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St. Andrew & Holy Communion Commemorates 150 Years

The Church of the Holy Communion was dedicated in 1859 at the congregation's current site.

The Episcopal Church of St. Andrew and Holy Communion is highlighting a year-long celebration of its 150th year on Sunday with a special church service and an evening gala at Mayfair Farms in West Orange.

"The gala is just the party piece," said the church's rector, Rev. Sandye Wilson, of the sold-out event, which 330 adults, 35 teenagers and 50 younger children are expected to attend. "We've spent the year going deeper into our spiritual lives."

The year began with a January service honoring long-time parishioner and South Orange resident Barbara Van Doren; another highlight was a visit by Bishop Barbara Harris, the first woman to be ordained a bishop in the Anglican community. Commemorations will conclude on Jan. 17, 2010 with a visit by the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church.

Sunday's 10:30 a.m. service will feature liturgical dancers performing a Michael Jackson song, as well as traditional choir pieces. Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina will be the guest preacher.

As a companion piece, lifelong congregant Don Thomas has been at work on a history of the church, which he completed last month in the form of a 104-page booklet. He perused vestry minutes dating back to 1859 as part of his research and says he became intrigued by the church's history when he noticed a pulpit dedicated to the memory of Cornelius Roosevelt. Upon further investigation, he learned that Cornelius was the uncle of Theodore and had a 67-acre estate in present-day Maplewood.

Other notable congregants include William Allen, who devised the concept behind standard time; Lewis Cameron, for whom Cameron Field is named; , who helped devise a system for mosquito control to stave off typhoid at the turn of the 20th century, which entailed spreading oil on swampy areas; and former South Orange Village Presidents like Francis Speir.

Formerly two separate Episcopal parishes, St. Andrew—which was located at the corner of Sterling Ave. and Centre St.—and the Church of the Holy Communion, came together in 1973 when it was agreed that there were no longer enough Episcopalians in South Orange to support both. Since the Church of the Holy Communion, established in 1859, was determined to be more structurally sound, it became the site of the new congregation. However, there was some confusion over what the new name should be, and some felt that the church should be called St. Andrew to continue that parish's legacy. Ultimately, the congregation voted on a merging of the two names.

"Even though it's a mouthful, at least it preserves the history of the two churches," said Thomas, who joined the choir of the Church of the Holy Communion at age 8 and is now in his 70s.

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