One of the most popular tourist attractions on St. Simons Island is Christ Church Frederica. More people visit Christ Church than visit Fort Frederica National Monument. The tour buses stop at Christ Church and let people disembark. They just drive through the parking lot at Fort Frederica. Tom and I finally visited Christ Church with my mom and dad on one of their last days on the island.
Christ Church is famous because of Eugenia Price’s book “Beloved Invader.” Many people are drawn in by the romantic true story of the rich young Anson Dodge, whose first wife dies on their honeymoon in India. Anson returns to St. Simons Island and rebuilds the church, becoming its pastor. Christ Church also claims that it was started by John and Charles Wesley in 1736. While John and Charles Wesley both preached on St. Simons Island, the early colonists did not start or build a church.
Christ Church became a chartered congregation in 1808 and built its first building in 1820. This building was destroyed by Union soldiers during the Civil War and rebuilt by Anson Dodge in 1884. You can read more of its history here. The current church building dates from 1884 although it has been expanded.
The gothic-style church building has a narrow chancel and seems very small for its 1,000 members. The congregation worships 600 during the week in six services. This is the problem with such a historic and revered building: it lasts beyond its usefulness. The stained glass windows are a prominent feature in the small church, telling the history of the church and the island as well as events in Christian history.
Christ Church does an excellent job of accommodating the thousands of tourists every year. The sanctuary is open every day except Sundays and Mondays from 2 until 5. Volunteer docents welcome visitors, point out features, and answer questions. People are welcome to walk around the cemetery which surrounds the church during daylight hours.