“Never underestimate the power of a small group of people to change the world. In fact, it is the only way that ever has.” Margaret Mead
With an eye on the rapidly increasing population in North Raleigh, an inspired group of lay people from several churches in Raleigh approached then-Bishop Estill in 1985 about establishing a new congregation. Word of the arrival of a new church spread among the Diocesan churches, attracting people with a pioneering spirit. On December 5, Bishop Estill celebrated our first service, attended by 75 people. A founding charter was signed by 45 members, and weekly services began in January 1986 at York Elementary School’s gymnasium, when the name Church of the Nativity was chosen by those attending. With the Bishop’s urging, St. Michael’s Episcopal Church agreed to sponsor the congregation as a parochial mission, sharing prayer books and hymnals, celebrants, communion silver, and office help until the new church could provide for itself.
Supply priests served the growing congregation for 18 months until the Rev. Rick Callaway was named Vicar in 1987, and in that year land on Ray Road was purchased. Services moved from York Elementary to yet another gymnasium, at Ravenscroft School, and then to Hale High School (now St. David’s School), before the congregation was able to build the first building on our own land. The original building, now Estill House, was opened on Epiphany, January 6, 1991. In this small building was a large room used both for worship services and as a parish hall, as well as offices for the clergy and staff, a nursery and classrooms. Callaway left the congregation shortly thereafter, and two Interim Vicars served the mission until the Rev. Diane B. Corlett was called as the Vicar in September 1992.
At the Diocesan Convention in January 1993, Nativity became a fully self-funded parish and Mother Diane the church’s first Rector. The first Assistant to the Rector, the Rev. Brad Mullis, was called in 1997.
After years of planning and fundraising, the present worship building was consecrated in September 2001. The original worship building was renamed Estill House in 2004. In that year, the Rev. David Buck replaced Father Brad as Assistant to the Rector. The worship space was completed when a magnificent Andover pipe organ was added in 2007. In January 2008 Father David was succeeded by the Rev. Jay Lawlor, who left the congregation in 2009. In 2011, the Education Building, containing eight large classrooms for the growing number of children and youth in the congregation, was opened.
In 2008, Mother Diane suffered a major stroke and retired a year later. In the interim, the church continued under the leadership of several priests until the second Rector, the Rev. Stephanie Allen, was called in April 2011. In February 2012, the Rev. Dr. David Lynch joined the congregation as Deacon, the latest in a long line of much-loved deacons, interns, and seminarians who have served the people of Nativity. The Rev. Dr. George Clifford, who had offered significant leadership during the interim period as Priest-in-Charge, continued as Priest Associate until 2015. Kathryn Buckley joined the church’s staff as a part-time Youth Minister in 2015, and was made full-time in 2016.
For many years, Nativity has been at the forefront of environmental concerns and actions, drawing us into a deeper relationship with God through a responsible relationship with God’s creation. The congregation is particularly focused on addressing climate change and increasing food security. The church garden has grown vegetables for the congregation as well as providing food to the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle. A butterfly, bird and pollinator-friendly garden supports our winged friends.
In 2017, the church was awarded a grant from the national church to develop programs to share with other churches about how to live on the Earth in a more sustainable way by encouraging adoption of carbon farming approaches and moving toward zero waste. Funds have been raised to install solar panels on at least one church building’s roof, as one more step in reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.
Also in 2017, a long-held dream was realized when our Andover organ, originally delivered in 2007 with 12 stops, was finally completed with the installation of eight additional stops.
The current community of Nativity continues the founding vision of being a warm, welcoming and energized congregation, a diverse group of people who worship together, care for one another, and together are involved in the various ministries of the church, including educating our children and youth, while reaching out to the larger community around us in answer to needs.
The Nativity logo
The Nativity logo is based on the familiar Chi-Rho symbol, which combines the first two letters in Greek of the name of Christ (Chi and Rho). The logo stylizes these Greek letters into symbols of the Nativity of Christ. Instead of the Rho (which looks like a P), our logo has a shepherd’s crook. The Chi (X) becomes a manger, which is topped with a crown indicating the kingship of Christ. The crook, crown and creche are encircled with a wreath, an ancient symbol of the victory of the Resurrection over death.