all saints memorial episcopal church 1280PHOTO:  All Saints Memorial Episcopal Church

muriel j smith 120aIt was October, 1861 when Dr. William N. Dunnell, rector of Trinity Church in Red Bank, thought would be a good idea to have weeknight church services in the village of Riceville, as Navesink was called in the 19th century. The services were held in the schoolhouse behind the Library. At first, they were held once a month, then twice a month, and before long, on one Sunday a month as well.


A strong belief in God and a desire to have a church of their own was strong among the families in Navesink. So when Charles Milnor decided to gather his own children and neighbors together for teaching catechism some nine months after Dr. Dunnell’s first service, a few youngsters attended. The next class showed a few more show up, and before long, there were 70 youngsters being taught by the women of the Milnor family and other neighborhood ladies. The All Saints Sunday School was well established!

Mrs. James Edgar was an early church-goer and dreamed of having a chapel built, a dream she could not fulfill before her death. But her wish was carried out by her father, John Stephens,, and her husband, together with other family members, who built All Saints as a memorial to her and other deceased family members.

Nine days short of Dr. Dunnell’s first service, on Oct. 7, 1863, the cornerstone of All Saints Memorial Church in the Highlands of Navesink was laid. Less than a year later, a parochial organization was formed and the new building was consecrated.

Family names among the founders are still familiar names in Navesink and the surrounding area…Milnor, Hartshorne, Stephens, Sickles, Carhart….and the church and its community have grown and become an integral part of the community.

In its growth and expansion, All Saints reaches out to the community in numerous ways in addition to open invitations to attend Sunday services. The Stone Church Players, a community theatre group, stages musicals, classics, comedies, radio plays and holiday programs and will be celebrating their 10th anniversary of this ministry in the coming year.

The All Saints Memorial Church Cemetery is the final resting place for many of the founding families of All Saints, together with other local families. When St. Andrews Church in Highlands, originally known as the Old Reformed Church of Highlands, was closed, the graves from that church were re-interred in All Saints Cemetery, with an obelisk to commemorate those deceased. Three years ago, remains from the Memorial Garden at Fair Haven’s Church of the holy Communion, were also re-committed to the cemetery. A Memorial Garden has been included for the internment of cremation ashes as All Saints continues to meet the needs of the community.

The Church has numerous ministries, including Men’s Women’s and Youth groups, Garden Angels, who tend the landscaping on the church grounds, the cemetery ministry, and others.

IN celebration of Christmas, this weekend the Church is featuring a Live Nativity scene, regardless of rain or shine. The Living Nativity will be active on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Sunday, from noon to 4 p.m. There will also be a Winter Fest at the same time, complete with Santa Claus making an appearance on Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m. and again on Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. Crafters, wreaths, food and family fun are all on tap.

All of which proves that All Saints Church of the Highlands of Navesink is still the same, thriving, bustling, intricate part of the community that it has been from the very beginning.

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Muriel J. Smith

Muriel J Smith

Muriel J Smith an award-winning journalist, former newspaper editor, book author and historian, Her newest venture is her blog, in...