In November 1900, a small group from St. Paul’s led by Prof. John Roy Baylor, founder of the Baylor School, received permission to establish a new parish on the east side of town. The first rector, Fr. William C. Robertson of Nashville, held his first service in March 1901 in Masonic Hall at 8th and Cherry Streets.
The current church is a neo-Gothic structure remodeled by the Boston firm of Ralph Adams Cram.
During its early years, Fr. Robertson formed the Christ Church Service League, which included virtually the entire congregation, and led it into ground-breaking social service activities. Projects included working with inmates at the County Jail and residents of the County Poor House, Pine Breeze, and Erlanger. They were aided by the Sisters of the Tabernacle, whose nuns had a convent across McCallie Avenue from Christ Church.
About 1916, Fr. Robertson’s response to a request for help from a black hospital patient led to the organization of St. Mary the Virgin, located on the corner of 8th and Douglas Streets. Fr. Robertson also served as St. Mary’s missioner, and the two congregations would worship together at Christmas and other times. Before the establishment of the present Greek Orthodox Church, worshippers in that tradition were members of Christ Church parish.
As Christ Church grew, a new parish house, Fox Hall, was added in 1957. A self-supporting Canterbury Club was started for college students and staff. In 1982, the Community Kitchen opened in Fox Hall. Teams of volunteers from seven downtown churches took turns preparing and serving food. This arrangement continued until 1986, when a larger building was needed, and the kitchen moved to its present location on 11th Street.
The adjacent Canterbury House, which had housed university students for many years, was remodeled in the 1990s as apartments for HIV patients, and the Metropolitan Ministry moved from its city office to share the same building. A memorial garden, initiated by an anonymous donor, was consecrated in the churchyard in 1999. In the late 1990s, a fine new tracker organ was installed by the firm of Richards and Fowkes. Christ Church’s musical ministry continues with concerts and evensong, as well as the enhancement of regular solemn high masses.