NEW BRUNSWICK SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH HISTORY
1902 – 2016
By Pastor Daniel A. Duffis & Elder Henry Lutzmann
The proclamation of the Seventh-day Adventist Message in New Brunswick and its surrounding suburbs dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. According to available records, about the year 1902 Elder Charles Henry Keslake held, a tent effort on Livingston Avenue during which some six to eight souls were prepared for baptism and a small church was organized………….
It is evident, however, that even before this time the Holy Spirit had been working in this area through dedicated literature evangelists, in the homes of some people, as members then had copies of old copies of The Great Controversy or Bible Readings for the Home. On the fly-leaf of these books, the name of some faithful colporteur is written dating back as far as the 1890’s.
The little group of converts from Elder Keslake’s effort disappeared in 1903 due to the fact that the members moved away. Faithful colporteurs continue working selling books and distributing literature in the area for many years, but no one got baptized. In early 1909 S. Oberg wrote in the CUC Visitor from New Brunswick about the different nationalities in the area who were receiving literature, such as the Hungarians, Polanders, and Slavs; he wrote also about the Dutch Reformed members, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodist and Baptists.
During the New Jersey Conference Session of 1909 plans were studied under President B. F. Kneeland as to how to penetrate large cities of the state, including New Brunswick.
What a joy it was when it was finally announced in early 1916 (Visitor, March 2, 1916): “A new Sabbath School has been organized in New Brunswick. Though there are but few of our people here, we are glad that they are a faithful few. Our Sabbath school sisterhood now numbers forty schools.” There were only four members in NB on March 31, 1916.
Beginning on July 25, 1920 Elder W.A. Nelson, who later would become the president of the Conference, held an effort in New Brunswick under a tent located beside the High School building. On opening night there were over 250 to listen to his sermon: “Has Christianity failed?” It was the hope of Pastor Nelson and his associates Prof. and Mrs. E. L. Parrish, Mrs Nelson and Miss Vera Carrigan, to rise up a church after the effort. Even though Elder Nelson was invited to speak at the Methodist church, and the community and newspaper gave the necessary support, and the attendance was wonderful, after three months of preaching the results were not what were expected. Colporteurs Lingo and W.W. Ellis continued working in the area. Miss Carrigan continued to give Bible studies in New Brunswick.
The NJ camp meeting of 1926 was held just outside New Brunswick on Route 27 (at the old Linwood Grove in Edison), another series of meetings was held by Elder O. H. Carnes. which brought some attention to the church, in spite of the rain; and in 1927 the camp meeting was held in New Brunswick at on the site of the present Post Office building on Bayard and Kirkpatrick Streets. The membership more than doubled and the church was officially organized with about 28 to 30 members. The church was formerly organized in March 26, 1927.
So we see that much effort, time, thought, and surely much prayer had been given to bringing the light of the Advent Message to this city. During all those years the group of believers met in private homes, lodge halls, or in rented church buildings.
In 1938, while we were meeting in the First Methodist Church on Liberty and George Streets, a church building fund was started. Money was hard to come by at that time. The New Jersey Conference brethren were not in a position to help us financially, or even to give us much counsel, except to caution us to plan carefully. But we saved our pennies, and in the summer of 1945, we were able to purchase the land where our church is presently located for $4,000.00. One of the city judges, Judge Morrison and an attorney whom we knew helped us obtain the land and did all the legal work free of charge. Here again, we see evidence of the Lord’s help.
So we began building the foundation and the main auditorium with the help of the Pastor and the lay members. The church experienced new life and impetus, and grew into a good, strong, solid membership.
In the fall of 1945, when the shell of the building was barely completed, the New Jersey Conference brethren arranged to have Elder Andrew Fearing join us in an evangelistic series. He held the most comprehensive evangelistic campaign up to that time. Many owe their first glimpse of the Three Angel’s Messages (Revelation 14:6-12) to the Spirit of God that permeated those meetings. Everyone felt God’s blessing and 21 new members were added to the church. The names of Elder and Mrs. Fearing were greatly and dearly beloved by our members who went to those meetings.
The church membership continued to grow until in 1965 it became necessary to add what was then called “the new wing.” Still more people joined the church until we ran out of space again.
On November 21, 1982, ground was broken for further expansion and remodeling of the church facilities. More space was needed in the main sanctuary, the Sabbath-School classrooms, for community services, and for evangelism in general. This was a hard decision to make at a time of inflationary, ever-increasing building costs. But the brethren knew and believed that as we approached the end of time the Holy Spirit would be poured out in a fuller measure, and many would be added to our number. We made the decision to go forward in faith. In 1986, some four years later, with the membership still increasing, we were glad we made the decision to enlarge our church.
The New Brunswick Church has also been faithful in supporting Christian education. This church and our sister church in Plainfield and the New Brunswick Hungarian have established the Lake Nelson School at 555 S. Randolphville Road in Piscataway in 1958. The consecrated teachers of this school have trained our young people for over 50 years to be ambassadors for Christ. Many of these students are now serving in different parts of the world as pastors, teachers, doctors, nurses. Equally important are the many students who now serve as Christian ambassadors in the business world and in the home.
During the early 1960s it was a very interesting time when the church expanded its structure, and help in the building of the Lake Nelson School and the purchasing of the Garden State Academy at the same time.
The New Brunswick Church has been a mother church to many others. In 1939 our church formed the basis of the New Brunswick Hungarian Church. Later it served as the supporter of the New Brunswick Spanish Church in the early 1970s. It was the initiator of the Princeton Church and also the New Brunswick French Church. Today we are looking forward to initiate the Russian/International Church near Old Bridge and the African International Community Church.
Besides the names already mentioned, those that have pastored the New Brunswick Church include: W. A. Nelson, M. J. Krietzky, Glenn Coon, Luther Belote, Edwin Krick, Donald Robbins, Walter Gibson, Joseph Jeffreys, Kenneth McComas, Benjamin Mondics, Conrad Rasmussen, Percy Lamb, Larry Eldridge, ]ames A. Brown, LeRoy Tripp, Lynn Gatz, Thomas Kopko, Floyd Strunk, Milton Pruitt, Jerry Fore, Rodney Hyde, Richard Moushon, Robert Forss, Mitchell Jonakin, Norman Zimmerman, Dan Neergard, Phil Smiley, Ed Keys, Sheldon Cooper, Daniel Duffis and curret Pastor John Lee.
All these have served according to their calling some as pastors, some as teachers, some as evangelists; and all have left their mark and impression upon the life of the church.
The dedicated lay members have been the backbone of the strength of this church. Worthy of mention in the pass are persons such Henry Lutzmann, Julius Hirsch, Peter Kovalski, Venetia Nelson, John Nagy and names such as Catanese, Sipos, McDermott, Ward, Kijak, Martens, Korpman, Sales, Pfisterer and many more that are still serving faithfully today.
Our prayer from this day forward is that the Holy Spirit will baptize us as we have never experienced before. We want those who come to worship here to feel the warmth, the love, the unity and the power that emanates from above. We pray that the Holy Spirit will use us to reach the honest in heart with God’s urgent message.
And may this church continue to be a spiritual oasis through which God will be able to draw to Himself those who from every walk of life want to be ready when Jesus comes.