Christ Church: Episcopal History near Brunswick, Georgia

DarrylBrooks

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There are many beautiful places to visit and photograph near Brunswick, Georgia, but my favorite has to be the old Christ Church, on Saint Simons Island. This active Episcopal parish has been offering worship services since 1736 and is one of Georgia's oldest churches. Most tourists and even many natives of the island aren't even aware of its existence. I was on my way to Fort Frederica one day many years ago when I stumbled across it.

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James Oglethorpe and the first English settlers got to Brunswick, Georgia, in February of 1736. Just a few weeks later, the Reverend Charles Wesley began his ministry and offered the first religious services on the island. But it wasn't until after the Revolutionary War, in 1808, that the church itself was founded. It is now the second oldest Episcopal Church in Georgia. Until the chapel was completed in 1820, the parish met in people's homes.

The original chapel was destroyed in the Civil War, and the present building was constructed in 1885 on the same site by shipbuilders. Many parts of the new church were built from what could be salvaged of the original chapel. At least one of the stained glass windows is an unsigned Tiffany. The largest window was created in Germany and shipped to its new home on Saint Simons Island, Georgia. Today, the church boasts 1,000 members, and the building is open 364 days a year. During Covid, a tent was erected on the lawn, and temporary outdoor services were held.

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It is always a spiritual experience when I park in the small lot across the street and approach the old stone wall surrounding the church grounds. The view down the path leading to the church under the canopy of ancient live oak trees draped with Spanish moss will take your breath away. Apparently, I am not alone as more than 20,000 visitors a year come to Saint Simons Island, to visit Christ Church. I recall one time when I had to hurry across the street to get my shots before three busloads of people disembarked.

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But it's not just the church itself that is amazing. In the back and along the side of the chapel is an active cemetery with graves going back to 1796. The oldest marked grave is dated 1803. It is amazing to walk among the tombstones and spot Civil War veterans buried alongside their modern counterparts. Although most gravestones are simple ones, there are some very ornate crosses and statuary among the graves. And, of course, all are covered by the canopy of Spanish Moss.

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This part of Saint Simons Island, Georgia, is considered the mid-point between the commercial south and mostly undeveloped north end of the island. To get there, as you enter the island on Demere Road, you will pass the sister church of Saint Ignatius on the left. Continue to the traffic circle and take the third exit to head up Frederica Road going north.

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Continue north about 4 miles, passing the road to Sea Island on your right, then take another traffic circle west, which is the continuation of Frederica Road. You will pass another historic church, the First African Baptist Church, then come to Christ Church. The church is on the left, but there is a small sandy parking area on the right.

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Once you leave Christ Church, be sure and head to the end of the road to visit the Fort Frederica National Monument. The fort itself is mostly gone, but there are many historical markers and acres of land to wander around. The view of the wetland saltwater marsh alone is worth the visit.

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If you ever find yourself in Brunswick, Georgia, take the time to visit this beautiful church in mid-island over on Saint Simons Island. You won't be disappointed.

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I am a writer with over 16 years of experience and hundreds of articles. I write about photography, productivity, life skills, money management and much more.

Alpharetta, GA
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