Old Paramus Reformed Church has a rich past. The congregation was formed in the year 1725. During the American Revolution, the Paramus Church was the site of a Continental Army military post for four years during which clashes between American and British forces took place. It was also in the original church building that General George Washington held a session of the court-martial of General Charles Lee who disobeyed orders at the Battle of Monmouth in 1778. Washington had his headquarters here at the church a total of ten times during various days from 1778-1780.
Other noted Revolutionary War figures such as Alexander Hamilton, the Marquis de Lafayette, Anthony Wayne, Richard Henry Lee, and Aaron Burr also were here from time to time during the war. From early colonial times, slaves were members of the church congregation, the upper galleries on both sides being designated for their use during services.
The present church building was built in 1800. An interesting feature is that the pews are numbered. The members of earlier days rented them on an annual basis. The most expensive were numbers 50 to 57 at $52.00 per year while the least expensive were numbers 38 to 100 at $4.00 per year. Needless to say, the less expensive pews are at the rear of the sanctuary.
On each side of the pulpit, there are three pews placed at right angles to the rest of the pews in the church. These were reserved for the Elders and Deacons (on the left and right respectively). These persons collectively are known as the Consistory, which is the governing board of the church. It was their duty to sit in these pews each Sabbath with their Bibles and copies of the day's sermon to check on the "Domine" as to his conduct of the service as well as sticking to his sermon! That tradition (as to seating) was kept alive for many years in Old Paramus by members of the Consistory who sat in the first pew facing the pulpit each Sunday. The only similar practice in use today is that the Elders serving Communion sit in the first rows on either side of the center aisle.
The decorated organ pipes in the rear of the chancel (choir loft) behind the pulpit date back to 1892. In that year they were installed when the church received the gift of a new organ from a congregation member.
At the top of the arch over the pulpit, there is a Dove of Peace. The dove is made of wood and is hand-carved. The exact date of origin of the dove is unknown. One authority claims that, "The bird is an eagle and was a donation by Dr. Garret D. Banta in 1800." Records from the Consistory minutes read: 1874, Aug. 3rd: Resolved that the Consistory thankfully recognize the kindness of Mrs. Catherine Wessella for repairing and regilding the Dove, which has been a part of the decoration of the old church."
There are three flags on the pulpit - the American flag, the Christian flag and the flag of The Netherlands, the last representing our Dutch heritage. In a similar vein, for many years the Dutch flag was flown under the American flag on the staff in front of the church. Today only the American flag is flown on that flag pole.
There are several plaques on the inside walls of the church. Some honor the ministers, and others honor the various Consistories since 1725. Another just inside the front door notes that this Church has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In display cases you will find various bits of memorabilia concerning our history.
When attending Old Paramus Reformed Church, you will have come to a warm and comfortable historic church, but the service is up to date, alive, and nourishing to your whole being.
On the church campus, you will find the modern Educational Building which houses the church offices and facilities needed for Christian nurture. Another building is the one-room, church-like schoolhouse. This building houses the Ridgewood Historical and Preservation Society and is known as The Schoolhouse Museum. It was built in 1872 and was used as a school until 1905. It contains many items of historical note to this area. Make it a point to visit this museum during visiting hours. You should find it to be a very interesting and rewarding visit.
So, what kind of a church is Old Paramus Reformed Church? It is affiliated with the Reformed Church in America, the oldest Protestant denomination with a continuous ministry in America. The first church was established in New York City, then known as Nieuw Amsterdam, in 1628. The Collegiate Churches presently represent the origins of that original congregation. The best known is Marble Collegiate Church, which is where Dr. Norman Vincent Peale was the minister for fifty-two years. The Reformed Church in America (RCA) is an historic denomination coming out of the Reformation when the Church was "re-formed" and re-organized according to the teachings of the Word of God, the Bible. The Reformed Church is Biblical in doctrine, semi-liturgical in worship. Presbyterian in government, and evangelical in practice.
This year, Old Paramus Reformed Church celebrates 290 Years of God's Loving Spirit. Come join us next Sunday at 10 AM. We would be most happy to see you, and you will surely feel rewarded for the experience.