Church of the Good Shepherd, Midland Park, NJ

A Brief History, 1906–2009

An Englishman, Frank Woodhead, superintendent of the Granite Linen Company, started the Episcopal Church at Wortendyke in October 1906. Mr. Woodhead and a group of five men were assisted in this endeavor by the Reverend L. E. Learned, Rector of Christ Church, Ridgewood. At the outset, services were held in various private residences and in the Wortendyke Field and Stream Club building. To establish a central place for worship, Mr. Woodhead opened his own home, the Wortendyke homestead, in 1908.

        In response to steadily rising membership, Mrs. Emma Gaum established a church school in her home on Park Avenue. Soon, the Granite Linen Mills offered a plot of land across from Orchard Street, and Christ Chapel was designed and built, which was dedicated as a Mission in 1909 by the Rector of St. Paul's Church in Paterson. In the absence of visiting Episcopal priests to celebrate Communion once a month, services conducted by lay readers were held on Sunday evenings for several years.

        The Wortendyke Field and Stream Club building, originally a stable, eventually was donated to the church, and after being moved to a site adjacent to the chapel and extensively renovated, became something of a social center. The needs of local Episcopalians were met by the chapel, while the Parish House fulfilled the social needs of the entire town, even serving as the public school when the school building burned to the ground. The churchwomen of Christ Chapel and the Young People of St. Paul's hosted fairs and lawn parties to raise funds to restore and connect the parish hall to the chapel.

        Adding to the beauty and the quality of worship at the chapel were a plethora of useful and decorative gifts and memorials, including a new organ dedicated to the glory of God and the memory of the seventy-five parish members who served in World War II. Over the years, the leaders of worship and the spiritual life of the church found a warm reception in a rectory on abundant property acquired on Irving Street.

        In 1945, the mortgage was paid off, and, after a burning ceremony, a building fund was launched. As the church became self-supporting and entered a period of rapid growth, it began a transition in 1958 from mission status to a full-fledged church. A new parish hall was begun the same year that featured an auditorium and stage as well as many classrooms. On February 10, 1963, the cornerstone for the modern church building was laid, which would have more classrooms as well as a small chapel to replace the original Christ Chapel. On April 28, 1963, the building was dedicated, and the church became known on that date as Church of the Good Shepherd, Midland Park. On May 8, 1971, the congregation was received in the Episcopal Diocese of Newark as a Parish in union with the Diocesan Convention.

        Providing classroom space for a day-care center and meeting space for many local groups and clubs, in more recent years, Good Shepherd celebrated the concept of mutual ministry and found renewal in the growth of the interfaith worship community in its area, forwarding understanding and the unity of common religious goals in Midland Park.