St Pauls' . . .
. . . was the third church founded in the town of Franklin
(later changed to Nutley)
. . . was organized on April 14, 1894
. . . was designed by William Lambert
. . . was constructed at a cost of $6,000.
. . . built the Parsonage in 1914
. . . built the Religious Education Building dedicated in 1954
. . . Austin organ installed in 1968
In the beginning . . .
The rapid growth and development of the northwestern part of Franklin, called Nutley Terrace in the fall of 1893, brought together a number of people who were either church members or were favorably disposed to the churches and their work. They lived quite a distance from and of the churches in town and they met on Sunday evenings in various homes, spending an hour in social interaction and in singing hymns, mostly Gospel songs.
To meet the needs of these people, a few friends from the Franklin Methodist Episcopal Church, with the sanction of their pastor, began to hold meetings with them in the Franklin Clubhouse, with the afternoon preaching services conducted by volunteer preachers. The Rev. Albert Cain, pastor of Franklin M.E. Church, offered to preach on Sunday in the month. Thomas Clements, a lay preacher, offered his services for one Sunday a month and a committee was appointed to fill the vacant Sundays.
The Services were well attended and offerings at the services met the financial requirements of the enterprise. The meetings were carried on for several months and the time seemed ripe for a more systematic effort on a larger scale to include a preaching service in the morning and Sunday School in the afternoon.
Plans included engaging the services of a student from Drew Seminary to come to Franklin on Saturday, do a little visiting around, conduct a morning service on Sunday and assist in the Sunday School. The expense, including the salary of the student, was estimated to be $600 for the first year. Nearly $500 was at once promised by those interested in the new group, which, with the collection taken up on Sunday, seemed to assure the project financially. A committee was appointed to lay the matter before the official board of the Franklin M.E. Church, asking its approval of the plan and its financial support if, at the end of the year, there should be any deficiency.
A new congregation
A call was issued to the Rev. James A. Fairly of Peoria, Illinois to be pastor of the new church. From April 1894 to February 1899, the church was founded and services held in two homes while plans were made to purchase a land site and erect a church building. The leading architect in the area, William Lambert, was hired to draw up plans for the new church. The dedication of St. Paul's Congregational Church took place on February 9, 1898 and the first Sunday in the new church edifice was February 13, 1898.
A group of women met May 24, 1894 at the home of Mrs. W.J. Roberts and formed what is now known as the Women's Guild. In addition to sponsoring a bi-yearly Fairtowne, it supported an American Indian girl, provided Christmas gifts for a family in Appalachia, donated to several local charities, and supported St. Paul's programs and facilities.
Tradition has it that St. Paul's Men's Club was virtually founded on the Erie ferry boat in 1910. William C. Simmons and Henry Finn would meet each morning enroute to New York and discuss plans which, with the aid of others, resulted in the forming of St. Paul's Men's Club, the first such club in Nutley. The club performed many useful services for the church and the community, and although it is no longer in existence, its former members continue that service.
In 1911, out of what was originally known as "The Minute Men," Edwin C. Mott formed "The Sagamore Fraternity." An organization for young men between the ages of 13 and 17 was known as Beta Chi Society from the second and third letters of the Greek alphabet, words which signify "Christ in Life." Later, the young people's fellowships were known as the Junior (grades 6 to 8) and Senior (grades 9 to 12) High Groups.
The most visible activity of the groups through the 1990's was the annual Haunted Halls which drew children from Nutley and surrounding towns to the event near Halloween. Many rooms in the education building and church basement were turned into a giant haunted house. Proceeds from Haunted Halls supported the groups in their recreational and charitable activities for the year. Of interest is the fact that most of the members of the senior high group came from other churches in town or from unchurched families, but they found at St. Paul's acceptance and a program geared toward their needs.
Boy Scout Troop 3 of Nutley, Tamarack Council, was officially registered and chartered at St. Paul's March 11, 1911. It was reputed to be the third oldest troop in the United States. Reinstated in 1966, it was unable to sustain a strong membership and merged with Troop 147 at Franklin Reformed Church.
Bowling alleys in the basement
In 1914, the church erected its present parsonage on St. Paul's Place. It soon became evident that the Sunday School would have to have additional facilities and in 1921, arrangements were made to purchase the Fortnightly Club at 642 Franklin Ave., which became St. Paul's Parish House, complete with bowling alleys in the basement. A major fire in 1955 damaged the Parish House, neccessitating the complete rebuilding, reburbishing and strengthening of the structure.
In its heyday, the Parish House was used for many church activities and was an integral part of the life of the church. It was with mixed emotions that the congregation voted to sell it in 1978 to finance the conversion of the basement of the church into a social hall/meeting room. It was sold to the Italian-American Civic Association.
The expanding church school and the need for modern educational facilities led to the laying of the cornerstone for the education building October 17, 1954. It was completed, adjacent to the church, March 11, 1956.
A major event
A major event in the life of St. Paul's occurred in 1957 when, with other Congregational churches, it merged with the Evangelical and Reformed denominations to become the United Church of Christ. The United Church of Christ encompasses 6,390 churches and 1.3 million members in 39 conferences across the United States. Its autonomy lies with the individual churches.
In 1967, the Community Nursery School started in the basement of St. Paul's, the brainstorm of a member of St. Paul's, the late Norma Hall. Today, the Community Nursery School has facilities in four churches, offering infant and toddler care, a traditional nursery school, comprehensive day care and a kindergarten.
The renovations to the basement were completed and dedicated in 1979. The main room, complete with modern kitchen, is used for congregational meetings, social events, dinners, fairs, youth activities, rummage sales and more. It is also available for rental by church members and the community at large.
A home to many
The church is home to many support groups including Gamblers Anonymous.
A new organizational structure was put into place in 1993 at St. Paul's, disbanding the traditional boards, Trustees, Deacons and Education, and structuring the life of the church around seven commissions, Spiritual Life, Music and Worship, Outreach, Facilities, Evangelism, Stewardship, and Education. All report to a church council which meets on a monthly basis.
The music program at St. Paul's, under the direction of James Sorrell, is one of its strongest assets. It includes the Chancel Choir as well as a bell choir, the Bells of St. Paul's, established by Sheila Cassels.
A Memorial Garden is available as a final resting place for church members and their families and a Memorial Endowment Fund, established in 1973, welcomes contributions.
St. Paul's, drawing from its heritage from the PIlgrims of Plymouth Colony and its strength from its faithful people, foresees only a bright future here in Nutley.
Compiled by Daniel Caplan