The roots of Christ Community Church go back to the early 1980s. A Bible study that grew out of Community Bible Fellowship Church in Howell, NJ eventually blossomed into a church that began meeting on Sunday evenings at the Community Presbyterian Church in Edison. Comprised mainly of young single adults the church quickly grew. The church was an informal, warm and caring fellowship of new believers.
In June of 1986, Dennis Cahill officially began as the first full-time pastor of what was known at that time as the Edison Bible Fellowship Church. On their first Sunday the Cahills met with a handful of people around a park bench in Johnson Park in Highland Park. For the first several months Dennis and his family commuted back and forth from Phoenixville, PA. The family moved to Edison in August of 1986.
From the fall of 1986 through the end of 1987, the church met at the American Legion Hall in Iselin. However, by the end of 1987 differences about the vision and future of the church became apparent, and in early 1988 the church dissolved and services ceased.
Despite the difficulties, fond memories of the 1980s include meeting in the gazebo in Johnson Park for Sunday services and the Fire Escape Coffee House, which met in the basement of Community Presbyterian Church in Edison.
Pastor Cahill spent 1988 working a variety of part-time jobs, completing work on a Master of Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, trying to help with housework (Patty was expecting their third child, Sarah), and making plans for restarting the church. During that time the Cahills continued to meet on Wednesday evenings with Bill and Dot Kriney to pray for the new beginning.
With the help of Dan Ziegler, the Executive Director of Church Extension, a strategy for reaching the community through using telephone and direct mail was planned. Over the summer of 1988, each church in the denomination was contacted to ask for financial support and people to help with the outreach effort. Over $10,000 was raised to meet the initial expenses of the restart. In addition, numerous churches committed to helping with the phone calling and to provide assistance with the initial services. The new beginning of the church would be a cooperative effort of many Bible Fellowship Churches.
Then in the fall of 1988, permission was granted to meet at Washington School in Edison. Several years earlier the church had been denied access to Edison schools. This new opportunity was an answer to prayer.
About the same time, Dennis began going door-to-door asking people what they were looking for in a church. He knocked on the doors over 1,000 homes over a period of several weeks. On one discouraging day, he remembers being invited into the home of Bob and Mary Whitehouse. Shortly after that Bob and Mary would become part of the small group that would become the core of the new church effort.
In December of 1988, a Bible study was started in the Cahill home on Sunday mornings. An earlier effort to begin a neighborhood Bible study had ended in failure, but this time the group quickly grew to over thirty people, crowded into the small house on Penn Avenue in Edison. The vision of a new church was discussed and planned with the group gathered there.
Sometime in 1988, Dan Ziegler mentioned to Dennis that Dick Vroman, a fellow graduate of Biblical Theological Seminary, was open to considering a change in ministry. At that time Dick was part-time visitation pastor at the Bible Fellowship Church in Hatfield, PA. Dennis traveled to Lansdale, PA to share with Dick and his wife, Diana, the vision for a new church and to ask Dick to take over the responsibility of the Christian Education program.
After several months of prayer and discussion, in January of 1989, Dick and Diana began the commute back and forth from Lansdale to Edison each Sunday morning. After several months of commuting, the Lord provided Dick a job in quality assurance with Pathmark Supermarkets. The Vromans became official New Jersey residents in November of 1989. Since the beginning of the church in 1989, Dick has been Christian Education Director (now Children’s Ministry Director) and the Vromans’ faithfulness and leadership have been an essential part of the ministry of the church.
Since this was to be the beginning of a new church and since people from many different communities would be attending, it was decided in the fall of 1988 to call the church Christ Community Church.
The church was beginning with several key convictions:
- It would be open and sensitive to the needs of those who have not yet made a commitment to Jesus Christ;
- It would be contemporary in worship and yet value the traditional worship of the church;
- It would seek to do ministry with excellence.
In February of 1989, phone calling began. Fifteen phone lines had been installed in the basement of New Durham Chapel in Piscataway, NJ. The core group of the new church, along with many people from other Bible Fellowship Churches, began calling area residents. Some churches sent as many as fifteen people to help. The Bible Fellowship Church in Howell, NJ canceled their evening service for five weeks so that Pastor John Vandegriff and other church members could help make phone calls. The callers asked two questions: “Are you actively involved in a local church?” and (if the answer to the first question was ‘no’) “Would you like to receive information on a new church?” by the end of the first month slightly over 40,000 phone calls had been made and about 2,000 people indicated that they did not have a church and would be interested in receiving information about a new church.
Phase Two of the effort got underway in March. As soon as people responded positively to the phone call, a letter was sent to them. During March a different mailing was sent to each of the 2,000 every week. Many Sunday afternoons after church services were spend addressing envelopes. A total of five mail pieces was sent to each person on the mailing list.
In April the 2,000 people who had expressed interest were contacted again by phone to remind them of the first Sunday service. People who were very positive were recruited to help out with the service. On the day of the first service, many of the guests brought baked goods for refreshments, others helped with ushering.
April 16, 1989 was the first official service of Christ Community Church. Approximately 195 people attended that initial service. Attendance for the first year averaged 87.
Dennis and Patty Cahill attended Florida Bible College with Rick and Patsy Ravis in the 70’s. Then Rick and Dennis attended Biblical Theological Seminary together. Soon after coming to Edison, Dennis suggested to Rick (who at that time was youth pastor at Berachah Church in Philadelphia) that he consider coming to Edison. At the time the Ravises did not seriously consider such a move. But shortly after the restart in 1989 Dennis approached the Board of Church Extension and asked permission to pursue calling an Associate Pastor to the church. At the same time the Ravises sensed that their time at Berachah was drawing to a close and began to pray earnestly about coming to New Jersey. In November and December of 1989, less than a year after the first service, the possibility of calling the Ravises was presented to the church. Rick was being asked to take a position that would emphasize leading the small group ministry and worship.
In January of 1990, the congregation filled out pledge cards to meet the financial needs of a second staff member. It was big step of faith for a small congregation. The offerings almost doubled immediately. The Ravises sensed God’s call on their lives and accepted the position. In May of 1990, the Ravises moved to Edison to begin their ministry.
Over the last years God has greatly used Rick and Patsy Ravis. Their commitment to the Lord, musical ability, love for people, Rick’s preaching and teaching, and Patsy’s hospitality have helped to define Christ Community Church.
In 1992, the church called their first leaders. The first elders were Dick Vroman, Ken Zimmerman, Bob Matthey, and Joe Adevai. The first deacons were Bill Kriney and Clark Griffith. Christ Community Church was officially recognized as a church by the Bible Fellowship Church at the 1992 Annual Conference of the Bible Fellowship Church.
During the summer of 1997, the Edison School Board informed Christ Community Church that after the 97/98 school year Washington School would no longer be available for Sunday Services during the summers and holidays. The church was given until June 30, 1998 to find a new meeting place.
The church began the process of looking at new facilities, starting with the idea of leasing a facility that could be used through the entire week. One facility was found in a good location with adequate size, but the cost of renovations to the building was estimated to be in excess of $200,000, which was more than the church believed they could afford. In January of 1998, Christ Community Church became interested in a church building in New Brunswick on Livingston Avenue. It would have been a significantly different kind of ministry, moving from a suburban to an urban environment. After many meetings and discussions, seeking God’s direction, the congregation agreed to pursue the purchase of the building. In March of 1988, the Board of Elders made an initial offer to purchase the building. Almost immediately, the property was taken off the market.
Following that closed door, the church began considering Sunday rentals. By the middle of May, three possible options had presented themselves – all with significant problems. One was too far north and would have meant a long commute for many people. A second was not considered adequate. The third was the Livingston Student Center located on Livingston Campus of Rutgers University. It was a beautiful facility that was situated in an ideal location in Piscataway. But the church leadership was told that there would be six or seven dates on which the building would be unavailable. This was considered unworkable. The week before a final decision needed to be made, Dennis and Rick met with the director of the building. As they talked and considered the calendar, most of the problem dates disappeared. The church was left with three Sundays during the summer on which other arrangements would have to be made. The decision was made to begin meeting at the Livingston Center. In the Spring of 1999 the church was informed that there was only one Sunday during the summer of 1999 when the Student Center would be unavailable.
The church met for ten years on the campus of Livingston College. After ten years the church was informed by the Student Center that a major renovation of the building would begin and the church would need to find a new place to worship. A fairly extensive search was begun to find a new location. In the end we decided to meet on the campus of Timothy Christian School. We began meeting at Timothy in 2008. It is our hope and prayer that our next facility will be property of our own.
In the years since its beginning, Christ Community Church has been known for its commitment to the Bible, its warm and friendly atmosphere and the diversity (ethnic, racial, age, and economic) of its people. Many have come to faith in Christ, many have been baptized and many would testify to the work of God in their lives. It is the desire of the church to always be a place where God changes lives!