Quick Facts

  • The congregation was chartered by the Presbytery of Philadelphia in 1792. The parent church was Greenwich Presbyterian.
  • The same year, the congregation began building Bridgeton’s first house of worship, now called the Old Broad Street Church.
  • In 1836, the congregation moved into a new building on the east side of the Cohansey River, at the corner of Laurel and Church Street. That building has sinced been razed.
  • At one time, Bridgeton had 4 Presbyterian Churches plus the Fithian Chapel: First, Second, West, and Irving Avenue.
  • The first meeting of the newly formed Presbytery of West Jersey was held in the downtown First Presbyterian Church building.
  • In 1945, after a split in the West Presbyterian Church, First and West merged. The congregation kept the older name with its historic identity and the newer building (our present building at West Commerce and Giles Street).
  • The Rev. John W. Hutchinson served as pastor of the newly merged church.
  • Second Presbyterian and Irving Avenue merged to form the current Bethany Presbyterian Church on North Pearl Street.

Historical Sketch

The present First Presbyterian Church of Bridgeton is the product of a merger consummated in 1945 between the original First Presbyterian Church in town and the West Presbyterian Church. The congregation formed by the merger has retained the older name and occupies the newer building, formerly that of West Presbyterian, at 119 West Commerce Street, at the corner of Giles Street.

Presbyterians were the first Christians in Bridgeton to form a congregation and erect a house of worship. The church was chartered in 1792. The building, begun that same year on the western side of the Cohansey River and dedicated in 1795, is now called the Old Broad Street Church and is preserved almost as it was during its active years. The present congregation still holds services there in August and early September (before Labor Day), and the building is used for some community and special services.

In its earliest years, the congregation of First Presbyterian Church was served by a minister shared with the Presbyterian Church in Greenwich, the Rev. Jonathan Freeman. In 1824, the Rev. Brogan Hoff became the first full-time pastor of the Bridgeton congregation. In 1836, the church dedicated a new building at Laurel Street and Church Lane, on the eastern side of the Cohansey River. This second building was abandoned at the time of the 1945 merger and later razed. In 1839, in this Laurel Street building, the newly formed Presbytery of West Jersey held its first meeting.

The West Presbyterian Church suffered a split in 1936 when the minister, the majority of the congregation, and all of the session except Elder Chester Bonham renounced the jurisdiction of West Jersey Presbytery. After a legal struggle, the presbytery returned the church building and manse to the loyal members, and the seceding group formed Calvary Orthodox Presbyterian Church, now located on Hitchner Avenue in Bridgeton.

The First and West congregations merged in June of 1945, and the Rev. John W. Hutchinson, who had been serving as pastor of West, was installed as the pastor of the newly merged congregation. Mr. Hutchinson served for a total of twenty-five years and has been succeeded by four ministers, including the current pastor, the Rev. Richard E. Sindall, who began to serve on September 22, 1985. In September of 1992, the church celebrated its 200th Anniversary.

The present congregation numbers about 240 active members plus children and others who worship with us and share in our congregational life. Three active boards lead the church’s life, ministry, and mission. Current priorities for development include local mission and service to the community, Christian education and youth ministry, outreach and membership recruitment, and congregational fellowship and caring.

In the spring of 2004, the session formed a visioning team to lead and guide the church through the process of ongoing congregational transformation. Three questions guided the process: (1) Who are we as a church? (2) Where are we? and (3) What does Jesus Christ call us to be and to do? From two years of gathering information, listening to church members, and working through processes of discernment, the team present to session a visioning statement and eight directions for developing the vision in ensuing years. The session adopted the team’s recommendation, and the visioning team continues its work of keeping transformation conversation going in the church.

Record of Pastors

Record of Pastors - 1805 to 1964

First Presbyterian ChurchWest Presbyterian Church
Jonathan Freeman, 1805-1822
Brogan Hoff, 1824-1833
John Kennedy, 1834-1838
Samuel B. Jones, 1839-1863Leonidas E. Coyle, 1870-1883
Caspar R. Gregory, 1864-1873William H. Belden, 1884- 1890
J. Allen Maxwell, 1874-1881William J. Bridges, 1890-1903
Augustus Brodhead, 1881-1887Joseph L. Ewing, 1903-1910
Sylvester W. Beach, 1887-1902Oscar G. Morton, 1911-1924
Luther A. Oates, 1903-1909James M. Eakins, 1924-1934
Addison B. Collins, 1910-1926Clifford S. Smith, 1934-1936
Howard G. Wilkinson, 1927-1945John W. Hutchinson, 1939-1945
John W. Hutchinson, 1945-1964
(uniting pastor)

1964 to Present, After the Two Churches United

First Presbyterian Church
S. James Hughs, 1964-1967
Richard S. Kaufman, 1968-1972
Harry L. Holfelder, 1973-1985
Richard E. Sindall, 1985-2012
Cheni M. Khonje, 2014-Current

Old Broad Street Church

History

This was the first church erected in Bridge Town; the cornerstone was laid in 1792. It was finished and first used for worship in 1795, but not before funds were raised by a state-wide lottery to complete the building. Used by the congregation only until 1836, the building was preserved in pristine condition highly regarded by experts in church architecture. During the 41 years of the building’s use, such innovations as astral lamps and wood stoves built at Atsion were introduced.

Architecture

The church is a brick structure similar to those built in Philadelphia during the second half of the 18th Century. Broad Street Church has pews arranged in “church order” — that is, facing the narrower wall — rather than in the traditional “meeting house order.” The elevated pulpit is of typical “wine glass” design. Above the pulpit is the plaster “all-seeing eye of God.” The ornamental plaster ceiling has an entwined grape and grain design.

Current Use

Old Broad Street Church is used by First Presbyterian Church for morning worship (10 AM) on Sundays throughout August until after Labor Day. Traditionally it has been used for a community service on Thanksgiving Day. Broad Street Church can be open for tours. Phone First Presbyterian Church at (856) 455-0809 to make arrangements.

 

Friends of Old Broad Street Church

Our Purpose

Our mission is to preserve the Old Broad Street Church in its excellent condition as one of Bridgeton’s historic buildings and to keep it active as a house of worship and location for community activities. Old Broad Street was the first house of worship erected in Bridgeton (or Bridge Town, as it was then).

The historic building is owned by the First Presbyterian Church, but in many ways it belongs to the community. So, our group is composed of First Presbyterian members and others in the community who are committed to preserving and maintaining Old Broad Street Church.

Current State of our Grant Proposals

Old Broad Street Church has become the recipient of the grant amounting to $47,632 from the New Jersey Historic Trust which will pay 75% of the cost of a Historic Site Management Survey of the 1792 structure. This survey will include architectural, engineering, and historical segments.

The architectural segment will study details of the church pointing up the need for repairs. Old Broad Street has already been called the most pristine example of Georgian high ecclesiastical architecture surviving in the thirteen original states.

The engineering segment will further examine the roof supports, monitor the facades and the foundations of the 18th Century church, and recommend any remedial action indicated.

The historical segment will consider the origins of this remarkable structure with an account of such features as its ornate plster ceiling decorations and its wood stoves and oil lamps surviving since the early decades of the 19th Century. Attention will be given to church life at Broad Street and to events that allowed the church building to remain so unchanged through the centuries.