Soon after his arrival in Tennessee, the Most Reverend William L. Adrian, Bishop of Nashville, established the Parish of Christ the King to serve the needs of the rapidly growing Catholic population in the southwestern section of the city,
The Diocese purchased property at 3001 Belmont Boulevard, which included a two-story brick house, on May 10, 1937. The Bishop wrote a letter to Father Joseph E. Leppert, dated June 14, 1937, advising him of his assignment to the new parish. The official document creating the parish of Christ the King was dated July 6, 1937. Official installation of the pastor was to take place on July 26, the day after the celebration of the first Mass in the temporary chapel.
Construction of a new frame church began during the same month and was completed two months later. The brick house served as chapel, school, parish house, recreation hall, and community center until the new school was opened on September 3, 1946. With the completion of the new school, the brick house was renovated and used as a residence for the pastor. On August 11, 1953, Rt. Rev. Thomas P. Duffy, former pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Nashville, was appointed pastor of Christ the King, replacing Father Leppert who had been assigned to Little Flower Church in Memphis. Plans for the construction of an addition to the school, a new rectory, and a new church were made soon after Father Duffy’s appointment.
By January 1955 the addition to the school, consisting of four classrooms, lobby, and an auditorium/gymnasium, had been completed; and in April 1955 ground was broken for the new church and rectory. In December of that year, just in time for the celebration of Father Duffy’s Silver Jubilee, the rectory was completed. The old two-story brick structure, which through the years had served so many purposes, was then razed, and construction of the new church began. On the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 1956, the cornerstone of the church was laid “to the Glory of Christ the King.”
Father Duffy died in residence on February 6, 1970. Rev. Msgr. Daniel S. Richardson was assigned Pastor of Christ the King Church on January 28, 1970. With great compassion for human suffering and frailty, Monsignor Dan quietly helped many hundreds of families and individuals whose spiritual care had been entrusted to him during his seventeen years at Christ the King. On June 30, 1987, Monsignor Dan Richardson retired as Pastor of Christ the King. Just prior to his retirement, on June 19-20, 1987, Christ the King held its Fiftieth Anniversary celebration, with dinner at Opryland Hotel on Friday evening and with Mass and a barbecue dinner on the parish grounds Saturday evening.
Rev. James K. Mallett, former Chancellor of the Diocese, became the fourth Pastor of Christ the King Church on July 1, 1987, as the parish celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. Fr. Mallett appointed a new principal at the School, Alice Seigenthaler Valiquette, and over the next 20 years Christ the King Parish flourished under his able leadership.
On the sixtieth anniversary of the parish, during a Mass celebrated by the Most Rev. Edward U. Kmiec, Bishop of Nashville, Father Mallett announced a capital project and fund-raising campaign to improve the facilities of the church and school campus. After six months of campaign preparation parishioners had pledged more than $2,750,000 by the Feast of Christ the King 1997. The new Parish Center and extensive renovations to the school were dedicated on the Feast of Christ the King in 1999.
When Mrs. Valiquette retired in the summer of 2003, Fr. Mallett appointed Dr. Christine Caron Gebhardt as new Principal of the school. Dr. Gebhardt was no stranger to the parish, having served as Director of Religious Education from 1991-2001. After earning her PhD at Vanderbilt, she taught at Seattle University in Washington, before returning to Nashville to serve again at Christ the King.
Rev. James K. Mallett retired as fourth Pastor of Christ the King Church on July 1, 2007, after serving the parish for 20 years. Fr. Mallett returned to his native Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he currently resides. He teaches courses in International Law at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and serves as Catholic Campus Minister there for the Diocese of Knoxville.
Most Reverend David R. Choby, Bishop of Nashville, appointed Rev. Dexter Sutton Brewer as fifth Pastor of Christ the King, effective August 1, 2007, after he had served 13 years as Pastor of Good Shepherd Church in Decherd, Tennessee. Fr. Dexter and Fr. Mallett enjoy several things in common—both are from Chattanooga, both have law degrees and have served on the Diocesan Tribunal, and both share a love of music and books. From the day of his arrival at Christ the King, Fr. Dexter has been kind enough to share his musical talent as a violinist with parishioners through participation in the liturgy and at small concerts.
Fr. Dexter has also delighted parishioners with his love of running and his marathon adventures from around the globe. His inability to stand still for very long has also resulted in new activity around Christ the King’s campus. Consideration was given early on for a capital campaign and building project to replace the old gym and junior high classroom wing with new and improved facilities for the school and parish. Fundraising began in February 2010 with a goal of $4,000,000, and groundbreaking took place on July 23, 2010, after that goal had been essentially met. The opening celebration and dedication of the new gym and school wing took place on August 6-7, 2011, with Bishop David R. Choby officially cutting the ribbon on August 7th..
On July 6-8, 2012 the parish celebrated its 75th anniversary with a prayer service and wine reception on July 6th, then a mass and family brunch in the parish hall on July 8th. A commemorative book was published, “Reflections through Time,” celebrating the seventy-five year history of the parish. Then on July 31, 2012, Christine Caron Gebhart announced her departure as school principal, and Sherry Woodman was appointed principal by Fr. Dexter effective August 1st. The campus received certification as an Arboretum from the Tennessee Urban Forestry Council in August 2012.
Over the next few years the parish grew significantly and underwent numerous upgrades and renovations – new security and telephone system, asbestos abatement in the sacristy, acoustical board in the parish hall, new pew cushions, major church roof work and updating of the electrical system and lighting. In September 2012 the parish also purchased property at 3009 Oakland Avenue, behind the church, followed by additional purchases over the next few years at 3007 Oakland, 3001 Oakland, and 3011 Oakland.
At the same time Christ the King welcomed new neighbor Martin’s BBQ Joint in April 2013 – another sign of the numerous changes and improvements in the Belmont neighborhood as property values continue to rise and new construction has exploded all around. And the parish has grown as well, with membership doubling over the past nine years to 1,589 families. The average age of our heads of family and their spouses is now 48, with many new, young families moving into the parish every year.
Our parish dinner on November 8, 2014, honored Fr. Dexter on the occasion of his 25th anniversary as a priest, as well as his accomplishment of climbing to Mt. Everest Base Camp in September 2014. A brunch on April 24, 2016, celebrated pastor emeritus James Mallett’s 75th birthday as well as his 50th anniversary.
Work around the campus continued from the fall of 2014 through summer 2016 with new rectory windows, carpet and flooring; new rectory landscaping and irrigation system; parking improvements to the circular driveway; new campus signage; and installation of a patio and fountain in the courtyard area between the church and rectory. On August 15, 2016 (the 60th anniversary of the church cornerstone laying in 1956) Fr. Dexter Brewer dedicated the new courtyard and fountain following 6 pm mass on the Feast of the Assumption. The Knights of Columbus Council 12256 donated one bench in the courtyard in honor of Pastor Emeritus and Brother Knight Rev. James K. Mallett; the Women’s Council’s bench honors all ladies of the parish—past, present, and future—the organization having first met on the parish lawn September 1, 1937. A time capsule was also sealed at the dedication, then buried in the courtyard area...not to be opened for 25 years on August 15, 2041.
The Design of Christ the King Church
Designed by John Harwood of Woolwine, Harwood and Clark, Architectural Associated and constructed by the Boone Construction Company, the church was built in the form of a Latin cross. The style was a modification of the Tudor Gothic Architecture, achieved by using flat roof areas over the transepts in order that all sight lines lead from the main entrance to the sanctuary.
The Bell Tower
The belfry tower rises to 114 feet from ground level to the northeast corner, adjoining the vestibule and houses a three-thousand pound bell. The bell is operated by automatic electric motors. The tower also contains a blower and motor for the three-manuel Kilgen pipe organ that was installed.
Altar and CrucifixThe main altar is of black (Portoro) Italian marble with a reredos of green marble (Verde Issorie), surmounted by a bronze crown which constitutes the ciborium or baldachino of the altar. A carved wooden crucifix, with a life-sized corpus of Jesus, is above the bronze tabernacle. The sanctuary is adorned with massive bronze candlesticks which were especially designed for the church by De Prato Studios of Chicago and New York. This studio also supplied the marble and glasswork.
The two side altars, one on each transept, are also of black Italian marble with green marble background. The south altar is graced by a statue of Our Lady of Confidence. The north altar is graced by a statue of Saint Joseph. Both statues are done in Carrara marble, designed by the Italian Studio of De Prato.
The floor of the church is done in terrazzo marble laid by Francesco Company. The main aisle has ten prophetic symbols of Christ from the Old Testament, and the sanctuary has the Lamb of God from the Apocalypse, flanked by symbols of the Holy Eucharist.
The Windows of Christ the King Church
The two 16-foot stained glass windows in the sanctuary take their theme from the Apocalypse, the Second Coming of Christ, and the Woman clothed with the Sun. The Beginning of the Gospel, or south side of the church sanctuary and continuing around the nave, are twenty-six 16-foot stained glass windows depicting the life of Christ from the Annunciation to the Ascension. In the choir loft, three 22-foot stained glass windows represent the Holy Trinity in the Creation of Man, the Redemption, and the Sanctification of the Church. The twelve small windows in the aisles are symbols of the apostles, while the ten 8-foot windows on the transept represent five king and five queens who were also saints.
Stations of the Cross Mosaics
Of special interest in the furnishings of the church are the mosaic Stations of the Cross made in Venice, illuminated by indirect lighting set in cut stone frames.
The Baptistery and Exterior
The area originally built as the baptistery is set off from the main lobby of the church and is located to the south side of the front vestibule. It constitutes an appendage of the church, octagonal in shape and balancing the tower on the opposite side of the vestibule. The small foyer to the former baptistery has a small stained glass window depicting the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Massive gates close off this area which is paved in Verdi Issorie marble. A bronze ambrey is set into the wall on the north side above a table of Portoro marble. The original baptismal font is of black marble, the cover surmounted by a bronze crown and cross. This font is now located on the south side altar of the church, where most baptisms currently take place. The former baptistery was converted for use as a reconciliation room in 2002 with a generous gift from the Women's Council. The materials used on the outside of the church are local brick in order to conform on the outside with school and rectory. The interior walls are of Indiana limestone. The 10-foot figure of Christ was made by Herbert Jogerst of Saint Meinrad’s Abbey in Indiana and dominates the main entrance façade just above the three exterior choir loft windows.