A work of the Lord began here in Collingswood in 1886, and in 1904 a beautiful stone church was erected at our present location. Fire destroyed that building in 1932, but it could not kill the spirit that was alive in this church. A year later this magnificent sanctuary, with its awe-inspiring stained glass windows became our church home. The education wing was added in 1958.
What follows is some of First Church’s history captured in images taken from booklets published for First Church’s 50th and 75th anniversaries.
On Friday night, November 5, 1886, ten people met in the parlor of of James L. Gibbs’ home, now 604 Park Avenue, with a concern for establishing a Christian Church. It was determined that in order to formally organize and incorporate a church, a meeting would have to be called especially for that purpose. the date was set to November 16, again at the Gibbs home and the following notice was duly posted on the railroad station, the Post Office, and Mr Gibbs’ front porch:
Nov. 5th, 1886
Notice is hereby given that the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Collingswood NJ., will meet at the home of James L. Gibbs on Tuesday evening, Nov. 16th, at 7:30, for the purpose of electing trustees of said society, to the end that said society may become incorporated under an act of the Legislature of New Jersey, entitled “An act to incorporate trustees of religious societies, and the amendments and supplements thereto.” The time above specified for holding such meeting was agreed upon by the society at a meeting held on the day and date of notice.
A K. H. DOUGHTY,
The upstairs meeting room of Tatum Hall was rented for $10 a month for Sundays for Sunday School and Worship services.
The original home of First Church was built in 1887:
In 1904, the first stone building for First Church was built.
In 1887, the Sunday School had 80 members. By 1890, it was up to 248. By 1912, enrollment had reached 970. Construction of the first Sunday School Temple started in 1911 and was completed by 1912.
On April 10, 1932, a fire destroyed much of First Church. The Temple was gutted and the church roof, organ and choir lofts were badly damaged. The bell tower survived the fire and remains to this day. The original altar rail, still showing signs of the fire can be seen in Asbury Hall. The church held evening services in a hall over a local garage while the church was being rebuilt.
By 1934, the church had been rebuilt. Stones from the old building were used to build the new one, which is still in use to this day.
The Sanctuary as it was in 1936.
The hallway to the Sunday School Temple in 1936.
The Sunday School Temple as it was in 1936. Notice the windows!
The building was renovated in 1958 when the education wing was added, and the Sanctuary was renovated for the centennial celebration in 1986.
It is not enough to look back to a glorious history. It is not even enough to stand in the present and see God at work in our midst. There must be the future look as well. All that is past … is prologue to what is to be. “We have come this far by faith trusting in His Holy Word. He’s never failed us yet.”
We have no idea how many years or months we have until the trumpet sounds. But we have great aspirations for the days that are before us. We are fully aware that nothing that has been accomplished that bears an eternal mark was done by the efforts of men. All that we seen in the past … and all that will occur … will come through the grace of God.
Our testimony is simply this:
“All that we are or ever hope to be
O Son of God we owe to Thee.”
We join with John the Evangelist in saying: “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hat made us a kingdom of priests unto God and His Father, to Him be the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
- Pastor Worth