Old Bergen

Chapter XL.

Daniel Van Winkle

Published 1902

Web version, edited by GET NJ
Copyright 2002

THE church always occupied a prominent place in the consideration of the early settlers, and its services were always regarded as important events in life's experiences, and were well attended. In those days the dominie had almost arbitrary power. On account of his superior learning, his counsel and advice were sought after, and his decision settled all disputed neighborhood matters. It being his duty to instruct and catechise the children, he did so by visiting not only the school, but at intervals, the homes, which were always open to him; and woe betide the unfortunate delinquent, for the dominie's cane was hard, and his right arm strong.

Dr. Taylor says that in 1828 he heard some of his parishioners "speaking of their school days, when they and their mates were busied with their lessons in Dutch and English, using principally the Psalter and New Testament, and rather dreading the day for the good old Dominie's catechise." The sermons were divided into heads with mathematical precision, and each head again subdivided into as many parts as the analytical mind of the old dominie suggested.

The music, no inconsiderable part of the service, at least in volume of sound, was just as vexatious a problem to determine as at the present time. The choir, unlimited as to numbers, grouped about the leader, and pitched their voices to the sound of his tuning fork; and the strains of "Dundee," "China," "Antioch," and " Coronation" echoed and reechoed, with no uncertain sound. At the suggestion of some unregenerate one, it was decided to add some instrument as an aid to the music. Whereupon a melodeon was procured and surreptitiously placed in the church. So flagrant was the offence, that it was deemed a proper subject for consistorial action; and after proper deliberation, the following resolution was adopted:

Whereas at the instance of some unknown Person or Persons, a Melodeon was placed in the Church without the consent of the Consistory; now, therefore, be it Resolved, that such Melodeon be allowed to remain.
The communion service was always a specially solemn occasion. A long table, covered with a snowwhite cloth, was spread across the end of the church, and around this the communicants in turn seated themselves, to partake of the sacred elements, and listen to the words of encouragement and admonition from their loved pastor.

Up to about 1830, the Reformed Dutch Church at Bergen was the only building used for religious worship in the township, and was resorted to by the worshippers from the outlying farms, from Bergen Point to New Durham; even after the growth of population demanded additional accommodation for church services in other sections, many of the older residents continued their connection with the old congregation, and their attendance upon the services in the old church; and on summer mornings could be seen the sturdy burghers trudging to service, with coat on arm, and smoking the consolatory pipe. As they met, both before and after services, neighborhood matters were talked over, and the results of the season's planting predicted. Questions of Church and State were sometimes so vigorously discussed, especially just before a change of administration, that no little effort was required to curb their earnestness. However, at the tolling of the bell, all wrangling ceased, and with devout mien, they filed into the church, and taking their accustomed places, adjusted themselves in the most comfortable position, ready to receive the spiritual food prepared for their needs.