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Eastern Christian has been shut down before…Diphtheria Epidemic of 1893

Amity Street Christian School in Paterson, NJ

In today’s age of social media bombardment, 24-hour news cycles, and living in a fast-paced society, our reality is what we live in moment by moment.

The immediacy of our culture says what's happening to me right now is only happening to me, but the true reality is we are part of a much larger story. That story involves past generations and their experiences which help shape ours.

Due to COVID-19 pandemic, Eastern Christian had shut down over growing concern of the virus in March 2020 as recommended by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many students had to work online and later, a hybrid mode was suggested for optional online learning in the 2020-2021 academic year. However, imagine a time in which there was no technology or an online learning option, a time where letters were the main source of communication, where horses and buggies were the main source of transportation, and where walking to school was a regular activity most students did.

We go back to the time of 1893 in Paterson, NJ on a little street called Amity Street. It was a chilly afternoon in late October of that year. The principal, Professor Ary (Arie) Peters, just locked up the school on 15 Amity Street. Little did he know what was to come.

Paterson Map 1893

The next couple of days entailed the spreading of the virus Diphtheria in the 1st Ward where the little school was located. This had not been the first time an outbreak had

occurred in Paterson, but now the schools in the area were under threat.

On November 1, 1893, a sudden and grim message appeared in the evening paper: “Gentlemen:- Owing to the prevalence of diphtheria in School District, No. 12, the facts concerning which will be given to you by Dr. Smith, I would earnestly recommend that the school be temporarily closed.” Dr. J. L. Leal, the Paterson-equivalent of Dr. Fauci from the CDC, issued this statement.

It wouldn’t be long until the same fate would hit the little school on Amity Street, the precursor to what Eastern Christian would become. On November 2, 1893, the school temporarily closed.

However, God still had plans for this little school on Amity Street. A few days later, on November 8th, 1893, Amity Street School was dedicated. Reverend P. Van Vlaanderen said in response to this occasion, “God has done wonderful things for us.”

Now we look back on those days of old and see the similarities between us

and them … what separates us from history is time. However, we’re often told we’re living in unprecedented times, experiencing something that has never been seen before, but the reality is, according to Ecclesiastes 1:9, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”


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