The Examiner

Hawthorne Reformed Church to Celebrate 200 Years in the Community

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The Hawthorne Reformed Church on Broadway in Hawthorne looks much like it did when it opened its doors 200 years ago. The congregation celebrates its bicentennial this Sunday.

At a time when some houses of worship are fighting for their survival, one local church will reach a special milestone this weekend that highlights the perseverance of its members through the generations.

The Hawthorne Reformed Church will be celebrating its 200th anniversary this Sunday with a special 2 p.m. service featuring a guest sermon from Rev. Dr. Gregg Mast, a Reformed clergyman, scholar and seminary president and the author of multiple books on Christian practice and theology. A celebration will follow the service. The entire community is welcome to attend.

While the congregation has about 100 members, it typically sees a relatively small turnout of 25 to 30 parishioners most Sundays. But the commitment of the members when the congregation was first established in 1818 remains strong two full centuries later, said its current pastor Rev. Dan Ramm.

“Their faith and their determination was strong enough that they wanted their own congregation, their own church, a place for their children to go to Sunday School, a place to worship that was their own,” said Ramm, a longtime Reformed Church pastor in Brooklyn before coming to Hawthorne Reformed Church about three years ago. “And that kind of commitment has continued through large congregation times to today where we’re a rather small congregation.”

The white church located at 65 Broadway in Hawthorne appears nearly the same as when it was built 200 years ago. The biggest change came during a 1960s renovation that relocated the church’s entrance, Ramm said. The footprint of the building is the same.

What also hasn’t changed is the mission work that its members undertake to do Christian service to help others locally and globally, he said. Last Saturday the congregation held a food collection drive that donated to local pantries. It also has donated money to buy cows, goats and chickens for needy populations around the world to assist them by having them raise and maintain their own livestock.

Another mission supported by the church was to help albino women in Tanzania who are severely ostracized in their society.

Partnerships have been formed with Trinity Lutheran Church and Holy Rosary on various initiatives. The congregation opens its building, located next door to the church that houses its offices and community room, to the public for various meetings of local organizations.

Ramm is proud that the congregation is open and accepting and that it’s his job to encourage that.

“We have no control over people in the pews but from the pulpit, there is nothing that is judgmental over other people who might be different,” he said.

For longtime parishioners, the church is a cornerstone of the community as well as their lives. Nancy Coughlin, who has been coming to the Hawthorne Reformed Church for more than 40 years, said many of the longtime members are as close as family.

“It’s very special to me because I raised my kids in the church,” Coughlin said. “I was impressed when I came how caring it was here, too.”

Helen Rubeo, who first joined about 25 years ago, said she was immediately accepted.

“One of the things that impressed me when I first came here, they were so friendly,” she said. “They drew me right in and everybody was doing something.”

A feature of the property is an old cemetery that dates back to at least the time when the church was built, according to Coughlin and Rubeo. They supplied a timeline showing that Thomas Hammond sold the land to the church in 1818 for $59. He and his wife, Sarah, are buried in the cemetery.

It also serves as the final resting place for several former slaves and their families, members of George Washington’s staff, including his physician, and a Civil War veteran. There is still an occasional burial today.

Ramm said many local residents have never been inside the church and its bicentennial celebration may be a perfect opportunity.

“We’re just happy that we can share this history with the community,” he said.


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