in Fishkill, which was established in the same period.
The Rev. Beardsley’s loyalty to the British throne made him an unwelcome presence during the War for Independence, and in December 1777, he and his family were exiled to New York City, which continued to be governed by England through the war years. Without the guidance or leadership of clergy, Christ Church continued to endure and, once peace and independence had been achieved, a Rector was again called to the congregation.
Church and Community
From the eighteenth century to the present, twenty-two ordained priests have served as Rector of the parish. They have held prominent roles in the community and involved themselves actively in the issues and concerns of the day: the needs of the poor; a firm commitment to social justice; the quest for peace; offering welcome and hospitality to the stranger, the newcomer, the immigrant, the homeless. Thousands of children have been baptized, attended Sunday School, and been confirmed. Countless worship services and weddings and funerals have drawn parish members and visitors to the church.
The first church building, erected before the American Revolution, was located at the corner of Market and Church Streets. A second edifice, at the same site, was built in 1834. The third, still in use to this day, was erected in 1888-1889 on the plot of land that had earlier served as the English Burying Ground, the grave sites having been relocated to the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery. The third church, designed by the architect William Appleton Potter, is built of red sandstone, dominated by a soaring tower. The steeply-pitched roof is slate. The stained glass windows, made by the famous English firm of Clayton and Bell, add a rich visual element to the building’s interior.
At the time it was established, the members of Christ Church were primarily English-speaking residents of Poughkeepsie and the surrounding region who traced their heritage to the British Isles. Even at the first baptismal ceremony in 1766, those welcomed into the parish family included children of African descent. Through the generations, the Christ Church community has broadened to include members from virtually every part of the world, immigrants themselves or descendants of immigrants from Scandinavia and Mexico, Germany and Korea, Armenia and Uganda, and many other lands.
In the last two decades, Christ Church has also provided a home for the congregation of Iglesia Episcopal Virgen de Guadalupe, whose members are primarily Mexican immigrants recently arrived in the Hudson Valley.
— Information provided by Mary Flad, a long-time member of the church and author of the book “A Church in the City”, covering the history of Christ Episcopal from 1900 to the present. The book is available for sale at the church and online.