Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Park Avenue Methodist Church

Park Avenue Methodist Church on the NW corner of Park Avenue and North Grove Street had been organized in 1893 as the Park Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church with a temporary, "straw board" chapel and in 1898 the church building that still exists today was built with Rev. W. W. C. Walker as the first pastor. The Methodist churches to the east and to the west of the area were overcrowded so the location had been chosen to serve the Methodists in the rapidly growing neighborhoods between the Roseville church in Newark and the Calvary Methodist Episcopal Church at Main St and Walnut St in downtown East Orange.*

In 1958 the church was celebrating its 60th anniversary in the 1898 building, one of the events was a baby contest, and my mother an excellent seamstress made my brother Drew a sailor suit for the contest. A photographer for the Newark News was there and snapped this photo which appeared on the front page of the Newark Sunday News the next day, November 9, 1958. 

The little girl in the photo, Laura Israel, is now an award-winning documentary film maker, winning for the film Windfall  which shows the somewhat unexpected negative, local environmental effects of windpower.  Laura's father, former Stockton School student  Harry Israel, was a 1952 graduate of East Orange High School and later a teacher at Vernon L Davey Junior High School where he taught Janis Fink, soon to be known as Janis Ian.

My family attended the church from 1947 to 1959 and one Sunday morning in spring 1957, I put on my Sunday clothes and my Sunday School pin with its ladder of attendance pieces hanging from it. My family didn't always attend the church service possibly because my little brother was only 6 months old but I always went to Sunday school with the lengthy attendance pin as extra incentive. I walked up William St to Grove St and started the long walk down Grove toward Park Avenue Methodist Church, but as I got close to Park Avenue, I could see kids I knew walking up Grove toward me from Park Avenue and as I got closer I asked one kid where they were all going. "Sunday school's over" the kid said, "you're an hour late." It was the first weekend of Daylight Saving Time, my parents had forgotten to "spring forward" and I was embarrassed as the other kids laughed at me, but at least it was my parents' fault, not mine.

                                                            Above: a recent photo

In 1959 the church's pastor Rev. Clark van Auken gave the invocation at Stockton School's 8th grade graduation ceremony. 

* From a history of the church:

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