Christ Church was started in 1931 to be a mission to the growing suburb of Whitefish Bay, WI. The small scale and make-do atmosphere of the first church on the south side of Beaumont was fondly remembered by early members. The first rector, Fr. Day, set a tone of devotion which endured, while welcoming people of various church backgrounds.

Although getting a loan for a new church was difficult in Depression times, the parish went ahead with the first phase of its present building in 1941. Fr. Day’s knowledge of Gothic architecture and stained glass made its imprint on the structure.

Building continued in several stages into the postwar period and Fr. Bolle’s time. The parish grew to its greatest numbers to date during the baby boom. This was still a young congregation, with many people being transferred in and out by their companies. At first the main service, with the choir, was at ll o’clock and was often Morning Prayer, which was more like what many people had grown up with. But over time the Family Eucharist at 9 o’clock began to attract more people. At one point there were two consecutive Sunday schools to teach all the children.

Women were very active in a number of guilds, which did many jobs around the church, held social events, and raised money. But theirs was a separate sphere; they did not serve on vestries or in other official positions. They were expected to wear hats or head coverings when entering the church.

The parish reached out by helping to found St. Martin’s, Brown Deer, and St. Simon’s, Port Washington. It reached out further to work with Paul Rusch in Japan, where a small church was named after Christ Church. Later, Fr. Bolle went to Jamaica as a missionary.

Parish numbers were fewer after the baby boom. New liturgies were developed and old ways changed. Women’s guilds declined, but girls served as acolytes, and women began to serve on vestries and as wardens. When Fr. Richard George was rector, an assistant was Fr. Ed Leidel, who had grown up in the parish and was later Bishop of Eastern Michigan. He has returned to our congregation in retirement, while serving as interim Bishop of Eau Claire. Sue Clark served many years directing the Sunday school before becoming a deacon and, finally, the first woman ordained priest in the Milwaukee diocese. Christ Church accepted all the changes of the period fairly calmly.

An unusual part of Christ Church since the 1970’s has been the summer Garden Service, held outside every week in good weather. While Christ Church has always been known for its good traditional music, summer has allowed for some freer expression outside.

During the 1980’s, the Rev. Robert Evans kept the congregation lively, with ongoing changes such as moving the altar forward and new Prayer Books. We had parish camping weekends and musical events and shows. The Rev. Douglas Tompkins, in the 1990’s, brought more efficient office computer skills to the parish. He helped us obtain and pay for a much-needed new organ.

After the departure of Fr. Tompkins Christ Church had its lowest point to date in a three-year interim between rectors. With the choice of the Rev. Lee Downs in 2002, we began the process of rebuilding. When he decided to retire in 2009, the Rev. Seth Dietrich was in place as assistant. Since Fr. Seth had only been ordained in 2008, he spent another two years as priest-in-charge, and in 2011was enthusiastically welcomed as rector.

With a new young rector, new families continue to arrive. Lay leadership has always been strong at Christ Church, and members have been active in positions of authority throughout the diocese in organizations such as Neighborhood House and Our Next Generation. Young people and adult mentors travel to service projects in Appalachia each summer, continuing the parish spirit of outreach. Christ Church is in good hands to continue as a strong parish in the years to come.

Martha Prince
Updated, September 2011