We are a young church in many ways - a congregation of growing families, with a busy Sunday children's chapel and classes and an active youth program. Our roots go back to the 1930s, when much of East Memphis was still farmland.
The First Church
In 1938, $10,000 went a long way. That's how much Mrs. Emma Voorhies gave Dr. Charles F. Blaisdell, rector of Calvary Church, and with it he purchased four acres at the corner of Poplar and Perkins and started the construction of a chapel building. The first service there was held Sunday, January 1, 1939. In the years following, the superintendent of the Sunday School held Morning Prayer, and with classes for children of Calvary members and others living in the vicinity. The church's first Sunday School teachers were Christine W. Rodgers and Elizabeth Wilson. Charles M. Crump, the first superintendent, was succeeded in 1943 by Guernsey D. Livaudais who served until the late 1950s. Dr. Blaisdell retired in 1939 and Dr. Theodore N. Barth became Rector of Calvary in the spring of 1940. By 1947 attendance at the Chapel Sunday School had grown to the extent that Dr. Barth conceived the idea of building a church and parish house.
The vestry of Calvary approved Dr. Barth's plan of purchasing 20 acres at the southwest corner of Walnut Grove and Perkins Roads for $25,000 and conducting a campaign to finance the construction of a church building, chaired by Edmund Orgill. The office of Walk C. Jones was selected as the architect and the construction contract was awarded to Building Construction, Inc., James T. Canfield, president. Charles M. Crump chaired the building committee.
In the spring of 1948, the Rev. Eric S. Greenwood was called by Dr. Barth to be the Vicar of the Chapel of the Holy Communion. When Dr. Barth was consecrated as bishop coadjutor of Tennessee in September 1948, the Rev. Mr. Greenwood became also the priest-in-charge of Calvary. He continued with the dual responsibility until the Rev. Donald Henning was called as rector of Calvary in 1949.
On Sunday morning, January 1, 1950, the last service was held in the little chapel building at Poplar and Perkins. After the service, the folding chairs were loaded into station wagons and transported to the new church building. In spite of rain most of the day the Church was filled at 4:00 in the afternoon for a glorious evening prayer service led by the Rev. Dr. Henning. During the service it was recalled that at a dedicatory service of the little chapel in the spring of 1939 it had poured rain. Dr. Blaisdell had stated that rain makes things grow, and possibly the chapel would grow as a result. His words were prophetic, because the little chapel grew, and after, the permanent chapel and its congregation grew.
Today, 79 years later and 67 years after the opening service in the new building, the Church of the Holy Communion is a large, strong and vibrant church in the center of Memphis.