A Brief History of Christ Church Newton
Christ Episcopal Church Newton was organized on December 28, 1769, making it the second oldest parish in the Diocese of Newark. In fact, Christ Church Newton predates the formation of the Diocese of Newark, which was not established until 1785. The diocese functioned without a bishop for the first 30 years, remaining dependent on bishops of neighboring dioceses for confirmations and other episcopal acts until 1815. Parishioners met in the Sussex County Court House during the early years of its existence.
Christ Church Newton, Organized in December, 1769
In April, 1770, the Proprietors of East Jersey granted the new parish 200 acres of land on Fredon Road, 3 1/2 miles outside of Newton. This property would belong to the church until 1868. Also in 1770, Newton resident Jonathan Hampton contributed 10 acres to fulfill the parsonage requirement for establishing the new parish. Prior to building the church, the rectory for the parish was eventually constructed on this property, which is currently known as Dunn Place, and is situated 3 blocks from the current church building.
The final step required to make the new parish equal to the parishes in the Church of England was incorporation, which was accomplished in 1774 with the granting of a charter by the Royal Governor, William Franklin, on behalf of His Majesty, George III.
Uzal Ogden, Jr., a founder of Trinity Church in Newark, was named the first rector of Christ Church Newton, despite not being ordained. He had responsibility for a vast area of more than 2,000 square miles in northwestern New Jersey.
In 1773, Ogden traveled to England to seek ordination by the Bishop of London since there were no bishops employed at that time by the Diocese of Newark. A church building was finally erected and consecrated on November 19, 1823. Clarkson Dunn was officially designated as Rector on the following day. By 1824, the church had its first organ, which would be in use until a new one was installed in 1856. A church bell was installed on March 12, 1838.
In March of 1857, Dunn was replaced by his son-in-law, Nathaniel Pettit, who served as Rector until 1867. In 1867, the church building was deemed unsafe, and the congregation met in the Sussex County Courthouse and subsequently in Rinker's Hall, a building overlooking the town square.
The cornerstone of the current church was laid on August 21, 1868, in the presence of the Bishop, the Right Reverend William H. Odenheimer, the two former rectors, Nathaniel Pettit and Clarkson Dunn, and the new Rector, the Reverend William Welles Holley. Services were conducted in the new church on Sunday, July 11, 1869, for the first time. Over time, additional structures would be added to the church complex; Anderson House, built in 1785, was moved to 62 Main Street in 1896. In addition, the 2-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.
A detailed account of the history of Christ Church Newton, "An Inheritance of the Faithful" by noted historian and archivist Merrit Ierley, is available by calling the church office at 973-383-2245.