CANAAN — Christ Episcopal Church has been sold.
The stately stone building and its adjacent bell tower, which have sat prominently on a rise on Main Street since 1846, once again will be home to a religious order.
Castle Church Canaan purchased the property this week as its national headquarters. According to the land transfer at the town clerk’s office, the price was $100,000. The sale went from the Episcopal Church to the Mission Society of Connecticut to the Knights Templar.
The church has stood vacant since 2012, when it closed due to declining membership. Many congregants who had attended the church for years — some whose families went back generations — were saddened by the move.
Tears flowed at the final Sunday service on Sept. 10, 2012, when Connecticut Episcopal Bishop Laura Ahrens delivered the final sermon.
Bryant Jones, a member of the Knights of Templar organization, said it is a national group that follows the Anglican tradition.
The members have been searching for a headquarters, and because most of them are from the New York-New England area, Canaan was the perfect choice, he said. They also were enticed by the building’s history.
It was designed by Richard Upjohn, who also did the state Capitol in Hartford.
The plan is to continue to use the church as a sanctuary. Robert Fredrickson will be the full-time pastor and is expected to lead his first service this Sunday at 10 a.m.
The [Order], Jones said, is open to those who profess a following of Jesus Christ. They can be Catholics, Protestant or Orthodox. Members cannot be felons, and must have enough education to understand the rules of the order and its services.
“We hold the spirit and physical inspiration from the ancient Knights of Templar from 1118,” Jones said. “They protected the Christian pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Their job was to guard the roads and keep them safe. We offer the same protection of Christianity on the symbolic road in life.”
The Knights perform their acts in peaceful ways, Jones said. With persecution of Christians still evident, especially in places such as the Middle East, members raise money to make donations to help those facing such situations.
The Knights hope to spread the word of their mission, and in September 2020, are planning an International Conclave with 100 members and delegates from around the world.
Jones emphasized they are not associated with the Masons. He said they have no claim to the heritage of the ancient templars, but they do get their spiritual inspiration from them.
“We can’t trace our lineage back to the 1100s, but we do go back to 1705,” he said.
Jones noted how thrilled they are to be in such lovely surroundings.
“We plan to preserve and continue the beauty of the church,” he said. “It’s much like a castle and so it’s fitting for our organization. It reflects the Medieval style.”
Member Ton Huffmaster was at the church earlier this week. He had traveled from Arkansas to make some needed repairs to the church and the hall, another building on the site. That building, which formerly housed a thrift shop and was used for free community meals when Christ Church Episcopal occupied the premises, will be available for rental for social functions, he said.
BY RUTH EPSTEIN Republican-American