1867 to the present day
The first vicar of Christ Church, Rev. Henry Stephens, was sent to Finchley by the London Diocese Home Mission in 1864 to open a mission for navvies working on the railway. At that time, the plot of land on which the church now stands was grazing land, and Finchley was a rural area notorious as the haunt of highwaymen.
It was a time of significant change for the area, following the incorporation of Ballards Lane into a turnpike route in 1825 and the arrival of railways in the locality in 1867.
Henry was responsible for constructing the first church building, which was a temporary corrugated iron building located on a site immediately to the south of the current building. However, he did not confine his preaching to this building. He frequently visited and preached in the open air, including in front of the Post Office in East Finchley. However, Henry soon turned his attention to fundraising for constructing a permanent building. On 26 July 1867, the foundation stone of the present building was laid.
The church building was designed by the architect John Norton and is based on the mediaeval Gothic styles of the pre-Reformation era and Gothic revivalist design. The first part of the church to be completed was the nave, consecrated on 9 April 1869, which incorporates a beautiful rose window. Henry Stephens was inaugurated as the first Vicar of Christ Church in 1872.
The rest of the building was completed in stages as funds permitted. The first addition was the north aisle, completed in 1874, followed by the south aisle in 1880. Work on the chancel and vestries began in 1891, including installing an organ in 1881. Plans were laid for full transepts and a substantive tower with a spire, but these were never built. As early as 1885, there were reports that the church was cold in winter. Substantial effort was made to remedy this, including the building of a porch on the west end to cut down the draughts that regularly swept through the building in winter.
Reverend Stephens also founded Christ Church School (now Wren Academy) and the nearby St Barnabas Church.
A consolidated chapelry was assigned from the mother parish, St. John's, Whetstone, and Holy Trinity, in 1872. The patronage was vested in trustees, including the rector, who had given glebeland for the site, and later exercised by the Church Patronage Society. As funds became available with the support of wealthy parishioners like the Hamiltons, additions were made to the building. On one Sunday in 1903, when there were 700 sittings, 237 people attended in the morning and 314 in the afternoon.
By 1899 two curates helped to run a memorial hall and library in High Road (in memory of Henry Stephens, who died in 1898); an institute in Percy Road (c. 1899); missions at Holden Road (1885-1909 - later St Barnabas Church) and Summers Lane (1906-60). In 1938 the original hall was sold, and a new Stephens Memorial Hall was built behind the church. The sizeable Victorian vicarage next to the church survived in 1977
Christ Church has always been a sender and supporter of missionaries across the UK and the rest of the world and is now a notably diverse congregation comprising many nationalities.