CHRISTMAS EVE, 1963, saw the first worship service of Christ Church of the Ascension, then the newest mission of the Diocese of Arizona. A small group of approximately fifty people asked The Reverend Canon George McNeill Ray to be the Vicar of the Mission. The first location was an old abandoned movie and television studio at 5100 N. 40th Street. An overflow crowd attended the first service – 273 people – and 103 people attended on Christmas Day. Bishop Harte complimented the Mission by presiding at both services.
Early in 1965 the Bishop’s Committee decided that another location should be found. At the end of 1965, the mission was granted parish status and Canon Ray became CCA’s first Rector. In addition, the church acquired the 8 ¼ acres on which the church is now located, half of which was a gift from the Margaret (“Peggy”) Johnson Goldwater Trust.
The search for the new Rector resulted in a call to The Reverend Dan J. Gerrard and in March, 1966, Father Gerrard (affectionately called “Padre”) became the Church’s second Rector, a position he would occupy for 22 years.
Padre and the Building Committee secured the services of the well-known architect, Bennie Gonzales, to design the entire campus for the future Church. Following this plan, the first building erected on the Church’s “own ground” was dedicated on November 19, 1967. The building, consisting of a Parish Hall/temporary worship area, offices and classrooms, was named “Craig Hall” in honor of Canon Craig. On Sunday, February 23, 1975, the main Church building was dedicated and consecrated.
Further fund drives in the 1980’s were used to renovate classrooms and improve the space between Craig Hall and the Church by creating a courtyard. The Memorial Garden Project began in 1980. The Garden was privately funded and continues operating today on outside resources, but is answerable to the Vestry. The Memorial Garden Trustee Committee members are elected by the Parish.
Father Gerrard retired the end of June 1988. The Reverend Dr. Harvey G. (“Jerry”) Cook, Ph.D., was called as the third Rector in November 1989. In addition to his ministry with the Episcopal Church, he was also an active military chaplain reservist, holding the rank of Captain in the U.S. Navy. Father Cook oversaw construction of more CCA improvements, and the new parish hall, named Rectors Hall to honor all the Rectors of the Church (past, present and future) was dedicated on April 6, 1997.
Father Cook retired in June 1998. The Reverend Kenneth J. G. Semon became the Church’s fourth Rector on February 1, 1999. Father Semon oversaw the final development of the Church’s campus with the construction of The Canon Dan Gerrard Christian Education Center, Ascension Chapel for children’s worship, a bookstore, a library, and a major renovation of the interior of the Church.
Christ Church School opened in the new facilities in September, 2003. The school began as a preschool and has grown to include a thriving elementary school. The school serves students 16 months old through 4th Grade.
Father Semon resigned in August 2007 and Bishop Smith appointed The Reverend Phillip A. Jackson as Priest-In-Charge. Father Phil assumed his duties on October 1, 2007. In less than a year, the Vestry asked Father Phil to become permanent Rector. He agreed and served as the fifth Rector until December 2014 when he became rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Wall Street, New York.
The Reverend Daniel P. Richards came to Christ Church of the Ascension in December 2015 from Traverse City, Michigan, where he had served as both Rector for Grace Church and Dean of the Grand Traverse Deanery in the Diocese of Western Michigan. Father Daniel was ordained in Arizona and returns to serve the CCA parish with his wife Amy and their three children.
Today Christ Church of the Ascension offers worship services in the Episcopal tradition, along with a variety of other Christian activities for all ages and backgrounds. Activities include choir, book clubs, Bible studies, dinners, Vacation Bible School, mission and camping trips, musical and theatrical programs, and outreach programs of all kinds. Friends and newcomers are sincerely welcome at the Church every day of the week and every week of the year. Come worship with us!
Christ Church of the Ascension is located in Paradise Valley, a community in Phoenix AZ.
Mission of Christ Church of the Ascension
A traditional Episcopal Church on the slopes of the Phoenix Mountains tucked into Paradise Valley, Arizona. Founded in 1963 and continuing to worship and make disciples of Christ of all ages. We are committed to being a place where people find a sense of home at both altar and table, where Scripture is read, studied, and honored, where those in need find prayer and assistance, forgiveness and health. We are friends and strangers, made a family in Christ. We are both deeply reverent and quick to laugh.
Our mission is simple: to know Christ in Study and Prayer, to Love Christ in Worship and Care for others, and to Serve Christ both in the church and in the world.