Presbyterians first began worshiping in Salem City around the end of the turn of the 18th century. We first worshiped with the local Episcopalian congregation but divided over the 17th Article of the Church of England, (Predestination) building our first Church in 1821, and expanding to our current home in 1856.
Our building, located in Salem’s Historic District, is on the local, state, and federal registry of historic places. Our building is a landmark in South Jersey with its soaring steeple reaching 162 feet into the sky. Lighted at night it is a beacon to mariners in the Delaware Bay. Salem is a historic city, with many structures in Salem predating the founding of our nation. Guests to the area can visit our neighbor, the Salem County Historical Society to see exhibits and period rooms defining our rich history and area culture. We have a beautiful main street with the oldest operating Courthouse in New Jersey. Salem is a Main Street town supported by the Stand Up for Salem (SUFS) organization. SUFS is active in the economic development of the city and hosts a number of events during the year to celebrate Salem and it’s residents. Salem is surrounded by bucolic meadow and marshes and most of the County economy is driven by agriculture. Salem was originally a marketing town and later became a manufacturing center.
Salem has is a strong evangelical base of many ecumenical churches that work together to improve the quality of life for our neighbors. We pray a lot here in Salem. Our Church or the “Church with the Steeple” as it is commonly known, has developed and taken a leadership position in supporting our fellow churches and developing a youth program to benefit the children of Salem. We founded and fund the Lighthouse Ministry, a bold initiative that provides many programs including tutoring, mentoring, bible studies and youth activities to our members but more importantly the youth of our community. Some of these activities include mission trips to Appalachia, local field trips, and community work projects. We have helped countless children see beyond the limits of Salem and realize that through Jesus Christ there is a better way.
A number of years ago the Lighthouse Youth program initiated a community garden, which has evolved into the Olive Street Garden Project. This program provides our City youth an opportunity to participate in agricultural activities, and a great chance to share the Gospel as we all get our hands dirty in the soil. The garden is located in one of the roughest neighborhoods in the City. We are currently under contract with the City to purchase four vacant lots and a separate deal to purchase an adjacent historic but dilapidated building. One of our members has committed significant funds to develop the lots and building into a learning and resource center.
The vision of our congregation is that we will center our work here in the City using the Garden project as our springboard. We will strengthen our outreach by forming partnerships with local congregations, our public schools, and the community at large. In the future, we would like to partner and sponsor a Young Life ministry here. Many of our neighborhood children attend our local colleges; Salem Community College renown for its Glass Program, and Rowan University.
Another program of importance to the congregation is our Music Ministry. We have a highly talented music director whose encourages both volunteers and professionals to share their gifts with the congregation. The ministry holds specials concerts and programs in addition to participating in the Sunday worship. Our programs are open to the community and listed on the VisitSalemCounty website, a good source for things to do and see in Salem County. We also encourage young students to provide vocal and instrumental music during the Sunday services to give them an opportunity to perform in a safe environment.
Although our Church has been here for almost two hundred years, we feel that we are still vital and at the beginning of the Lord’s work here in Salem. The congregation is in a unique position to encourage and work beside our neighbors in bringing the love of Jesus Christ to those less fortunate. Our world mission of the Salem Church is clearly directed at the two square miles that is our home.