The First Presbyterian Church at Christian Hook Oceanside, NY
Celebrates 140 years - 1871 – 2011
HISTORY AND GROWTH
The First Presbyterian Church at Christian Hook was organized and dedicated to God on October 31, 1871. Its First Corporate Meeting had been held on February 25, 1871, and the incorporation paper subsequently filed on July 8, 1871.
Our church is directly descended from the Presbyterian Church in Freeport. Asearly 1844, a Sunday school was conducted in the Oceanside public school which was located diagonally across the street from present church property. In 1868, Mr. Wright Pearsall, the Superintendent of this Sunday School, invited The Rev. Mr. Marcus Burr, the minister of the Freeport Church, to lead regular church services in the school after Sunday School, Mr. Burr agreed, and when our church formally organized, he became its first minister.
The original building was built during the summer of 1871 and is still apparent to today’s structure. The front is the same, but the building extended only to the steps of the present chancel. The pulpit was elevated and located near the present front door. In the beginning there was no instrumental church music, and the church bell was not installed until 1874. Land for the building was donated by Townsend F. Southard and the church erected at a total cost of $2,200.
Through the years, many improvements and enlargements have been made. The first was in 1892 when the present chancel area and a south entrance were added. The chancel area was used for Sunday School and a nursery and the new entrance afforded carriages the ability to discharge church goers under the portico in times of inclement weather. The present front door was not reopened until 1914 when the second major change was completed.
In 1913 and 1914, the sancturary was completely redone, modeled after the chapel at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. Church services were held at the Salamander Fire House during this renovation. The present organ, the first pipe organ in Oceanside was purchased and operated manually until 1939. In August 1914 the beautiful stained glass window dedicated to The Rev. Mr. Burr, and purchased through donations of friends and relatives, was installed. Mr. Burr preached his final sermon in our church on that day. Seven weeks later he died and was buried in Hillside Cemetery in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
The next physical improvement occurred in 1925 when the parish hall was started. It was completed in two stages, the basement being built in 1925, with the remainder completed in 1929. The parish hall contained the only basketball court besides the one in School #1 in Oceanside. As a result of the construction of the parish hall, the stable in back of the church was torn down and later, in 1928, the outdoor sanitary facilities were declared “unsafe” and were removed. The parish hall was and still is the focal point of all church activities except worship. Although, in 1962 when another renovation of the sanctuary was undertaken and worship was held in the parish hall, it served that purpose as well. In 1929, the additional land was purchased which is now the parking lot. An effort was made at that time to purchase the land where the stores are now, but the trustees were outbid. A final land acquisition was made in 1947, on which the manse was erected in 1951.
Two other memorable improvements have been made. The first was the installation of stained glass windows in the sanctuary in 1937, and the second was the renovation of the parish hall and adding the connecting link from the church to the parish hall in 1966. The stained glass windows were designed by the minister at that time, the Rev. Mr. Humphrey Walz. The south Windows depict faith, hope and charity and the north windows represent the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Two other windows were also designed, one being emblematic of the Ten Commandments, the other an open Bible. The 1966 building program produced the church plant as it is today.
A more recent addition to the organ was made in the form of chimes which were added in 1955 by choir-sponsored holiday programs of choral music, organ recitals, old fashioned hymn-sings followed by teas. This money raised, together with gift donations, made it possible to have the chimes installed at Christmas on that same year.
Extensive renovation was done in 1962, which included strengthening beams, new wiring, new roof and lighting fixtures, carpeting reset stained glass window, among other things in the church. Many alterations were also made in the adjoining Parish Hall.
In addition, a small sacristy was added, in which the silver communion service is stored. The oaken cabinet in which many church artifacts are on display is in the hall. A cross and candlestick for the Communion Table were given as memorials.
Adding to the beauty of the service were the purchase of new church paraments, choir robes and elders’ robes. The service is also amplified and recorded on tapes which are distributed to homebound members.
New ceiling fans have been installed to aid in air circulation in hot or cold weather and which also helps in heat conservation. The grounds have been landscaped and another piano purchased for use of the choir and Sunday School. A new bulletin board has been erected at the front of the church, in keeping with its appearance.
In the years 1998 and 1999, the historic organ which had been installed in 1914 was rewired and extensively refurbished. Also, in 2001 there was a church-wide appeal for donations to put on a new roof on the church and manse, and the Speer Parlor was redecorated. A lovely Bay window was installed in the Speer Parlor in memory of Eileen Paul.
In 2003, major improvements included the installation of central air conditioning in our Sanctuary , in memory of Dorothy Koelbel. The year 2006 brought a much needed chair-lift to Fellowship Hall, installed in memory of Marilyn Holmes, We also saw the creation of a Youth Center in memory of and named after Vicky Bourdy. In recognition of the love, dedication, and financial gifts left by Barbara Pastor, the fellowship hall has been named The Barbara Pastor Fellowship Hall.
Our church was the first church in Oceanside. It was organized when the town population was approximately 200 families. Today it serves a community of 36,000 persons with a whole world of changing problems, opportunities and responsibilities.
Ministers of the Church:
Marcus Burr 1871-1884 Harry Schill 1975-1988
G.B. Willingham 1884-1885 Kathi L. Jones 1988-1990
A.G. Bergen 1885-1887 John L. Odom 1990-1996
D.M. Buchanan 1889-1892 Laurie McNeill 1996-1997
H.P. McHenry 1892-1893 Jim Burton 1998-2004
J.J. Wolf 1894-1896 Randall Broger 2004-present
A.J. Wright 1897-1902
Harry B. Roberts 1903-1905
George F. Lee 1906-1907
A.H. Rennie 1907-1910
Arthur C. Watkins 1910-1916
L. Walter Stephens 1916-1918
James H. Bigelow 1918-1927
J.L. Lauffer 1927-1928
John Lee Maddox 1928-1929
Rolland L. Moores 1930-1933
L. Humphrey 1933-1937
Curtis M. Glick 1938-1943
Richard W. Firth 1943-1945
Irving E. Birdseye 1945-1946
John B. Macnab 1946-1954
Albert L. Jeandheur 1955-1960
Barton B. Leach 1961-1967
Lawrence Miller 1968-1972