HISTORY of First Presbyterian Church of Avenel

In the Beginning

1871- The first move was made to hold religious services of the protestant faith by the organizing of a Union Sunday School. It was held in the public school on St. Georges Avenue called the Six Roads Schoolhouse. William V. McKenzie was the first Superintendent and served for two years. John M. Clark, a pioneer resident of Avenel and a relative of Abraham Clark, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, became the second Superintendent, serving until 1895.

1895- The Demarest Union Chapel was built on land donated by the Realty Trust Company of New York. For several years, Sunday school was held there; then it was discontinued. Between this time and 1919, a small group of Sunday School pupils met in the old firehouse on Remsen Avenue under the leadership of Viola Ellison.

1919- William Gardner of Woodbridge once again saw the need of a Sunday School in Avenel and began the work that continues today.

1923-24- Due to the increase in traffic on St. George Avenue, endangering the children, the people met for worship in the J.W. Browne residence and in the old community house on Pennsylvania Avenue. Arrangements were then made with the Board of Education to hold services in the public school on Avenel Street. Soon after, it was voted to change the name to a Presbyterian Sunday School under the Presbyterian Board of National Missions. Messrs. William Gardner, J. Arvid Winquist and A.E. Schmidt were superintendents. The membership of the Sunday School reached 100.

1927- On October 4, the Presbytery of Elizabeth received a letter from residents of Avenel petitioning for the organization of a Presbyterian Church. After discussion and the presentments of Elder William H. Gardner of the First Presbyterian Church of Woodbridge on behalf of the petitioners, the Committee on National Missions was directed to proceed with the organization as soon as arrangements could be completed.

On November 10, a meeting to effect the organization was held in the Avenel Public Library. About 30 persons were present. At this meeting, 28 charter members were received -- 14 by certificate, 9 by reaffirmation of faith and 5 by profession of faith. The organization committee was authorized to name a moderator and 3 elders from neighboring churches to serve temporarily as the Session. On motion of Mrs. William B. Krug, The First Presbyterian Church of Avenel was adopted as the corporate name of the church.

The Church Property on Woodbridge Avenue

The Woodbridge Avenue land where the original church building stands (now called the Chapel) was formerly owned by John M. Clark (Superintendent for many years) and donated to the Church by his son, Benjamin B. Clark.

1928-Church Building Fund was started. 1929- On November 24, about 150 people attended the laying of the cornerstone for the new church.
1930- On April 6, the new sanctuary was dedicated.

1931- The Rev. Dr. Robert I. MacBride became our first full-time minister in our newly built church. He served in Avenel until his death in 1940.

1932-39- Little growth was seen in Avenel during this period.

1940-49- Rev. Chester A. Galloway became our minister in 1940. The population of Avenel increased due to the building of many new homes and factories in the area. As a result, the Church and Sunday School grew considerably in this decade.

1949- With the increase in membership, an addition was needed to the Church. Ground was broken on November 27, 1949, and work was begun to enlarge the Church and build an addition for the Sunday School. Rev. Warren W. Warman was installed as our minister.

1950- On Sunday, March 26, an appropriate ceremony was held and the laying of the 1950 cornerstone at the side entrance of the new building took place. Dedication of the enlarged Sanctuary and Sunday School building was held on September 24.

1952- The 25th Anniversary of the organization of the First Presbyterian Church of Avenel was celebrated on November 9 at the 11:00 a.m. worship service.

1954- Rev. Dr. Charles S. MacKenzie became our pastor.

1955-57- Our Journey in the work of the Lord took an amazing turn upward! Attendance increased and with this the need for two worship services and double Sunday School sessions.

1957- Westminster Hall was dedicated and the young people of Avenel, members and non-members, became part of Our Journey.

1958-63- Church services increased from three to four and sometimes five services, with three sessions of Sunday School. During this period, plans were made for a new Christian Education building and a new sanctuary. The new Christian Education Building was dedicated on September 8, 1963. This building, which adjoined the church hall (later renamed Jacob Morgan Hall) and Westminster Hall, included classrooms and administrative offices.

The Sanctuary

1964- Land on the corner of Avenel Street and Woodbridge Avenue was purchased from the LaBat family for the building of the new sanctuary. This was an exciting time, and we all looked forward to completion of the new sanctuary.

1965- The Journey continued in our new sanctuary which was dedicated on October 31. Rev. Walter W. Felgner was our first minister in the new sanctuary.

1966-76- The first few years in this period saw a stability in our growth during which we maintained our programs. Then our church, as well as many other churches, began to show a decline in membership. The congregation worked hard, but maintaining our church properties financially, spiritually and physically was not easy. But with God's help and the prayers of many, we found a way.

1977- The First Presbyterian Church of Avenel celebrated the 50 Anniversary of its organization.

1983- October 22, 1983 - MORTGAGE BURNING CELEBRATION!!!

1985- February was a NEW BEGINNING with the installation of the Rev. Dr. John L. Dunlap as Pastor. We were looking ahead. Hopefully we would become a congregation acting as ONE FAMILY IN CHRIST, as opposed to separate families each doing their own thing. Our aim was to increase our membership by having our new as well as our old members become "working" active members and not just names on a list.

2007- Pastor Dunlap served the Lord and this congregation well for 22 years. He is now enjoying his much-deserved retirement! We miss him terribly, but wish him well. The Rev. Dr. Charles H. Baier has joined us as Interim Pastor effective March 15, 2007.

2009- The Rev. Jason P. Tucker agreed to join our congregation as the called pastor in July 2009. He was officially installed as pastor on September 20, 2009.

2013- The Rev. Robert C. Louer, III has joined us as Interim Pastor effective February, 2013.

2014- The Rev. Robert C. Louer, III has agreed to join our congregation as the called pastor effective February, 2014.

Ministers of the First Presbyterian Church of Avenel

Rev. Dr. Clair A. Morrow

Rev. Dr. Robert I. MacBride

Rev. Chester A. Galloway

Rev. Dr. William K. McKinney
(Stated Supply)

Rev. Warren W. Warman

Rev. Dr. Charles S. MacKenzie

Rev. Robert A. Bonham

Rev. Dieter Harte

Rev. Rev. John Robertson

Rev. Walter W. Felgner

Rev. Robert E. Lewis

Rev. C. Spencer van Gulick

Rev. C. Spencer van Gulick

Rev. Kenneth B. Cragg
(Visitation Minister)

Rev. Rev. John Flikkema
(Interim Pastor)

Rev. Rev. Clarence E. Twigg

Rev. James M. Cummings
(Interim Pastor)

Rev. Dr. John L. Dunlap
Pastor Emeritus, HR (Honorably Retired)

Rev. Dr. Charles H. Baier
(Interim Pastor)

Rev. Jason P. Tucker

Rev. Robert C. Louer, III
(Interim Pastor)

Rev. Robert C. Louer, III



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