Historic Churches in Newark
Guide To Historic Churches, Synagogues & Mosques
If you happen to be a spiritual sightseer with an endless cultural curiosity, then taking a pilgrimage to Newark may truly be a religious experience! With a rich history dating back to 1600's, Newark is the home to a number of historic spiritual landmarks to be admired and enjoyed.
Whether you want to connect with a higher power, learn about a different belief system, explore breathtaking historical architecture or gain a deeper cultural understanding, visiting Newark churches, mosques and synagogues will lead you on a journey of discovery and make for a rewarding travel experience.
So,to cure you from a case of spiritual wanderlust, check out our guide to some of the must see sacred structures in Newark.
First Presbyterian Church, 820 Broad Street – Known as "Old First", this downtown landmark was founded in 1666 and has both a rich historical importance as well as a gorgeous sanctuary. Once the seat of government for Newark, its pastors served as the first presidents of Princeton, Harvard and Yale. It was used as a regular stop on the Underground Railroad and secret passageways through the church's cellar are still accessible. It also served as the worthy setting for President George Washington's funeral. Take a visit and experience its beauty for yourself!
Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, 89 Ridge Street – Surely one of the most magnificent structures in Newark, you don't have to be Catholic - or even particularly spiritual - to appreciate its splendor. With French Gothic architecture, stained glass, stone/wood work and high ceilings, the beauty of this sacred gem is comparable to any Basilica in the world, but it’s right here in Newark! It sits adjacent to the cherry tree-dotted Branch Brook Park and has ample parking, so why not take a visit? Pope John Paul I did!
Congregation Ahavas Sholom, 145 Broadway - This Jewish temple, which recently celebrated its Centennial anniversary, is both a state and national landmark and the oldest continually active synagogue in Newark. With a diverse membership of worshippers to welcome you, the sanctuary boasts a striking Holy Ark carved from wood (the oldest in the state). On the second floor, you'll find the Jewish Museum of New Jersey, a comprehensive display of the rich cultural heritage of New Jersey's Jewish people.
House of Prayer Episcopal Church, 407 Broad Street – Want a real slice of history? Visit the House of Prayer! Not only is it Newark's third oldest Episcopal church but its rectory next door, a Dutch colonial farmhouse built around 1710, is Newark’s oldest building. At one time, the rectory, also known as the Plume House, was home to priest and inventor, Rev. Hannibal Goodwin. Goodwin clearly found Newark to be an inspirational place: he invented flexible film, the foundation of motion picture industry, in the top floor laboratory in 1887.
Bethany Baptist Church, 117 W. Market Street – Housed in a grand Romanesque style building constructed in 1866, Bethany was founded by a small but mighty group of African-Americans in 1870, thus priding itself on being the "first Baptist congregation founded by people of African descent" in Newark. Bethany is currently celebrating 15 years of “Jazz Vespers,” a free opportunity for church and community members to experience worship through jazz on every first Saturday of the month from October through June.
Trinity & St. Philip's Cathedral, 608 Broad St – Trinity Church was organized by some of the first settlers in Newark in 1729 and was later used as a hospital for both British and American troops during the Revolutionary War. Its current structure was granted cathedral status in 1944. In 1964, St. Philip's Church, a predominately African American parish, was destroyed by fire and two years later, the congregations merged. The Very Rev. Dillard Robinson was elected Dean in 1968, becoming the first African American Cathedral Dean in the country. This historic church is now the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark.
Deliverance Evangelistic Center/Temple B'Nai Abraham, 621 Clinton Avenue – A dazzling monument to when Clinton Hill was predominately Jewish, Temple B'nai Abraham was, at one time, one of the Big Three synagogues in Newark. Supported by the donations of thousands of congregants, B'nai Abraham built this magnificent structure between 1924 and 1925 and prospered as a Newark temple up until 1973. The 2,000-seat sanctuary and complex was then purchased by Deliverance Evangelistic Center Ministries, a Pentecostal congregation that remains active to this day.
Islamic Society of Essex County (ISOEC), 20 Branford Place – Located in an office building just off of Broad Street downtown, ISOEC grew out of its predecessor, the Islamic Cultural Center, which was established in 1981. As one of the oldest Masjids in America, ISOEC provides a peaceful environment to pray, relax and fellowship in the Newark community. In deference to the thriving Muslim community in the area, the City Council of Newark passed a resolution renaming the street adjacent to the Masjid as Mecca Place.
Hopewell Baptist Church/B’nai Jeshurun, Muhammed Ali Blvd – Newark is known as the birthplace of Judaism in New Jersey, and once boasted a thriving Jewish population and more than 50 synagogues. Of them all, B’nai Jeshurun was the oldest, largest and wealthiest! Few of Newark’s religious structures are as magnificent as the building with the green dome at the end of Martin Luther King Boulevard. Currently, it serves as the home of Hopewell Baptist Church, whose leadership was at the forefront of the civil rights movement.
Clinton Memorial AME Zion Church, 151 Broadway - Clinton Memorial is the oldest active black congregation in Newark, having been established in 1822. After spending its first few years in a building on Academy Street, the church moved into its current home in a Victorian gothic style building on Broadway in 1930. In 1999, Clinton Memorial elected the first female pastor in AME Zion history. Rev. Frances Murray-Williams. Visit its Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings from July to November for fresh produce, nutrition classes, and health screenings.
Grace Episcopal Church, 950 Broad Street - Founded on Ascension Day in 1837, Grace Church is widely regarded as a preeminent example of Gothic Revival architecture in America. A member of Affirming Catholicism, this parish remains committed to Catholic faith and traditions but is open to new insights like the ordination of women and the affirmation of homosexual relationships, making for a diverse congregation. The Grace Church Music Society, organized in 2008, sponsors a series of recitals and concerts. Admission is free but love offerings are welcome!
New Hope Baptist Church, 106 Sussex Avenue – Best known for being the church where Whitney Houston and Dionne Warwick grew up and began their singing careers, it also served as the site where stars and fans gathered to mourn Houston at her funeral in 2012. Her mother, Cissy Houston, a popular gospel singer in her own right, served as Minister of Music at New Hope for 54 years! The stately structure, which opened in 1903, is still welcoming visitors and worshippers with warm hugs and bright smiles.
Photo Credits: David Joseph, Cristiano Rizzotto