Eight years after the Civil War, All Saints' Episcopal Church was founded. On November 1, 1872, the Episcopal Church Extension Society brought together the Reverend Dean Henry Rodman, rector of Grace Church, Plainfield; the Reverend Dr. Ward, rector of Holy Cross Church, North Plainfield; and Mr. Kyte of Fanwood to discuss the need for holding and maintaining regular Episcopal services in Scotch Plains.
In March of 1874, the Reverend Mr. Charles Sykes became the first priest-in-charge of All Saints' Episcopal Church in Scotch Plains. He conducted Sunday morning services and established a Sunday School. The mission services were held in the Scotch Plains Baptist Church.
Christopher Bell, MD, gave the land on which All Saints' now stands. The church cornerstone was laid on April 29, 1882. A beautiful church was erected, with porte-cochere built for the convenience of parishioners arriving in their horse-drawn carriages. The first worship service in the new All Saints' Church was held November 2, 1882.
On May 22, 1893, All Saints' Protestant Episcopal Church was dedicated by the Right Reverend John Scarborough. In an effort to improve attendance, in 1895 notices of services were placed at the railroad depot, the trolley station, and the Scotch Plains Post Office. The chairman of the vestry was authorized to hire a stage coach (at $11.50 each Sunday) to bring worshippers from Fanwood, calling for them at their homes.
The first mention of an Altar Guild and a Choir Guild was made in 1898. The Altar Guild assisted with church maintenance, while the Choir Guild raised funds to assist with financial needs.
On November 6, 1907, the Right Reverend John Scarborough came to consecrate All Saints' Church. There were about seventy (70) persons present; the Reverend Dean E.M. Rodman of Grace Church, Plainfield, preached the sermon. In 1919, John Hudston became All Saints' first lay reader.
In 1923, the Reverend George Trowbridge Gruman accepted the position of rector of All Saints' with the promise of a rectory as soon as possible; it was built in November of that year. Father Gruman was the first to wear ecclesiastical vestments during Holy Communion at All Saints', after receiving permission from the bishop and the vestry.
The first of our beautiful stained glass windows, also the first in the community, was installed on May 26, 1946, in memory of Lieutenant John J. Rau. On April 10, 1949, the parish house cornerstone was laid. The Right Reverend Wallace J. Gardner, D.D. officiated at the ceremony. Mr. Shilay of Fanwood was the builder, at a cost of $16,244.87. It was dedicated by Bishop Gardner on March 19, 1950. The first outside organizations to use the parish house for their meetings were the Red Cross and the Scouts.
There was a tremendous increase in the population of Scotch Plains and Fanwood in the 1950s, from 9,069 in 1950 to 18,492 in 1960. All Saints' held three church services on Sundays. Church school classes were held at the rectory and at School One, with 346 church school pupils meeting in two sessions. A church building program was launched with a parish dinner on May 28, 1959.
On May 3, 1959, the Reverend George Ernst dedicated the Book of Remembrance and its cabinet. It was Father Ernst's suggestion that All Saints' hold an antique show and sale. The first one was held in October 1960. The holiday fair, or Yuletide Fair as we now call it, began in 1894, and continues to today.
On July 24, 1960, All Saints' Church was renovated. This included repainting inside and outside, installing new pews, and walling over the porte-cochere door to create space for additional seating. A new rectory was purchased in 1961; the old rectory was sold and moved two years later.
Our parish became affiliated with the World Council of Churches in 1963. In 1965, under Father Chester Hand, Jr., priest-in-charge, the church became a member of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Council of Religious Organizations.
On September 7, 1969, the Reverend John R. Neilson came to us from Saint Bartholomew's Chapel in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, with his wife, Sandy, and their son Timmy. Of our twenty-one priests during our 130 years, Father Neilson, Rector Emeritus, served as pastor the longest -- until his retirement in 1996. His quoting of the Book of Proverbs (29:18) at the 1970 Annual Meeting is as apropos today, "where there is no vision, the people perish", asking then that "we develop the vision of a greater and more effective witness for Christ in our parish, -- a further reaching out to share the 'good news' with others, -- a deeper commitment to the principles for which our Savior was born, died and rose again".
After a determined and persistent, and ultimately fruitful search process -- and wonderful assistance from Father Bob Griffiths and Father Tom Laws -- All Saints' called its first woman as Rector. The Reverend Jane L. Rockman joined us from The Church of the Ascension in New York City in January 2000, just in time to kick off a new millennium at All Saints'. Rev. Jane served us as Rector until her retirement in May 2015.
An arduous 2-year search process after her retirement taught All Saints' much about who we are, who we'd like to be, and the many gifts that we share with each other and our community. Our current rector is the Reverend Susanna Cates, who previously served in Morristown, NJ and Abilene, TX.
All Saints' Episcopal Church . 559 Park Avenue . Scotch Plains, NJ 07076
(908) 322-8047 . Church@AllSaints-SPNJ.org
(908) 322-8047 . Church@AllSaints-SPNJ.org