Reverend Canon Robert Griner is known for his unique methods. When the church needed repair and was filled with scaffolding, he climbed to the top, as if it were a natural part of giving a sermon. When a new cross was to be installed at the roof's peak, he did it himself, via ladder. When youth needed motivation, he took them on a missionary trip to Panama. So, as the church's 250th anniversary was approaching, Father Griner took horse back riding lessons. Why? So he could reenact the November 1769 arrival of the Reverend Dr. Thomas Chandler at the Sussex County Courthouse.
On Sunday morning, Nov. 3, 2019, with a police escort, he rode into town on horseback dressed in a period-appropriate wig and robe. He was welcomed by a delighted congregation at the very courthouse where the original vestry was organized.
As Father Griner approached the courthouse, his horse wanted to head down 206, toward ShopRite, but the priest urged the horse to the left. He greeted the gathered with great pomp and circumstance, holding steadfast to his role as Reverend Chandler. As if that wasn't enough to properly commemorate history, the church had arranged with the town to go inside the courthouse where Father Griner read history.
“Since the judge will not us allow us to hold a religious ceremony here in the courthouse, we will proceed-- this time I will be on foot-- back to the church for a 1662 version of baptism and communion,” he concluded.
Christ Church Newton was founded as a parish by the Church of England in 1769. The parish survived the revolution and became part of the Episcopal Church in the United States, first as part of the Diocese of New Jersey and later as a member of the Diocese of Newark. The cornerstone of the current church at 62 Main Street was laid on August 21, 1868. Over time, additional structures were added to the church complex; Anderson House, built in 1785, was moved to 62 Main Street in 1896. The two-story parish hall connecting the church and Anderson House was built and dedicated in 1969. To date, Christ Church Newton has employed only 19 Rectors since the Reverend Uzal Ogden took over the parish in 1770.
Later that day, the renowned Christ Church Newton Senior Choir presented “Hands Across the Sea,” a concert of sacred and patriotic works from both Britain and the United States. The concert featured soloists John Beasley, baritone, and Shannah Yerofeyev, soprano, and was accompanied by organ and orchestra.