New cross placed atop Christ Episcopal Church

DOVER — Any change made to the historic Christ Episcopal Church off South State Street is going to raise scrutiny as church members and history buffs alike cast a watchful eye as to what exactly is being altered.

Those kinds of things are bound to happen when the legendary Caesar Rodney, a statesman and signer of the Declaration of Independence, was a lifelong member of the church. His grandfather, Charles Inglis, also served as its pastor from 1759-1764.

It turns out that not a whole lot changed when a new cross, crafted by church member David LaMotta, was blessed by Rev. Charles S. Weiss before being installed high atop the belfry of the historic 1734 structure on Wednesday afternoon.

“We gather at this time to place a new cross at the height of our place of worship,” Rev. Weiss said in a dedication ceremony. “May we always hold the cross of Christ before us as a symbol of God’s love for all creation, as a reminder that we were created to love God and one another and as a timeless decree that love conquers all.

“We bless this steeple cross, setting it aside as a holy sign of your love toward a broken world. May all who enter (Christ Episcopal Church) below this cross go into the world changed by your love.”

Bill Bartlett, left, and Ronnie Rust prepare to place a new cross on the steeple at the historic Christ Episcopal Church in Dover on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

It was recently discovered that the former cross and base, which was more than a century old, had to be removed due to its age and being exposed to the elements.

“When they brought it down the base was falling apart and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m glad it didn’t fall on anybody,’” said Nancy Quinn, senior warden at the church. “I’m really excited about our new steeple cross.”

Wilson Bartlett and Ronnie Rust, of Clayton’s BB Construction Inc., took the new steeple cross up about 30 feet or so in a lift and placed it back to its long-standing place on the steeple at 501 South State Street.

As Mr. Bartlett and Mr. Rust were raising the steeple cross up to its familiar spot, Christ Episcopal Church Arch Deacon Pat Malcolm led the crowd that had gathered following an earlier church service in the hymn, “Lift High the Cross.”

Rev. Chuck Weiss blesses a new cross that was placed on the steeple at the historic Christ Episcopal Church in Dover on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

It was an especially rewarding moment for Mr. LaMotta, who constructed the new cross while using the old one as a guide.

“This is all made out of wood,” said Mr. LaMotta, who has been a member of Christ Church for 12 years. “The only thing different is the old cross was made out of pine and this is made out of pressure-treated wood.

“It took me about three days to complete, about 10 hours a day. I worked on it in my garage and I have air conditioning there, so it wasn’t too bad.”

Judy Kirch touches the new cross before it was placed on the steeple at the historic Christ Episcopal Church in Dover on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

The new cross will always hold a special place for Mr. LaMotta, who said his nephew died unexpectedly at the age of 28 on July 3rd, the same day he completed the cross.

“I’ve always loved God, so to me the church is always going to be God’s church,” he said. “Even though it’s part of history, it’s still God’s church.
“I’m sure when I look up there and I see the cross it’s going to remind me of a lot of other things.”

The congregation at Christ Church is the oldest in the city of Dover and the church building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been in continous use since it was constructed in 1734.

Rev. Weiss said the cross will primarily serve as a reminder of the love and forgiveness of God — and he’s glad to have it back.

“We give thanks to all who worked to create and raise high this symbol of faith for our community and beyond,” he said. “We dedicate this cross to your glory and future dedication of your followers.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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