TIVERTON — As part of his church’s 300th birthday celebration this year, Reverend John Higginbotham will saddle up Sunday, Oct. 14, and ride a horse from Grinnell’s Beach to Tiverton’s Holy Trinity Church at 1956 Main Road.
Wearing a white wig, a colonial hat, black cassock and a very heavy black riding cloak, Rev. Higginbotham will dismount at the church, and inside conduct a service just as it would have been conducted in 1712.
Rev. Higginbotham is pastor at the historic church, and ordinarily conducts Episcopal worship services there every Sunday. Last Sunday the 10 a.m. service was different, however.
“We are going to try to get back to that period and re-enact what the eucharist and Sunday services would have looked like to Tiverton Episcopalians 300 years ago — Anglicans as they were called at that time,” he said.
The service will be taken from the 1662 prayer book, he said. There will be no electricity during the service and no organ music. “They didn’t have music at all,” he said. The language will be Middle English.
“There will be no participation by the laity. The priest does the liturgy,” he said. The entire service will take about an hour, he said.
Back in 1712, Rev. Higginbotham says, the church’s first preacher, Rev. James Honyman from Newport, would ride his pastoral circuit every week by horseback.
Rev. Honyman would ride up from Newport to the tip of Aquidneck Island, said Rev. Higginbotham, where he would cross the river into Tiverton. He would minister to his congregations there and in Little Compton, next Freetown, and then return to Portsmouth, from where he would ride back to Trinity Church at One Queen Anne Square in Newport in time to preach the Sunday service. Round trip it took a week.
Rev. Honyman rode the same circuit for 40 years, from 1710 to 1750, when he died, said Rev. Higginbotham.
This Sunday morning, he said, “I’ll mount up at Grinnell’s Beach about 9:45, and start down Main Road. It’s a short ride.”
He will be followed by a horse trailer driven by Debbie Charette, from Claddagh Farm. Ms. Charette owns the horse — Muddy Rivers — Rev. Higginbotham will be riding.
“Muddy” — “I’ll talk about Muddy anytime,” said Ms. Charette —is a bay gelding, with a white star and a strip down to his nose, with a white snip between his nostrils, and white socks, she said. He’s half thoroughbred, half quarter horse.
“He’s 25 years old that I know of, a trained search-and-rescue horse, and a jumper,” Ms. Charette said.
Rev. Higginbotham has been taking riding lessons at Claddagh Farm, and rehearsed at the farm in full period costume on Monday.
Note: Photos added Tuesday, Oct. 16, after the publication of the story, which was written before the event.