History of our Church

(Part 2, Fire and Recovery)

The Presbyterian Church on the Hill

The future of the congregation was dramatically altered on Monday, January 8, 1979 when fire broke out in the church building. The fire started in the pastor's study and when it had finally been extinguished, only the stone walls of the sanctuary were left standing. Fortunately, the Christian education building was spared, suffering only smoke and water damage. Many church members, having heard the reports on their radios and scanners, rushed to the scene. All who were there remember it as one of the saddest sights they have seen. Among the heroes of the day were Helen Josifek and Greg Matthews, who saved the baptismal font and much of the stained glass. After the fire was extinguished, many congregation members were able to salvage papers, music, equipment, even some of the choir robes.  In one of the more interesting application of technology, water-logged papers from the cornerstone were saved by freeze-drying them at the Freehold Nestle plant. The congregation quickly recovered from the disaster. The neighboring Methodist church offered its facilities so that the Presbyterian congregation could continue to worship. A building committee was quickly assembled to plan the reconstruction of the congregation.

The next step was to rebuild the church. At first, the congregation wanted to rebuild on site, using the existing masonry. However, after considering the soundness of the existing structure, as well as changing profile of both the congregation and Asbury Park, the congregation choose to relocate to a site in Ocean Township, on a narrow strip of land between Route 18 and Cold Indian Springs Road. The new church was designed in the Georgian style by Francis G. Vittette Associates of Camden. The cost of the building would be about 1.8 million dollars to be paid for through contributions and the insurance settlement on the Asbury Park church. Ground was broken for the new church in June, 1980; 18 months later the new building was dedicated on 13 December 1981, thereby completing the transition from The Fist Presbyterian Church of Asbury Park to the Presbyterian Church on the Hill. Yet the old church still lives, in the cross atop the main building, in the stone centerpiece of the Memorial Garden, in the stained glass windows lining the lobby, and in the beautiful stained glass of hundreds of lamps and candle holders.

To see the front and back of the dedication service bulletin...


Coming soon, Ocean Township.