Newport: Trinity Church, Where Were You in the Revolution?

Trinity Church in Newport, R.I. survived the American Revolution. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Trinity Church in Newport, R.I. survived the American Revolution.
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Before France’s Comte de Rochambeau showed up in Newport, the city was under the control of the British during the American Revolution. Trinity Church, an Anglican congregation, was built in 1726 and “was spared . . . humiliation and ruin” that other churches, conscripted as barracks or hospitals, experienced while the British were about during the colonial rebellion. C. P. B. Jefferys, Newport: A Short History 31 (Newport Historical Society 1992).

One can't help but wonder what this place has seen. Trinity Church graveyard, Newport, R.I. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

One can’t help but wonder what this place has seen. Trinity Church graveyard, Newport, R.I.
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

On a visit to Rhode Island, the Brawny Sherpa and I show up at the graveyard near dusk one night and wonder about this place’s past. How did it switch from Anglican to Episcopalian? How easy was this transition? How similar were the populations of these different congregations?

Before the Revolution, Trinity Church in Newport, R.I., was Anglican; afterward, Episcopalian. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Before the Revolution, Trinity Church in Newport, R.I., was Anglican; afterward, Episcopalian.
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

We need to learn so much about the past. We just visit, though, and appreciate the history of this place.

—Lori Tripoli

Trinity Church, Newport, R.I. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Trinity Church, Newport, R.I.
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

 

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2 comments for “Newport: Trinity Church, Where Were You in the Revolution?

  1. July 8, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    Yay! I am so glad you visited Trinity – and took such beautiful photographs. I am blessed to be the Rector (Priest) of the parish, the first woman to serve in that role in over 300 years!

    To answer your questions about the parish (“How did it switch from Anglican to Episcopalian? How easy was this transition?”) I can say that Trinity was not the only Colonial church to sort out questions of identity post-revolution. When we were founded, in 1698, The Church of England (aka, the Anglican Church) was only found in England. English Colonists brought their religion with them, and created Anglican parishes in the new world. The Anglican Church was (and still is) an established church – meaning there was no separation of church and state. Anglican priests took vows to God and to the crown. As you can imagine, this was problematic after the war of independence, and yet faithful Anglicans wished to continue to practice their religion – minus swearing allegiance to the crown.

    So, in 1789, the Episcopal Church was founded as basically the local franchise of Anglicanism. The liturgy, theology, and practices of the Church of England were retained, without any ties to the monarchy. In time issues of ordination of Bishops, polity, and other practical items were sorted out, and The Episcopal Church emerged as the first in a wonderful federation of churches known now as the Anglican Communion. I’ve oversimplified history here, but basically, just as the new nation was established, so the new church was established. For a much clearer explanation, you might want to look at “A History of the Episcopal Church” by Robert W. Prichard.

    And do come back and see us again!

    The Rev. Canon Anne Marie Richards
    Rector, Trinity Church Newport

    • BashfulAdventurer
      July 9, 2014 at 12:33 pm

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and for sharing the church’s history, Rev. Richards! I look forward to reading the book you suggested–and definitely look forward to visiting your church again.

      Sincerely,

      Lori Tripoli

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