In the late 1940s, Lutheran Scandinavians in Brooklyn began making an exodus out of the city to the greener and more rural parts of Northern New Jersey to raise their families. Hillside's history births from this migration.
A small group of Norwegians who moved to Roxbury felt lead to creating a church that valued Biblical principles and the Gospel. The first meeting was held at a local home. In a short time, the current property became available for sale, and the little congregation decided to buy it.
Unable to afford a building right away, the summer months were filled with campfire and tent meetings, a popular outreach at the time when revivalism was reaching its apex. At these meetings, testimonies were shared about God's grace, and the Gospel was preached. People were excited. It was a time of beginnings and close friendships.
On September 18, 1950, the church officially organized as Hillside Lutheran Free Church. It consisted of ten families. The little church had a series of interim pastors the first year before calling its first full-time pastor, Rev. Joel Lunde in 1952. In May of 1951 the ground was broken for a building, what today is called the "Fireside Room," but at that time was the entire complex.
1951 was a formative year not only because of the construction of the new building but because Hillside decided to join the Church of the Lutheran Brethren (CLB). The Lutheran Brethren was founded as a missions society but had evolved into a denomination with a central governing Synod. Based out of Fergus Falls Minnesota, the CLB had strong Scandinavian roots. Hillside's charter members who had come from Brooklyn had associations with CLB churches in the city, and so the dissolving of the free church into the CLB was an easy transition. What that meant for our church, however, was that Hillside was no longer alone. We partnered with a larger church family—a family we remain a part of today.
The church quickly grew as the surrounding area increased in population dramatically. But the late 50s and early 60s, Roxbury was no longer a rural area but was quickly evolving into a suburb. To accommodate the new growth, a new building project was approved on April 29, 1957. And in 1958 the construction was underway. Additionally, the church purchased a parsonage across the street from the church on Tonneson Road, and it was dedicated on May 29, 1960.
The church continued to experience rapid growth in the early 60s, and a new sanctuary was approved in April of 1962 and was completed in 1964. This is the current sanctuary in use today.
The 60s gave way to new ministries and outreach to the surrounding community. To better meet our neighbors and be a Christian presence in the community, the church organized The Hillside Nursery School (now called "Preschool") in September of 1970. The enrollment the first year was 24 children. Today we minister to over 100 children and their families.
Throughout the 70s the church began to expand, and new properties were added increasing the land ownership of the campus to its current size. An additional parsonage was purchased.
The final expansion of the building to its current size was in 1984. It provided a 22,000 square foot expansion that includes the Multipurpose Room, classrooms, and the present home of the Preschool.
Today & Beyond
Today, Hillside Church continues to look towards the future without abandoning its past values. We believe that the culture at large is now predominately unchurched and unlikely to find any inherent value in church. It is our sacred task to take the Good News of Jesus Christ out to our neighborhoods and communities so that they can hear about the God of the cross who saved them from their sins.
The Hillside pastors have recently presented a new vision for the future of the church. This vision is exciting because it looks to God's missional work to bring the Gospel to our neighbors, meet community needs, and love and serve our community. We are hoping that you will see the value of this mission and would partner with us and join our family.
We continue in a tradition that has long valued and trusted the God of all hope. And it is our prayer that God will continue to provide for and through us, to accomplish his mission.