After years of planning and construction, our new, old sanctuary radiates with new splendor. When built in 1812 it was the fourth in a sequence of outgrown sanctuaries that had previously housed our congregation. The building offered space to 1,100 worshippers and was the largest building in the state. Our new sanctuary offers space for almost 200, and it has come out very nice!
Our congregation has always felt obligated to both its history and the needs of the surrounding community. Too much empty space on Sunday mornings was not in line with our sense of purpose. That’s how Dina’s Dwellings came into being: 10 apartments for victims of domestic violence and a more appropriately sized sanctuary, both side by side in the old church building.
Dina’s Dwellings” was opened on February 11; the sanctuary was re-dedicated on June 11. It was a day for the community that included contributions from a variety of groups and institutions. It was also an interfaith affair: Muslims from the Turkish-American Peace Islands Institute were involved just as much as Cantor Anna Ott from Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple, the great synagogue on Livingston Avenue.
My sermon tried to bring out the significance of church architecture: “The sheer sight of our illuminated steeple at night reminds people that they are not living by coincidence.” It also emphasized that the new sanctuary will be open to the community: “It would not be God’s house, if it were not also a house for everyone else.”
Among our guests was also New Brunswick architect Jeff Venezia, the prime architect of the project. We greeted him in worship with much applause. In addition to Ms. Ott, the re-dedication drew other well know church-musicians from our area: Martin Tel, the Director of Music at Princeton Theological Seminary visited a day earlier, John Sheridan, Director of Music at Christ Church here in New Brunswick, and Mark Trautman, formerly Director of Music at Christ Church, now serving St. Paul’s in Englewood. They remarked on the great acoustics of the new, old sanctuary.
May the new space allow us for many years to gather around God’s Table and to do from here our part in the transformation of the world!