This All Saints’ Sunday is a special day of thanksgiving for the generations of faithful Christians who have gathered in community on the corner of Church and St. Emanuel Streets in Mobile, Alabama. The first Protestant church in Mobile to meet outside the grounds of Fort Charlotte was begun in 1822, and the first building was completed, and the congregation organized, welcoming all Protestants, in 1823. Parish records indicate that the parish was officially organized and known as Christ Church in February 1828 and admitted to the Diocese of Alabama at its founding in Mobile in 1830. The cornerstone of the present building was laid in fall 1838 (with the building to be completed in a year) and was consecrated by Bishop Leonidas Polk on the Second Sunday in Lent 1840.
These basic facts, recorded in varying (and sometimes contradictory) detail by historical sources, do not, however, amount to the true history of Christ Church. That story rests with the lives of the saints who worshiped and served here. Some of them were prestigious personages of their time. Some were missionaries and organizers of good works and Sunday School teachers. Some were slaves and free people of color. All of them were children of God, members of the Body of Christ, and ordinary human beings trying to be faithful followers of Jesus.
On this All Saints’ Sunday, we acknowledge that we walk with them, each of us taking up our cross to follow and serve. The closing sentences of the history of Christ Church given at the centennial celebration of the Diocese of Alabama in 1931 capture our calling:
…it can be truthfully said that Christ Church has always had the vision to look beyond its own boundaries and consider the work of the Church as a whole…and not merely its own parochial welfare. It has passed through ups and downs, as any downtown parish will in the course of years; it has lived more than a hundred years because it has lived usefully; and it will continue to live as long as it continues to serve.
Now Christ Church has lived more than two hundred years, and our continued living continues to depend on how well we serve.
On this festive Bicentennial Celebration Day, we welcome friends of all faiths and those who are dear within our extended Cathedral Family. As we sing and pray and break bread together, we dedicate ourselves to continuing to seek and serve Christ in all persons, to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being.
With God’s help, those saints who follow us will celebrate this day in this place in another two hundred years.