331 Kirkland Place, Perth Amboy, NJ
(the first 110 years)
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The first settlers of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, came in 1660 because of religious persecution and were primarily Scots, Anglican, and French. Many Hungarians began to come to the United States seeking freedom after the 1848 Hungarian War for Independence and Louis Kossuth’s visit to America.
The first Hungarian congregations were already formed in the US at the beginning of the 20th century. The Rev. Zoltán Kuthy, who was the minister in New York City, the Rev. Gabriel Dokus, pastor in South Norwalk, CT, and Paul Hámborszky, a seminary student, encouraged the Hungarians in Perth Amboy to organize and establish the Hungarian Reformed Church of Perth Amboy.
1903 - On August 30, 100 people organized the first Hungarian Reformed Church in Perth Amboy under the aegis of the Presbyterian Church in Columbia Hall. It was named the ”First Magyar Presbyterian Church of Perth Amboy, N.J.” Since they did not have a minister, the first worship services were conducted by Dr. Géza Kacziány, a professor and writer from Hungary.
1904 - The congregation elected the Rev. Joseph Kozma from Hungary as its full-time pastor, and he worked very hard on laying the foundations for the church.
1905 - On April 25, this congregation severed its connection with the Presbyterian Church and made its goal to build its own church under the name ”The Magyar Reformed Church of Perth Amboy, N.J.” With the assistance of the Reformed Church of Hungary and the donations of the faithful members, and mainly by the grace of God, the first wooden church was dedicated on September 10. It had a seating capacity for 400 people and was built for $3,800.
The first choir was formed, although another source indicates 1908. The choir directors and organists were the following: Carrie Brown Arner (1908-1913); George Mátey, Jr. (1913-1942); Elizabeth Novák (1942-1949); and Lillian Bányácski (1949 - to the present).
1906 - The first bell was purchased. In 1911 a larger bell was obtained, and the largest bell was acquired in 1936.
1908 - After the return of Rev. Kozma to Hungary, the congregation called the Rev. Louis Nánássy to fill the vacant pulpit. Mr. H. Anderson, a local merchant, donated a small, reed pipe organ, which was later replaced by a purchased new copper pipe organ. Slovak Reformed members were accepted into the congregation and from 1911 regular services were held in their native language. This affiliation lasted until 1924.
1909 - A wooden Baptismal font was donated to the church during the summer by the Vacation Bible School’s 72 students.
1911 - A new parsonage was built for $5,420. In 1925 an office was added to the house.
The property for the Calvary Cemetery of the Magyar Reformed Church was acquired. The brick posts and iron fence were added in 1946-47.
1915 - The first social hall was erected for $6,600.
1916 - The members living in the northern section of Perth Amboy requested that a place of worship closer to their homes be made available, so the brick Cortlandt Street Chapel was built for $4,100. The chapel was later ruined by a fire, and since by then most of the members had cars, they did not want to renovate it and the property was sold.
1920 - After World War I, many Hungarians lived in Keasbey, and the Presbyterian Church’s Keasbey Chapel was purchased for $3,500. This was the third location for worship services.
1921 - The decision of the congregation was that the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper would be served on the first Sunday of each month and not just on the Holy Holidays, which had been the practice up to then. This practice is still observed today.
1920’s - After the American Hungarian Reformed Churches severed their ties with the mother church in Hungary, the congregations struggled with their identities (where they should belong). The Perth Amboy congregation, along with those which wanted to maintain their independence, formed the ”Free Magyar Reformed Church in America” on December 9, 1924, in Duquesne, PA. The first Dean was the Rev. Endre Sebestyén and the first Chief Elder was Stephen Bodnár, who was a member of the Perth Amboy congregation.
1920’s - The Senior Women’s Club, Men’s Club, and Youth Group were formed. Dr. Nánássy, through his tireless efforts, formed Boy Scouts Troop No. 4, which the congregation held in high esteem. According to the records, Dr. Nánássy was the first pastor to be paid, and he received a car as a gift of gratitude from the congregation in the mid-1920’s.
1925 - During the term of Chief Elder Frank Csordás, the congregation voted to build a larger brick church. The cost was $65,000. The new church seated 510 people, but with additional chairs and pews, 600 people could be seated. The church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, November 26. The steeple has the traditional star, rooster, and globe.
1929 - Rev. Nánássy became the Superintendent of Bethlen Home in Ligonier, PA and left Perth Amboy. He faithfully served in that position until his death.
Following the resignation of Rev. Nánássy, the majority of the congregation elected the Rev. Dr. Charles Vincze, then pastor of the Hungarian Reformed Church in Carteret, NJ. The strong- voiced minority, who did not support Rev. Vincze, made their displeasure known and left the church to form another congregation, building another church on Amboy Avenue. "The Christian thoughts and ideas were pushed so far into the background that friendships were ruined, and even relationships between siblings and between parents and children deteriorated." Although later some of the dissenters returned to our congregation, the hope over the decades that the two groups would again join together never occurred because the congregation eventually merged with the Hungarian Reformed Church in Woodbridge, NJ. Rev. Vincze became the pastor of this congregation at a very difficult time. He was a learned individual who earned his doctorate degree in Debrecen, the "Hungarian Calvinist Rome." He faithfully served this congregation for 25 years during which he enriched and cared for this congregation. Rev. Vincze was elected Archdean in 1945, which was the precursor of the title of Bishop and served the same function.
1933 - Charles Cherris represented the Perth Amboy Boy Scouts Troop at the World Scouts Jamboree in Gödöllő, Hungary.
1941-1945 - During World War II, 212 young men and women from our congregation served our country. The following members gave their lives on the battlegrounds: Joseph Bányácski, Alex Bereczky, Jr., John L. Csorba, Leslie S. Kálmán, John Kardos, Jr., Martin Kenéz, Jr., Andrew Koncsol, John Rezesh, Jr., John Román, Jr., and Joseph Tóth. May their sacrifice be remembered by us always.
1947 - The Women’s Guild was formed under the guidance of Mrs. Helen Vincze for the younger generation women of the congregation. Vilma Innamorati was elected the first President.
1954 - The Rt. Rev. Dr. Charles Vincze served the Lord to the end of his life. In January 1954 during a funeral service, he suffered a heart attack and a few days later gave back his life to his Creator.
The congregation elected the Rev. Dezső Ábrahám, then pastor of the Roebling, NJ, church, to fill the vacant pulpit.
1955 - A Building Committee was formed to build the Church Center and they monitored the construction process.
1956 - Following the Hungarian Revolution, our congregation gave a helping hand to 117 people who fled from Communist Hungary leaving their homes; however, only a few have remained members of the congregation.
1958 - The new Church Center is completed at a cost of $250,000.
1964 - Nánássy Hall was remodeled, with carpeting, painting, and paneling, as well as with lighting and heating, which made the hall more usable and pleasant.
1968 - The Rev. Dezső Ábrahám, having earned the love and esteem of the entire church body, was elected the Bishop of the Hungarian Reformed Church in America.
1969 - The Chapel was built in the Church Center for the use of the Sunday School.
1960’s and 70’s - One of the unique and very successful programs was Saturday Bible School. Vacation Bible School was also held.
1970 - A new Muller organ was purchased for the church. The keyboard of the old organ was preserved and is still kept in the church. During the 61 years that the organ was in service, 1,059 weddings, 2,773 baptisms, and 1,185 funerals took place in the church.
1973 -The inside of the church was completely remodeled with a center aisle replacing the two side aisles and carpeting was installed.
1974 - After 20 years of service in Perth Amboy, Rev. Ábrahám was called to serve the Allen Park, MI congregation. Rev. Stefan M. Török, pastor in Roebling, NJ, was elected to fill the vacancy in the pulpit.
1976 - Hungarian Embroidery Classes were started under the leadership of Jolán Benga.
1977- During the time Stephen Katko was Chief Elder, two major bequests were received. The first was $172,923.88 from Mr. and Mrs. John Arpad and Mr. and Mrs. Henry P. Roger bequeathed $22,626.35.
1978 - The Fellowship Circle was formed in August. Hungarian Language Classes were started for young and old. Extensive repairs were undertaken around the Church, Church Center, and cemetery.
1979 - During the term of new Chief Elder, Charles Gabos, a Bible Study group was formed
1980’s - In the earlier years, repairs and maintenance of the church, the cemetery and the parsonage were done. 1980 - The first church van for 15 passengers was purchased to provide transportation to members to church services and also to be used for outings by the seniors.
1982 - The tower music system was donated by Emma and Joseph Seeman.
It was with great pride that the congregation sponsored member Louis Medgyesi during his seminary studies. This year he served as a student pastor in the congregation.
1983 - The ordination of Louis Medgyesi and three other pastors took place in our church under the leadership of Chief Elder William Pastor. Amid the blessings, Rev. Medgyesi was called to serve in a new place, Fairport Harbor, Ohio. It must be noted here that another individual from our congregation became a pastor, namely, Rev. Ollie Benko Hall.
It is noteworthy that the first female elder was elected this year. Rev. Török and Cynthia Banyacski also were married on Christmas Eve.
1984 - Andrew C. Lovasz is elected Chief Elder and in his first report to the congregation he cited the thoughts of many when he wrote: “Our church is in danger of dying.”
1985 - Saturday Bible School and Sunday School are merged. The Senior Circle was formed. Activities included going on monthly outings.
1986 - The twice weekly (Thursday and Sunday) Bible Study Group’s Thursday session is discontinued.
1987 - A used 15 passenger van was purchased.
1989-1994 - While Robert Zambo was Chief Elder, the idea is conceived that if the dwindling membership of the church cannot be increased with new souls, we should focus on the quality of our services.
1990 - The Fellowship Circle disbands.
1992 - The Senior Women’s Guild and the Senior Circle ceased to function.
1993 - A new 25 passenger bus was purchased for transportation for $44,444. This bus was sold in 2005.
1994 - The new garage is built for the bus. The financial reports of the church are computerized thanks to Andrew C. Lovasz.
1995 - Another groundbreaking event occurs in the congregation. The first female is elected to be Chief Elder, namely, Elizabeth Novak. She passed away at the end of the year. The position was then filled by Kim Latkovich. During his years as Chief Elder, the maintenance of our properties was top priority. The blizzard of 1996 caused damage and required repairs, a new roof for the Church Center, new windows in the parsonage, renewal of the workings of the steeple bells, building the handicap accessible ramp at the Church Center, new carpeting in the church and parsonage, and other necessary expenses. New choir robes were purchased.
1996 - Alarm systems were installed in all of the church buildings.
1997 - The basement of the church was carpeted.
1998 - The parsonage windows were replaced.
2000 - The old church van was sold and replaced with a new one at a cost of $26,000.
The Rev. Stefán Török served as the pastor of the Perth Amboy congregation for 28 years (30, if we add the two years he served as student pastor under Bishop Ábrahám), and during that time, he developed friendships and fraternal relations, and he focused on the spiritual leadership of the congregation.
2002 - Rev. Török is elected the President of the Hungarian Reformed Federation of America and he resigns his position in Perth Amboy.
In August, the Rev. Dr. Attila A. Kocsis arrives from Mezőtúr, Hungary, as the newly elected pastor. With his wife, the Rev. Anikó Kocsis, they are a double gift to the congregation, since they could with double strength work on enriching the spiritual life of the congregation. This was also a year of major expenditures. The repairs to the parsonage were a large part of the expenses, but repairs were also required at the Church Center and the church. Final expenses were $74,835.
2003 - The congregation celebrated its 100th anniversary. We were saddened to learn that the congregation of the Free Magyar Reformed Church of Linden, NJ, due to its small size, was no longer able to support and maintain the church and decided to sell their property. However, they also decided to merge with the Perth Amboy congregation since Perth Amboy is their “mother congregation” and originally supported them. The church was just over 50 years old and had two pastors: the Rev. László Hunyady, who was the founding pastor at the request of the Rt. Rev. Dr. Charles Vincze, and the Rev. Ambrus Batiz, who took over as pastor following the death of Rev. Hunyady in 1985. They were warmly welcomed by the congregation. The Veterans Memorial Plaque was dedicated. The Fellowship Circle was reestablished.
We were also saddened to learn that our Chief Elder, Kim Latkovich, became ill, and, due to this, he resigned his position.
2004 - Ernest Marczi was elected as the new Chief Elder. Repairs were made around the church and cemetery. A new outside oil tank was installed for the church. Hanwoori Evangelical Church, a Korean congregation, started to rent Vincze Hall.
2005 - This was the year for many upgrades in the Church Center. The kitchen was renewed and the air conditioning was upgraded. We also gave the 1874 letter written by Louis Kossuth to his son to the Reformed College in Debrecen, Hungary, "as successor depository, with our church maintaining its property rights."
We accepted with regret the resignation of Judith Quinn as Superintendent of the Sunday School. Laura Dinicola has continued to work with the Sunday School as Superintendent.
2007 - The windows of the church were renovated and renewed. The Hanwoori congregation left our facility for a location in Staten Island because most of their members traveled from there. The Rev. Dr. Kocsis was elected as Dean of the Eastern Classis.
2008 - During the 50th anniversary year of the Church Center, Presencia del Rey, a Spanish language congregation, started to rent the facility. A suppression system and fire alarm system were installed at the Center.
2009 - The Calvary Cemetery road was repaired and asphalted.
2010 - After 40 years, the church organ was refurbished. Thanks to a bequest by Elizabeth Kish, an annual scholarship was set up for college students of the church. A new sound system for the church was donated.
We were saddened to learn that the John Calvin Hungarian Reformed Church on Amboy Avenue, which had separated from us in 1929, sold its properties because they were no longer able to carry the burdens of upkeeping the church. They merged with the Hungarian Reformed Church in Woodbridge.
Another difficult situation faced the congregation when the Rev. Dr. Attila Kocsis resigned and returned to Hungary where he took a position in the government working on the Hungarian diaspora, especially those who are part of the Reformed Church.
2011 - Much of the year was spent seeking a new pastor for the congregation. In November, the congregation elected the Rev. András Szász from Nagyteremi, Maros County, Transylvania (Romania). He began to serve the congregation on Christmas Eve.
2012 - The Women’s Guild celebrated its 65th anniversary at a dinner, which was attended by the first President of the Guild, Vilma Innamorati. The Saturday Social Group was organized thanks to enthusiastic, loving community members. Bible study, Hungarian language class, and the youth group were restarted.
2013 - It is the 110th anniversary of the establishment of our congregation and the 55th anniversary of the Church Center. The members of the Church Council are the following: Ernest Marczi, Chief Elder; Mark Bányácski and Thomas Rhodes, Vice Chief Elders; Laura Dinicola, Secretary; Andrew C. Lovász, Treasurer; Priscilla Hunyady, Assistant Treasurer; Lillian Bányácski, Priscilla Jenkins, Kevin Kopko, Elaine Kovács, László Kovács, Jeffrey Latkovich, and Robert Zambo.
The Church Council, Chief Elder, and pastor are important aspects of our congregational life, but let us not forget the most important component: YOU. Because of our imperfections we may not always show this, but the point is that YOU are important to God, that is why He sent His Son among us “so that everyone who believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)...and that is our main goal here on earth, to share this good news with YOU.