Assembly History: Pennsauken Gospel Hall

The assembly that meets in the Pennsauken Gospel Hall was originally located in the nearby city of Camden. The earliest record we have of gospel activity associated with an assembly in Camden is a notice of gospel meetings in September 1909, convened by Wm. Beveridge and Alexander Lamb. These meetings were advertised as: “Free Lectures on the Future of the Human Race…Illustrated from a Large Chart.” The assembly met in two other localities in the city before relocating to 915 North Front St. in North Camden in October of 1917, where it remained for the next 44 years. In 1917, Mr. and Mrs. John McKay became the first commended workers from this assembly, being commended to the Lord for the work in the West Indies. In August of 1924, the assembly commended to the grace of God the highly esteemed servant of Christ, Mr. William Warke. In 1986, Marjorie Curran married Tommy Thompson and was commended to the Lord for the work in Alaska. In 1974, the Pennsauken assembly also sent the writer out to preach the gospel.

Through the years that the assembly was in Camden, there were almost constant Sunday school and gospel meetings in various homes, open-air meetings, and gospel meetings in nursing facilities, as well as the regular meetings of the assembly. One unique feature of the open-air work was the artwork of Mr. Herbert Rue. While the gospel was being preached at a street corner, Mr. Rue would skillfully chalk a verse of Scripture onto the pavement or street while surrounded by a group of intrigued onlookers. Long after the believers had left the site, the Word of God, in a very attractive format, would be left for passersby to read.

Some of the sisters in the assembly had a burden to reach the many Spanish-speaking people of Camden. They visited numerous homes to sing hymns in Spanish and discuss the Bible. Tract distribution was the chosen form of evangelism for brother Sam Gilmore, who printed and gave away hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of gospel papers. He devoted his Saturday afternoons to tract work in New York City, riding the bus from Philadelphia and spending hours spreading the gospel in that large metropolis. During the work week, he continued this tract ministry in Philadelphia on his lunch breaks and whenever possible. Often he was joined by other believers who helped, such as Al Higgins who carried a gospel sign – at times a two-sided “sandwich board” and at other times a sign attached to a pole for better visibility. He also did this alone when there were large parades or gatherings in Philadelphia. After such occasions, his children can recall the sign’s needing to be cleaned due to objects that were thrown at it (and him) while he silently spread the gospel.

Due to the deteriorating conditions of the Camden Gospel Hall and the surrounding neighborhood, the believers purchased a lot on Caroline Avenue in Pennsauken, and commenced construction of a new Gospel Hall in 1961. Since the new hall was located on a major route into the city of Philadelphia, the believers decided to construct a large sign in the form of an open Bible with the words of Romans 5:6 visibly displayed. Robert Draper worked long and hard on this project. Since then, numerous fruitful gospel efforts have been held in the Pennsauken hall. Also, from the 1970s onward, tent work has been a consistent part of gospel work in southern New Jersey. The Pennsauken and Barrington assemblies unite for a tent effort every summer, and the area has been blessed by the presence and preaching of gifted and godly evangelists from numerous parts of North America and the world.

Although located in Pennsauken, the assembly continues to work with residents of Camden. Many of the regular Sunday school students are brought in from there each Lord’s Day. Attendance can fluctuate seasonally, but we have had as many as 100 children attending at one time. Many of these children come to the Lord’s Day evening gospel meeting as well. Ruth Ann Curran, Virginia Curran, Nancy Higgins, and Christy Higgins work hard to provide a meal for the visitors after each of these meetings. A few of the believers also take the gospel to the migrant workers who harvest the blueberry crops in southern New Jersey. This work is spearheaded by brother Verlandieu Marcellus. They distribute Bibles and gospel literature and then have an outdoor gospel meeting. Some of the sisters are involved in a children’s work (“Moms and Tots”) which brings into the Pennsauken Gospel Hall parents and children who might not attend the regular Sunday school. This work was started by Susie Curran, who is helped by Melissa Higgins and Anna Brackenridge. Brother Don Draper visits a local high school for Bible studies with students and also carries on numerous meetings for young adults and children. A couple of believers also hold a bi-monthly Bible study in a nearby town, enabling them to present God’s truth to many who are not familiar with assembly principles, as well as to some who are not saved. All of this has had a great impact on attendance at our regular gospel meetings and at the tent meetings.

Unmentioned in this account are the many believers whose unselfish assistance makes all this possible. With dependable faithfulness, they give help by transporting people to and from the meetings, often providing snacks and meals as well.

While numeric growth in the assembly has not been dramatic, it has, in the kindness of God, been steady. This has demanded much from the shepherds who care for the flock and endeavor to nurture and strengthen young believers.

God is to be thanked for the exercise that there is among the Pennsauken assembly saints to spread the gospel. Many who read this article have a deep burden for work in their own area. It will be greatly appreciated if you can remember to pray for southern New Jersey, the assembly in Pennsauken, and the preservation and prosperity of God’s work here.