The authoritative source on
  early churches of New Jersey

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First Congregational church
Newark, Essex County

The 1891 building is now occupied by the Greater Mount Moriah Baptist Church, but it has a particularly interesting history. Two or three years before the organization of this church in 1834, widespread religious revivals swelled church membership, and spawned a number of social welfare efforts, among which was the free church movement. Pews in most churches were rented, the price rising from perhaps a dollar a year to much more, varying with proximity to the pulpit.

The History of Essex and Hudson Counties described the situation: "Several gentlemen connected with Presbyterian Churches in Newark became concerned for the welfare of young men and women who had come to town to earn their living, but who lived here as strangers, uncertain of remaining. They found no home in the Presbyterian Churches, though they might in the Methodist, where sittings were free from rent. It seemed that there ought to be at least one Presbyterian Church that should be characteristically a church for strangers, where those whose uncertain abode disinclined them to hire them a seat, and those who felt too poor to pay rent might come freely in and feel at home." Those sentiments resulted in formation of the First Free Presbyterian church, which in 1853, was reorganized as the First Congregational church after being expelled by the Presbyterian Synod.
      The first Manual of the church, published in 1835, states that "this church is established on temperance principles, and no one is admitted who is unwilling to adopt the temperance pledge."
      On the 4th of July, about the year 1839, an antislavery meeting was held in the parsonage; from this time on until public sentiment was reformed by Civil War, the church bore the unpopular names of "the abolition church" and the "nigger church." The church's minister, Charles Beecher, was stigmatized (correctly) as an Abolitionist, and was an outcast among other ministers in Newark. "He preached a strong sermon against the Fugitive Slave Law in 1851, which the church printed, but the boy who sold it was obliged to desist for his safety." It was a period of high political feeling on the slavery question, and this church was on the unpopular side. New Jersey had voted against Lincoln in 1860 and 1864.
       In 1907 the words "Jube Memorial" was added to the name of the church, which was designed by Newark architect William Halsey Wood.




Copyright (c) 2001 Frank L. Greenagel