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
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.