Before the American Revolution, the Church of England was the established church of Virginia and part of the colonial government. For administrative purposes, the colony was divided into "parishes" and all residents paid taxes to maintain church activities.
Although Virginia was colonized in 1607, settlement northward moved slowly and Alexandria was not established until 1749. By 1753, Alexandria had a "chapel of ease" to provide a place of worship for residents closer than the main Anglican church seven miles west. In 1765, a new parish in northern Virginia was created, and the inadequate buildings at Falls Church and Alexandria were replaced. Two new churches, designed by James Wren, were built in each town from one set of plans, and completed just before the Revolutionary War. After the war, government support of religious institutions ended but Alexandria's Christ Church, located one block north, prospered with the support of area residents like George Washington and the clerical leadership of David Griffith, Bryan Fairfax, and William Meade. On April 21, 1861, after resigning his commission in the United States Army, Robert E. Lee attended Sunday morning services at the church.
During the Civil War, when the Union Army occupied Alexandria, it seized many churches for use as hospitals or stables. Fortunately, as George Washington's place of worship, Christ Church was largely preserved with its interior intact. After the war ended, in 1869, a Mother's Mission to assist poor women in the area was established, and three years later, parishioner Sallie Stuart led efforts to create missions of the newly formed National Women's Auxiliary to the Board of Missions throughout Alexandria.
Throughout our nation's history, Christ Church has been visited by many American Presidents and world leaders. On January 1, 1942, just weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill visited the church to commemorate the World Day of Prayer for Peace. The church is open for worship and public tours.
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