The Church of the Nativity is on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the summer of 1858, two young Episcopal ladies began to collect funds for the purpose of establishing an Episcopal church. Bishop Leonidas Polk, the first bishop of Louisiana, was requested to send a minister to serve the families. Bishop Pope is remembered as the fighting bishop for he left his office during the Civil War to fight for the Confederacy. He and Reverend John Philson, the first rector of the Church of the Nativity, fought side by side at the battle of Shiloh. Bishop Polk established a chain of Episcopal churches throughout Louisiana.
In December of 1858, the Reverend John Philson settled in Rosedale and held the first service on December 29th in the Rosedale Presbyterian church. Later regular services were held in the slave chapel at Live Oaks Plantation. The construction of Nativity began Easter week of 1859. The church building is English style, 50 X 21 feet. The parish was admitted into union with the convention, being represented by ex-Governor Henry Johnson.
During the year 1859, the Church of the Nativity was completed and becoming furnished in every particular: the pews were cushioned, the floors carpeted, the altar richly covered, and the chancel supplied with a bishop's chair and other seats; also a font proper of stone, with cover. Mrs. E. Woolfolf presented a pipe organ of ten stops and one octave of pedals, built by Pilcher; and Mrs. Mary Hart gave a surplice, stole, etc. The church lot was fenced in and planted.
The church consists of nave, chancel, vestry, and library. The two rooms are on either side of the chancel which is 15ft. by 12ft. and is elevated three steps above the nave. The ceiling is 21ft. high.
There are four windows on each side of the church with enamelled glass fleuried, each surrounded by a variegated stained border of grape leaves and grapes, or of oak leaves and acorns. A triplet in the chancel, above the altar, is wholly of stained glass. The center light depicts the sacred monogram, a Crown of Glory, a Latin cross, and an Agnus Dei. These symbols are separeted by a streamer bearing the words, "Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world". The left light portrays an Alpha and a font, separated by a similar streamer with the words, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God". The right light shows an Omega and the Cup and Paten and a streamer bearing the words, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you". Each light is surrounded by a border of fleur-de-lis. The windows are from the establishment of D'Orsay of New York and are highly credible specimens of his workmanship.
The altar is very plain, made of wood painted to resemble marble. In the chancel are the Bishop's chair, credence table, and lectern. The altar, credence table, and lectern were made by Reverend Philson.
The Picou stone font of octagonal shape with boldly moulded base and pillared stem is very beautiful. Each of the eight sides of the bowl contains an appropriate emblem cut in deep relief and encloses in a trefoil. The bevel of the bowl bears the inscription, "One baptism for the remission of sins". The font has a massive walnut cover. The font was placed in front of the library door. Both the font and the Bishop's chair are elegant specimens of the cultivated taste of Messrs. Congdon and Littell of New York. The church will accommodate 60-80 persons. The cost of the church was $2,500.
On Sunday, April 22, 1860, the building was consecrated by Bishop Polk. During the year 1860, a neat frame rectory, with suitable outbuildings was erected on the church lot. The rectory was later destroyed by fire.
The rector officiated until July 1861, when he obtained a leave of absence. The Reverend H. T. Lee officiated occasionally until early in 1863, when the rector, when the rector resumed his work.
Through the gloomy days of the Civil War, the services of the church were maintained almost uninterruptedly, although the rector was absent as a private soldier at the front. The country about Rosedale suffered severely, not only from the passage of hostile detachments, but also from flood, a calamity that had been a frequent occurrence.
In 1867, the affairs of the church were very gloomy---four years of flooding had forced the congregation into a struggle for the bare necessities of life.
On February 15, 1870, the bishop found there "a little flock, steadfast in faith". For several months, The Reverend Mr. Dillon, of Bayou Goula, had been visiting them on each alternate Tuesday. In that year, the Reverend Richard Johnson took charge of the parish. Services were held on the third Sunday of each month. Mr. Johnson died January 7, 1872.
In 1872, the Reverend John Philson resumed rectorate, holding up the banner of the parish amid storm and disaster until February 1882, when he resigned. In 1881, there were 18 communicants. The great flood of 1882 drove many from their homes and in 1883, but four communicants remained. In that year, it was proposed to consolidate the parish with that of Calvary Church in Livonia, and to move the Church of the Nativity to Maringouin station.
There were then no regular services until Easter Day, April 25, 1886, when the Reverend R. H. Prosser of Mansfield, began regular monthly services. These he Maintained until April, 1887, when he was succeeded by the Reverend W. R. Douglas, also a diocesan missionary. The parish has been represented in the councils of the diocese by Henry Johnson and Henry R. Slack.
Of the three churches begun by the Reverend John Philson in the 1850's only one, the Church of the Nativity was to survive under the name it bore in his day. The road was often impassable in those days, which made church attendance difficult for the members living in Maringouin. In 1890, St. Stephen's was built at Maringouin. This church was active for ten or fiftteen but closed in the early twenties and the congregation united with the Church of the Nativity. Reverend W. S. Slack served the church from 1896 to 1900 and at all other times when the church had no minister. He loved the Church of the Nativity for here his father and mother worshiped and served for years.
The years between 1900 and 1904 were difficult, and little progress was made in the church due to smallpox and yellow fever epidemics. Reverend Royal K. Tucker came to the church in 1904 and stayed for two years. There was a period of ten years with no minister in charge.
In 1917, Reverend John Goodman, who lived in Bunkie and served Calvary Church, came to Rosedale by train once a month to hold an 11 o'clock morning service. There were two families in the congregation and Mr. Goodman came on Saturday and stayed with Charles W. Row, who was senior warden for the church for thirty years. Mr Goodman continued until 1924 when he went to Grace Church in St. Francisville, LA. In 1924, Bishop Davis Sessums named the Reverend Roland Moncure priest-in-charge of the Church of the Holy Communion in Plaquemine, the Church of the Ascension in Donaldsonville, and the Church of the Nativity. The church flourished under his care. A woman's auxilary was organized in October 1925.
The Reverend H. N. Aldrich took charge of St. Stephens', Innis, St. Mary's, Morganza, and the Church of the Nativity and remained for a year or more. The Reverend Crompton Sowerbutts served as missionary priest from January 1928 to October 1936. He established a choir and did repairs and restoration of the church building and grounds. In 1946, Reverend Sowerbutts accepted a call to California. The Reverend J. S. Ditchburn, chaplain of the Episcopal Student Center, LSU, visited the church once each month for a communion service. From 1939 until 1942, the Reverend Howard S. Giere came to take charge of several churches in the area.
Two more priests were coming to the area covering several churches and coming to the Church of the Nativity once or twice a month. An electric organ was purchased and choir stalls were movrd from the front to the back of the church.
The font was placed near the rear of the church. The heating system was converted to natural gas. Plastered walls were repaired and repainted. The old brick tomb in the rear of the church-yard was replaced by a concrete slab and a marker bearing the name inscription, "Major David Hubbard 1792-1874". This is the only interment made in the church-yard.
The bishop then placed the Church of the Nativity in the New Roads field, and the Reverend James Philson Williamson took charge of the church. He is the great nephew of the Reverend John Philson, the first minister of the Church of the Nativity.
In 1968 Reverend Miller F. Armstrong, III, came to the Church of the Nativity, Rosedale, St. Mary's, Morganza, and St. Paul's Holy Trinity, New Roads. Reverend Miller served for 25 years, was loved by everyone, and known for his wonderful laughter and speedy journeys between churches. He is still remembered fondly as the "hugging" priest.
Work began on a second parish house in May, 1962. Two old cypress slave cabins were obtained from the sugar plantations of the Row family, were torn down and moved to the building site. Most of the materials were donated and local labor was used. After a fund drive, the present parish house was completed in 1965. Mr. William P. "Buzz" Obier, Jr., a member of the Vestry, was responsible for overseeing the entire project. The building is a vital part of the ministry of the church and is located on the lot where the rectory had been built in 1860 that was destroyed by fire.
On May 2, 1993, Reverend Ron Whitmer officiated at the donation of a Church bell in memory of parishioner, Blaine David Best, 1968-1990.
In 1999, member William P. Obier, Jr. built Stations of the Cross on the church grounds. Members of the church as well as community neighbors often come to the serene setting to pray at the stations, which were copied after the Stations of the Cross at Manresa Retreat House in Convent, LA.
After the last organist died in 2005, services were conducted without music until Hugh and Earle Wagley, devoted members for many years, donated a programmable organ.
From 1993-2008 Nativity was served by many wonderful priests. The Reverends Ron Whitmer, Ann Hicks, J. E. Hamner, Blount Grant, and Karen Gay all brought their own unique talents and special callings to our grateful congregation.
In 2009, Elise Blankenship of Richmond, Virginia, a niece of an early member of the church, Mrs. Mattie Row Major, returned a Mason & Hamlin pump organ that was used in the church from the 1890's and was given to her as a gift in the 1940's when an electric organ was installed in the church.
In January 2009, the Reverend Jerry Phillips began his work at Nativity. He has impressed the congregation with his keen knowledge of the Bible and his genuine concern for parishioners and all the residents of the local area. He set out with two goals--the first, to survive; the second, to stay with the vision and direction set forth by his predecessors.
In the summer of 2011 the Vestry decided to build a rectory to replace the one lost to fire in the early history of the church. The Greek Revival Cottage architectural plans were designed and drawn by Architect William P. "Bill" Obier, III, lifelong member and Senior Warden. Within months contributions of over $100,000 had been donated by members and community friends of Nativity. Various fund raisers also brought in over $12,000. The church had $41,000 saved with a goal of raising $150,000 for construction and the church had more than $155,000 when construction actually began. On March 3, 2012, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Eric Major, Jr. donated one acre of land for the rectory site in memory and honor of his grandparents, Dr. Eric L. and Mattie Row Major, and father Charles Eric Major, Sr. who were Nativity leaders. It is located 2 blocks from the church at the intersection of LA. Hwy 411 and Park Street. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on March 18, 2012 and construction of the 1550 square foot Cottage was completed in September, 2012 with Reverend Jerry Phillips as its first occupant.
Rectors of the Church of the Nativity:
The Reverend John Philson.......................1858-1882
The Reverend Ralph H. Prosser.................1886-1887
The Reverend W. Taylor Douglas..............1888-1890
The Reverend E. D. Moreno........................1890-1894
The Reverend W. S. Slack...........................1896-1900
The Reverend Royal K. Tucker...................1904-1906
The Reverend J. W. Bleker.......................... 1907-1908
Deacon John Goodman.................................1917-1924
The Reverend Roland Moncure...................1924-1925
The Reverend H. N. Aldrich..........................1926-1927
The Reverend Crompton Sowerbutts.........1928-1936
The Reverend J. S. Ditchburn.......................1936-1939
The Reverend Howard S. Giere....................1939-1942
The Reverend Theodore Burleson...............1943-1946
The Reverend Corvin C. von Miller.............1946-1952
The Reverend J. P. Williamson....................1952-1967
The Reverend Miller F. Armstrong.............1968-1992
The Reverend Ron Whitmer........................1993-1996
The Reverend Ann Hicks..............................1996-1998
The Reverend Dr. J. E. Hamner.....................1998-2000
The Reverend Blount Grant.........................2001-2004
The Reverend Karen Gay..............................2004-2008
The Reverend Jerry R. Phillips ....................2009-present
"A little flock, steadfast in faith"
History and Description of the Church of the Nativity, Rosedale, LA