As we look back on our History all we can think of is how God has been faithful. He was faithful in the past, and he will be faithful in the future.
There was a time in the history of the Hawthorne Gospel Church when there was no church building and the roads of the community were dirt ones. A deep ravine was the playground for Hawthorne’s children, but eventually, it became a major highway connecting New York and New Jersey. There in the intervening years, the seeds of a ministry were born when laborers for God’s vineyard came together in a firehouse to pray.
The Early Days
From April 4 to May 23, 1915, evangelist Billy Sunday conducted a campaign in Paterson; as a result of the campaign, a ladies’ Bible class was begun, taught by Mrs. Alma Fischer. While standing on the sidewalk outside a home in Hawthorne in 1925 waiting for his wife to come from that ladies’ class, and with no thought of starting another church, one of the men suggested that they consider Sunday afternoon meetings that would not be held at “church time.” Although all were active in a variety of different churches, they felt the need for steady Bible teaching and evangelistic messages. Two of the men would see about renting the Lafayette Avenue Fire Hall for this purpose. On June 5, 1925, the Sunday afternoon meetings for Bible study began in that Fire Hall and a few months later, Sunday School began with 24 children attending. In God’s time, the seed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ would grow into full bloom.
It did not take long before the group sponsored weeknight meetings with special speakers. These meetings, held during the summers of 1928 to 1933, were conducted in tents, the first located on property on Lafayette Avenue where the Louis Bay II Library now stands. As time passed the group became more and more connected and decided that the area did need another church that would reach out to the people in the Hawthorne community so on Thanksgiving Day, 1930, there was the dedication of a church building on Lafayette Avenue, a few doors up the street from the Fire Hall. The Hawthorne Gospel Mission as it was originally known became the Hawthorne Gospel Church in 1932.
Over the next couple years the small congregation grew and on March 7, 1934, Herrmann G. Braunlin, who would serve from the beginning as the leader while working as a businessman in New York City, was invited by the board of the congregation to serve as their first full-time pastor. That summer, the rustic Summer Pavilion adjacent to the church on Lafayette Avenue was finished and was used from that point on for Summer Bible Conference meetings.
As time passed various ministries to proclaim the good news of the Gospel began. On May 11, 1941, the church began a radio ministry, broadcasting the Sunday morning worship service. “Inspiration Time” was then on WPAT each weekday morning. The congregation continued to grow from under 100 in 1935 to over 500 in 1954 when two-morning church services and morning and afternoon Sunday school sessions were begun to accommodate those who came. The vineyard of the hope of salvation through Jesus Christ was growing.
A Strong Vision
A site for the burgeoning flock of believers was found in 1953 on 15 acres on Route 208, then unpaved. Five years after purchasing this land, the Summer Pavilion, the first building on the property, was built for Summer Bible Conference meetings. Church services continued in the Lafayette Avenue building through 1960. The Villa Como property, adjacent to the other Route 208 property, was purchased in 1960, and the Villa Como building was renovated and used for the Hawthorne Bible House, a Christian bookstore sponsored by the church. The total acreage on Route 208 then became 22 acres.
As needs came, ministries developed, and in 1974 Top of the Hill Day Camp opened as a ministry of the church. Campers would take advantage of the large church property and use it for outside activities. Years passed and in 1981, Hawthorne Christian Academy was founded as a ministry of Hawthorne Gospel Church. It was a vision laid upon the hearts of church leaders to create a place where children could receive a solid spiritual and academic education. In the years since, the vision has remained the same: to weave a biblical worldview through every aspect of the educational experience.
As the Christian Academy, Day Camp, and other ministries grew additional buildings were constructed as the needs became apparent: Christian Education Building (1961), Missionary Home (1963), Education Building (1964), Parsonage (1969), a new Bible House on the site of the old Villa Como building (1972), the new church sanctuary (1978), the Youth Ministries Center (1986) as well as additions to these existing structures. Parking lots, ball fields and a pool for the use of the congregation have been added.
A Bright Future
Pastor Braunlin was named Pastor Emeritus and Pastor John W. Minnema was installed as Senior Pastor in 1986.
In 1999, three-morning services were instituted in addition to the evening service with an average attendance of 2,600 each Sunday. At the same time, the Sunday School was attended by an average of 900 and church membership rose to 1,000. In addition, the church supports over 60 missionary families around the world while teaching the Word to hundreds of students in the Monday Evening Bible School. After 30 years of use, in 2007, church leaders felt it was necessary to extensively renovate the church sanctuary. After 3 months of updates and renovations, the church sanctuary had finished the renovations.
Today, Hawthorne Gospel Church is accomplishing what only could have been imagined by the original group over 90 years ago, and it is all because of the grace of God and His blessing.