By Molly Weeks Crumbley
“During our anniversary celebration, it is natural to look back on the years of our history. We have inherited a remarkable legacy,” shares the Rev. Christopher M. Garcia, rector of Christ Church.
Known as Calvert’s first church, Christ Church was founded in Port Republic in 1672 and is about to celebrate a milestone anniversary: 350 continuous years of worship in Calvert County.
“The men, women, and children who have gone before us have worshiped, served, taught, learned, shared, laughed, and cried through good years and lean years, floods and droughts, crop changes, pestilence and pandemics, war and peace,” said Garcia. “Loved ones are buried in our church yard. The common thread through it all has been gathering together every Sunday, to worship God, as Jesus makes himself known in word and sacrament, bread and wine, body and blood, and then fed and strengthened for service, going out to serve others in Jesus’s name.”
Even during the challenges brought upon the world during the pandemic, Christ Church parishioners continued to pull together as a community. When it was clear that the coronavirus would make gathering indoors for worship inadvisable, the church pivoted and found new ways to stay connected. A “drive-in church” was established on the jousting tournament field, featuring a sound system that could transmit the liturgy over car radios. Garcia says his flock made a point of reaching out to one another, keeping in touch through phone, emails, texts, social media, and Zoom. In fact, says Garcia, “Parishioners so enjoyed outdoor worship that we continued to meet outdoors from time to time until November 2021 and occasionally since then.” Most services have since reverted to indoor, but one service is still broadcast on Zoom each Sunday for those unable to attend.
As a sense of normalcy returns to the church, parishioners have a celebration to look forward to Saturday, June 4. “Our Anniversary Festival offers something for everyone,” says Garcia, “and lots of the activities have been designed with children in mind.” In addition to an ever-popular ring jousting exhibition, attendees will be able to tour the church grounds, attend worship service, play outdoor games, learn to dance the traditional Virginia Reel, compete in a cornhole tournament, listen to local music, enjoy kid-friendly comedy and magic, and purchase food and crafts from an array of vendors.
One particular highlight will be the History Alive! portrayal of famous Marylander Mistress Margaret Brent. Brent was a 17th century colonist from St. Mary’s County; the first woman in America to own land, the first female lawyer, and a suffragist who was the first on record to demand the right to vote. Award-winning Smithsonian scholar Mary Ann Jung will portray Brent.
Guests can hear even more of Maryland’s history on a tour of the cemetery, which will feature first-person interpretations by the church’s youth group who will represent some of the people buried in the historic churchyard.
“Although we treasure our history, the ongoing mission of church is more important: Christ Church exists to worship God and share the Good News of Jesus Christ with Calvert County. That is as important and timely today as it was in 1672,” says Garcia.
The 350th Anniversary Festival is free and open to the public on June 4 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. A schedule of events and map of the venue are available at christchurchcalvert.org.