FAIR HAVEN CHURCH TO END 125-YEAR RUN

cimg98411007091The River Road church’s doors will be locked by the end of the month and the property will be put up for sale. (Click photos to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Fair Haven’s Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion will shut its doors later this month, ending more than a century of mission, redbankgreen has learned.

cimg98421007091The planned closing imperils a privately owned preschool on church property, impacting 55 students and dozens of families, though Mayor Mike Halfacre says local officials are trying to expedite approvals for a new location.

The church’s vestry — the managing body of Episcopal churches — decided Sepember 9 to shut down the River Road landmark because it is no longer viable, with more than a half-dozen Episcopal churches in the area, according to the pastor, Rev. Nancy Speck.

Its last Mass will be held on Oct0ber 24, the church’s 125th anniversary, said Speck.

“It’s going to be very bittersweet,” she said. “This has been a wonderful church.”

Because of the closing, two people will automatically step into the state’s long unemployment line: Speck, who lives in Point Pleasant, and the church’s maintenance worker. But it may also trigger a domino effect of bad news for greater Fair Haven.

trudy-wojciehowski

Trudy Wojciehowski says the church shutdown could mean the end of the pre-school she runs on church property. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

The Rumson-Fair Haven Academy pre-school, with an enrollment of 55 children aged six months to six years old, rents out one of the houses on the church’s property. Trudy Wojciehowski, who runs the school, said she has found a new home for it at the Fisk Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church two blocks away, but that lease doesn’t begin until January 1.

Wojciehowski fears that being without a facility in the interim will mean an untimely end to her business as clients — some 35 to 40 families — enroll their children in other pre-schools, ones that will charge up-front for long-term service, she says.

Under those conditions, “I wouldn’t come back to me,” she said. “The following month I open, they’re not going to pay for two child care centers.”

That could be the death knell for Wojciehowski’s business, she said.

“This is my livelihood,” she said, “If I close I have eight teachers on the unemployment line, I am out of a job and it comes down to a loyalty to the people.”

Halfacre says he was able to persuade the church to let the academy to stay at the church until November 30, and is doing everything in his power to get the school into the Fisk Chapel as early as possible. The prospect of getting the school and facility through a myriad of state and local inspections and zoning changes before the start of the new year is slim, said Halfacre, though he’s still trying to push the process along.

“I do consider it a matter of public importance. We don’t want to see any businesses fail,” he said. “We will do whatever we can.”

He’s talked to 12th-district Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon to try and get the state’s required inspections done as soon as possible, he said.

In the meantime, Wojciehowski said she has hired a lawyer and informed the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey that she will not move out of her space on November 30 and that the Diocese can start an eviction process if it wishes.  Holy Communion, Wojciehowski said, has been stubborn in not allowing her to stay that extra month.

But Pastor Speck says the matter is out of the local church’s hands, because the Diocese owns the property, which will be marketed for sale. And he Diocese’s bishop, Right Rev. George Councell, told redbankgreen that the pre-school’s fate is not the Diocese’s issue after the church closes.

“I’m not without sympathy to the families involved,” Councell said. “We can’t maintain a church for the work of a pre-school. Our mission is the church, and it’s done now.”

According to the diocesan website, Holy Communion was organized in 1883 and became a parish in 1958.