ELIZABETH CLARE PROPHET, BORN HERE, DIES

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Then known as Betty Clare Wulf, the future sect leader Elizabeth Clare Prophet played clarinet in the marching band at Red Bank High School. She’s seen below in an undated photo.

Elizabeth Clare Prophet, the Red Bank-born New Age mystic whose specific prediction of a nuclear Armageddon went unfulfilled, died Thursday after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

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She was 70 years old and died at her home in Bozeman, Montana, according to an announcement of her death from the Summit Lighthouse, a religious organization she ran after the 1973 death of her second husband, Mark Prophet.

Founder of the Church Universal and Triumphant, which once boasted 50,000 members, Prophet was in the spotlight in the late 1980s when adherents began stockpiling arms in anticipation of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union.

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SADNESS AND BITTERNESS MARK CLOSING

img_3737100809The church property, which includes adjoining buildings, will be put up for sale, officials say. (Click pix to enlarge)

Among the remains of 45 congregants lying beneath a tree in the memorial garden at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in Fair Haven are those of Ann Dupree’s late husband. She interred them there after his death three years ago.

What to do with his ashes is one of more wrenching decisions to be made by the three dozen or so surviving parishoners of the River Road church as it nears its final mass, on October 24, before the doors are locked and the property goes on the market.

But it is just one element of a winding-down that has left congregants depressed, somewhat lost and more than a little angry, they admit.

“I was married here,” said Dupree, a senior citizen and member of the vestry who’s been attending Holy Communion for some 40 years. “I thought I’d be buried here.”

fh-holy-communion-tri1Pastor Nancy Speck reads from an 1885 entry in the church registry, left; the original church, which was demolished in 1967 because of a termite infestation; and the interior of the present church on the same site. (Click to enlarge)

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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.
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PILGRIM TO HOST OBAMA & KING EVENTS

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Pilgrim Baptist aired the final McCain-Obama debate on a large screen in the worship hall in October. A live inauguration screening and luncheon will be held in the church basement.

Of the many takeaways from the election of Barack Obama as president, Rev. Terrence Porter, pastor of Red Bank's Pilgrim Baptist Church, sees in it hope for a renewal of the idea of community service.

"I'm not a politician, but I think it began eroding around the time of Reaganomics and what came after that," he says. "People weren't as concerned about the working class."

With a former community organizer in the White House, Porter says he's enthused by the possible return to a sense of responsibility for those who need a hand.

In that spirit, Pilgrim Baptist is opening its doors to all comers for an inauguration luncheon in its basement Tuesday morning. And Porter is hoping that senior citizens in particular will gather to watch the swearing-in, so he's arranging to shuttle them from Red Bank Senior Citizen Center to the church and back.

"My heart's desire is that our senior citizens will be able to say, when looking back on this historic event, 'This is where I was,'" he says.

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FORTY DAYS, FOUR CHURCHES, ONE PURPOSE

Liebmann_lenny_70307Purposeful pastor Lenny Liebman working the crowd on Broad Street after the 2007 Red Bank fireworks.

Harnessing the popularity of a longtime best-seller, four Red Bank churches are getting together next month to jointly offer sermons and discussions of ‘The Purpose-Driven Life‘ by Rick Warren.

Dubbed “40 Days of Purpose,” the program, which begins October 4, aims to have congregants and visitors read an excerpt of the book each day and attend one church service and one small-group meeting each week for six weeks.

Participating are the First Baptist Church on Maple Avenue; Red Bank Community Church on Monmouth Street; Trinity Episcopal Church on West Front Street; and Mount Zion House of Prayer on Catherine Street.

Pastor Lenny Liebman of the nondenominational Red Bank Community Church says the joint effort grew out of discussions at the Greater Red Bank Ministers Association, which fosters cooperation and unity among local congregations.

“We’re making history by having four very different congregations do a single cooperative Bible study,” Liebman tells redbankgreen via email. “Congregations have historically gotten together to do good works in the community or put on a special service. But this kind of coordinated campaign to reach an entire community is pretty leading-edge — and it’s something you’re going to start seeing elsewhere in the country in the near future.”

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THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON GODS

HumanistsDr. Julian Paul Keenan speaks at the Red Bank Humanists Darwin Day event, held Sunday at the Red Bank Charter School.

In honor of international Darwin Day, the Red Bank Humanists hosted a lecture yesterday by Julian Paul Keenan, Director of the Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Montclair State University on what he called “the evolutionary connection between religion and deception.”

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TALKING MONKEYS: ON DARWIN & RELIGION

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You will be forgiven, in a secular sense at least, for not knowing that there’s something called ‘Darwin Day.’

A dozen years ago, there was only one known celebration of Charles Darwin’s birthday — Feb 12, 1809. Now, if we may be so droll, the event has evolved into something with global reach. Some 850 events are said to have been held last year. And somehow, you missed every last one of them.

Well, here’s your invite to this year’s. On Sunday, Feb. 10, the Red Bank Humanists will host a Darwin program featuring a lecture by Julian Paul Keenan, Director of the Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Montclair State University. He’ll take up the topic, “Exploring the Evolutionary Connection Between Religion and Deception.”

A Q&A and, yep, birthday cake will follow.

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RUSSIAN CONGREGATION IN COMEBACK

Img_1834St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church on Pearl Street.

By TOM CHESEK

At 1p tomorrow, one of Red Bank’s best-kept cultural secrets is scheduled to step into public view, bringing with it a millenium of tradition.

A procession of worshippers and local dignitaries led by the the Very Reverend Archpriest Serge Lukianov will leave St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church at 15 Pearl Street carrying brilliant banners and icons. They’ll file past the Rite Aid and Dunkin’ Donuts, cross West Front Street past the crisply corporate Hovnanian Enterprises headquarters to the foot of Maple Avenue for a blessing of the waters ceremony that will culminate with the release of white doves over the Navesink.

The rite is an integral part of the Orthodox observance of the Feast of the Epiphany each January 19, commemorating the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan, as well as the appearance of the dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit.

For Lukianov and his congregation, however, the occasion also marks something of a rebirth; a re-entry into the mainstream of a 53-year-old community that had all but dwindled into extinction as recently as a year ago.

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CELEBRATING DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

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Calvary Baptist Church on Bridge Avenue last night hosted a music-filled service last night to commemorate the ministry of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. whose birthdate, Jan. 15, is celebrated next week.

Sponsored by the Greater Red Bank Ministers Association, the event featured a commemorative message by Rev. Cleophus J. LaRue (above right) of the Princeton Theological Seminary, who spoke of human history versus “salvation history.”

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PERSEPOLIS: THE WORLD IN BLACK & WHITE

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“Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel:” the phrase itself is loaded with the suggestion of graphite.

So it’s fitting that “Persepolis” the new film version of Satrapi’s bestselling story, is also almost entirely in black & white, exploring as it does the absolutes of regimes, both political and religious.

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NEW LUNGS GIVE PASTOR NEW HOPE

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Rev. Dwight Crist Northington of Calvary Baptist Church on Bridge Avenue is featured in today’s Asbury Park Press, where he talks about the double lung transplant that saved his life earlier this year.

From the article:

A year ago, the simple act of breathing was a tremendous effort for the Rev. Dwight Crist Northington of Red Bank.

Both of his lungs were failing. The 55-year-old senior pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Red Bank had lost weight and was constantly exhausted.

A series of illnesses that began when he was in his 20s had taken a deadly toll on his body.

“Things were really getting bad for me,” he says. “I was dying, and I knew I was dying.”

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A LESSON IN TASTE BUD EUPHORIA

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Last Friday, the 25 students of the West Side Christian Academy in Red Bank took a field trip to Eastmont Orchards in Colts Neck for some apple-picking.

Over the weekend, the apples they selected were transformed into more than a dozen succulent pies, strudels and cakes.

And Monday morning, the baked goods arrived at school with the children for the K-through-12 academy’s annual pie-tasting event.

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MATERNITY HOUSE RETURNS

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A Roman Catholic charitable group has resurrected a home on Drs. James Parker Boulevard to provide temporary housing and childcare assistance to homeless mothers and mothers-to-be.

Madonna House @ Red Bank Inc., a registered 501c3 charity, will hold an open house marking the reopening of the facility, known as the Pat Daly House, on Saturday.

“It’s been there, but it hasn’t been active for about a year and a half,” says Carolyn Fitzpatrick, a spokeswoman. In the interim, she says, “the program was being fine-tuned.”

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AT LAST, A TOWER OF POWER?

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By LINDA G. RASTELLI

After years of grousing by Fair Haven residents about a dead zone of cellphone service, and more than a year of contention over how to resolve it, the borough may at last have hit on a fix.

The borough council this week passed an ordinance this week to lease a landlocked five-acre parcel from Christ Church United Methodist on which the town hopes to build a cell tower.

The plan is likely to be seen as a relief to residents of several neighborhoods that had previously been targeted as the location for a town-owned tower, each proposal for which prompted outcries about property values, aesthetics and safety.

But the plan also creates a new pocket of disgruntlement in and near McCarter Avenue — though no residents spoke out against the plan at the council meeting Monday night.

“Some people are unhappy, and I sympathize,” Mayor Mike Halfacre said at the session, during which the council gave unanimous approval to the plan. “But it’s the best solution of the options we have left. It’s the interests of 5,000 residents over those of 200 householders.”

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SPLIT-LEVEL: MONASTERY OR TAX HAVEN?

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This week’s Holmdel Independent has a delicious story about the owner of split-level house in the New Monmouth section who claims his property is entitled to a tax exemption because he has turned it into a monastery.

Sixty-three-year-old Raymond Bertolette, who now calls himself “Archimandrite Ephraem Bertolette,” has been fighting the township for five years through litigation that has already gone to the Appellate Division of state Superior Court and to state tax court. Bertollete has lost at each level and is continuing to appeal.

The newest twist in the saga involves a sign in front of his David Court home (which Bertolette says is also home to two other monks who, apparently, no one has ever seen). The township recently directed him to remove the sign — which announces, “Monastery of Saint Barbara, Visitors Welcome”— or face prosecution.

From the story:

Ephraem claims that an unnamed township employee has even threatened him with jail time regarding the sign and a large metal cross, also on his front lawn.

“He asked, ‘When will you remove it?’ I said never,” Ephraem said, regarding the cross. “It’s not like it’s a pink flamingo. I can’t just take it down.”

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‘POWERFUL’ DOC CONTINUES SERIES

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The Freedom Film Society screened ‘Deliver Us From Evil‘ for a couple of dozen moviegoers last night as part of a once-a-month series at the Clearview Cinemas on White Street.

The film, an Oscar-nominated documentary by CNN producer Amy Berg, is an up-close look at Fr. Oliver O’Grady, a narcissistic Roman Catholic priest who is believed to have sexually abused hundreds of California children over two decades, and the efforts that church officials took to conceal his crimes.

Yeah, not exactly a popcorn flick.

“We’re interested in powerful, controversial films,” says FFS Chairman Richard Alter. “This one was a difficult choice. But for all the priests who are abusing, thank god there are movies like this.”

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FILM: WHAT THE CHURCH KNEW

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The Freedom Film Society, the organization that serves up the Red Bank International Film Fesitval each fall, will screen “Deliver Us From Evil” next Wednesday night at the Clearview Cinemas on White Street.

Directed by Amy Berg, “Deliver Us From Evil” is a documentary that explores the trail of emotional devastation left in the wake of Father Oliver O’Grady, the most notorious pedophile in the history of the modern Catholic Church.

With footage of both the mass predator — who confesses to his crimes without remorse or self-reflection — and his victims, the movie explores the question of what senior officials of the church knew of O’Grady’s pedophilia and the efforts they took to keep it under wraps.

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AMAZING GRACE

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The Rumson priest who pleaded guilty to swindling the Holy Cross Roman Catholic parish has been let out of prison after serving fewer than six months of a five-year sentence, the Asbury Park Press reports today.

Rev. Joseph W. Hughes, who owes Holy Cross more than $2 million for the pricey cars and other luxuries he bought over seven years using the church’s funds, was released Nov. 29, according to the New Jersey Department of Corrections website. The website doesn’t give Hughes’ whereabouts.

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