From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] New Jersey congregation rises from ashes

Date Tue, 20 Apr 2004 12:39:16 -0500

Note #8205 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

April 20, 2004

New Jersey congregation rises from ashes

Ground broken for sanctuary to replace one that burned in 2002

by Evan Silverstein

LOUISVILLE - On April 18, members of West Side Presbyterian Church in
Ridgewood, NJ, broke ground on a new sanctuary to replace one destroyed by
fire two years ago.

	In addition to rebuilding the congregation's 82-year-old stone
sanctuary,the project includes construction of an auditorium, meeting rooms,
choir-rehearsal rooms, and a full-service kitchen and dining room.

	Construction is expected to begin in earnest later this spring; the
target date for completion is November 2005. The cost, which will run into
the millions, depends in part on a pending final insurance settlement.

	"I'm convinced that when West Side is rebuilt, it will be a
welcoming, beautiful, awe-inspiring, holy place," said the Rev. Mike
Pulsifer, West Side's pastor.

	Pulsifer was among a handful of church leaders and representatives
who wielded a stainless-steel shovel during the groundbreaking ceremony.
Among the others were Bob Hanft, the chairman of West Side's rebuilding
steering committee; longtime member Walter Kern, of Ridgewood; two young
members; and various church officers.

	More than 500 people attended the ceremony, including the mayor and
police chief of Ridgewood and many of the firefighters who helped battle the
blaze on Jan. 8, 2002.

	Plans call for the new sanctuary to seat 688 worshippers and have 40
percent more floor space than the previous building. It also will be fully
accessible to the handicapped and will have better acoustics and lighting.

	The groundbreaking came after two years of study and planning
involving more than 100 church members.

	West Side, organized in 1912, is in Bergen County, about 15 miles
from New York City. It's the largest congregation in Palisades Presbytery,
with 1,500 members. Last July the congregation hired the architectural firm
Herbert S. Newman & Partners, of New Haven, CT, to design and rebuild the

	"West Side should be proud of its legacy and proud that we have
carried on the tradition of our forefathers by rising to the challenge and
accepting the responsibility of creating a place of worship for future
generations," Hanft said. "We are continuing the mission begun by that
handful of believers over 90 years ago."

	The fire, caused by an electrical malfunction, gutted the sanctuary
and adjacent auditorium and a brand-new chapel on the third floor of the
Christian education building.

	The 45-year-old education building sustained heavy smoke and water
damage. It was refurbished and reopened last year. The new sanctuary complex
will include a chapel.

	At the time of the fire, which caused damage estimated at well over
$10 million and drew firefighters from 11 departments, West Side had just
finished a $3 million renovation.

	The congregation last month launched a campaign to raise $4 million
to help with rebuilding expenses. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) sent
$10,000 from the One Great Hour of Sharing offering to West Side just after
the fire. Since then, unsolicited contributions have totaled $260,000.

	West Side parishioners have maintained the church's programs, using
more than a dozen separate spaces volunteered by neighboring churches and

	Morning worship services and Christian education are held at
Immaculate Heart Academy, a Catholic girls' school nearby.

	"I'm convinced that when we look back on this time in our history we
will say, 'This was one of our finest hours, because we trusted God and one
another,'" Pulsifer said. "We moved ahead together with faith, courage and
generosity in spite of the giant uncertainties and problems facing us."

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