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Proud Beginnings

Founded in 1910 as the first black Episcopal Church in Jersey City, Church of the Incarnation existed as a mission church of the Diocese of Newark until the 1970s. After a fledgling start under the support of the Rector of Grace Church, Van Vorst in Jersey City, the mission later came under the leadership of the Rector of St. Philip's Church, Newark. After construction of the present church and Parish House (formerly used as the rectory) in 1928, Incarnation had its own clergy leadership under the oversight of the Bishop of Newark.


Church of the Incarnation flourished, however, as a haven for the region's black Episcopalians. Through the 1940s and 1959 Incarnation's membership grew, as did the membership of most churches throughout the country. As a uniquely black congregation within the Episcopal Church, Incarnation attracted many professional people and political leaders. Community members and parishioners today still fondly recall the annual Spring Cotillion that debuted young women making their way to maturity, the Boys and Girls Scout troops that made Incarnation their home, and the many community events sponsored by and/or in the church.
Signs of change impacted Incarnation in the 1960s, as it did most churches throughout the country. Urban unrest, economic decline and social dislocation began to affect Jersey City and its neighborhoods. By the 1970s crime had increased significantly and the impact of drugs was felt in many communities. Although membership remained strong, Incarnation's neighborhood underwent significant change.

Beginning at least by the 1970s through the ministry of the Rev. Keithly Warner, attempts were made by the Diocese to broach the idea of a merger between Church of the Incarnation and St. John's Church, around the corner on Summit Avenue. These attempts were renewed during the ministry of the Rev. Petero Sabune. Incarnation parishioners, however, many of whom recalled the days when they or their parents or grandparents were not welcomed at St. John's, adamantly refused to even consider merging with the church that once denied them access.

In the 1980s, members from Incarnation joined efforts with the Diocese of Newark and the fledgling Jersey City Episcopal Community Development Corporation (“JCECDC”) (today the Garden State Episcopal Community Development Corporation) to transform the long-vacant P.S. 18 School building, diagonally across the street from the church, into low income apartments. Named Resurrection House, the construction symbolized the hope and vision of the church for a new day in Jersey City and in Incarnation's surrounding neighborhood of Bergen Hill. Later, parishioners again worked with JCECDC, the Diocese and others to build the Eugenia Suthern Homes affordable housing units on Storms Avenue.