September 13th marked an important day in the life of our church. That evening, we hosted the final presentation of a field school of Rutgers University. This field school had turned our need for a comprehensive Preservation Plan for our cemetery into a teaching opportunity at no cost to the church. We could not have been more grateful to the leadership of this Rutgers program, especially to its director, Prof. Archer St. Clair Harvey, and the field school instructor, Christine Miller Cruiess.
Throughout the year, a mixed group of graduate and undergraduate had worked on this Preservation Plan.
You might remember that 75% of the corresponding Preservation Plan for our buildings was funded with $50,000 planning grant from the NJ Historic Trust. This gives you an idea how expensive these kinds of plans are – even if the Preservation Plan for our cemetery is substantially shorter. Now the students presented their findings to a public audience in a very involved PowerPoint presentation. They started by delineating the existing conditions of the cemetery. The results were compiled in a digital database, easy to store, expand and share with others in years to come. It includes pictures of our grave stones – an irreplaceable documentation of the current status quo.
Following this, the plan entailed treatment recommendations, beginning with a chart of priorities and concluding with a cost estimate for restoration. Finally, there were the treatment reports. Again, at no cost to the church, the students had cleaned 46 grave markers with an architectural antimicrobial. They had also repaired two grave markers that had broken apart.
It was an evening of interesting speeches, much appreciation for our history, and a good fruit punch in the end. A great thank-you goes to Erie Beemsterboer who presented Christine Miller Cruiess with one of her beautiful handmade quilts. We also thank Ethel Salamone, Joan Fekete and Pastor Susan for the wonderful reception afterwards.