ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Christ Church was recognized in November by the Landmark Society of Western New York with a 2022 Merit Award for its significant infrastructure and cosmetic changes. This historic Episcopalian church says it was the only house of worship to receive this recognition this year.

For Christ Church, its now art matches its architecture. The church, is perhaps best known in the Greater Rochester Area as a former venue of the Rochester International Jazz Festival. But despite the new music that graces its halls, it has history:

It’s over 160 years old, and is even on the National Register of Historic Places. And, like any old building, it does occasionally need tender love and care. Five-year parishioner and European Art expert Nancy Norwood, recalls how the church knew it was time for some needed repairs.

First, she says, a wall caved on Lawn Street. That needed to be propped up. Then, leaking windows. But the final straw to start work happened three years ago.

“A large chunk of plaster fell from the ceiling, and fortunately it did not hit anyone, and if it had, it would have been a disaster,” Norwood said.

“It was a miracle it didn’t hit anyone,” said Reverend Ruth Ferguson. She has been with the church for over a decade. She also says that she kept part of the fallen plaster in a glass jar to use in sermons.

Soon after the fallen piece descended, Christ Church launched a capital campaign. They raised around $800,000, with a contribution rate fo 90% from their parishioners. Further bolstered by more grants, they were able to fix the walls, windows, the hearing loop, and more infrastructure.

But that’s all behind the scenes.

“So what you do see are the stenciling and decoration,” Norwood said. She adds that this kind of stenciling they added was common in Neo-Gothic churches when they were first built in England in the mid-1700s.

Most of the work was done during the COVID lockdowns. Their designer did most of the design work remotely, working through photos and digital renderings. They were able to work during the lockdowns, as they were designated as essential workers.

“The (parishioners) left, and the sanctuary looked one way, and they came back, and it was this new beautiful place,” Rev. Ferguson said.

And also as Rochesterians know, in this beautiful space, beautiful music is performed. Contemplative music through a partnership with Eastman School of Music. Compline candlelight services October through April — austere and quiet meditative services — and “Tuesday Pipes” afternoon concerts, a perfect length for lunch break serenity.

The church is also well-known for their two organs, the Craighead-Saunders organ, and the Hook and Hastings Organ.

“The church exists to give itself away,” Rev. Ferguson said. “Our mission is just taking care of the building… It should be a place of beauty, and that’s what people are responding to

“If we’re in a beautiful space, it opens something up inside of us,” she said.