The months of January and February, 1868, were marked by the outpouring of the Spirit of God upon the church. The members were brought nearer each other. Seventy-two persons united with the church during this period.
At a congregational meeting held June 24, 1868, it was Resolved, That the session of the church be appointed to secure a parsonage. Contracts were made August 3, about $1,100 having been subscribed. The parsonage was completed in December.
A great temperance work and revival was carried on during the next three years, and many victims of the drinking habit were saved. The church grew steadily, sixty-three persons having united with it. The next year forty-one were admitted and the year following twenty-nine.
April 20, 1873, Howell Sunday School (now known as North End Mission) was organized by the pastor and a committee of the Home School, with fifty-five persons present, twenty of them being from the Home School. This school grew rapidly under the superintendency of Charles Davis.
A third Sunday School was organized in the Third Ward, which proved to be the nucleus for the later organization of the present Westminster Church.
About this time a great trial came to the pastor and his wife, and through them to the congregation, in the sudden death of his two children, Edith--nearly five years old--and Mary--two and a half years old--who were called away within two weeks, leaving his home desolate. In sorrow he turned to God and asked for a blessing upon himself and people, and the Lord answered, in the early part of 1874, in the outpouring of His Spirit upon both church and Sabbath School. Two hundred persons were awakened to their need of a Saviour and rose and asked the prayers of the church, and over one hundred and forty were hopefully converted. During the year one hundred and fifty persons united with the church.
A passing word should be said of the choir which nobly assisted the church about this time. The "Harmonium" for years was alternately played by John W. Dean and Mrs. Jacob S. Stewart--who sang in the choir from a mere girl. The choir consisted of Miss Lizzie Firth (Mrs. Holmes), Mr. Thomas DeWitt, Mr. John W. Dean, Miss Mary Lander (Mrs. J. S. Stewart), Miss Mary Wright, Miss Helen DeWitt, Mrs. George Davis, Mr. and Mrs. George Sweeney. Mrs. Stewart also played the melodeon and led the singing in the Sunday School.
About this time the splendid pipe organ was procured, mainly through the efforts of Mr. Townsend.
On January 25, 1874, Robert S. Brittain and Joseph Warne were elected Elders.
Elder Warne died in Virginia, whither he had gone on a business trip, September 4, 1874. His death was the first in the session of the church and was much regretted by the congregation.
At a meeting of the congregation January 20, 1875, John K. Stephens was elected Elder and was installed January 24th.
The following abstract of a narrative sent to Presbytery in 1875 will be interesting: "A new Sunday School was begun in the Third Ward May 17, 1874, with successful results. More than 100 children, the majority of whom never went to Sunday School, were gathered in and instructed in the Scriptures and Catechism. Two weekly prayer-meetings have been conducted the year round in connection with this mission school. The Sunday School has maintained a state of rare efficiency, under careful management. The catechism has been faithfully taught as containing much necessary truth in small compass and eleven of the scholars have publicly recited the whole of it. Our prayer-meetings have been well attended, and without intermission, except during extra services in the church. Our women have been untiringly active in Foreign Mission work and without a single failure have kept up their women's weekly prayer meeting and monthly business meeting the year round."
During the latter part of 1875 the pastor arranged and held a series of meetings in Gwinner's Hall, which were largely attended and which resulted in the conversion of many. During the first ten years of Mr. Townsend's pastorate, two hundred and thirty-six united with the church on profession and one hundred and ninety by certificate.
The death of Elder Benjamin Burwell in August, 1876, was the cause of general regret among the congregation which he had served so faithfully for nearly twenty-three years.
The twenty-fifth anniversary of the church was observed with appropriate exercises December 13-15, 1878. The exercises consisted of a "Service of Remembrance" Friday evening, December 13, 15 7:15 o'clock. The pastor preached an anniversary sermon from Heb. 10: 31--"Call to remembrance the former days." On Saturday afternoon, December 14, 15 3 o'clock, a "Service of Missions" under the auspices of the women of the church, was held and at 7:15, the same evening, a "Service of Prayer and Praise." Three services were held on Sunday, December 15--a "Service of Communion" at 10:30 a.m.; a "Service of the Children" at 3 p.m., and a "Service of Thanksgiving" at 7 p.m. All these services were largely attended and a large silver offering received.
The death of Elder Robert S. Brittain, October 9, 1879, was much felt by the congregation. Mr. Brittain had rendered valuable assistance to the pastor and session during his connection with the church, a period of twenty years, during seven of which he was an elder. He was also active in Sunday School work. He was a man of deep convictions and earnestness, whose piety was never doubted by any who knew him.
In 1883 the parsonage was sold, and the Session's narrative to Presbytery reported the church entirely free from debt.
At a congregational meeting held February 3, 1884, Chas. A. Heckman, William F. Schlabach and William D. Hawk were elected Elders and regularly installed February 24.
Joseph Ewing, another faithful servant of the Master and an earnest worker for the church, was elected to the office of Elder at a congregational meeting January 31, 1886.
April 14, 1886, the Presbytery of Newton appointed a Committee to organize "if the way be clear" the Westminster Church. The way was clear and our sister church, which has had a prosperous career ever since, was organized, forty-five of the members of our church uniting with Westminster. This was the outgrowth of our little "Mission Sunday School in the Third Ward."
The death of Elder John K. Stephens in October, 1886, lost to the church one of its faithful servants and most enthusiastic Elders.
The session, in November, 1886, appointed the following ushers: Wm. C. Drake, Wm. L. Sanderson, Elmer E. Carhart, Wm. Kline, Jr., George L. Eilenberg and Llewellyn F. Shedd, all of whom were faithful to duty.
January 30, 1887, William Kline, Sr., was elected to the office of Elder, which position he filled with much credit until the time of his death.
On December 4, 1887, Rev. H. B. Townsend informed the congregation of his intended resignation.
In September, 1888, Rev. U. W. Condict, of Easton, was appointed Moderator of the Session until such time as a successor to Mr. Townsend could be elected.
A congregational meeting September 28, 1888, unanimously elected Rev. J. W. Rogan, of Savannah, Ga., who accepted the call, but, not being released by his Synod, he was afterwards compelled to decline.
Finally, May 13, 1889, the congregation elected the Rev. E. Morris Fergusson who was installed June 16, 1889, and on August 18, 1889, preached his first sermon as pastor from the text: I Cor. 2: 2--"For I am determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified." Mr. Fergusson was young and wonderfully enthusiastic, especially in Sunday School work. He somewhat changed the Sunday School room for the benefit of the scholars, enlarging it considerably. Mr. Fergusson's pastorate was very successful. he made many friends and especially endeared himself to his congregation.
The following abstract from a narrative sent to Presbytery in March, 1891, shows, somewhat, the general interest in the work of the church: The Sunday School, of which the Pastor is Superintendent, has improved in numbers, spirit and efficiency. The teachers are increasingly active in looking after their scholars. The spiritual tone is good, and over thirty of our scholars have united with the church during the year. The present membership is 322; average attendance for the past quarter, 240.
"The mid-week Prayer meeting has grown in interest, and the average attendance is now over 100. More men attend this meeting than heretofore. We have a flourishing Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor, of about fifty active and thirty associate members, and their prayer-meeting on Monday evening averages in attendance about eighty. The Boys' Circle, lately organized, meets every Friday evening in the pastor's study. A Men's Prayer-meeting has just been started, under the care of the Elders; it meets on Sabbath morning at 10 o'clock.
"The Ladies' Missionary Society has raised $100 for Foreign Missions during the year and the Young Ladies' Home Mission Band has sent off boxes valued at $110 to mission stations in the West. The Townsend Mission Band of girls works for the poor of the congregation. The Gleaners, a society of ladies, has held two sociables and has raised $161 for church improvements."
February 1, 1890, the session appointed the following ushers: George L. Eilenberg, Sharps Hulshizer, Frank J. Drake, Samuel Eilenberg, Harry Vanatta, Wm. L. Sanderson, John C. Moon, Herbert Thomas, J. Harry Hagerty.
February 2, 1890, at a meeting of the congregation, Col. Benjamin F. Haines and George W. Wilhelm were elected Elders, each serving continuously until his death.
At a congregational meeting, February 1, 1891, Archibald Campbell was elected Elder.
Beginning March 2, 1891, Evangelist A. L. Parsons conducted a two weeks' revival service, during which time many professed conversion and the membership of the church was increased.
The congregation was called together on Wednesday evening, March 23, 1892, to take action on the resignation of Mr. Fergusson who had been elected to succeed the late lamented Dr. Clark as Secretary of the New Jersey Sunday School Association, which position he still holds. At his urgent request the resignation was accepted. His labors in this field as pastor closed April 21st, and on May 8th, Rev. E. Clarke Cline preached and declared the pulpit vacant.
Thus the fifth pastor "folded his tent" and departed for work in a broader field, leaving the people anxiously awaiting the coming of his successor.
Rev. Alfred N. Raven, of Pulaski, N.Y., was chosen pastor July 3, 1892, and installed December 16, 1892.
Mr. Raven is well remembered for his eloquent sermons, his upright life and decided ideas. During his pastorate the present parsonage was built, which is one of the finest in the Synod.
James L. Lomerson was elected Elder at a congregational meeting held February 4, 1894. Mr. Lomerson afterward served as Superintendent of the Sunday School and was one of the enthusiastic devotees to church duty.
Rev. A. N. Raven, the sixth pastor, resigned the pastorate September 7, 1895, and on March 29, 1896, the present pastor, Rev. Percy Y. Schelly, was called.
During his pastorate of a little more than seven years, he has been very successful. The church membership has been increased and the church building has been improved on the outside and inside. A new entrance on Market Street, the interior of which is finished in hard wood, and the addition of a boiler room to the rear, are among the many improvements. The basement has also been remodeled and repainted and a new heating plant installed. Altogether we have a beautiful house of worship and our Sunday School bright quarters, well adapted to the needs of the school. The Men's Prayer Meeting Association, organized under a constitution and pledge, has been a source of much encouragement to the pastor.
Death has removed, during the present pastorate, Elders Ewing, Reese, Teel, Wilhelm, Kline and Haines, as well as many of the staunch old members who had been identified with the church for many years.
Alexander V. Johnson, a former Trustee, and for many years a regular member and attendant, was elected Elder February 15, 1898. Mr. Johnson is still a member of the session, a devout, earnest Christian.
On June 23, 1898, in memory of our late Elder, L. Mashall Teel, his three daughters--Mrs. John I. Blair Reiley, Mrs. H. H. Yonker, and Mrs. Charles Jones--presented to the church a beautiful onyx baptismal font. The gift is much appreciated.
Mr. Teel was always zealous for the welfare of his beloved church. With his death there passed away one of the last links that bound this church to the past.
Mr. John Walton was elected Elder February 26, 1899, but declined a re-election. Mr. John Souders was elected Elder February 17, 1901, and on April 13, 1902, Mr. Wm. J. Stevenson and Mr. James Drake were elected Elders.
Mr. Isaac L. Foster was elected Elder February 22, 1903. Mr. Foster is Clerk of the Session.
The pastor's esteemed wife has rendered invaluable aid to the music of the church, her fine voice being very much admired at the services. She is also President of the Ladies' Aid Society and teaches a large class of young men in the Sunday School.
For a period of over 26 years, more than half the history of this church, Mr. R. B. Carhart, one of our prominent business men, served the church in the capacity of Sexton. Mr. Carhart resigned within the last year and Mr. Frank Z. Hermes has been elected to fill that important position.
The present church membership is 316, 192 having united during the present pastor's ministrations. Mr. Schelly has labored unceasingly to build u his charge.
Death, we regret to write, has often visited the session since 1853, taking Elders John Lander, Benjamin Burwell, John C. Bennett, A. Ramsey Reese, Dr. Charles Davis, Thomas S. Whitenack, Aaron Losey, Lewis M. Teel, Samuel Baker, Robert S. Brittain, Joseph Warne, John K. Stephens, Charles A Heckman, William D. Hawk, Joseph Ewing, William Kline, Sr., George W. Wilhelm, and lastly, the much beloved Col. Benjamin F. Haines.
The trustees have also lost many helpful ones. Mr. John H. Hagerty, a most liberal supporter, has been greatly missed. His wife and son--Mr. Harry Hagerty--have contributed much toward beautifying the church.
The first legacy ever bequeathed the church was given by Mrs. Trimmer. It came most opportunely and her generosity will not be forgotten. The bequest amounted to $4,069.86, of which amount $150 is to be applied to the care of her plot. We should ever remember this an annually, at least, on Memorial Day, attest our appreciation by placing flowers upon her grave.
Women have always been first in church work. Nowhere will you find more indefatigable workers than in our own church. To them belongs great praise. Among the many earnest workers for the church who have passed away, none were more lamented than Mrs. Samuel V. Davis and Mrs. William J. Stevenson.
In reviewing those who have passed away, all errors of judgment, if there were any, should be forgotten. Many of them were men of fixed ideas, of strong wills and determined purpose. One should only think of results, and of the high aims of those that are gone--what they have done for humanity in their humble way. Are we in our generation wiser and better? Do we love our church as our parents did? Do we attend our own services or have we floated like driftwood on every passing wave? In all humility may we trim our own lamps anew and keep them ever burning.