The First Presbyterian Church of Tuckerton was organized on January 30, 1859 by the Reverend Samuel Miller, D.D. and the Reverend Allen H. Brown. The congregation first met in the Temperance Beneficial Hall. The founding members of the church were Mr. Joseph B. Sapp, Mr. George A. Sawyer, Mrs. Sarah Darby, Mrs. Mary Adams and Mrs. Ann Mapps. It is unprecedented that Mrs. Mapps was a member, as she was African American and this was just before and during the time of the Civil War. First Presbyterian’s commitments to ethnic diversity are enduring as reflected in our annual Christian song fest each autumn with the Victory First Presbyterian Deliverance Church of Atlantic City, a gospel choir connected to Sister Jean’s Kitchen, one of our mission programs. Pictures of this moving common worship in song are found on our web site.
The present church building was constructed in 1861. It is believed that the church and the manse, built in 1836, are situated on the original site of the Joseph Sapp Farm. The original interior of the church was divided into three parts; the Sanctuary, the Lecture of Sabbath School Room and the Balcony. There has only been one major renovation of the interior in 1909 when the Balcony was closed off and the present embossed tin ceiling was installed. The stained glass windows were given in memory of former Pastors and Elders.
The first manual organ for the sanctuary was played by Mrs. Julia Steelman for 30 years. This instrument was in use until 1909. Soon after, a pipe organ was purchased and stood in the sanctuary until 1958. In 1959 it was replaced by a Hammond Organ. In 2005, the current Allen Organ was purchased and dedicated to teachers and mentors, thanks to many generous donations from our congregation. The character and strength of the members of the First Presbyterian Church is seen in the fact that this new organ was installed and purchased under the leadership of the interim pastor, Rev. Springsted, following the schism of 2002 in which half our church membership was lost.
In 1923 the church and manse were wired for electricity. In 1937, a $1,400 gift from the Women’s Civic club allowed for the construction of a kitchen situated where the Reed Room presently stands. During 1939, the church was painted and the original steeple was removed. A new steeple was erected over the bell tower, which is essentially in the same design, though a bit less ornate. In 1962, the Sunday School rooms were added underneath the sanctuary. It is believed they were dug out by hand. The Celtic Cross, which hangs above the pulpit, was constructed by Elder William Kausch and was installed in 1967.
In 1900, the Library Board was allowed to move their building to FPCT property on Marine Street at the corner of what is now the church parking lot, “providing they guaranteed no damage would be done to anything”. It rested there until 1970, finding its permanent home as the children’s room in the Tuckerton Library.
The current pews were purchased in 1973, replacing the former theater seats. They were dedicated in 1974. Vinyl siding was installed on the church in 1979. The building was enlarged by the addition of Fellowship hall and an office in 1979 – 1980. The old church kitchen was renovated in 1989 as a room used by the church secretary, and for committee meetings. Elder Howard Berry provided the beautiful oak woodwork. In 1991, this room was dedicated as the Reed Room in honor of Reverend Ralph Reed and his wife, Judy Reed.
A project for the sanctuary was undertaken from June through August of 1996, which included a new choir platform and a new roof over some sections of the church. In 2005, a beautification project was completed in Fellowship Hall, in a sea shore theme.
In 2009, we joyfully celebrated our 150th anniversary. We enjoyed several special events, dinners, and worship services, as well as a church picnic on church grounds. Church membership was rising. Membership has ranged from a low of 10 in the year of the church’s creation, 1861, to a high of 300 under Rev. Reed and Rev. Gilchrist.
Our first Pastor was Reverend K. P. Ketchum in 1863. The longest pastorate was that of Reverend Elias M. Gehr, covering 25 years from 1923 – 1948. On October 16, 2005 we warmly welcomed our called Pastor Merideth Susan Mueller. It is notable that Reverend Mueller was the first female pastor of our church, serving as our pastor for nine years. She led our church’s large helping ministry to our members and to thousands of residents in the communities of Little Egg Harbor and Tuckerton who were devastated by the harmful impact of Super Storm Sandy, a massive hurricane. Rev. Mueller left our church in June of 2014 moving to a position in the Monmouth Presbytery where she headed the ongoing ministry of the Presbytery in the continuing process of assisting those affected by the Super Storm Sandy. It should also be noted that during her ministry the mortgage secured to purchase the land on the Marine Street side of our property and used as our parking lot was discharged. Not even hurricanes can deter the members of the First Presbyterian Church of Tuckerton from discharging mortgages! The character and strength of our church is also reflected in the fact that in the period after Rev. Mueller joined the Presbytery and before an Interim Minister was found, restoration of our stained glass windows costing $56,000.00 has been completely accomplished. A $18,000.00 repair of our shutters has been accomplished and payment is almost complete.
In March of 2015 we welcomed Rev. Kathleen Jamhoury as our Interim Pastor. The church looks forward, not only to her ministry here, but also to the assistance she will offer as the church begins the process of searching for a new Pastor.
It was with great joy that in the fall of 2016 our Church voted unanimously to call our new Pastor to our Church. Rev. Anthony J. Maimone was ordained at our Church and began his ministry in October of 2016.