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. Many things have changed over the years, but one thing has always remained – we proclaim the truth of the Scriptures and the good news open to everyone.
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.
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. 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 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 quality spiritual and academic education. In the years since, the vision has remained the same, to weave a biblical worldview through every aspect of life.
Pastor Braunlin was named Pastor Emeritus and Pastor John W. Minnema was installed as Senior Pastor in 1986. Since then, three morning services were instituted, in addition to the evening service. An average of 2,600 people come to worship at Hawthorne Gospel Church each Sunday. As the church grew, church leadership realized additional buildings would need to be constructed: 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), the New Gymnasium (2001), Church Sanctuary renovations (2007), and the Fellowship Center (2021). Parking lots, ball fields and a pool for the use of the congregation have been added.
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.