Sketches of Church Life in Colonial Connecticut
Being the Story of the Transplanting of the Church of England into Forty Two Parishes of Connecticut,
with the Assistance of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel
THE present town of Redding is one of the few places in the old colony of Connecticut where the Episcopal ministry is entitled to the distinction of having been first of the ground, laying foundations and not building upon those already laid.
In 1723 Rev. Samuel Johnson of Stratford took charge of all the missionary work of Connecticut and in 1727 sent the Rev. Henry Caner to Redding, who became (1733) the first minister of the parish. After a pastorate of five years he was succeeded by Rev. John Beach, who served as a faithful missionary for a full half century, his pastorate being the longest of all the ante-Revolutionary clergy. Through his instrumentality the first church on Redding ridge was built in 1734, the year following his taking charge of the parish. The structure was quite small and in 1750 was replaced by a larger one, surmounted by a turret which in 1777 was replaced by a steeple in which was placed the first bell. In 1873 this steeple was repaired and a handsome gilded cross substituted the old weather cock imported from England, whose legs had been shot off by one of Tryon's soldiers in 1777. This venerable bird is one of the carefully preserved relics of the parish.
On the interior the church, according to the style of the period, was furnished with square high backed pews, with seats on their four sides, obliging some o the occupants to sit with their backs to the minister.
It was in this year that the bullet (still preserved) was fired by "rebel" soldiers, at the Rev. John Beach while he was preaching, lodging in the sounding board just over his head. The venerable preacher's composure is shown by the way he addressed his congregation as they were about to rush from the church in consternation. "Don't be alarmed, brethren," he said. "Fear not them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."
During the next eighty-three years nothing of great importance happened.