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NEW JERSEY: Episcopal Church in Totowa closing after 91 years

NEW JERSEY: Episcopal Church in Totowa closing after 91 years
The little red church to close its doors

Passaic Valley Today
January 10, 2013

TOTOWA, NJ - Borough resident Shirley Gerhardt, 88, remembers her early days at the Christ Episcopal Church on Totowa Road. She started going there as a teenager.

Church members sing hymns and the Rev. Mark Waldon leads a service on Sunday. It is the church's final service as they are closing after serving the community for 91 years.

"My father used to say I spent more time there than I spent at home because I used to do yard work in the garden, planted plants and all kinds of stuff, in addition to actually worshiping there," Gerhardt said.

She would go on to represent the church before the Diocese Council, which with the working group that governs the church, and last week recalled some of the outreach efforts that the church conducted in its prime.

They started a program for residents at Preakness Healthcare Center in Wayne, Gerhardt said. The church provided the residents of Preakness with games and entertainment on a monthly basis, something that lasted until the 90s, she said. They also reached out to St. Paul's Church in Paterson to help with their men's shelter.

"We provided their food for one day a week for the men who were living their," Gerhardt said.

Now, after serving the community for 91 years, the church will be closing its doors for the last time. There are not enough parishioners and is not enough money to keep the church going, according to Reverend Mark Waldon, who leads the church.

There are 15 to 20 worshipers on any particular Sunday, he said. While the priest, who has been a member of the church clergy since 1969, can remember a time when there were about 75 church-goers on the typical Sunday.

Gerhardt attributes the decline in membership to the aging population of the church.

"People die. You can't replace someone who dies and the younger people are not going to church mostly," she said.

Over the years, the church has been a thriving part of the Totowa community. In 1999, the church raised $40,000 for a 5-year-old child with multiple sclerosis through a fundraiser with local entertainment personality "Uncle Floyd" Vivino, Waldon said. The church has also hosted narcotics anonymous groups, and had an educational day-care program for children with developmental disabilities, he said.

"It was really a relief to some parents and people," Waldon said. "It gave them a break."

Now that Waldon is no longer the priest for the church in Totowa, he said, he will be teaching three bible seminars called Education for Ministry.

Gerhardt said that her favorite part of the church experience is the worshiping. She said they have a ceremonial style that is close to that of the Roman Catholic Church. That is why she will be worshipping at St. James of the Marches Church, a Roman Catholic church in Totowa.

"Its worship services are almost identical to ours ... and I know most of the people there," she said.


PS. 2010: ASA: 22 Income: $65,000
2011: ASA: 18 Income: $35,000

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