Over the course of this year of celebration there have been many opportunities to reflect upon the rich and multifaceted history of our church and our community. In the past 300 years, this congregation has experienced challenges and opportunities ranging from unanticipated and extraordinarily positive and negative events that have required careful and prompt responses to longer range economic, cultural and societal changes and trends. Throughout our history we, as Presbyterians, have utilized a form of government that stresses the active, representational leadership of both ministers and church members. While this may inspire humorous comments about the abundance of committees, we trust that the collaborative involvement of many minds in a considerate and prayerfully discerning manner provides a sound path toward inspired ‘planning.’
We may not have eyewitnesses to recount the step-by-step process of our earliest members, but we are surrounded with structural evidence that they were careful, clever and thorough planners. They had the vision to identify needs and opportunities and sufficiently anticipated obstacles and surmounted them. From ascertaining the original need for a church in the community to successively building, rebuilding, expanding, and further expanding our house of worship as circumstances required, it is clearly evident that this congregation heard, planned and responded to the call to fulfill the church’s mission. They often found creative solutions to address needs; for example, in 1949 when more room was needed for church school classrooms, Calvin Hall was constructed under the sanctuary in space which was formerly only a rough, partly-excavated basement.
Planning for the future has often benefited from turning a respectful eye to our history. This can provide ways of maintaining consistency or it can deliver illuminating insights. The formation of the Samuel Brown Society – recognition of planned gifts – was inspired by the generous and forward-thinking gesture of Samuel Brown, one of our earliest members.
There is no denying that significant local, national and global societal changes have been an ever present part of our first three centuries. The responsibility of identifying challenges and need, having the vision, and conceiving of viable solutions has been shouldered by many councils and committees over the years. One case in point began roughly 50 years ago when, in the late 1960’s, our community became aware and concerned that many of the community’s senior citizens were forced to leave the area due to rising housing costs and/or their inability to maintain a large home. The Church and Society Committee initiated a helpful conference on the needs of Senior Citizens. This concern eventually led to the building of Ridge Oak, a senior citizen community in Basking Ridge. The project was coordinated and supported by six area churches and Ridge Oak was dedicated on June 10, 1979.
Planning and a sense of vision are essential. Prayerfully discerning and responding to the call to fulfill the church’s mission have been woven through the fabric of our church’s history and will be a vital part of our approach to the next 300 years.