The very existence of Christ Church and the elegant majesty of this building is a testament to the success of William Penn's "Holy Experiment." His Charter of Privileges allowed all denominations freedom of worship, even the Church of England from which Quakers had dissented on their native soil.
Today, Christ Church is often called "The Nation's Church," and its history is closely tied to that of colonial Philadelphia and the birth of America. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross all worshipped here, along with 15 signers of the Declaration of Independence and other patriots, though many Loyalists were counted among its members as well.
Founded on this site in 1695, Christ Church quickly grew into one of the largest congregations in Philadelphia. By 1726, the 800 parishioners needed a larger house of worship. Construction on the present building began in 1727, to plans drawn by Dr. John Kearsley, who also helped design the State House (Independence Hall). When it was completed in 1744, this magnificent Georgian structure stood as one of the largest buildings in north America. The steeple and bells were added in 1754, financed, in part, by lotteries organized by Benjamin Franklin.
Christ Church plays an important role in the religious history of America. It was here, in 1789, that the American Episcopal Church was created, still tied to, but independent from the mother Church of England. The Protestant episcopal Church in the United States chose as its second bishop the reverend William White, who had been Christ Church rector since 1779 and had served as a chaplain to the Continental Congress in Yorktown.
In 1804, Christ Church was also the site of the ordination of Absalom Jones, the Episcopal Church's first African-American priest.
Today, Christ Church remains active in the life of the city and the nation, not only as a well loved landmark and historic site, but as a leader in reaching out to the poor and addressing contemporary problems ranging from housing to violence. The congregation of Christ Church continues a 300-year-old tradition of celebrating the Creator who has endowed us with those inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.