Christ Episcopal Church is housed in the oldest church building in the town of Smithfield. The property at the top of Wharf Hill originally belonged to Mallory Todd, founder of the first Smithfield ham curing and packing business. He erected a rectangular building prior to 1832 and gave the property to the congregation of Christ Church. It was not the first church in Newport Parish, for Saint Luke's Shrine, the historic 1632 church, is in Newport Parish. The first records, dated April 18,1836, were concerned with organization, and later showed that the Ladies Sewing Society aided in providing money for painting the interior and in 1841 gave money to stucco the brick exterior walls. At this time, a building on
Main Street
, which now houses the Smithfield Inn, was purchased and used as a rectory for a number of years. In 1858, a 12-foot addition was made to the east end of the church.

Civil War (1860 - 1865)
The Civil War brought about the resignation of the Rev. Edmund Taylor Perkins, who left to serve as a Chaplain in the Confederate Army. The church bell was given to Confederate authorities for the use of the ordinance department. Though there was no rector, services were held. At the end of the war, the Rev. Mr. Perkins returned and on September 18, 1865, the first Vestry Meeting was held. The account of the meeting reflected the desolation and despair felt by many citizens of the town and the entire South.

Post Civil War Years
Postwar years were lean; by midsummer 1870 spirits were lifting. The congregation earned money by chartering a steamer for an excursion to the Virginia Capes and Fort Monroe so that they might add a second floor to the rectory and make much needed improvements and repairs to the church itself. A furnace was installed, the ceiling was plastered, paint and paper were used to beautify, pews were varnished, carpets were installed, the exterior was painted, and the belfry repaired. In 1881 there were 48 communicants.

The appearance of the building changed dramatically in 1892 when the two entrance vestibule towers were added and the old glass and shuttered windows were replaced with Tiffany style stained glass. The rectory on

Main Street
was sold and land purchased at Grace and
Mason Street
for the construction of a new rectory.

1900 - 1950
The church grew slowly through the turn of the century years, and the two world wars.

1950 – 2000
In 1959, the Moody family left their house, its furnishings, and a goodly sum of money to Christ Church to be used as a parish house. Most of the church’s activities were centered there, i.e., Sunday school, church gatherings, and meetings. Sunday morning breakfast added a social air as well as a family feeling. The Rector’s office was also located in the house.

A few years later the property next to the church was purchased, followed by the purchase of other properties. The corner lot was graded and planted as a park-like open area. The two properties across

Church Street
were converted to an open green area and a parking lot.

In the early 1970’s there was much discussion, heated at times, concerning the advisability of moving the church to a location across Cypress Creek, where there would be space for a larger building to accommodate a growing congregation. Many, however, were opposed to leaving the historic building with its 140 years heritage. Eventually, the decision was made to remain in the present building and to build a parish hall onto the existing structure. This was made possible by the sale of the Moody property in 1976. These funds and a bank loan resulted in the present parish hall, which was dedicated on
January 29, 1978. Owen Smith, former church historian, stated, "It has been said by someone much wiser than I that adversity and sacrifice builds character and togetherness. If such is the case, the people of Christ Church must be the closest community to be found anywhere. It took great sacrifice, much patience, understanding and skillful management to complete the project, and everyone who had any part in the undertaking deserves the thanks of us all."

The church women organized the Pennywise Thrift Shop, first located on the second floor of the parish hall and later moved to the undercroft. Its original purpose was two-fold; to assist the Church financially and to provide a service to the community. It was the first outreach effort made by the church. Some years later the Outreach Committee sponsored the Souper Saturday program. Parishioners contributed and sold soup, which produced funds given to Social Services to assist local families with heating bills during the winter.

Other beneficial programs have resulted from the energetic work of committees formed during the 1980’s and 1990’s, the latest being the renovation of the Sanctuary, completed and dedicated on
October 31,1999. Under consideration are changes in the parish hall to make it more compatible with present and future needs in our spiritual and social life as a church family.

2000 Present

The Church has continued to grow. As the City of Smithfield and Isle of Wight county expand, the Church is expanding to fit the new needs.