UPPER SADDLE RIVER, NJ -- Serving as a safe haven and a center for connections, a historic church connects a community with new amenities and activities.
Built in 1814, Old Stone Church has been restored to maintain hundreds of years of community activity. A remodeled kitchen, bathrooms for those with disabilities, and an education site for one of the area's largest nursery schools are some of the newest features of a space that served as a hub amid emergencies long before Hurricane Sandy.
"If you have ever been in a sanctuary, it is hard to describe. It is very peaceful and reverent the moment you walk in," said John Seibert, director of church operations and a member of the Presbyterian parish for the past 36 years.
Seibert, of Chestnut Ridge, NY, maintains grounds, handiwork and activities that remain small and intimate. Most services host 50 attendees, many of whom enjoy Christmas Eve Mass by candlelight.
"I love the exterior. It's amazing that we have a true historic landmark like this," said passerby Barbara Miller.
The church has hosted a number of community organizations throughout the year. Boy Scouts serve over 1,000 at an annual Election Day pancake breakfast. Condominium groups host quarterly and annual meetings.Women's crafting groups gather in Fellowship Hall. This year they have been working on a quilt that will be raffled off at the Harvest Home Fair.
"A former resident who is now in Virginia called up here because she wanted to know when the raffle was for the quilt. She knows the people who made it and how well handcrafted it is," Seibert said.
The church has also opened a new section of its cemetery so that the public can purchase 400 new plots, not far from the graves of Revolutionary and Civil War veterans.
"The youth groups used to play on that field," said Seibert. "Not it is open to the public. We offer military and emergency service members a discount, as our way of honoring them. We're a family. It's about community."
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