During the summer of 1882, a vacationing Presbyterian minister from Elizabeth, New Jersey, the Rev. Charles A. Knox, D.D., invited some local families to worship in his summer Jersey Shore home. The Point Pleasant Presbyterian Church was formally organized on October 22, 1882. This was about the same time the community of Point Pleasant Beach was being incorporated as a municipality.
In its earliest years, the church was served by a succession of part-time ministers. From 1889- 1897, the church was served by its first full-time minister, the Rev. William Luke Cunningham, D.D., a native of England. Membership grew, during Dr. Cunningham’s tenure, to 103.
During the World War 1 era, the church was ably served by the Rev. William Yates Jones. Point Pleasant, during this time, was a sleepy fishing village most of the year, and a bustling resort in the summer months. Horse-drawn streetcars plied the streets of the town, for the convenience of summer visitors. Grand hotels lined the beachfront. The church’s mission and ministry were anchored by year-round residents, although the ranks of worshipers were swelled by numerous summer residents, many of whom were year-round members of churches further north.
The greatest part of the twentieth-century history of the church was spanned by two thirty-one year pastorates. The first was that of the Rev. John Townley, a native of Northern Ireland, who served from 1926-1957. Membership had grown sufficiently, by 1954, to require the addition of a second Sunday-morning service. The Rev. Kenneth Chittick arrived in 1958, and served until his retirement in 1989. His pastorate saw the construction of the Education Annex across the street from the church (a fully-equipped building with classrooms, fellowship hall, stage and full kitchen. In 1975, the Sanctuary was renovated (still retaining its 19th-century architectural charm), a vestibule was added to welcome visitors, and the Sanctuary was physically connected with the building that had been the old Assembly Hall (the pre-1960 home of the Church School). Part of the old Assembly Hall was partitioned into a formal meeting and reception room, that eventually was named the Chittick Lounge.
In 1982, the church celebrated its Centennial, with special remembrances of its beginnings and rededication to the challenges of the future.
The latter years of Mr. Chittick’s tenure were marked by growing excellence in church music, as William R. Shoppell, Jr. came to direct the Chancel Choir. Our church’s music programs are renowned throughout the Jersey Shore area.
In 1990, the Rev. Carlos Wilton was installed as Pastor. These have been years of further growth and development, as the “Baby Boomer” and “Baby Buster” generations of leadership have come into their own. Educational programs for adults have expanded and the Presbyterian Youth Connection has been born.
The congregation celebrated in 1995 as “Mr. Wilton” became “Dr. Wilton,” receiving the Ph.D. in Divinity from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. Dr. Wilton was elected Moderator of Monmouth Presbytery (the regional body comprised of 45 Presbyterian churches in central New Jersey) in May, 1999.
Through several recent capital campaigns, the church has strengthened its financial position, and in the fall of 2009 opened the Point Beach Prep preschool, now the premier church-based preschool in the local area.