The Church of the Redeemer was founded in 1893 in the small town of Glen Echo, Maryland, just across MacArthur Boulevard from the present site, when a group of local families began meeting in each other’s homes for Prayer Book worship. At that time, services were often led by students from Virginia Theological Seminary, who made the extraordinary (now 20 minute) trip from Alexandria, Virginia to Glen Echo to minister to the people of Redeemer. In 1903, the congregation built a small chapel with the help of neighboring Saint John’s Church, Norwood Parish. In 1940, a small brick chapel was constructed on the present site. Under the leadership of its first vicar, The Rev’d Dr. Robert Evans Browning, Redeemer was granted parish status by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington in 1951.
By 1957, the congregation had outgrown its building. Redeemer’s Vestry, with the support of the congregation and diocese, decided to construct a new church, Saint Dunstan’s, just two miles away on Massachusetts Avenue, in the flourishing Bethesda neighborhood of Sumner Village. Upon its completion, four-fifths of the congregation left to join the new church and Redeemer reverted to the status of mission. By 1965, Redeemer had grown significantly and became a parish once again.
The present structure is a major renovation and expansion of the 1940 chapel. Completed in 1999, the building project doubled Redeemer’s worship and program space. The parish’s visually and sonically striking pipe organ, built by the Di Gennaro-Hart Organ Company of McLean, Virginia, was installed in 2007. The two-manual, 30 rank instrument is one of the most colorful, versatile instruments in all of Washington. Well-suited as a venue for the fine arts, particularly due to its fine acoustic, the nave is often used for choral and chamber music concerts, and dramatic presentations. Indeed, a celebration of the sacred in artistic expression has become a particular hallmark of parish identity.
In August 2013, the Rev’d Susan C. Thon, whose distinguished tenure included the building project and installation of the organ, as well as significant growth in the size of the congregation, parish operating budget, and staff, retired after 19 years as rector.
Today, as the people of The Church of the Redeemer welcome the rector, the Rev’d Cricket Park, the parish stands poised to renew and strengthen its commitment to beautiful, reverent worship grounded in The Book of Common Prayer; to extensive Christian formation and contemplative offerings for individuals of all ages; to meaningful mission/outreach to neighbors near and far; and to the nurture of the warm, welcoming spirit – The Redeemer Spirit – that is at the heart of this community.