The Central Presbyterian Church has seen many changes over the past two centuries. To better understand the direction of our church, a look back into the church’s history should provide some helpful insight. The original church was founded by Rev. Doctor Amasa Freeman in 1846 on Clinton St. in Haverstraw, NY. Rev. Freeman was at first a temporary installment, but later stayed for over fifty two years. The church Rev. Freeman commissioned to build on Clinton St. is now owned by the CalvaryBaptistChurch. In 1898 Rev. Freeman passed away as the church’s first pastor and a man of the community. In his memory the first Tiffany window was installed in the Clinton St. Church. Through a generous willed land donation, new plans were drafted for a larger church located on Hudson Ave. Construction began in 1907 and this is where the Central Presbyterian congregation currently worships. This construction was a daunting task that was made possible by donations from local brick companies, members of the church and community members. When the new building was finished the Tiffany window memorialized to Rev. Freeman was transported by horse drawn carriage and installed in the new building. The remaining twelve Louis Comfort Tiffany windows were each commissioned and memorialized by members, families, and community residents.
The Central Presbyterian Church has been a resource for the community since its construction. In 1935 the public school burned down, and the Board of Education used the building for over two years. Community activities and sports were common on Friday nights through the 1950’s. There were several changes in the following years that would have a profound impact on the congregation. Rev. Gregory Oross came to serve our church from 1961 to 1989. It was during this time that the church brick was re-pointed, and a new manse was constructed. Shortly after Rev. Oross’s arrival, the First Presbyterian Church located in West Haverstraw closed in 1964. It was an understandably difficult time for the First Presbyterian members. Their congregation split and some families attended Stony Point, while others came to Haverstraw. It was during this time that Central Presbyterian received some very active and faithful members. Sunday school classes were large and active to the point where a dedicated bus was used to transport students. The congregation continued to benefit from great pastoral leadership through the 1990’s.
From early 2000 onward pastoral leadership has been inconsistent. The church has made an attempt to move forward, despite the use of lay-pastors, and part time pastors. Currently however, deliberate and intentional efforts over the past 20 years through fellowship, mission, and outreach have yielded little results. In a tradition started in the early 1990’s, Rev. Tony Welty attempted to reach out to the largely Hispanic community offering a second service in Spanish. In early 2000, our lay-pastor Genaro Marin made another attempt providing a worship service in Spanish. These efforts did not take hold in the community and were discontinued when each respective pastor retired.
Haverstraw is ethnically, sociologically, and economically diverse. Consisting of five hamlets or towns, the median income goes from $100,000 in Pomona to $40,000 in the Village of Haverstraw. The Village of Haverstraw is going through a state of revitalization. In an attempt to attract outside wealth and revenue, developers have constructed new high-end condominiums along the Hudson River, and a ferry service that provides commuters access to NYC rail lines. With the high cost of housing and taxes in the areas surrounding NYC, the ferry service becomes more and more desirable as a means of saving money while commuting to work. The village has also opened several new successful restaurants that attract new people into the neighborhood everyday.
Ministry possibilities include a large Hispanic/Latino immigrant population, many of whom are undocumented. This continues to be a challenge, which has not as of yet, yielded much success in adding to our numbers. We are surrounded by two large Roman Catholic Churches, including one which celebrates Mass in Spanish and Polish, a large PentecostalRegionalChurch, a new Evangelical church under development, the SeventhDayAdventistChurch across the street, and four non-denominational churches, one of which is the CharismaticChurch that shares our space. Our reality is that while we are open to the Hispanic/ Latino community, the needs of this community are being met elsewhere. We will continue to reach out to ALL of our neighbors, and do not want to be short sighted, focusing only on this one demographic.
Our membership consists of persons across the lifespan, with the 45-65yrs being the largest group. 99% of the formal members are white, with two Hispanic. Of the informal members, we have diverse families regularly in Worship. Our demographic is significant for being predominantly women. Worship attendance has declined from 70 to 30 in the past five years. Those who have remained faithful, including the informal members, will continue to support the ministry of Central Presbyterian Church.