The Church of the Redeemer is the spiritual home of an Episcopal congregation that cherishes diversity, embraces the stranger, reaches out and reaches in—not only feeding the hungry and helping the less fortunate, but also nourishing one another with the warm friendship and fellowship that supports spiritual growth.
In 2003, Redeemer celebrated its first 100 years, but its roots go back to September 1900, when Mrs. Charles P. Smith began a Sunday school for her three children at her home on Wightman Street. Within a few months, she had invited the neighborhood children to join and had hosted the first formal church services. By 1903, with the encouragement of the diocese, this nucleus of enthusiastic families had organized a parish, set up a building fund, and erected a temporary chapel.
Within a decade the young congregation had organized its church schools, choir, altar guild, and outreach activities, secured its present site on Forbes Avenue and constructed a church. By the time Redeemer celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary, an additional lot had been purchased on Darlington Road, a parish house had been constructed, and plans had been finalized to enlarge the church. The expansion was completed by 1938, and in 1939, the resplendent stained-glass windows were begun. Designed and constructed by Howard Gilmann Wilbert, artist and scholar, they were completed in 1962.
In the meantime, in response to an appeal by Bishop Austin Pardue in the early 1950s, The Church of the Redeemer made space in its parish house for a small school that would soon become St. Edmund’s Academy. By 1955, St. Edmund’s had moved into a new facility next door, but through the years that followed, a close and cordial relationship remained, and the school continues to hold weekly chapel services and other events at Redeemer.
Throughout its history, the church has been blessed with strong rectors who have left their distinctive imprints on its ministry and on the lives of its parishioners: The Reverends John Wightman, Robert Nelson Meade, Hugh Clark, Stephen McWhorter, William Coates, Roger Ferlo, and Cynthia Bronson Sweigert. During Cynthia’s tenure, the congregation launched a capital campaign in 1999 to upgrade and maximize the use of existing facilities. The infrastructure was strengthened; access was improved; five new classrooms were created in the church undercroft; and an aging gymnasium was converted into a modern, multi-purpose space. Since 2012, Redeemer has been under the energetic leadership of interim rector Diane Shepard, and is currently engaged in the exciting process of seeking a new permanent rector.
During its over 100 years of evolution, The Church of the Redeemer has retained a remarkable flexibility and adaptability to change, but its basic tenets have remained constant—ongoing commitments to liturgy and music, Christian education, and a strong and energetic outreach effort. With these shared values, the parish looks forward to its next century with quiet confidence, buoyant expectancy, and a joyful spirit.