Jul 02, 2017

All Saints’ Memorial Church

All Saints’ Memorial Church, also known as “the Stone Church,” is a strikingly different and beautiful compound of buildings, including the church, meeting hall, stables, rectory, and cemetery that is ringed by stone retaining walls. It sits atop a hill in the Highlands of Navesink, in a nearly six-acre section of Middletown Township. The church has long been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The ranking of the grounds were upgraded to a listing on the exclusive National Historic Landmarks list, joining the Guggenheim Museum, Sandy Hook Lighthouse, and Monmouth Battlefield. It has a very active and welcoming Episcopal community that is quite happy to share the many historic details of the church and surrounding buildings.

The church was one of the first established in Middletown, when that section was still known as Riceville. One of the founding families was that of Episcopalian John Henry Stephens, who came from the Isle of Wight. One of Stephens’ daughters caused a bit of a stir when she married a Quaker named Charles E. Milnor. Mr. Milnor was “read out of meeting,” like an excommunication, for marrying an Episcopalian. It was these two families, the Milnors and the Stephens, who donated the land and hired prominent English Gothic architect Richard Upjohn to design the church to reflect their memories of the English manor houses they loved. All Saints’ Memorial Church was formally consecrated on September 23, 1864 by the Right Reverend William Henry Odenheimer, Bishop of New Jersey and one of the most powerful Episcopalians of the era. That framed Certificate of Consecration is still hanging on the south wall of the church.

Architect Richard Upjohn was the first president of the American Architectural Association and was well known for his simple and strong designs that exude permanence. He used local stone and local craftsmen and workers, and many of those families still reside here.

As the congregation grew, Mr. Milnor’s next priority was developing a school, which soon enrolled 70 children, requiring the construction of a schoolhouse. The church was built in 1864 and the parish house, which was used as the schoolhouse, was built in 1865. From those first two original buildings, the church began expanding to add all the other buildings, including the rectory (circa 1869-1870) and a cemetery, where many of the members of the founding families are interred. In 1915, the graves of Old Reformed Church in Highlands (later St. Andrews in Highlands) were reinterred in All Saints’ Cemetery. An obelisk has been placed there to commemorate these graves. In May of 2014, the remains from the Memorial Garden of the Church of the Holy Communion, Fair Haven, were reinterred and recommitted in the All Saints’ Cemetery, as well.

The church has many historic items. The needlepoint kneeler at the altar rail was made by Felicity Clark Duane, who copied the design from the sarcophagus of the Archbishop Theodore found in St. Apollinare in Classe in Ravenna, Italy. The brass baptismal ewer was a gift to the church on Easter Sunday, 1897. There are many beautiful stained glass windows, also.

The church has endured thanks to a very committed congregation that has always maintained the buildings. In September 2016, the church was grateful to have received a $150,000 New Jersey Historic Trust grant for redoing the slate roofs of the rectory and the church building. The grant awards were awaiting final approval by the state legislature and the governor, which was expected to happen by June.

Part of the cost of the project relates the very intricate cutting patterns and steep incline of the roof. The nonprofit All Saints National Landmark Trust, Inc. is seeking bids for this expansive project. The trust is a separate, though related, entity whose mission is to seek, receive, and disburse funds contributed to it for the maintenance and preservation of the historic elements of the church campus. To learn more, visit the Landmark Trust page on the church’s website (www.allsaintsnaveink.org/landmark-trust). They are accepting donations via PayPal or by mail to the All Saints’ National Landmark Trust, P.O. Box 326, Navesink, NJ 07752.

Mother Debbie Cook, rector, says, “The buildings were built to serve God’s mission and still faithfully do. All Saints’ Memorial Church is an Episcopal parish in the Diocese of New Jersey and holds worship serves weekly, along with formation for children, youth, and adults. We serve our community in outreach by supporting the AACC Food Pantry in Atlantic Highlands, serve meals at St. Mark’s Church and Community Center in Keansburg, and provide filled backpacks for students in need in September, as well as Christmas gifts through various agencies in December. Our buildings host our annual Candlelight Concert in November, and various plays from our Stone Church Players theater troupe throughout the year, as well as dinners and other events. In addition, our hall hosts several recovery group meeting each week and are often used for community meetings.”

They welcome your visit. All Saints’ Memorial Church is located at 202 Navesink Avenue, Atlantic Highlands. Visit www.allsaintsnavesink.org.