The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers (Eph 4:11, NRSV)
1670 - (six months)
Reverend Treat served for six months during 1670 for which he was paid twenty-one pounds sterling. He was given the opportunity to take a permanent position of Pastor but he did not accept the offer.
1674 - (three months)
Reverend Salisbury (or Solsbury according to Rev. Daily). He preached twice every Lord's Day for three months in 1674 for which he was paid ten pounds. At the end of this period he was invited to leave his position as he was not well received by the congregation. He did so.
Reverend John Allen (Or Allin) was the third independent pastor. He was employed in September of 1680. During the entire 15 year existence of the town from the first permanent settlers in 1665 to Mr. Allen only 9 months of religious services had been enjoyed. John Allen was well liked and continued to preach until ill health forced him to retire sometime in late 1685. He continued to live in the town as a Freeholder until his death on January 19, 1715. He was married three times. His last wife was Deliverance Potter whom he married on October 24, 1707. Clerk Nathaniel Wade performed the ceremony. The same Mr. Wade who was to become Pastor in 1708. The Allens had two sons and two daughters.
Reverend Archibald Riddell was the fourth independent minister to occupy the church pulpit. He accepted the call in 1686. He ministered until he left the country in 1689. Before he came from Scotland he was imprisoned at Edinburgh for, they say, preaching in the open air which was against the law. More probably, it was because of his connections with the Bothwells. He came to this country on the infamous "Henry & Francis", a ship used to bring prisoners out of Scotland. Twenty-four percent of the passengers died on this voyage. Reverend Riddell's wife was one of them. He was a powerful preacher and became a Freeholder of the town. On his return voyage to Scotland, the ship was taken by a French warship. He and his 10 year old son were put in prison at Rochefort. They remained there for two years before returning to their homeland.
Reverend Shepard was the final independent clergyman to minister in Woodbridge. He accepted the call in October 1695. His salary was to be 50 pounds per annum - later raised to 60 pounds - or its equivalent in the “current pay of the country (peas, port, wheat, etc). William Webster, Freeholder, refused to pay his share. Whereupon, Captain John Bishop assumed the payment thereof. This staved off a battle over separation of church and state but not for long. By 1700, the town had passed laws removing the payment of the minister’s salary from the General Tax Rolls. This satisfied the Quakers who had by now a goodly representation in the town. On April 10, 1701, the Town Meeting voted to ordain Mr. Shepard as the Woodbridge minister. On July 23, he replied to the offer that “though he is otherwise willing to be ordained, he cannot admit of it to settle as a minister in the town because his wife is so adverse to his settling here.” No one could change her mind and so it was agreed that Mr. Shepard could preach on Sabbath Days until another minister could be found. He stayed until January of 1707. He was an excellent preacher, well liked by all.
In September 1710, Rev. Wade and his congregation were admitted to the newly formed Philadelphia Presbytery. During the tenure of Rev. Wade the Presbyterian movement in America was rapidly growing stronger. There were, however, some in Woodbridge who chose to remain with the Church of England. This gave rise later to the formation of an Episcopal Church on the north part of the "Kirk Green". Also, during this period the congregation was split between those who wished to remain independent and those who wanted to be Presbyterian. A long, bitter battle ensued. Mr. Wade counted approximately 120 members in his congregation in 1707, He seemed to have had a capacity for antagonizing many people as illustrated by a letter written by some parishoners to Rev. Vaughan, a well known Episcopal clergyman, highly placed in the Church of England: "Sir, The unhappy difference between Mr. Wade and the people of Woodbridge is grown to that height that we cannot join with him in the worship of God as Christians ought to do." Mr. Wade also served as Town Clerk during some of his time in this town He officiated at the wedding of Rev. John Allen and Deliverance Potter (of Woodbridge) on October 24, 1707.
Rev. Pierson was the son of Rev. Abraham Pierson, the first president of Yale College. He was instrumental in the founding of Princeton and was on its Board of Governors for 19 years. During his tenure at Woodbridge, the church enjoyed great peace and quiet its membership gradually increasing. Rev. Pierson was a close friend of Re. Jonathan Dickenson, the leader of the "New Side" faction which was opposed to the "Old Side" in the division splitting the Presbyterian Church during the "Great Awakening" of the 1730's and 40's. Rev. Pierson delivered the eulogy at the funeral of Rev. Dickinson as well as preaching a sermon at the ordination of Rev. Aaron Burr on January 25, 1737.
During his ministry the congregation applied for and was granted a Royal Charter from King George II of England in 1756. This gave the Trustees of the church legal possession of the land which had been granted them by the Lords Proprietors.
In 1761, Rev. Whitaker went to Great Britain with Rev. Sampson Occum, a Christian Mohecan Indian. They were sent by Rev. Eleazar Wheelock to raise funds for his charity school of Indians in Lebanon, NH, later to become Dartmouth College. They were very successful, raising over 12,000 Pounds Sterling. Rev. Whitaker led a most interesting and colorful life. During Rev. Whitaker's tenure at Woodbridge the congregation applied for and was granted a Royal Charter from George II of England in 1756. This gave the Trustees of the church legal possession of the land which had been granted them by the Lords Proprietors. Some two centuries later this land and document were the keystone in a battle among the towns which had resulted from the original Land Grant of 1669.
He was our longest serving minister - 52 years - and he is interred in the cemetery along with his two wives, Rebecca and Hannah. A Presbyterian Church had been established in Metuchen around 1720 and from 1772 to 1792 Rev. Roe preached half time in each of the congregations. Rev. Roe was a trustee of Princeton from 1778 to 1807, Moderator of the General Assembly in 1802, and received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Yale in 1800. Like all Presbyterian ministers he was an ardent supporter of the Revolution and was preaching revolution from the pulpit. Rev. Roe participated in a skirmish at Blazing Star (Carteret) and, as a patriot, he was captured by the British and imprisoned in the Sugar House Prison in Manhattan during the war. During his tenure, the Meeting House was replaced by the 1803 church built by Jonathan Freeman. He died Dec. 2, 1815, four days after his second wife.
Rev. Roe is interred in the church cemetery with wives, Rebecca, who died Sept. l, 1794, and Hannah, who died Nov. 28, 1815, just four days before her husband. Rev. Roe was a trustee of Princeton from 1778 to 1807. He was a delegate to the first General Assembly in May 1789 and Moderator of the General Assembly in 1802. The Metuchen Church became a separate body on May 9, 1793, when it was granted separation from the Woodbridge Church by the Presbytery of New York. Our present church building was completed and consecrated in December 1803. Rev. Roe was a most loved pastor and an ardent patriot, having been captured by the British and imprisoned in the Old Sugar House in Manhatten during the Revolutionary War. As a preacher Rev. Roe is said to have been an able man but not brilliant. He relied more on the words of the Gospel than upon the arts of an address.
Rev. Mills left Woodbridge to assume the post of Professor of Biblical Criticism at Auburn Theological Seminary, where he distinguished himself for 33 years. He was made Professor Emeritus in 1854. A large Sabbath School, said to be the first in New Jersey, was organized while he was pastor. The first three teachers were Sally Potter, Jane Potter and Mrs. Hamiot Paton. Rev. Mills was known as an excellent preacher and a godly gentle man. Henry Mills was an educator. Before his ordination he was principal, in 1802, of Elizabethtown Academy. Dally writes "He was a man of scholarly attainments and the degree of DD was justly bestowed upon him."
Rev. Barton, his three wives, his three sons and one of his daughters are interred in the church cemetery. His son William B. was a brevet. Brig. Gen. 48th Reg. NYS Vols. commanding 2nd Brig. 2nd Div. 10th Army Corps (Army of the James) in the War of the Rebellion. He died on June 13, 1891. His wife, Elizabeth, organized a "Sunday School Society" which was to aid the Sunday School in obtaining materials and supplies. A general spirit of revival was flowing through the church at this time and many members were added to the roll. Reverend Barton was remembered as an excellent preacher and godly man. He was the second superintendent of the Sunday School which had been established during the pastorate of Reverend Mills. His wife, Elizabeth, remained active in church matters for many years after her husband's death.
This period of American and Presbyterian history is one of great mobility and religious upheaval. The nation was expanding westward. The Civil War was on the horizon. The church was torn between the "Old School" and "New School" over the issue of slavery. Churches and missions of this period were becoming more strictly denominational. This was the era of the greatest geographical expansion in American history. The California Gold Rush was on. The Homestead Act was passed, and Rev. Martin, himself, seems to have been caught up in the activity of the times. It was during Rev. Martin's pastorate that the First Presbyterian Church Aid Society was formed in December 1858. Its purpose was "to aid in defraying the expenses of the church". Members consisted of anyone who contributed, at any meeting, any amount of work or money. Fairs, Strawberry Festivals and Harvest Homes were among the favorite ways of raising money. After leaving Woodbridge, Rev. Martin was very active in church work such as YMCA chaplain, university professor, American Missionary Society, American charities, social work and other agencies.
Rev. Lucas was known as "A fine sermonizer and a scholarly gentleman". There was some concern that the membership of the church was not as large at the end of his tenure as at the beginning. This was largely due to the general westward migration and religious upheaval at this time. Rev. Lucas played a very important part in the life of the community. The "New School" vs. "Old School" battle was still being fought throughout the church. The "Old White Church" was officially "Old School" but some of its members were "New School" at heart and became potential congregationalists. L.A. Loetscher writes in A Brief History of Presbyterians: "From 1830 to 1860 the all absorbing political question in the nation was that of slavery. Most of the churches, by their official utterances, became, to a greater or lesser degree, involved in the problem. The Presbyterian Church, true to its Scotch-Irish conservatism, was cautious in its handling of the issue."
Just prior to the pastorate of Rev. McNulty there was dissension in the Presbyterian Church and in, 1874, 38 members left to form the First Congregational Church of Woodbridge. There were many changes and additions to the church during his tenure. An organ and new pews were installed. A Sunday School addition to the back of the church was constructed and in 1825 a beautiful gas chandelier was installed in the sanctuary. Due to the effort of Rev. McNulty, a Presbyterian Church was established in Carteret in 1893. Electricity came to the church in 1902 but it is said that Rev. McNulty did not have a lamp for his desk until 1906. During the 200th Anniversary Celebration Rev. McNulty delivered a lengthy discourse which was delivered extemporaneously but due to the quality of his sermon and interest shown, he was asked to publish this as a booklet. Rev. McNulty was married twice and both he and his two wives Hannah and Margaret are interred in the cemetery.
Rev. McNulty is interred in the church cemetery with his two wives, Hannah (1875) and Margaret (1907). Two anniversary celebrations were held during his pastorate: a 200'h, delayed to 1876; and a 225th in 1900. Many repairs and improvements were made on the church building during his stay. A new Sunday School building was built, a new organ and new pews installed, and a vestibule was added. In October 1874, the Session granted letters of dismissal to 38 members giving rise to the Congregational Church. A Presbyterian Church was established in Carteret in 1893. Some of these divisions and dissentions among the congregation were caused by the fact that Mr. McNulty seems to have occupied the Manse by some arrangement other than a call by the whole congregation. The dissident members apparently wished to "Go back to God's old ways" of decision making by the whole congregation rather than by a representative group
Rev. Mark is interred in the church cemetery with his wife, Nellie, (died March 1965) and daughter, Laota (died September 1929). The parish house was built behind the manse on Rahway Avenue. A fire seriously damaged the Sunday School and sanctuary, and World War I was looming in Europe, causing strain and stress on the congregation. A Men's Bible Class was very active in the church at this time, as were the women's organizations. The fire which damaged the Sunday School occurred in December, 1914. In that month the Treasurer reported a balance of 3 cents. Bills for the month were $491.06. Bids which had been taken for the repair work were, not surprisingly, rejected. So the men and women of the church banded together and did most of the work themselves with a little donated professional help. By the end of February, 1915, most of the work had been completed - another amazing chapter in the church's long history. The true spirit of the congregation as it tried to keep things going, is clearly revealed in the minutes that tell of the leaving of the pastor ".. reported that after a house to house canvas, all the church people were on their knees asking God that Mr. Mark might see his way clear to remain with us as Pastor, however, not our will but God's be done." In January, 1918, the Presbytery moved to accept Rev. Mark's resignation. The church was again looking for a minister.
Rev. Buschman was truly loved by his parishioners and he loved them in return. Church membership more than doubled; a Men's Brotherhood was chartered; the manse was done over; and a 250th anniversary celebration was held May 25 through 31, 1925, during his pastorate. A Boy Scout house was built on the Parish House grounds using materials from the church's old horse sheds. A Board of Deacons was organized in 1919. In 1920 Rev. Nesbitt, a seminary roommate or Rev. Buschman, was appointed as the church's special missionary to India. The Sexton's House was electrified in 1923. Major repairs were made to the sanctuary and Sunday School building. Following the 250th year celebration the congregation got the bad news that the Buschmans were leaving Woodbridge. It was at this time the "Buschman Guild", a ladies organization was begun.
Rev. Dillener was a classmate of Rev. Buschman at Princeton Theological Seminary. The congregation, much distressed at the leaving of the Buschmans, were not inclined to make a great effort to understand the Dilleners, who had just returned to the United States after a five year stint as missionaries in Iran. For their part, the Dilleners had some difficulty relating to their first pastorate in America. The search for a new minister was begun quite soon. Rev. Dillener's pastorate here was only one and one-half years in duration.
During this period, The Presbyterian churches in Avenel (1927) and Iselin (1933) were organized. Rev. Abbott's strong religious commitment sparked a deepening of the spiritual life of the church and many lax members were reactivated. Rev. Abbott's fine work was hindered by his poor health. In April, 1932, he was appointed a delegate to the General Assembly meeting in Denver. While there, he became ill. The church labored through some very difficult moments in the interim between Mr. Abbott's departure for Denver in May, 1932 and the calling of a new pastor in June, 1933. There was the hope and expectation that he would be able to return. In August, he was given a six month leave of absence. This was later extended. Realizing the seriousness of his illness, he wrote a very moving letter of resignation in December. This letter was not officially received until March 15,1933. He died on May 12, 1933.
Rev. Devanny's ministry was interrupted by WW II where he served as an administrative officer in the Air Force. During his tenure, the Christian Education building was built and dedicated on May 27, 1956. He retired in 1959 and both he and his wife Elsie are interred in the cemetery.
During the tenure of Rev. Devanny, church membership increased considerably. Many needed repairs on church buildings were made. A new Christian Education building was built and dedicated on May 27,1956. It was named Fellowship Hall. World War II interrupted his ministry, as World War I had interrupted his seminary education. He was granted a leave to join the U. S. Air Force as a captain. He returned to Woodbridge In February 1946. In 1947, some members of the congregations left to form the Gospel Church. In 1940 there were many active organizations in the church and the attendance at worship services was quite steady. In 1941-42 the war began to have adverse affects on the church. Men of the congregation were enlisting and being drafted and attendance and contributions decreased. There was general apprehension over the welfare of the church. After Mr. Devanny's return from the war, a period of readjustment due to the defection of those members who formed the Gospel Church was experienced. But then the church activities began to bear fruit and the church organizations such as The Women's Association, The White Church Guild, The Ladies Aid, and The Men's Brotherhood got back to work. Rev. Devanny retired in 1959 and he and his wife are interred in the church cemetery.
During Rev. Kepler's ministry, the evangelistic work of the church was increased. The Women's Association was organized and the men's work reactivated as the Men's Club replaced the Men's Brotherhood. A student assistant from Princeton Seminary was hired in 1944 to assist with the youth work. The effects of the war worked against any kind of normal ministry. Indeed every service reminded the congregation of the war's presence. The Session minutes of June 5, 1944 read, "Out of 160 present at last Sunday's service in the morning only 16 men were present." With Mr. Devanny's return imminent Rev. Kepler announced on Nov. 20th, that he had been called back to China.
In 1961, Rev. James Marsh was hired to assist Rev. Nemeth. Together they worked hard to foster a feeling of harmony and cooperation among the congregation. The church became aware of the need to be good stewards. Giving to both local and general missions increased significantly. A unicameral Board of Session was adopted in 1961. Going the second mile the church enthusiastically supported the financial campaign known as "The 50 Million Fund" - a General Assembly Fund for capital improvements across the denomination. The White Church sent $21,688 to the General Assembly. Rev. Nemeth was appointed delegate to the General Assembly of May 15-23, 1961. A "School of Christian Living" was an on-going event at this time as were study groups known as "Know Your Church Nights" and "The Secular Relevance of the Church." During this period the sextant's house was razed and new grave plots were laid out in the cemetery The organ was rebuilt and a complete new heating system was installed in the sanctuary. In February, 1967, Rev. Nemeth announced that he had accepted a call to Cumberland, MD. In March, Mr. Marsh requested the Session to terminate his relationship with the church.
He had a major impact on the Woodbridge Presbyterian Church, since, thanks to his initiative and leadership, the 1803 church had a complete renovation. After 164 years, the church was in a state of decay. Rev. Bender also substantially increased church membership and started a program of Charasmatic Service.
Between Rev. Nemeth's departure and Rev. Bender's arrival the old manse was razed and a new home purchased on Dixon Drive in Woodbridge. After some cleaning up, some fresh paint, and minor repairs the Benders moved in July 1967. The manse property was sold in 1972. Rev. Bender preached his first sermon on September 12,1967. He held his first Session meeting on October 16,1967. From then on he lost no time in preparing the congregation for an all out effort of restoration and renovation. In March of 1968 the Executive Board of the Session recommended a 300th Anniversary Committee be appointed. A Restoration and Renovation Committee was formed in December 1970. Contracts were signed with architects Bergh & Bermel and with Willard Dunham Construction Co. and work began on an all out drive for pledges netting only $200,000. The congregation bravely committed another $150,000. The project finally cost in excess of $560,000. On October 15, 1972, the congregation re-entered the beautifully renovated sanctuary. A four month period of celebration culminated in a Service of Communion & Dedication on Sunday, May 25,1975. During Rev. Bender's tenure a strong program of charismatic service began with Prayer & Praise & Healing Sessions during the week. On May 10, 1977, Rev. Bender requested his ministry in Woodbridge be terminated.
During the pastorate of Rev. Rathje, church attendance and giving increased. The Session boards and committees were diligent in the discharge of their duties and responsibilities under his leadership. Presbyterian Women and the White Church Guild were active in mission work and fund raising. The Heritage Committee made much progress in compiling and presenting early church history. The cemetery grounds were upgraded and many old stone markers were repaired or replaced. In 1993, the church and cemetery were placed on the American Presbyterian Reformed Historical Sites Registry. An Adult Sunday School Class was begun and was well attended. The decades old marshlands property disposition problem was finally put to rest with its sale to the New Jersey Conservancy Foundation. A 325th Anniversary Committee was formed and did a prodigious amount of work in preparing the church buildings and property for an anniversary celebration during May 2000. Rev. Rathje has served on the Ministerial Committees of the Carlisle & Lehigh Presbytery and of the Synod of the Trinity. He was Commissioner to General Assembly in 1977. While in the Elizabeth Presbytery he served as chairperson of the Candidates Committee and the Evangelism & Church Grounds Committee. He was also a member of the Nominating Committee and the Permanent Judicial Commission.