A grand reopening

Fresh Ponds Chapel, South Brunswick’s oldest church, was open again Sunday after 22 months of work and $86,000 in renovations.

By: Chinenye Okparanta
   After 22 months and thousands of dollars in renovations, South Brunswick’s oldest church opened its doors Sunday to a crowd of excited parishioners.
   The event also marked the 165th anniversary of Fresh Ponds Chapel and the rededication of the building.
   The chapel was closed nearly two years while it underwent repairs, said the Rev. Robert Thurton, who has conducted services in the chapel for over 40 years.
   A new roof was added on, along with new beams, a new septic system that cost about $19,500 and new heating and air conditioning systems. A brand new bathroom was also constructed in the chapel, said the Rev. Joan Sanislo, member of the chapel’s board of trustees.
   According to the Rev. Thurton, $86,000 was spent on the changes and repairs to the chapel.
   During the 22-month renovation, the Rev. Sanislo said, church meetings were held in the adjacent schoolhouse.
   Members of the church board of trustees said the special service Nov. 27 was a way to celebrate the reopening of the chapel and to thank those who had helped with the repairs, improvements and repair projects.
   "We really appreciate the work that our volunteers did," said the Rev. Thurton. He thanked Larry Sanislo and Dan Haggerty, two of the church’s parishioners, for their efforts in renovating the chapel.
   The Fresh Ponds Chapel was built in 1840 and was originally used as a Methodist Episcopal Church. Years later the church took on the Methodist Protestant denomination (Methodism without bishops) and was called the Ebenezer Meeting House, according to a pamphlet handed out during the rededication services.
   In 1887 the chapel became a nondenominational church.
   "It’s not a Methodist, Baptist or anything else church," the Rev. Sanislo said. "It’s just plain Bible."
   Currently, two church groups and several social organizations meet in the chapel. The South Brunswick Church of the Nazarene holds its Sunday School and morning services there. The Fresh Ponds Chapel Church also holds its own Sunday school and afternoon services there.
   The chapel also serves as a meeting place for groups such as the South Brunswick Historical Society and the Order of St. Luke Healing Ministry.
   Now that the chapel’s renovations are complete, church members are looking forward to reconvening in the chapel.
   "My heart is so happy about this," the Rev. Sanislo said. "It means a lot that it’s the oldest church in the community. Any church that lasts this long is in the favor of God."