Our History

Christ Church symbolizes a continuing Episcopal presence in downtown Dayton since 1830. In 1833, our first building was on South Jefferson Street. In 1871, a new church building was constructed on First Street. Today, Christ Church remains on First Street and is the spiritual home to over 250 members.

The history of Christ Church is one that truly lives out the Baptismal Covenant…Striving for justice and peace, respecting the dignity of every human being, seeking and serving Christ in all persons, and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

In the Beginning

Christ Church symbolizes a continuing Episcopal presence in downtown Dayton since 1830. Bishop Philander Chase invited the Reverend Ethan Allen to Ohio to Our History | Christ Episcopal Church Dayton Ohioparticipate in some missionary efforts.  In October of 1830, Allen arrived in Dayton and began conducting services in the local courthouse.  On May 28, 1831, 103 people signed the Articles of Association. In 1833, the Church was holding services in its own building on South Jefferson Street and by 1871, a new church building was constructed on First Street.

In 1913, downtown Dayton experienced the Great Flood, where much of Dayton was under water. 

The church building had four feet of water on the first level.  In 1966, a revitalizing renovation was carried out, and the basement under the building was created.

Our building today is a special place for all of us. The uniqueness of Christ Church is particularly represented in the Great Window which was dedicated on November 1, 1982, our Sesquicentennial. It reflects the life and hope of the parish community.

Christ Church was the first Episcopal Church in Dayton and was the “mother” church to five other Episcopal churches in the area. Christ Church first founded St. Andrew’s in 1889 on Salem Avenue. In 1896, St. Margaret’s on Free Pike was established. St. Paul’s in Oakwood came about in 1929, and St. Mark’s on Woodman Drive was established in 1938. From there, St. Paul’s helped establish St. George’s in Centerville in 1954, and St. Mark’s helped to create St. Christopher’s in Fairborn in 1958.

“…Our parish church has lived much of her life in the ragged edge of uncertainty and challenge. Her proud steeple has witnessed chaos and change, pain and well-being. She has had the privilege of serving as sanctuary to all people as the hurricanes swirled around. Truly, she has been in the eye of the storm. She has been a place of rest and refreshment, a place of broken dreams and new hopes, a place for all God’s children to gather and be healed. By word and sacraments, by listening and proclaiming, she witnesses for Christ in the heart of the city.” -The Rev. Gordon S. Price, ‘The Eye of the Storm’, The Great Lady of First Street (1981)

A Missionary Congregation

Christ Episcopal Church has been a missionary congregation from the start. In the early years of the church, it served as a “mother” church, helping to plant and establish 5 other Dayton-area parishes. Between 1981 and 2006, Christ Church was responsible for planting four Anglican church in Kenya and Nigeria, Africa.

During WWII, women of the church met once a week to make surgical bandages and sew garments. They hosted The Soldiers Club in the parish house where social activities and dances were held for soldiers. In the early 1960’s, the church began a first of its kind counseling program, where Christ Church priests held regular office hours to counsel individuals from local agencies and courts. The church members and vestry sparked the idea of a downtown home for the aging, which led to the establishment of Canterbury Court, an affordable senior living community now operated by Episcopal Retirement Services.

The church has always had a heart for the care of children. Over the years, Christ Church not only sponsored and leased their building to small area schools, but began one of their own, even sending kids to summer camp who had never left the city. To this day, the church ensures that any child or family who wishes to experience Procter Summer Camp is able to do so. The parish has sponsored scholarships and construction of a school for children in Sierra Leone, began a foundation to sponsor orphans in Kenya and provide AIDS education. Additional mission work has benefitted children in Appalachian Ohio, New Orleans, Nashville, and Sablino, Russia.

Always looking for new ways to serve the Dayton community, Christ Episcopal Church has sponsored projects like the Suicide Prevention Center, the Dayton Downtown Sitter Service (which provided three hours of free babysitting each Wednesday to any mother in the community), therapy sessions in the Parish Hall, Dayton Urban Summer Program, The Other Place (a day shelter in the church basement, which later became its own non-profit), Kairos Prison Ministry and Habitat for Humanity.

Local mission work has focused on the following areas: Homelessness and Housing, Hunger, Education, Prison/Jail Ministry, Rehabilitation, Unemployment, Justice Ministry, and Refugee Assistance.

International mission work has included: the Community of the Cross of Nails, CROP, Sierra Leone (SACSL), Russia (MVERN), Kenya, Church Planting, Bible Distribution in China, Christian Books Project, Clergy Education, the Heifer Program, and Refugee Assistance programs.

A Church of Many Firsts

The church had several “firsts” in the Diocese of Southern Ohio. For example, Josephine Crowl was the first woman vestry person, and Kyle McGee was the first Black priest in a white congregation from 1967-1969. Doris Mote, parish assistant at Christ church, became the first woman priest in the Diocese from 1975-1979. Ted Bingham was the first Ombudsman in the City of Dayton, and Bonnie McCaulley was the second Ombudsman in the city, as well as the first female Ombudsman here.

In 1963, the church began its Deaf Ministries. After being summoned to Miami Valley hospital to minister to a woman who was deaf, Rev. Gordon Price felt moved to do more to support the deaf in the Dayton community. Christ church then made a list of the deaf community in Dayton and invited all the deaf, regardless of Church affiliation or lack of it, to its Sunday services where they provided an interpreter. Christ Church continues their Deaf Ministries to this day.

In 2015, the Christ Church became the first congregation in the world to support the UN Global Compact: A call to align strategies and operations with universal principles on human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption.

The Alley Door & The Jazz Lab

The Alley Door, a coffee house for college-age youth, opened in the basement of Christ Church in the spring of 1966 under the supervision of Chaplain Richard Leidberg of Wright State University and the Reverend Kyle McGee of Christ Church. It was a place for readings, drama, art, discussions, dialogue. It provided young people an opportunity to air their views and voice their hopes without adult censorship. It operated for two years, becoming a weekend coffee house that attracted hundreds of college students, teeny-boppers, part-time hippies, motorcycle hoods and police in civilian clothes. Eventually the Alley Door became a place of tension between two rival motorcycle gangs. By April, 1969, the Vestry voted to close the Alley Door. “We are not turning out backs on the problems of young people,” Price said, “but we do need to find a better approach. The Alley Door has become unmanageable.”

The Jazz Lab was started on Sunday nights in the Alley Door coffee house. Black musicians needed a downtown forum to show their talents. Jazz enthusiasts came from the Miami Valley to share fellowship with blacks and whites and appreciate good music. The Jazz Lab appearances led to bookings for black musicians in clubs and hotels. With the closing of the Alley Door, the Jazz Lab found other quarters in West Dayton.