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Church of the Good Shepherd (Raleigh, North Carolina)

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Church of the Good Shepherd (Raleigh, North Carolina)[edit]

Church of the Good Shepherd
Church-of-the-Good-Shepherd Raleigh-400x296
35°46′49″N 78°38′29″W / 35.78028°N 78.64139°W / 35.78028; -78.64139Coordinates: 35°46′49″N 78°38′29″W / 35.78028°N 78.64139°W / 35.78028; -78.64139
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Location121 Hillsborough St,

Raleigh, North Carolina

United States of America
StatusActive Parish
Architectural typeGothic Revival
DioceseEpiscopal Diocese of North Carolina
RectorImogen Rhodenhiser

The Church of the Good Shepherd is a historic Episcopal church in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. The parish branched off of Christ Episcopal Church in 1874, making it the second oldest Episcopal church in Raleigh. It is part of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina and served as the Pro-cathedral Church of the Diocese in 1894.

The original building was completed in 1875 and served the parish until a larger stone building was proven necessary. The cornerstone of the current building was laid in 1899, and the first service in the new space was held on Easter Day of 1914.



All Saint's Chapel the first building constructed to house the parish.

The parish was founded after a schism within Raleigh's first Episcopal church, Christ Church, making the Good Shepherd the second Episcopal parish in the capital city. The split occurred following a disagreement between a large number of parishioners at Christ Church over the ethics of pew rentals, a practice in which families bought the right to sit in pews for a number of years or for life. This disagreement created tension throughout the 1870s as the more vocal group of church members, who would later break away from the parish, argued that the rental policy relegated Raleigh's poorer residents to a form of second-class citizenship, as they were commonly forced to the back of the church or to the balconies. Eventually this conflict came to a head, and in 1873 the Reverend Edward R. Rich of St. Paul's Church in Clinton, North Carolina suggested that a new Episcopal church in Raleigh be started. In the first days of 1874, Christ Church officially split, and the new group of congregants announced the foundation of the Church of the Good Shepherd. The new parish was created on the idea that all pews were open to whomever wished to sit in them, which for its time was an act of radical hospitality in the Episcopal Church, and firmly established Good Shepherd as an inclusive community of faith.[1][2]

In January of 1874, the Rev. Edward R. Rich was called as rector of the newly-formed church. He conducted the first service in February of 1874, assisted by the Rt. Rev. Theodore B. Lyman, D.D. By spring, a site at the corner of Hillsborough and McDowell streets was purchased and construction of the first church building began on September 24, 1874. Services were often held in the historic Tucker Hall on Fayetteville Street, and in the House chambers of the North Carolina State Capitol building while the church was being built. On Easter Day, March 28, 1875, the congregation held its first service at the church's present site in the building now referred to as All Saints Chapel.[3] The new parish was admitted to the Diocese at its annual convention, held in Wilmington on May 21, 1874.[4][5]

Call for a New Building and Pro-cathedral Designation[edit]

By the 1890s, it had already become clear that the congregation had outgrown it's original home, and was in need of a new building to accommodate its members. The Rev. Isaac McKendree Pittenger, D. D., fourth rector of the church, was an outspoken supporter of this call, envisioning a massive stone building that would stand above the growing city. However many within the parish felt that it was in the better interest of the congregation to wait until the parish acquired more of the necessary funds, as much of the region was still experiencing Reconstruction era financial hardships. In 1893, the Rt. Rev. Joseph Blount Cheshire became the fifth Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina, and became a member of the church upon moving to Raleigh. The Bishop supported Rev. Pittenger's vision of the new building, and hoped that the parish could serve as the cathedral of the diocese upon the building's completion. On September 23, 1894, Bishop Cheshire declared the Church of the Good Shepherd the Pro-cathedral of the diocese, and named Rev. Pittenger the dean of the new cathedral. However, it is believed that at the diocesan convention, the Bishop was not able to garner enough support from the delegates to name Good Shepherd as the permanent cathedral, and the church therefore abandoned the Pro-cathedral title by 1895. Despite this setback, the congregation was still committed to constructing the new building. In 1896, Rev. Pittenger made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and while there, he chose a block of marble quarried near Jerusalem, and shipped it home as the cornerstone for a new and larger church building.[6][7][8]

Interior of the current church building shortly after completion.

Construction of Current Building and Facilities[edit]

The cornerstone was laid in October 1899, but the building, designed by Charles E. Hartge,[9] was not completed until 1914.[10] At the time of its completion, it was one of the largest churches in the state and was considered architecturally advanced for the diocese. The original church building was moved to a different portion of the parish lot and became the new Parish House. It was used for that purpose until 1954 when a new Parish House building was completed, and the original church was re-designated as All Saints Chapel. While the construction on the existing church structure was completed in 1914, the construction of the stained glass windows took place over the next 60 years. ​The altar depicting The Last Supper and the wainscoting and paving inside the altar rail are made from Italian marble and are typical of churches in Northern Italy. Most of the work on the altar was was done in Italy and the Italian masons traveled to North Carolina to install it. Over the years, several buildings were constructed on the church's property to house parish activities including classrooms, choir rooms, and offices. In 2006 All Saints Chapel was sold to Empire Properties, and all other buildings were demolished to provide additional space for a new Parish Life Center, which was completed in 2004. The chapel was transported roughly half a mile to its current location along Raleigh's East Street, just west of the Historic Oakwood neighborhood. The current Parish Life Center is a four story building architecturally designed to match the church itself. It houses offices, classrooms, a new chapel, and a large hall which can hold around 300 people.[11][12]

Notable Outreach Efforts[edit]

Original design for the church including the massive corner tower. The tower was never constructed.
St. John's Guild and Rex Hospital[edit]

Just a few years after the church had organized the Rev. Edward Robbins Rich, the first rector of the parish, felt that Raleigh was in need of a religious organization that could help establish opportunities for public education, encourage the expansion of music, and promote the health of the community.[13] On October 31, 1877 roughly 40 men from the church and the community responded to a call from the rector and organized the St. John's Guild. The guild would eventually grow to include many of the regions Episcopal priests, and any man over the age of 15 was eligible to join, though women could also join as contributing members. In its early years, the guild was driven by Richard H. Battle, an attorney and chartered member of the church, who was also the son of state Supreme Court Justice William Horn Battle. With Battle's influence, the guild began to include many high profile lawyers and doctors, including Dr. Peter Evan Hines who was the state's Surgeon General. In December of 1877, the guild opened the city's first public library, located in the Holleman Building on Fayetteville Street, which was free and open to the public six days a week. The library closed just a few years later in 1880 due to a lack of funding. In 1878, the guild embarked on its far more prosperous campaign, the establishment of St. Johns Hospital. At the time plans for the hospital were being debated, Raleigh had no public hospital, and the sick had to rely on private doctors and medics. At the urging of Battle and Hines, the guild rented a house on South Wilmington Street to serve as the first home of the hospital while funds were being acquired for a more permanent building. The hospital took in the sick and needy, and charitably cared for them using the guild's own money to do so. In 1880, the guild defended its practice of admitting dying black men to the hospital at a time when segregation was rampant in the Reconstruction era South. On March 31, 1882 the guild purchased the former home of Governor Charles Manly from E.J. Hardin, a local grocer, for $3,750. The hospital continued to grow through the 1880s and 1890s, increasing both the number of patients it could house, and the size of its workforce. Following the death of John Rex, a wealth Raleigh tanner, a trust was opened in his name for the establishment of a hospital in the Raleigh area. Recognizing the difficulty of opening a new hospital, the trustees approached the guild with the proposition of purchasing the hospital. In July of 1893 after much negotiation, the guild agreed to sell St. John's Hospital to the trustees[14], and after acquiring financial assistance from the city, Rex Hospital opened in May of 1894. The hospital has since grown into one of the state's largest and is composed of several different facilities.[15][16]

Shepherd's Table Soup Kitchen[edit]

In the 1970s and 1980s homelessness had become a clear issue in downtown Raleigh. With few hospice houses or shelters open in the area, several congregants saw an opportunity to improve the community. In 1980 four of these congregants discussed this issue at the yearly diocesan convention, and upon the urging of several priests and diocesan staffers, decided to present the idea of opening a soup kitchen in the church dining room to the vestry. The Shepherd's Table Soup Kitchen was opened in April 1980 and within the first 14 days, 473 people had been fed. Up until 1984 the soup kitchen was run solely by the congregation and operated on donations alone, but with operations rapidly expanding and demand increasing, it became clear that the kitchen needed a more permanent structure. Four years after opening, Shepherd's Table became a 501(c)(3) organization with church members continuing to volunteer and make up the 15-member board of directors. The newly incorporated kitchen became a joint venture operation with several other local churches, and accepted volunteers from all walks of life. When a new parish life center was constructed in 2004, the entire ground floor was devoted to housing the Shepherd's Table, complete with an industrial kitchen and a full dining room. Today the kitchen serves over 300 meals a day from Monday through Friday, and has a rotating staff of around several hundred volunteers.[17][18][19]


Sanctuary of the church during an Advent service.
Name Years
Edward Robbins Rich 1874 - 1885
Robert Strange, D.D 1885 - 1887
William Meade Clark 1887 - 1890
Issac McKendree Pittender, D.D. 1890 - 1916
Charles Aylette Ashby 1917 - 1922
Henry Gardner Lane 1922 - 1930
Theodore Partrick Jr. 1930 - 1935
James McDowell Dick, D.D. 1935 - 1964
Louis Chester Melcher Jr. 1964 - 1991
C. Perry Scruggs 1991 - 2002
Robert C. Sawyer 2002 - 2018
Imogen Rhodenheiser 2019–present


The Good Shepherd Window which sits above the altar.
Stained glass window depicting Christ and a Eucharist feast.

Services and Liturgy[edit]

Like most Episcopal Churches in the United States, Good Shepherd uses the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and the 1982 Hymnal. The church holds three services in a typical week, two Sunday services and a Wednesday service:

  • Early Morning Sunday Service: Uses Rite One of the Book of Common Prayer. A quiet and meditative service which uses more traditional language and emphasizes individual prayer.
  • Late Morning Sunday Service: Uses Rite Two of the Book of Common Prayer. A lively and musical service which utilizes a fell choir, hymns, and acolytes and additional lay positions.
  • Wednesday Midday Service: Uses the Healing Rite from the Book of Common Prayer. A peaceful and inviting worship service which encourages all people from inside and outside of the congregation to participate.

Good Shepherd, like most of the Episcopal Church follows the Liturgical Calendar set forth in Book of Common Prayer, celebrating the principle feasts, as well as the liturgical seasons (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, and Ordinary Time). Special services are also held throughout the year for holidays and special occasions. Readings and Gospel passages follow the three-year calendar also set forth in the Book of Common Prayer, with each day of the year having a unique Old Testament reading, Epistle reading, and Gospel reading. Almost all services throughout the year also contain an Eucharist which involves the blessing and consumption of the bread and the wine. The church also includes many lay positions in worship, such as acolytes, vergers, chalicists, lectors, and a congregational choir.[20][21]

Stained Glass Windows[edit]

The church holds over 70 stained glass windows and transoms that were placed between 1914 and the mid-1970s. The windows feature a number of different, but similar styles and appearances, as a number of different firms were brought in to design the pieces. The upper collection of the windows show figures from both the Old and New Testaments, including the Apostles, the Prophets, and a variety of other significant persons. The lower collection of windows feature important moments from the life of Christ in chronological order, beginning with the Annunciation and ending with the Ascension. The windows are photographed in the 1998 book "A Vision Realized - Stories in Stained Glass of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd".[22]

Programs and Parish Activities[edit]

The parish has a wide variety of Christian Formation activities including educational programming for children, youth, and adults on Sunday mornings from Fall through Spring, as well as weekly Bible studies which are traditionally held on weekdays. The church also has an active youth program which meets weekly, and frequent children events. Supper clubs are another staple of the congregation, with various groups for young families, various guilds, and the LGBT community. The church has many yearly events and traditions for holidays, significant days throughout the church year, and for other occasions, such as the Children's Christmas Pageant, and the All Parish Dinner.[23]

See also[edit]

  • Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina
  • Episcopal Church (United States)
  • All Saints Chapel
  • The Rt. Rev. Joseph Blount Cheshire
  • Church Architecture
  • Gothic Architecture


  1. Womble, Edgar (1937). History of the Church of the Good Shepherd Vol. 1 1874-1935. Raleigh, N.C. pp. 8–13. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  2. "Churches". Community of Historic Churches in Downtown Raleigh. 2012. Retrieved March 31, 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  3. Larson, Karl (August 30, 2013). "Church of the Good Shepherd, Raleigh, N.C." Goodnight Raleigh. Retrieved March 21, 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  4. Womble, Edgar (1937). History of the Church of the Good Shepherd Vol. 1 1874-1935. Raleigh, N.C. pp. 13–17. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  5. M. Ruth Little (March 2008). "Free Church of the Good Shepherd" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places - Nomination and Inventory. North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office. Retrieved 2015-05-01.
  6. Womble, Edgar. History of the Church of the Good Shepherd Vol. 1 1874-1935. Raleigh, N.C. pp. 73–90. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  7. "Our Story". Church of the Good Shepherd Raleigh. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  8. Rimog Ward, LaRene (February 1974). Therefore with the Angles and Archangles. Raleigh, North Carolina. pp. 81–102. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  9. Bishir, Catherine W. (2009). "Hartge, Charles E. (1865-1918)". North Carolina Architects & Builders. Retrieved March 31, 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  10. Larson, Karl (August 30, 2013). "Church of the Good Shepherd, Raleigh N.C." Goodnight Raleigh. Retrieved March 31, 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  11. Womble, Edgar (1937). History of the Church of the Good Shepherd Vol. 1 1874-1935. Raleigh, N.C. pp. 90–121. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  12. "Our Story". Church of the Good Shepherd Raleigh. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  13. "The Organization of the Guild". The Observer. Raleigh, NC. November 15, 1887. Retrieved 31 March 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  14. "Receipt of Deed filed for Registration from E.J. Harden to St. John's Guild". North Carolina Memory. Raleigh, NC. March 9, 1888. Retrieved 31 March 2020.
  15. Raynal, Anne Brooke (November 28, 2014). "Rex's Angels: Caring for patients since 1936". Walter Magizine. Retrieved 31 March 2020.
  16. Mitchell, Memory F. (July 1986). "The Good Works of St. John's Guild, 1877-1893". The North Carolina Historical Review. North Carolina Office of Archives and History. 63 (3): 309–339. JSTOR 23518784.
  17. "Our Story". Shepherd's Table Soup Kitchen. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  18. Beck, John J. (2015). Change and Challenge: A Brief History of The Church of the Good Shepherd Raleigh, North Carolina From 1974 to 2014. Raleigh, North Carolina. pp. 39–43. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  19. Gregory, Tammy (May 18, 2016). "At Shepherd's Table, a 30-day giving goal". The News and Observer. Retrieved March 31, 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  20. "Who We Are". The Episcopal Church. June 5, 2017. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  21. "Regular Worship Schedule". Church of the Good Shepherd Raleigh. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  22. Rimog Ward, LaRene (February 1974). Therefore with the Angles and Archangles. Raleigh, North Carolina. pp. 207–223. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  23. "Fellowship and Parish Life". Church of the Good Shepherd Raleigh. Retrieved 26 March 2020.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Others articles of the Topics Christianity AND Architecture : Major basilica

Others articles of the Topic Christianity : Fritz Guy, Orthodox Syrian Sunday School Association of the East, Angelo Roppolo, The King's School, Christian Life College, Odo Mecdanim, Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia

Others articles of the Topic Architecture : Art Building (University of Texas at Austin), Islamabad Stock Exchange Tower, List of tallest buildings in Saguenay, Quebec, List of tallest buildings in Victoria, British Columbia, List of tallest buildings in Bhopal, List of tallest buildings in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Allianz De Architecture

Church of the Good Shepherd Category:Gothic Revival architecture in the United States Category:Gothic Revival church buildings in North Carolina Category:Episcopal churches Category:Episcopal church buildings Category:Churches in North Carolina Category:Churches in Wake County, North Carolina Category:Churches completed in 1914 Category:20th-century Episcopal church buildings Category:Episcopal church buildings in the United States Category:Religious organizations established in 1874 Category:1874 establishments in North Carolina

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