History of Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church and the Diocese of Tennessee have grown in tandem over the last 179 years, but it is only in the last fourteen years that Christ Church took on the role of Cathedral for the diocese.

In June 1829, a congregation in Nashville elected the first Vestry of Christ Church and a little over a year later laid the cornerstone of the first Episcopal church structure in Tennessee. By 1837, Christ Church Parish had grown to 72 members. Despite dissension over the issue of rented pews in 1858 when part of the parish left to form the Church of the Advent, membership continued to grow steadily. Christ Church was fortunate to escape occupation by Federal troops during the Civil War and by 1867 had 145 communicants on its rolls. Construction began in 1889 on the current structure at 9th Ave. and Broadway, a building now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It opened its doors for services in December 1894.

Christ Church has a history characterized by internal stability and a commitment to fostering growth both in the diocese and the national church. Of the nine rectors leading the parish between 1894 and 1940, eight went on to become bishops. By 1960, Christ Church had spawned thirteen mission churches in the diocese, an average of one every decade. Five of those churches are still flourishing. Over the last 100 years, only three organist-choirmasters have served the parish, providing unusual continuity that has fostered a strong musical tradition. In 1969, the parish elected its first woman to the Vestry and in 1985, employed its first female priest as Assistant Rector.

Over the last twenty-five years, Christ Church has almost tripled its rolls. The past ten years alone saw a 25% increase in numbers, with the parish leading the diocese in growth. The parish currently has almost 2200 communicants, representing more than an eighth of the total diocesan membership.

In 1984, the Diocese of Tennessee became more geographically circumscribed when East and West Tennessee became independent dioceses. Long considered the mother church of Tennessee, Christ Church officially became the Cathedral of the Diocese of Tennessee in 1997. Founded in tandem with each other, Christ Church parish had always been a sturdy supporting partner in the diocese, but in the role of Cathedral, it strives to become a model for the diocese in liturgy, music, outreach, education, spirituality and collaboration. In 2007, the Cathedral earned designation as a Cross of Nails center in recognition of leadership in Reconciliation Ministries.

The Diocese of Tennessee is now presided over by our third bishop, the Rt. Rev. John Bauerschmidt. It consists of 50 parishes and missions, both urban and rural, small and large. About 16,000 communicants comprise an ethnically, theologically, and economically diverse body.