In 1732, the area now known as Redding Ridge was part of the northern section of the town of Fairfield. There was an Anglican church in Fairfield, but that was a long way to travel. The Rev. John Beach, originally a Presbyterian-Congregationalist graduate of Yale, travelled to England and petitioned to found an Anglican church in the area. With the approval of King George II, he returned as the “settled” missionary of the Venerable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. Although the Rev. Beach and his family lived beside the church on Redding Ridge, he divided his time between Redding Ridge and Newtown, riding horseback between the two churches, a distance of nine miles.
There was, from the beginning, tension between the parishioners of the little church and those of the established Presbyterian-Congregational church down the road. A portion of the colony’s local taxes went to support the established church and to pay the salary of its minister but none was allotted to the Anglicans despite Rev. Beach’s repeated petitions to the Governor. One can imagine how the Anglicans felt about their taxes going to support only the other church!
When the War began, the two groups became more polarized as many members of the Anglican church supported the King in his efforts to quell the rebellion while most members of the other church were Patriots. Predictably, Rev. Beach’s pacifist stance was interpreted by some of the Patriots as supporting the Tory military effort. He was, after all, still including prayers for the King in his Sunday liturgy. One Sunday morning as Rev. Beach was preaching from the pulpit, a band of soldiers hired, it is said, by a local Patriot, entered the church and fired at Rev. Beach. The bullet lodged in the sounding board behind Rev. Beach’s head and he went on preaching. Today a memorial plaque in the narthex of our church displays a replica of the sounding board and the bullet and serves as a reminder to Redding’s visiting school children of the days when disagreements were allowed to escalate to violence.
Another story tells of the British General Tryon’s march from Westport to Danbury where he was headed to destroy the Patriot military stores. En route, the troops rested in a field across from Christ Church. The soldiers took target practice at the weathercock that sat atop the steeple, shooting it down. In 1992, a parishioner discovered the damaged weathercock and had it repaired. It now sits in a frame in our parish hall and a replica sits atop the steeple and is the symbol of Christ Church Parish.