African American News and Genealogy

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Friday, February 25, 2005

Tewksbury to celebrate role of its historic churches

By DENNIS O’NEILL Contributing Writer TEWKSBURY TWP – Four historic Tewksbury Township churches will be showcased this weekend as part of the township’s 250th anniversary celebration. This Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. the four churches- Zion Lutheran Church, Fairmount Presbyterian Church, Cokesbury United Methodist Church, and Fairmount United Methodist Church- will each host presentations celebrating the significant roles they have played in Tewksbury’s history. The program is part of Tewksbury’s yearlong series of events marking the township’s founding in 1755.“How do you tell the story of a community, without telling the story of its community of faiths,” said the Rev. Mark Summer, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in the Oldwick section of the township. “The two are bound together.”Historic TreasuresMary Elizabeth Young of Califon, who serves on the Celebrate Tewksbury in 2005 Committee, encourages visitors to discover the four historic treasures. “We all pass these buildings everyday, and so many people have never been inside these beautiful structures,” said Young. “This is a great opportunity to visit our churches and discover their rich history.”At Zion Lutheran Church, Rev. Summer will host a historical talk and walking tour of the building. Church artifacts will be on display, including a gallery of former pastors - most notably, Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, known as “the patriarch of the Lutheran Church in America.” The church’s bell choir will also perform, led by parish musician Rod Briscoe.Among the church’s historic highlights is its compelling origin.Established on August 1, 1714, it is not only the oldest church in the township, but also the oldest Lutheran church in New Jersey. Its first worship was held in the home of Aree van Guinee, a freed slave from Dutch Guinea, Africa. Justus Falckner, the first Protestant minister ordained in America, led the first worship where he confirmed Guinee’s wife and children, and baptized Guinee’s first grandchild. “About a third of the initial membership of Zion Lutheran Church was freed slaves,” Rev. Summer said. Full Story:


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