Saint Gregory Palamas Orthodox Church, originally located between Clinton and Flemington, New Jersey on Route 31, was established in 1981 under the leadership of His Grace, Bishop Peter (L’Huillier) and Father Gerard Machado, a Cuban immigrant. The church was founded in February 1981 to fill the need for an Orthodox church in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, located between the metropolises of Philadelphia and New York.
The founding core of the church comprised five families, and the first service was held on February 8, 1981, in the guesthouse of a founder. The group was culturally diverse from the beginning. Two families were of Greek Orthodox background, two of Russian Orthodox background, and one of Cuban heritage. The guesthouse proved to be too small for the growing number of faithful within only two months, and so the community moved to the carriage house on the farm of another founding member, where on April 12, 1981, Palm Sunday services were celebrated. On November 4, 1981, the parishioners moved once again to a more permanent rented room, which was transformed into the Orthodox Chapel at Stanton Place. The first Divine Liturgy was served there on November 8, 1981.
St. Gregory Palamas Orthodox Church is a primarily English-speaking, yet multi-ethnic congregation that is a member of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). Our members come from every walk of life and every ethnic background; some were raised in the Orthodox Christian faith, and others have entered as adults into the fullness of Christian truth proclaimed by the Church. The OCA, descended from the Russian Orthodox mission to North America, was under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Moscow until 1970, when the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church granted the Church in America independence in internal governing matters in the Tomos of Autocephaly. In 1970 the Patriarch of Moscow granted the Russian Orthodox Church in America autocephaly. This bold move by the Russian Church sought, via the establishment of the Orthodox Church in America, to create a single Orthodox Church for all Orthodox Christians, and indeed for all men and women, in North America.
Our church takes its name from, and is dedicated to, St Gregory Palamas (1296–1359), a monk from Mount Athos in Greece who became the Archbishop of Thessalonika in 1350. St Gregory is particularly known as a great ascetic, and his teachings on the uncreated light, the tradition of silence (Hesychasm), and the Jesus Prayer, have made him a hallmark of Orthodox Christian spirituality. He was canonized as a saint by the Ecumenical Patriarch in 1368, less than ten years after his repose in the Lord.
St Gregory Palamas Church continues to grow from its beginnings as a mission church. From November 4, 1981, to September 2000, the membership increased, representing various ethnic backgrounds and having a common interest in an English-speaking, multi-ethnic Orthodox congregation. In addition to celebrating the Feasts of the Orthodox Church, many celebrations, spiritual retreats, church-sponsored concerts and a growing Sunday School have continued to take place and thrive through the first nineteen years. During those years, there was a focus on finding and owning a church building, and in the year 2000, St. Gregory Palamas Orthodox Church was blessed to be able to purchase the building in which we worship today. Through the generosity of a parishioner who willed her estate to St. Gregory’s Church, the purchase of the present building in Glen Gardner was made possible.
On June 2nd, 2013, His Eminence, Archbishop Michael consecrated a newly-donated altar and the temple itself. Thus 30 years of labor, sacrifice and prayer were crowned with a most wonderful blessing: the presence of Christ, in this temple, until His Second Coming.
As we reflect on our history, we are grateful that God has provided the energy and guidance to our founders and all those who have worked so hard – and continue to work hard – to help our parish grow. St Gregory Palamas Orthodox Church has also been blessed by the spiritual guidance and leadership of the priests who have served its people. Those who have served the first 32 years include: Fr. Joseph Frawley (2 years); Fr. David Brum (2 years); Fr. Michael Medis (6 years); and Fr. Thomas Edwards (5 years). We pray that God will bless all those who continue to work and support our parish and that the Holy Spirit will guide us to grow in numbers and in spirit to the glory of God and the furthering of His kingdom. Amen.