Christ Church, the oldest continuously operating Episcopal Church on the Cumberland Plateau, was the first church in Tracy City, a frontier town fueled by coal and timber. The first service was held on Aug. 30, 1868, in a sawmill shed near the railroad depot. The pulpit and altar were makeshift. The congregation sat on logs or stood.
The Rt. Rev. Charles Todd Quintard, bishop of the Diocese of Tennessee, conducted the service. A dear friend, The Rt. Rev. Alexander Gregg, bishop of Texas, assisted him, along with other clergy from the new seminary at the University of the South at Sewanee. Bishop Quintard also served as vice chancellor of the university. Thus began a long and enduring relationship between Christ Church and the seminary at Sewanee.
“The appointments and surroundings were not all that could be desired,” Bishop Quintard reported later to the Diocese, “but the people gladly heard the word preached.”
Worship services continued at the sawmill until a community structure, Temperance Hall, was built for people of all faiths. In 1873, local Episcopalians erected their own church—the town’s first—under the leadership of Milnor Jones, a theology student at Sewanee. He had the financial backing of three widowed sisters. Jones was among countless Sewanee seminarians who trekked to Tracy City by train, on horseback and foot to conduct services at the mountain mission. In gratitude, church members often fed and lodged them.
More stability ensued when The Rev. Henry Easter arrived in 1891. A master carver, he served as a devoted priest at Christ Church until 1896. During his tenure, he carved an altar, bishop’s chair and desk, lectern and communion rail. He not only created the pieces but assembled and installed them. The altar was a memorial to his mother.
In 1928, a new church was built by skilled craftsmen, including church members, to replace the original one damaged severely by an earlier storm. Miraculously, Father Easter’s hand-carved works survived. They were installed in the new church where they remain. Also added were three inspirational stained glass windows above the altar. St. Margaret’s Altar Guild raised the money to purchase the windows, while others, including one by Tiffany, were gifts of several prominent church families.
Christ Church marked another milestone on Oct. 5, 1952, when The Rt. Rev. Theodore N. Barth, bishop of the Diocese of Tennessee, dedicated the Father Adamz Memorial Parish House. Built with donations from the church and community, the parish house honors the late Rev. Alphonso Constantine Adamz, who served Christ Church from 1927 to 1941. He ministered to people of all faiths on the mountain and beyond, building a congregation unequaled since. Through scouting, he inspired many local young men. Father Adamz, who attended the dedication, died on Dec. 18, 1952.
Besides its unique church functions, the parish house serves as a community center, hosting AA meetings, wedding receptions, family reunions, birthdays, baby showers and luncheons. In 2008, bathroom renovations were funded by the Dandridge Trust Foundation of the Diocese of Tennessee. Since then, kitchen renovations have been completed.
Christ Church celebrated its first confirmations in more than a decade on June 22, 2008. The Rt. Rev. John C. Bauerschmidt, bishop of the Diocese of Tennessee, officiated and about 100 worshippers attended. The occasion, on a bright Sunday morning, was much more than a church service. It symbolized the congregation’s enduring faith in God and love for the mountain community it serves.
Christ Church is a member of the Southeast Tennessee Episcopal Ministries.