The History of Our Church

         One hundred fifty years ago, in 1868, a small group of people in Bricksburg (now Lakewood NJ) gathered to form a church under a congregational form of governance.  The Newark Presbytery approved their petition, and with guidance from the Reverend Dr. Alfred Dashiell, the First Presbyterian Church of Lakewood was established.


    In 1870, the small congregation erected a little chapel and built the shell of our present sanctuary, with its fine spire pointing heavenward.  While the interior was being finished, church members met in what is now Fellowship Hall.  The first service in the new church took place in 1884.  The north wing was added in 1892, in response to increased attendance: President Grover Cleveland and other notables sometimes worshiped with us when they wintered in Lakewood.  Electric lights were installed in 1909; the old gas fixtures are still visible between the windows in the sanctuary.  The Reverend Dr. Courtlandt Butler was the first occupant of the manse, which was built in 1900.


    In step with the surrounding area, the congregation and our ministries continued to grow.  In 1954, a magnificent Moller pipe organ was installed, and ten years later we dedicated an educational building.  At the time of our Centennial Celebration in 1968, our membership of 319 participated in several choirs (Adult, Handbells, Westminster, Cherubs), Sunday School classes for all ages, local and national women's groups, a men's society, junior and senior youth groups (who ran a beach ministry in the summer), and community outreach by the Shepherds.  Many members also served as volunteers in fire companies, Kimball Hospital, YWCA and YMCA, Little League and other civic and charitable organizations.


    As young families moved away, the development of retirement communities in the second half of the last century brought a new group of churchgoers.  We have grown older, our town has changed, and our membership is just about twice the size of the original founders' group.  Programs like our soup kitchen had to be discontinued - but the 'Souperbowl' lives on, bringing meals to community members. We continue financial support to local and national charities, allowing us to love our neighbors through their work.  Our faith is as strong as ever, and our commitment to the service of Christ and the world around us remains unchanged.

Former Ministers

Rev Alfred Henry Dashiell DD    (1871-1888)

Rev Charles Henry McClellan DD   (1889-1900)

Rev Courtlandt Patterson Butler DD   (1900-1927)

Rev John Herrick Darling   (1927-1935)

Rev Melvin Raymond Campbell    (1936-1938)

Rev Albert Henry Manus    ( 1939-1950)

Rev Robert Earle Dubois   (1951-1958)

Rev Gordon Shelley     (1959-1972)

Rev Dr Thomas Andrew Sebben   (1973-1985)

Rev Tyler L Easley (Interim)     (1986-1987)

Rev Vance Wiley Torbett III    (1987-1993)

Rev David John Eisenmenger (Interim)     (1994-1995)

Rev Lee David Donow    (1995-1999)

Rev Martha Campbell (Interim)   (2000-2003 (March))

Rev John Godocik (Retired)     (2003-2005)

Rev George McDonald (Part-time Stated Supply)   (2006-2007)

Rev Alan Chaves (Stated Supply)      ( 2007 (6 months))

Pastor Dennis C Booth (Temporary Stated Supply)     (2008(June)-2011)

Rev Terry Fouse (Communion minister)    (2008-2012)

Pastor Rick LaFever (Commission Ruling Elder)     2013-



Our Governance

The name “Presbyterian” comes from the Greek word presbuteros, or “elder.” Our very name reflects the fact that we are a democratically-governed church, with most decisions affecting the local church being made by Elders elected by the congregation. Nine Elders (who are ordained to their task) comprise the Session, our church’s governing board. Session members serve for three-year terms, and may be re-elected for a second consecutive term. The Pastor serves as Moderator of the Session.

“The Ordination of Elders in a Scottish Kirk,” by John Henry Lorimer, 1891.

Nine Deacons (who are likewise ordained to their task) comprise the Board of Deacons, who engage in ministries of “sympathy and service,” reaching out in caring ways to the lonely, the shut-in and the economically disadvantaged. An elected Deacon serves as Moderator of the Board of Deacons. Lakewood First Presbyterian Church is part of the Presbytery of Monmouth, 47 churches in the central New Jersey area, whose elected representatives (ministers and elders in equal numbers) come together approximately once a month for worship and to conduct business. Monmouth Presbytery, in turn, is part of the Synod of the Northeast, comprising Presbyterian churches throughout New Jersey, New York and New England. Selected representatives from Presbytery travel each year to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the highest governing body of the church. Although Presbyterian governing bodies have elected Moderators who chair meetings, we are not a “hierarchical” church in the sense that we have permanent ruling officers such as bishops. Nor are we a “congregational” church, in which the local congregation decides everything by popular vote. Rather, we are proud of being a “connectional” church, one which offers a combination of the pure democracy of the congregational meeting and the measured, deliberative judgment of elected officers, seeking God’s will collectively as they meet and pray together. Principles of Presbyterian church governance are laid out in our Constitution, which includes the Book of Confessions and the Book of Order. In addition, the Lakewood First Presbyterian Church has its own set of By-laws.