By DON STINE
For 125 years, St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, on the West Side of Asbury Park, has been serving the Lord and its community and plans to continue doing the same into the future.
Church vestry member Carolann Nicholas said the church, now with a congregation of about 150, remains an important part of Asbury Park to this day.
“It still has a place in the community and is still vital today just as it has been in the past. And if it disappeared, we would be missed. We are a part of the community and people recognize and respect that,” she said.
Activities, such as its feeding program and food pantry, provides for the needy and the church has been a long-time host of a masonic organization and self-improvement meetings, like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
Nicholas said the church is struggling to attract younger members.
“Which is not unusual for traditional Protestant churches,” she said.
She said that for the last six years St. Augustine’s has been hosting math and science programs and a weekly movie night in July.
“We truly do need to find the button that attracts young people. Our mission is still important to the community and we are trying to engage people to come to worship while still providing our services to community. We want people be aware of what we are doing and come join us,” she said.
Nicholas said the in the past the congregation was made up of more local residents whereas about 10 percent still live in Asbury Park.
“Most people have moved out because they could and have more opportunity,” she said.
St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church was founded by the Reverend A. J. Miller, the rector of Trinity Church in Asbury Park, in the fall of 1890 for residents on the city’s West Side. The first Sunday school and services were held on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 1891.
Bishop John Scarborough, Bishop of the New Jersey Diocese, took great interest in the work being done by Rev. Miller and gave $637.43, the amount of the Advent offering of 1892, for the purchase of property and construction of a Chapel.
On All Saint’s Day, 1893, Father Miller, who served as rector until 1901, laid the cornerstone for the Chapel of St. Augustine on a Sylvan Avenue lot. On Jan. 3, 1894, Bishop Scarborough came to Asbury Park to bless the Chapel. The first Eucharist was offered on January 14, 1894.
Between 1894 and 1899 all interior furnishings, an organ, and the altar were donated by the congregation and their friends in memory of family and loved-ones. In 1899, an addition was made to the Chapel almost doubling its original size. This addition was used as a Sunday School and lecture room.
During 1903 and 1904 the first pews, a Bishops chair, and a furnished kitchen were added and a call went out for a permanent minister.
Other improvements were made to the church over the years under the leadership of a number of different ministers, including the formation of the Woman’s Auxiliary, now the Episcopal Church women.
Rev. Isaiah Bell, who served from 1964 to 1970, had St. Augustine’s included in Asbury Park’s Urban Renewal Program and a ground-breaking for a new church was held on May 4, 1969 with a dedication ceremony held on Sunday October 17, 1971.
The present church at 155 prospect Avenue, contains many of the previous donations and the stained glass windows made in its earliest days.
The congregation is currently looking for a new pastor.