On January 4, 1959, the Community Church of Garfield, New Jersey was received as a congregation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church by the Presbytery of New Jersey. Community Church had been started in 1929 under the leadership of the Rev. Francis Gerritsen. Gerritsen met E.J. Young of Westminster Seminary at a conference and a friendship developed. When Gerriten's health began to fail, Westminster men began to fill the pulpit, particularly Ed Clowney. Clowney's preaching was especially popular and he encouraged the congregation to join the OPC.
Among the original members were two brothers, John and Neil Tolsma, who would go on to longtime service in the OPC. John and Neil's parents had arrived in America in 1927 from the Netherlands, but did not attend church. Then, in 1934, their sister Dorthy died at age four, and through a letter written to Mr. and Mrs. Tolsma by a devout Christian aunt, the family stated attending Community Church of Garfield.
John and Neil would make profession of faith at Community Church, as did Neil's future wife, Lenore. When a baptism would take place at Community Church, members of the Sunday school would sing a song, which three year old Neil did at Lenore's baptism. Ordained as gospel minister in the OPC in 1965, Neil would serve as pastor of Bethel OPC, Fort Lauderdale, FL (1965-1974) and Falls OPC, Menomonee Falls, WI (1974-2004). He also authored the book, This is Love, in 2012.
John became a ruling elder at Trinity OPC, Hatboro, PA in the mid-1960s. When not serving Trinity Church, his day job for over thirty years was that of art director of Great Commission Publications, the Sunday School ministry of the OPC. He went to be with the Lord in glory on September 9, 2017
Community OPC would close on June 2, 1983.
Homepage Picture: John Tolsma
Picture: John and Neil Tolsma