The Rise

Ventnor Community Church stands at the corner of Ventnor and Victoria Avenues in Ventnor. The church has been an integral part of the community since its corner stone was placed by the Rev. Marna Poulson and the Knights Templar on Nov. 22, 1922.

Ventnor Community Church officially started in 1912 to help serve the needs of a growing local community. As the neighborhood Sunday school grew, the humble basement apartment of Mr. and Mrs. William Birch could no longer accommodate a class of over 20 children. Ventnor Community Church now provided a comfortable learning environment for the children and inspired the parents to get involved.

As the Sunday school grew and the parents became more and more involved, a storefront was rented on the 5200 block of Ventnor Avenue, allowing Dr. John Boyd Greir to fill the pulpit without charging for his services. In 1918, this group of people who called themselves the Ventnor Union Church renamed the church The First Congregational Church of Ventnor. When they outgrew the store, the congregation built a chapel on the northeast corner of Frankfort and Ventnor Avenues. At this time, Dr. Ritter was the pastor of the church.

In 1921, he was followed by Poulson, under whose leadership the church grew so rapidly that the original chapel was insufficient for the needs of the congregation. The church laid plans for the construction of an impressive Gothic structure to be erected on the southeast corner of Victoria and Ventnor avenues. Though the cornerstone was laid in November 1922, the building was not completed until several years later. Money was originally borrowed from the Congregational Society, with additional money borrowed from the Atlantic City Building and Loan Company.

In 1925, the interior of the sanctuary was still largely unfinished when the Rev. Walter Bruggerman was called to be the pastor of the congregation. At this time, the church was renamed Ventnor City Community Church because it was now a church for the whole community. The church is designated a nondenominational Christian church, such as the churches the pilgrims founded when they left England for America, “A Church for All.”

In 1927, the sanctuary was completely finished and furnished in a manner most conducive to worship. The beautiful stained glass windows were made by Peterson Stained Glass in Philadelphia. The pipe organ was handcrafted by Mudler Hunter in 1962. Small brass plaques on the windows all around the sanctuary honor members of the congregation that generously donated money for the construction of their church.

The church steadily grew throughout the 1940s, '50s and '60s. During this period of growth, all 25 seats of the senior choir remained completely full. In addition, there was a junior choir and many groups within the church for men, women and children to join in the fellowship. There were so many children of different ages that classes were being held in both of the towers of the church, various sections of the Fellowship Hall, in the sanctuary before services and even the kitchen pantry.

The Fall

It is hard to realize and understand what happened to the once-thriving church and beacon of the Ventnor community. But as the children grew to become adults, some left for college and others married partners of different faiths. Some members passed and others moved out of the area. The church stopped growing and fell silent. Despite this decline, faithful members carried on each Sunday continuing to overcome the membership loss. They held the church together with rummage sales, bake sales and dinners that helped pay the bills. Soon there was no minister to lead the church. During the years of 2002-15, the church was led by her faithful few and interim ministers. Then Hurricane Sandy hit in October 2012, destroying the Fellowship Hall and kitchen. Nothing was left but the sanctuary and a few rooms for the church members who refused to lose their faith.

The Risen

In 2015, with the help of the Men’s Work Group from Coastal Christian Church in Ocean City, the small things around the church began to get fixed. The sound system was repaired and the parlor was plastered and painted. While ripping out the old carpet, a beautiful wood floor was discovered underneath and refinished. Soon new electrical outlets replaced the old, the stonework on one side of the building was repaired along with the re-caulking of some stained glass windows. Even the thieves who stole all the copper downspouts did not stop the spirit or the progress of Ventnor Community Church.

All of this was accomplished with the help of the following community groups and members: the Coastal Christian Men’s Work Group, Jose “The Gutterman,” Charlie Costello Roofing, Arthur Vincent Studios of New York and East Coast Roofing and Siding. Many of the jobs were done free of charge, some just the cost of materials and others were done at a reduced rate.

Several improvements are underway. Some of the work in the Fellowship Hall has begun with the help of Chas Ford, Sandy Vespertino and her brother Lenny Vespertino. The old leaky windows have been replaced with cinder and glass block to keep the light in and any coastal flood water out. New cinder block walls are being constructed to reinforce the existing walls and soon the kitchen and the Fellowship Hall will be operational once again. Joe Mascio, of Somers Point, has replaced the old lawn sprinkling system at a reduced rate. In the near future, there will be an access ramp built in the memory of Cathy Roberts.

In 2017, Pastor Dean Bult started his ministry called Waters Edge. It is a new ministry for the unchurched and for those who have been hurt by the church. Dean Bult is the son of Pastor Dean Bult Sr. of Mainland Baptist Church in Galloway Township. Dean’s son, Dillon Bult is the third generation to be a pastor.

As a result of the increased activity, the church was contacted by groups that wish to hold their meeting there. The church now hosts Alcoholics Anonymous and Surfside Structured Sober Living in hopes of once again serving the community.

Since the church was not eligible for any Sandy relief funds, it is in dire need to get major repairs done, which include the very badly leaking north bell tower, the storm-damaged kitchen and Fellowship Hall. In addition to these repairs, the entire church needs to become ADA compliant, allowing all church members the access they deserve.

Given the scope of the critical community project and the daunting cost of completing these repairs, a “Go Fund Me” site has been set up to help with contributions.

To support the restoration of Ventnor Community Church, send contributions directly to Ventnor Community Church, 2 S. Victoria Ave., Ventnor NJ 08406 or go to GoFundMe.com and search for “Ventnor Community Church Restoration.”

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