The Priest-in-Charge of Christ Episcopal Church, the Rev. Fr. Harris W. Woart, has challenged Episcopalians from Crozierville to return and rebuild the church in the same way the Prophet Nehemiah, in exile following the Babylonian captivity, returned home to rebuild Jerusalem.
Preaching on the occasion of homecoming of Christ Church members yesterday, Fr. Woart told the parishioners that they are to rebuild their church socially, spiritually and physically. “We must rebuild this very edifice we currently occupy by repairing the roof and ceiling and finding locks for the windows and doors.” The church has fallen into serious disrepair over the years with major leaks and a generally crumbling, decaying structure.
On the challenge of rebuilding Christ Church, there is a far bigger challenge. The current edifice will soon be torn down by a new road construction project passing through Crozierville.
Episcopal Bishop Jonathan B.B. Hart, a born member of Christ Church, and other parishioners have identified a 25-acre plot of land immediately behind the current edifice where the new church is to be built. An architect has already been recruited to design the new church, and its members at home and in the Diaspora must now begin raising the funds to build the new edifice before it is demolished by the approaching road construction project through the settlement.
Christ Episcopal Church was first built in 1865 immediately after immigrants from Barbados in the West Indies came and were given a parcel of uninhabited land just next to White Plains in Montserrado County. The first church, named after that which the immigrants attended in Bridgetown, Barbados, before they migrated to Liberia, was spearheaded by John Porte, patriarch of the Porte family and grandfather of Albert Porte, Mrs. Lilian Best, Christian Porte and Mrs. Sarah Stewart. John Porte’s son, the Rev. Conrad C. Porte, father of Albert and his siblings, became rector of Christ Church in the early 1900s and served until his death in January 1926.
But before expounding further on rebuilding Christ Church, Fr. Woart explained the meaning of the Gospel lesson of the day. It was about a Roman officer, a centurion, who had a sick servant and appealed to Jesus to heal him. As Jesus approached the centurion’s home, he sent word to the Master saying, “Don’t bother to come under my roof, for I am not worthy to receive you. Just say the word and my servant will be healed.”
Christ was impressed by the centurion’s faith and the servant was immediately healed.
“There are a few things we must learn from this passage,” said Father Woart. “First, know yourself. The centurion was a soldier who was not perfect. His home might have been the place where many corrupt activities occurred.
Second, admit your wrongs, your weaknesses. The centurion admitted that he was unworthy to receive Jesus into his home.
And third, have faith. The centurion had faith that Jesus had the power to heal the servant and he expressed his faith. Jesus appreciated the man’s faith as well as his humility by saying he was ‘unworthy’ to receive Christ in his home. ‘I have not seen so much faith in Israel,’ the
Master said, as he pronounced the sick servant’s instant healing.”
“Spiritually,” Fr. Woart said in yesterday’s sermon, “we must encourage and make conditions in Christ Church suitable to conduct regular Bible study, prayer meetings and Confirmation classes.”
“Socially,” he continued, “we must build our walls by making ourselves responsible for church work, church activities. We must participate in all church activities and not make flimsy excuses for our absence.”
“We must rebuild according to the standards laid by Albert Porte, Napoleon and Mary Thorpe and others who took the initiative to make positive things happen at Christ Church.”
Taking his text from Nehemiah 2:17, Fr. Woart said Nehemiah called on the children of Israel to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He had a vision that he shared with his kinsmen and with the King of Persia. Nehemiah was a cupbearer in the king’s palace, therefore had enough food to eat and wine to drink, but he was unhappy because he heard that the walls of Jerusalem, the land of his ancestors, and its gates had been destroyed.
Fr. Woart urged members of Christ Church wherever they are to inquire, as did Nehemiah of Jerusalem, about what is happening to Christ Church, to commit themselves to rebuild it and restore its pristine glory. In the distant past, the preacher recalled Christ Church, though small and part of a tiny settlement, was a respected parish that Episcopalians and many others talked about all over the country.
“Come let us rebuild Christ Church in its totality—physically, spiritually, socially, educationally and agriculturally,” he pleaded, and concluded: “I know that when we come together with one focus, one mindset and one common goal, Christ Church will be rebuilt. We can do it!”