East Hanover Church Celebrates 125th Anniversary

by Elsie Walker


Rev. Hannah Faye Allred and  Rev. Bill Dysard serve communion during Kitchell Memorial Presbyterian Church’s 125th anniversary service.

As it has since the church began, the bell of Kitchell Memorial Presbyterian Church rang out on September 10th.  However, this was a special day in the history of the church located at 469 Ridgedale Avenue in East Hanover:  it marked its 125th anniversary. The day was a homecoming for many, with former pastors and people who had attended the church as children joining in the celebration.  Starting with a special service, people then joined together for food and fellowship (and face painting for the kids), along with being able to see the church’s history through pictures.  Recently, the church’s current pastor, Rev. Hannah Faye Allred, plus some of its members, talked about the anniversary service, shared some fond memories of the church, and reflected on the church’s 125 years and its future.

Kitchell Memorial Presbyterian Church started out in 1883 as the Bethel Society of Hanover at the First Presbyterian Church of East Hanover.  That group met in a one room chapel with a dirt cellar.  It separated from the First Presbyterian Church of East Hanover in 1887 and then chartered its own church with 36 members. That church, Kitchell Memorial Presbyterian Church, was founded on April 3, 1898. It was named after a prominent area family, the Kitchells.  

During her message on the anniversary, Allred noted that the those who built the sanctuary of the church did so with their bare hands.  They constructed a bell tower “using ropes and pulleys, no fancy construction equipment to assist them,“explained Allred.  The tower cost $106 which Allred noted would be about $4000 today.   In some ways, that may not seem like a great deal of money, but Allred noted that to a farmer, like those who made up the early congregation, it was a lot.  She described those early worshippers as having “grit, strength, and determination.”

 “[It’s] my privilege to be a part of its history,“ Allred later said. She is a more recent addition to the history, having only come to the church over a year ago.  

Joining Allred in celebrating the church’s anniversary that Sunday were former pastors Rev. Bill Dysard, Rev. Bob Umidi, and Rev. Harold Johnson.  “I wanted all their voices in the service” said Allred, noting that each took part.  Dysard served communion with Allred.  “It was so special,” she said.

For many, the anniversary has been a time of memories, reflections and thoughts of the future of the church they hold dear.  


Susan Lanigan Wickman, of Madison, has been a member of the church since the 1960s. “My fondest memories of Kitchell were being in junior choir and our Choir Director teaching us to sing “Silent Night” in German.  As I got older, I was in junior and senior high fellowship.  Our Sunday School classes were so large at that time, junior and senior high happened on Wednesday evenings after school.  We would all meet in Fellowship Hall at Kitchell and have spaghetti dinner.  Before dinner, we were allowed to play our records and dance.  Then, we’d sit down for dinner and after dinner split off into our classes to study for Confirmation, listen to God’s word and converse with each other and our teachers.  We’d also have group get togethers at least once a month, maybe a Saturday night where a few parents would drive carloads of us kids to the Madison Y to play indoor volleyball and swimming,” she shared.


Emily Purcell of Weekhawken explained she is relatively new to the church having just started regularly attending about a year ago.  However, she has family ties to it. “This was the church that my grandparents, mother, aunts, and uncle all attended when they were growing up, so I’ve always felt at home here,”  she shared.  Her immediate family would come to Kitchell for Easter and Christmas Eve services.  Something about the Easter 2022 service stayed with her and she started attending regularly. What does the 125th anniversary mean to her? 


 “For me, the 125th is really about community, spreading the word of God, and letting people know that our doors are open. When you walk into Kitchell, I hope that people immediately feel welcomed and like they belong. This is not just our church… Kitchell is a place for everyone!” Purcell said.


Finally, a part of the church for 20 years or so is Domonique Michelle Scala. The East Hanover resident’s  favorite memory of the church is having her daughter, Xena, baptized there. Scala’s hopes for the Kitchell Memorial Presbyterian Church’s future are “That it continues to be a welcoming place where people feel like they belong, where they have a voice, and where they know they are loved.”


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