Not long after the close of the Civil War, a group of like-minded Teaneck residents, under the leadership of Lebbeus Chapman, organized to form the "Washington Avenue Union Sunday School Association" for the purpose of providing a place for Christian worship for its constituents. They then selected to rent a little old one-room, wooden schoolhouse of 1841 vintage, located on the southeast comer of Washington Avenue and Railroad Avenue (now Teaneck Road and Forest Avenue). The first service was held on May 17,1866.
As the "Union" in its title suggests, the Association was initially nonsectarian, but its leadership was strongly Presbyterian, attracting more and more Presbyterian adherents into its fold. It was not long before the fledgling congregation outgrew its quarters, causing it to move in 1869 to a new two-story Victorian wood frame building with an elegant mansard-style roof. This was located diagonally across the street on property, which eventually became the site of Teaneck's School No.2, or the Washington Irving School. The building served a dual purpose, with a public day school using the first floor and the Association providing Sunday School and worship services on the second floor. The Sunday School Association remained here until 1894.
The Association prospered in faith, growth and financial fortunes. William Walter Phelps, a famous and wealthy resident of Teaneck, not only had vast holdings of real estate in the Teaneck-Englewood area but was also a firm philanthropist. On June 8, 1890 he and his wife, Ellen Sheffield Phelps, donated a plot of ground, 100x200 feet, to the Sunday School Association, to be used as a site for its own church building. This property was north of the school property, separated by what was then a "right-of-way" which later became Church Street.
For the construction of the future building, a Captain Frank de Ronde, one of the Association's most enthusiastic and energetic members, organized a series of concerts and other money-making events to accumulate building funds. Then, together with Marvin S. Coe, another prominent Association member, and Mr. Phelps, they contributed $200 each to the fund. This new building, completed in 1894, was a brown shingled structure over native stone foundation, and became the first building ever to be totally owned by the Sunday School Association.
All of this occurred before the Township of Teaneck was legally organized in 1895! The Township people moved into the vacated "Sunday School" building, which was then moved twice to accommodate the expanding Municipal and School Board needs, ultimately ending on the corner of Teaneck Road and Bedford Avenue as the clubhouse for the Capt. Stephen T. Schoonmaker Post, Veterans of Foreign Wars. Many years later this clubhouse building was used on a temporary basis by the future Presbyterian Church of Teaneck to house its large Sunday School classes and many teachers during the 1954-56 construction period of the current building.
On May 24, 1906, the Presbyterian Church of Teaneck was formally organized and accepted into the Presbytery of Jersey City. The Presbytery Committee met in the 1894 building of the Washington Avenue Union Sunday School with the 32 original members to form "The Presbyterian Church of Teaneck", with The Rev. George H. Roberts, Jr. as their first pastor. He was formally ordained and installed on November 2, 1906, to remain and serve until the end of 1908, during which time the congregation grew to 50 members and had become self-supporting as it continued to grow.
By 1911, the burgeoning congregation outgrew its building, prompting a Building Fund Campaign to build an addition on its west end. With the building funds pledged and a mortgage obtained by the still-existent Sunday School Association, the new wing became a reality. However, it was not until 1916, when the membership of the Presbyterian Church of Teaneck was able to accumulate enough money required to obtain title to its property by paying $3,000 to the Sunday School Association, that they were able to pay off the mortgage on the 1911 venture. With this payment, the Association went out of existence. This was creative financing, but it expanded the work of Our Lord in Teaneck! Since the completion of the large building program in 1956, there has been no major building or expansion efforts.
Many years later our church joined the integration process to become known as the "Rainbow Church." Our church continues to be a unique community of faith. Members of the congregation come from many ethnic backgrounds, and there is a celebration of this diversity.
Many pastors have faithfully served our congregation. The following are some of the more recent pastors who served us as we were developing our diversity.
The Rev. James Thompson, 1966-1970;
The Rev. Roger Sidener, 1971-1974...then on "stated supply" through 1975;
The Rev. Robert Chase, 1976-1982 and with him, as Assistant Pastor, The Rev. Cliff Aerie, 1977 -1979; as "stated supply" until:
The Rev. Gordon Markey, 1982-1984 as "Interim Pastor";
The Rev. Garnett Foster, 1984-1991;
The Rev. John Potter, 1991-1992 as "Interim Pastor";
The Rev. Robert Johnson, 1992-1993 as "Interim Pastor".
Our current Pastor, The Rev. Dr. Gloria J. Tate, has been with us since 1993. Pastor Tate has placed her own imprint on our spiritual life, especially by introducing variety and liveliness into our worship services.
Under the splendid leadership of our Pastor Tate and many committees, the Church has been involved in various Community activities: collecting food on a regular basis for the CENTER FOR FOOD ACTION; providing a site for the yearly MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY TELETHON; for many years was the home for the I.R.F. Interreligious Fellowship for the Homeless and Habitat for Humanity; provides a site for a Child Care Center; was once the home site for INCOGNITO-a local theater group; we also feed and house the homeless on a regular schedule working with BERGEN COMMUNITY ACTION PROGRAM.